Berowra to Mt Ku-ring-gai is a very pretty bushwalk, 9.5km with a total 580m climbing. It can be walked in either direction, but it does need a small car shuffle or train ride between Mt Ku-ring-gai and Berowra stations. The walk descends steeply to Waratah Bay on Cowan Creek, then follows the waterway for 4km before climbing back up past some interesting rocks, a lookout point and through dry woodlands to the railway line at Mt Ku-ring-gai.
Windy banks and rusting hulks
Governor Phillip explored Broken Bay in his search for suitable farming land, finding “the finest piece of water I ever saw” (which he named Pittwater), Brisbane Water and Cowan Water in May 1788. He was met by Aborigines. The Gurringai people had lived on those waterways for thousands of years leaving evidence behind of a past life in their shell middens, stone tools, fish hooks, and rock art.
Boat builder Edward Windybanks settled at Waratah Bay in the 1890s, first living in a cave and then building a boatshed and home for his family. He rented out a fleet of rowboats and a number of moored houseboats on Cowan water for leisure visitors. He had a small orchard, a cow, a horse and trap for the steep zigzag trip up to Berowra Station. He raised seven children at Waratah Bay with his wife. Rusting remains of one of the houseboats can be seen in the bay, and the footings of his boatshed are also visible.
More history and some lovely photos of the Windybanks way of life can be seen here. The M3 motorway interchange at Berowra is named for Windybanks.
More information on the Mt Ku-ring-gai section of this walk, and the firefighters memorial at the top of the stone steps, is found in the blog post for Apple Tree Bay to Mt Ku-ring gai.
Wildwalks has good track notes on the Berowra to Mt Ku-ring-gai walk.