I remember visiting the Jibbon Head Aboriginal rock carvings, near Bundeena, in the south of Sydney, as a young child. I remember running wild over the sandstone platform onto which the carvings have been etched. I remember tracing my fingers along the grooves, and feeling the outlines of the animals the petroglyphs represent.
They were different times.
A boardwalk and elevated viewing platform have been constructed in recent years to protect the rock carvings from the hands and feet of inquisitive children. A wise move, in my mind.
How does it change the experience though? I was keen to find out.
The ferry to Bundeena
Bundeena is separated from the rest of Sydney by a large, tranquil water body known as Port Hacking.
There is no bridge across the inlet, and to travel between Cronulla (on the Sydney side of the river) and Bundeena by car requires a 35 kilometre diversion.
If you’re up for it, I’d recommend leaving the car at home and catching the ferry.
Bundeena is technically still part of Sydney, but it has the feel of a summer holiday destination. It’s leafy, and quiet, and full of sulphur-crested cockatoos.
It’s also the start (or end, depending on which direction you opt for) of the famous Bundeena to Otford Coastal Walk.
To get to the Jibbon Head Aboriginal rock carvings, simply walk through the quiet lanes of Bundeena till you reach Jibbon Beach. Continue along the beach to the very end, where you’ll find the start of a small bush track.
It’s less than a two kilometre stroll from the ferry wharf to the rock carving site.
After leaving Jibbon Beach, the track follows the low headland. from which you have views of Cronulla, on the opposite shore of Port Hacking.
In the distance, you might just be able to make out some of the features of greater Sydney.
And then you arrive at the viewing platform.
Jibbon Head rock carvings
The viewing platform is well designed, and does a great job of providing an elevated position from which to view the rock carvings.
The petroglyphs were carved by the Dharawal people, a 900-strong clan that lived around Port Hacking prior to the arrival of the British colonists.
The carvings are predominately of animals of the sea. There is a sting ray, a turtle, whales, and an orca.
Aboriginal rock carvings in the Sydney region
There are between 1,000 and 2,000 known rock engravings in the Sydney region. The locations of the majority of these sites are kept secret to avoid vandalism.
Dating the figures is difficult. Suffice it to say that the practice stretches back to 5,000 BCE.
Having not visited the site for several years, I was surprised to discover that the carvings are now quite difficult to discern. Many of the carvings that I remember from prior visits weren’t visible at all.
Foot traffic on the rock platform, it appears, had the unforeseen benefit of keeping lichens and natural staining at bay.
But perhaps I went to Jibbon Head at an injudicious time. A note on one of the information boards states the rock carvings are maintained by a local Aboriginal group. Perhaps the rock carvings were only days away from being maintained at the time of my visit.
Anyway, even without the carvings, a trip to picturesque Jibbon Head is hardly a disappointment.