Crater Cove: Sydney’s Hidden Harbourside Village

by Lauren Piggott


Image credit: Tiny House Blog

To buy a house overlooking Sydney’s iconic harbour today is a privilege that individuals will pay millions of dollars for. However, that hasn’t always been the case. Perched on a cliff at Crater Cove overlooking Sydney harbour is a hamlet of shacks that occupants paid next to nothing to live in. Though abandoned more than 30 years ago and still deserted today, these huts have remained intact with the interior untouched as if the residents had only just left.

The construction of these shacks began as early as 1923, as it was believed that fisherman built them so they had a place to lodge when they visited the area on weekends. They built the structures with corrugated iron, wood and whatever materials they could find, including rocks, driftwood and fibro sheets. Over the course of 40 years, what started as a lone hut turned into a community of seven shacks that were occupied intermittently. In the 1930s they were occupied full time, as these rent-free shacks would have been ideal for residents coping with the Depression. It wasn’t until 1963 that the shacks would be occupied full time again, by people who were described by the broader community as hippies. These occupants were merely living a life inspired by the 60s and 70s philosophy of a simpler way of living.

If you peer through the windows of these shacks today, you can still see evidence of this modest way of living. In one of the small one-room huts you’ll find a bed, a simple wooden kitchen bench, gas stove, writing desk and a chair. Though you’ll only find the bare essentials, the amazing views from the window overlooking the Pacific Ocean explains why residents like Simon Flynn chose to embrace this simple living for as long as 18 years.

Unfortunately, this dream existence had to come to an end in the 1980s when occupants were told to leave by the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS). The organisation decided that this occupied land would become part of the new Sydney Harbour National Park, and that the shacks were to be demolished. The residents took the NPWS to court to fight for their right to the land, but there were too many groups and individuals who were against them staying. In addition to the NPWS, the green movement and Sydney’s influential Total Environment Centre wanted the inhabitants gone, believing they were damaging the environment by staying. Though this was far from the truth, local residents also fought against the inhabitants, outraged that they could live there rent-free when they had to pay millions of dollars.

The inhabitants argued that they had true ownership of the land and even proposed to take on the role as caretakers of the land. But despite their pleas, they lost the case and were forced to leave in 1984. Though suggestions were made to demolish the buildings, the NPWS never went ahead with these plans and instead decided in 1990 that the seven shacks would be repaired and maintained by a group of caretakers. Operating under instructions of the NPWS, caretakers still upkeep the shacks today to conserve an important part of Sydney’s history.

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One Comment

  1. That’s a very interesting story! Thanks for digging that up. The shacks look very cosy, shame they couldn’t stay in private hands.

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