July 12th – Bare Island

Bare Island

Bare Island is a small piece of land off La Perouse, jutting into historic Botany Bay.

The land was originally inhabited by the Gweagal and Kameygal Aborigine tribes. In 1770 the rocky outcrop was chronicled by Captain James Cook as “A small, bare island”.

A little more than 100 years later it was decided that Bare Island become a military installation, as Botany Bay was considered susceptible to seaborne attack and smugglers.

It wasn’t until 1885 that the fort had been constructed, but by the 1890’s it was apparent that materials used were not up to standard. A Royal Commission declared the site unusable for it’s initially intended purpose, the builder was forced to repay some of the £34000, and was disqualified from working on any future Government tenders.

The buck finally stopped with James R Barnett, Colonial Architect. Despite an incredible design portfolio of nearly 600 buildings, including Sydney’s GPO, Customs House, the Callan Park lunatic asylum, and the Sydney Museum, in fact the numbers are staggering – 169 post/telegraph offices, 130 courthouses, 250+ police stations and lock-ups, and 20 lighthouses.

Barnett was blamed for a lack of supervision and budget control throughout the project.

Just a decade later, in 1902, the site was declared unsuitable as a military installation, with military technology effectively making the  hardware on the island redundant.

Bare Island became a retirement home for soldiers returning from the Crimean War and Sudan, and continued to be used for this purpose until the mid-1960’s.

Nowadays Bare Island is run by National Parks and Wildlife and has been declared a historical site of significance. It’s a hotspot for scuba divers and snorkelers, who were there in abundance the day we visited.


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