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a vintage photo of a bridge

Until the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, there were two ways of crossing the harbour with a vehicle. One was to go inland to Bedlam Point, near Gladesville where there was a punt, the other was to catch the horse ferry. There were several horse ferries operating in this vicinity, but only two wharves on the southern side of the harbour in this area. The first was built at Bennelong Point in 1883, where the Opera House now stands and it had two docks. The Dawes Point horse ferry wharf was constructed c1900 and the route operated to Blue’s Point.

The opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge made both wharves redundant and they were demolished soon after. The punt Princess was the first vehicular ferry in Australia, coming into operation in 1842, it left from the western side of Dawes Point at the end of Lower Fort Street, but she was plagued with problems and only lasted a matter of months on the route. The distance between the shorelines and the amount of increasing shipping that came past the point soon made cable punts unworkable.

The next vessels were steam operated paddle punts. These vessels were large enough to still be useful when large trucks and buses took over from horses and carts and operated until the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Smaller vessels were superseded in the 1920s as they could not cope with the increasing size and weight of motorized vehicles.

Even with four vehicle ferries operating a peak time, the vehicles still banked up in long lines. Before the Bridge opened, the vehicle ferries carried: Almost 400,000 vehicles (actually 378 500 in 1928) 43,800 horsemen and 5,000,000 people. The Ferry Service ceased with the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  #yougottalovesydney


Cars lining up to drive on to the vehicular Ferry to get across to the City. Kirribilli c.1930.

State Library of NSW