Northern Beaches icons

Take a trip down local Memory Lane with these Northern Beaches icons. You may even have visited some as a youngster! 


The Manly Water Chute

Northern Beaches icons - the Manly Water chute

The postcard above shows the once famous Water Chute which was, for a time, an extremely popular attraction at Manly.

In the 1840s, Henry Gilbert Smith began buying up land and transforming Manly into a popular tourist and residential resort. He touted Manly as an ideal health and holiday resort, and envisaged Manly as something of an Australian version of the famous Brighton Beach. As the 19th century progressed, and well into the 20th century, Manly grew more and more to reflect Smith’s view, and attractions were built to entertain visitors and locals alike.

The water chute in the image above was built in 1903, and opened just in time for the Christmas holidays. The chute, which also included a Toboggan, was built in Steyne Court and towered at 15 metres high. An 50 horsepower engine was used to winch a boatload of 8 people to the top, and then the boat was released, making the thrilling ride down the chute and into a lake built at the base. Toboggan rides were also popular attractions at Steyne Court, but the popularity of these early rides soon waned. The water chute closed in 1906, but it was one of the early attractions which made later tourist destinations like Oceanworld Manly possible.

Words and image with thanks to The Past Present,

Warringah Ice Skating Rink, Narrabeen

Northern Beaches icons - Warringah Ice Skating Centre
Warringah Ice Skating Centre in the mid-1980s. Image courtesy Dick Mann.

Since its closure in the late 1990’s the site has evolved into a large apartment and commercial complex, but once upon a time the highly popular Narrabeen Ice Rink sat on the corner of Lagoon and Wellington Streets, next to Narrabeen Woolworths where it served as a local icon for over 35 years.

The rink was constructed on the site of an old aircraft hangar in the 1970’s by Dutch native Dick Groentemann, who also built Ice rinks in Newcastle and Blacktown. The arch-trussed building was also home to the Warringah Bombers Ice Hockey team, at times attracting crowds of over one thousand spectators.

Most locals would fondly remember skating with friends on weekends and in school holidays, and watching in awe as professional figure skaters, both young and old, trained alongside. There was a kiosk onsite serving awesome hot chips and lollies, and everyone would of course wake up with super sore leg muscles and maybe a few blisters the following day.

Skyline Drive-In Cinema, Warriewood

Northern Beaches icons - Skyline Drive In Warriewood

Situated at 16 Macpherson Street, Warriewood, the Skyline Drive-In opened in September 1971 with one large prominent screen and a capacity for 635 cars. It included a ticket booth and snack bar.

Most famously used for the filming of the movie “Fatal Bond” in 1991, locals would best recall nights parked with mates or on first dates with their potential life-partners. Indeed, it’s likely that many a Northern Beaches Living member was conceived here! Families were part of the fabric with kids often put to bed in the back of the Commodore whilst mum and dad enjoyed a picture – the equivalent of watching our modern day ‘Netflix’.

Due to a decline in popularity and rising maintenance costs, the Drive-In was closed on 8th August, 1984, and the site sat idle, with the deteriorating screen structure still there to see for 22 years, until the present housing development was built in 2006.

Rock Lily Hotel, Mona Vale

Image: State Library of NSW

Another Northern Beaches icon, the landmark Rock Lily building on Pittwater Road, Mona Vale was once an upmarket weekend destination Hotel, Restaurant and Bar for weary travellers from the city to rest and refresh in the 1800s.

Built by a somewhat controversial French-born farmer by the name of Mr Leon Heureux in 1885, the original Rock Lily operation was hugely popular, especially with visiting French soldiers and ‘Francophile’ Australians who were after an authentic hospitality experience. The building consisted of 10 Bedrooms, a large bar and several dining and sitting rooms as well as an on-site distillery served by grapevines in the rear gardens.

A Northern Beaches Christmas postcard (Bliss Images) c. 1895-1905

Since these early beginnings the site has served many guises, most memorably as a night club in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s and as an underage dance hall before being renovated in the mid 90’s and re-emerging as a family-style woodfire pizza restaurant.

In recent years an Austrian Bierhaus has occupied the premises however that tenure has ended, and the historic building is once again looking for its next chapter with a ‘For Sale or Lease’ sign out the front.

Byline: Jade Fernandes

Scroll to Top