At times Balmain seems to have no end of small, narrow and windy streets. These streets contain a plentiful supply of heritage architecture, ranging from tiny cottages to grand colonial sandstone homes. It is a colourful suburb that is largely overlooked by visitors to Sydney.
Balmain is located across the water from Barangaroo and can be accessed by ferry or road.
We like Balmain’s history, heritage architecture, harbour panorama and vibrant atmosphere. It’s a nice place to take a stroll.
The East Balmain Wharf at the end of Darling Street and adjacent Illoura Reserve provide spectacular views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Barangaroo.
Nearby Fenwick Store was built in the 1880s and used for storage by a local tug boat operator. A first class restoration of this stone heritage building has recently been completed and it will soon commence a new life as a café/gallery.
There are other heritage houses nearby such as Ewenton House and Clontarf House that can be seen whilst walking on the Tom Uren walking route. Have a look at the Balmain Watch House (179 Darling St) which was built from Hawkesbury sandstone in 1854.
In the 19th century Balmain was known for ship building, engineering and boiler making. For a period of time the area even had a coal mine.
Balmain was a working class area. The industrialisation of the suburb resulted in many tiny cottages being built for workers and surprisingly drinking establishments flourished in this environment! Many of these pubs (public houses) still operate in Balmain today and they are great places to visit even if only to admire the architecture.
Balmain began to move away from its working class origins in the 1960s when its industry began to wane and Sydney siders started to appreciate the suburb’s desirability. The Balmain basket weavers, as famously referred to by a former Australian prime minister, began to move into the area. Gentrification and renovations followed bringing back to life many decaying historic homes.
If you have time squeeze in a short walk around Ballast Point Park, which is only a 5 minute drive from the East Balmain Wharf. The park was created in 2009 after an oil refinery was demolished and the land decontaminated.
This urban renewal project has given the community several different recreational areas and provides a great place for a picnic or BBQ on the harbour’s foreshore.
Sydney Nimble Tours would be delighted to take your small group on a walking tour of Balmain and Ballast Point Park https://www.sydneynimbletours.com.au/inner. This activity can form part of our Inner Sydney Tour or added to one of the other days out. We visit Balmain for about two hours.