Dangar Island, escape living on The Hawkesbury River

Posted by Ernie Cooper on 2010-05-02

The jumping off point for Dangar Island is Brooklyn which, unlike its larger, more cosmopolitan New York namesake, is a small rural riverside community in New South Wales. It is accessed by the northbound M2 motorway from Sydney or the railway to Hawkesbury station.

Brooklyn is a village of country stores and cafés, two pubs, a launch ramp, a small marina and the Dangar Island ferry landing. Tall Palm trees line the road along the river but they provide little shade from the heat of the overhead sun. We ignored the ‘No Access, Private’ notice at the top of the Brooklyn Fisherman’s Association ramp and launched our kayaks into the muddy waters of low tide. A stiff but warm breeze blew as we threaded our way between the pleasure boats tied up to Rock Oyster-encrusted wooden piles and the ex-naval landing craft that serviced the garbage disposal needs of the isolated riverside communities.

Out in the wider part of the shallow river the wind whipped up a short steep swell that made us work to maintain our chosen direction towards west side of Dangar island. My Shearwater kayak was, as are most in this part of the world, fitted with a rudder system and being a purist it was in its stowed position folded up over the stern. Naturally it acted as a very efficient wind vane constantly trying to turn me up into wind; I dropped it over into the water and let it trail, problem solved.

The whole island is covered in trees from the shoreline and the houses appear to have been built where they could be fitted in to the landscape. Some are little more than boathouses at the end of small jetties while others are at the other end of the housing design- and cost-spectrum.

Once round on the north shore we were sheltered from the breeze and the midday sun made its presence felt as we enjoyed the views across the river. The smaller ferry landing stage came into view and my son indicated that we should take advantage of the only refreshment stop on the island, the landing stage coffee shop cum supply store. There was just room to get the two kayaks between two moored tinnies (no, not cans of beer, small alloy row boats) and two Rural Fire Service craft.

Stephen had pointed out the coffee shop from some distance away and we had noted that it seemed rather crowded. It soon became evident that the garden area beneath the trees was full to capacity with a group of ‘Ladies Wot Lunch’ from The Grey Brigade. You will not be surprised to learn that the chatter level was pretty ‘full on’ so we sought seats inside where it was both cooler and a little less noisy. The ladies were awaiting the arrival of the ferry to return to Brooklyn which they boarded after the home-coming school children and their mothers had disembarked. We were left to enjoy the resulting tranquillity and enjoy the waterside scene.

Traffic is severely restricted on the island:- there appears to be only one electric golf trolley for passenger transport at the pier but there were more than a couple of dozen wheelbarrows of various shapes, sizes and design. Presumably the island’s inhabitants bring their shopping etc. on the ferry and then tranship it to their personal barrow for the homeward journey. An official notice did say that building materials had to be moved by council Ute (pick-up). It would appear to be an idyllic location in which to live; having the benefits of a quiet island community life while being able to travel the short distance to the mainland and either drive or take the commuter train south into Sydney no more than an hour away.

Having drunk our coffee that was strong enough to jump start a mainline locomotive, we continued our circumnavigation passing more interesting homes before coming to a marked ‘vessel free’ area that acted as an aquatic nature reserve for native sea grass. Propeller driven craft were excluded but we were able to paddle across without creating damage. It was a short paddle back to Brooklyn where we reloaded our rotation moulded kayaks on the Ute and set off back south towards home in the southern outskirts of Sydney, a very pleasant but all too brief paddle around an island retreat.

Ernie Cooper

Article copyright © Ernie Cooper 2010

Read 657 times