About Bennelong Point and Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point in Sydney is an area with a rich history stretching back the earliest days of colonial Australia. Since the 1970s it has been the site of the iconic Sydney Opera House.
History of Bennelong Point
Bennelong Point is known to the local indigenous Gadigal people of the Eora nation as Tubowgule.
It was originally a small tidal island which was made up of rocks and a small beach. It is located on the tip of the eastern arm of Sydney Cove, and protrudes into Port Jackson (Sydney’s natural harbour).
For a brief time in 1788, it was known as Cattle Point because it was used to confine cattle that had been brought from Cape Town by the First Fleet.
Later, the newly-arrived convicts then burnt the piles of discarded oyster shells left behind by Aboriginal people in order to make lime for cement mortar. The island then became known as Limeburner’s point.
The most significant and famous moment of the point’s history involves its namesake, an Aboriginal man from the Eora nation called Bennelong. He was employed as a cultural interlocutor by the British, and had a brick hut built for him on the point.
In 1798 a half-moon battery was constructed at the northernmost end of Bennelong Point, and was mounted with guns from HMS Supply.
From 1818, the island was connected to the mainland via rocky rubble to provide a basis for Fort Macquarie to be built there. The existence of this rubble was largely forgotten until the late 1950s when both were rediscovered during the excavations related to the construction of Sydney Opera House.
Bennelong Point today
Today the site has become famous for being the home of the Sydney Opera House, which was formally opened in 1973, and hosts over 1,500 performances annually. The construction of the well-known building has left little trace of the earlier incarnations of the point, including Bennelong’s Hut.
Efforts are being made to raise the profile of sites that relate to the history of Australia’s Indigenous people; for instance, Bennelong’s grave, which ’til now has been marked very humbly, will soon be commemorated by a monument.
Getting to Bennelong Point
From the centre of Sydney, the point – and the opera house – are reachable in around 20 minutes via Elizabeth St. By car, it takes around 5 minutes via Macquarie St, and a regular metro service includes the ‘Circular Quay’ stop, from where the point is around a 10 minute walk.