Freshwater on Sydney’s northern beaches, is only a short walk from Manly and was once home to the Kuring-gai people. Evidence of their habitation still remains in the form of rock engravings, camp sites etc. In 1815 after a land grant by Governor Macquarie, the area became known as the Freshwater Estate. Much later, in 1923, some residents successfully agitated to change the name to Harbord (the family name of the wife of the then NSW Governor). It was apparently thought that “Harbord” was a more up-market name than Freshwater!
The suburb remained Harbord until 2008 when after much discussion it reverted to Freshwater, which certainly more accurately reflects the true nature of this quiet and charming seaside suburb. The most famous visitor to Freshwater was the Hawaiian Olympic swimming champion Duke Kahanamoku who in 1914 introduced board riding to Australia. His board is now on display at the Freshwater Surf Lifesaving Club and a statue to his memory can be found on the northern headland of the beach. At dawn on most days, surfers of all ages can be seen enjoying the same waves the Duke first experienced more than 100 years ago. A further link to the past is that the official twin city of Freshwater is Honolulu.
The Harbord Beach Hotel, known locally as the “Harbord Hilton” was built in 1928 and based on the design of a Samoan guest house. It is just up the road from the ocean and well-advertised on the front of the surf club. Newcomers to the beach can be forgiven for thinking that this is the actual hotel! Freshwater village is well served by a number of supermarkets, many small shops, restaurants and cafés. The real estate market here is quite strong due to the proximity to the city and transport and of course one of the best little beaches you could wish for.
Pictures and words by Peter Morton.