Crater Cove Shacks
Occupancy of Crater Cove started around 60 years ago when weekend fishermen built the first huts. During the depression of the 1930s, some of the huts may have been occupied full time. Nowdays Crater Cove is managed by NPWS and cared for by volunteers since 1987.
Crater Cove looks directly out toward the entrance to Sydney Harbour. I have cunningly included North Head and South Head in the background of this picture. There are no roads into Crater Cove: it can only be reached by walking there along a bush track, or by boat from the harbor.
Since the Depression, there have always been a small collection of huts in the cove, used as weekenders, or occupied by squatters. When the land became part of the Sydney Harbour National Park, the residents were evicted, and the plan was to demolish the huts. This provoked a good deal of public protests. So, the huts have been retained as part of our heritage, and volunteer caretakers look after the places.
LAST century, at least for an inventive few, building your own weekender could be as easy as finding a secluded bay and gathering a few bits of driftwood and local stone for walls and sheets of discarded tin for a roof.
In Sydney the best examples of the art of this pure, makeshift beach retreat are still standing in a hidden enchanted cove near Balgowlah, looking directly out Sydney Heads to the vast Pacific Ocean beyond.
The seven shacks – at Crater Cove – were knocked up between 1923 and 1963 from available materials by fishermen on army land (now part of the Sydney Harbour National Park) and these days are lovingly repaired and maintained by caretakers.
If you press your face against the window of any of the improvised dwellings you’ll see an idyllic vision of a simple unadorned existence. Walls are wood panelled and the sun streams in. In one there’s the simplest of wooden benches, with a wok sitting on a gas burner ready to cook the evening meal.
It’s rustic pared-back living of a kind that speaks to a primal part of the Australian psyche. It’s a pure distillation of our beach-house dream. It’s a romanticised promise of instant escape from our complex urban lives.