There are some fine obelisks to discover on this journey. Obelisks were prominent in the architecture of ancient Egypt and have, in more recent times, become a way of remembering great deeds and historic moments (see blue flags on map).
The tallest ancient obelisk was erected in the fifteenth century BCE (Before the Christian Era). 33.5 metres (110 feet) tall and weighing about 500 tons, it was moved from Heliopolis to Rome by the Emperor Constantine during the fourth century CE and can now be found beside a Roman church.
If you want to obelisks into a geo-discovery quest or treasure hunt, you might try to discover something more about each of them when you find them, such as their heights, composition or instigators/ builders. Here, details are arranged by date (of the obelisk) from oldest to youngest including their exact location (given in parentheses). There is also more to learn about all those we mention in 'The Great North Walk Companion' book. We hope readers will discover further details of these and other memorials as they walk.
From the most ancient:
Natural Obelisk: (31° 45′ 21″S, 159° 15′ 2″E) Lieutenant Henry Ball, a captain on the First Fleet, discovered Ball’s Pyramid in February 1788 on the same voyage in which he discovered Lord Howe Island. He made this discovery while transferring convicts from Botany Bay to start a penal settlement on Norfolk Island. Ball’s Pyramid is in the Pacific Ocean, about 800 km from the Great North Walk and is now part of NSW in the Lord Howe Island Marine Park. It is not a true obelisk as it is a natural feature although it has a similar shape being 562 m high, while measuring only 200 m across. This height makes it particularly noteworthy, as it is the tallest volcanic stack in the world.
Dates: discovered 1788; first white explorer, Henry Wilkinson, 1882; first summit ascent, 1965; flag on summit, 1979.
Road Builders’ Obelisk: (33° 51′ 47″S, 151° 12′ 37″E) Macquarie’s Obelisk is located in the oldest planned town square and urban park in Australia: the tiny Macquarie Place on Bridge Street in central Sydney. It marks the start of the Great North Walk and is the oldest true obelisk on this journey dating to 1818. Built of locally quarried white sandstone, this elongated pyramid has a geographical purpose: it is the milestone for the measurement of road lengths in New South Wales.
Seafarers’ Obelisk: (32° 55′ 55″S, 151° 46′ 44″E) the Newcastle obelisk was erected in 1850 following a storm of protest after an earlier landmark, or rather sea-farers mark, a windmill for flour grinding built in 1819, was demolished from a prominent hill close to the harbour. Ship-owners successfully petitioned for this vital navigation aid to be replaced resulting in the erection of this towering white obelisk. Despite damage from lightning and the 1989 earthquake this monument has remained intact. However there was a sad event in 1985 when the reservoir buried beneath it exploded as a result of a gas leak. The explosion, which was heard across Newcastle, caused injuries to two young girls as stated on a plaque laid to mark this event. On the Great North Walk.
Obelisk Bay: (33° 49′ 47″S, 151° 15′ 39″E) Sydney harbour is outlined by obelisks dating from early in European settlement. These were erected (as in Newcastle — see the Seafarers’ Obelisk) primarily as navigational aids although, in the case of ‘Obelisk Bay’ and its beach, place names are derived from these important markers. North Head has an obelisk dating to 1807; Bradley’s Head rejoices in a sandstone column moved from the Sydney General Post Office in 1871 while Middle Head has 1850s’ obelisks at Obelisk Beach and on Laings Point. Obelisk Beach, which is clothing optional, is not on the Great North Walk being about 6 km from Circular Quay on the southern side of Middle Head in Sydney Harbour.
Smelliest Obelisk: (33° 52′ 29″S, 151° 12′ 36″E) referred to as Thornton’s Scent Bottle because it was designed as a vent for the Sydney city sewerage, this obelisk is a sight for visitors to Sydney’s Hyde Park. Modelled on Cleopatra’s Needle, the ancient Egyptian obelisk moved to the banks of London’s Thames River, this obelisk stands on a sandstone base over 6.5 metres high. Its ‘business end’ is the top which comprises a filigreed bronze pyramid through which the smells of the city rose for many years after its unveiling in 1857 by the Mayor, George Thornton. Even its location was based on the fact that the sewerage system was at its highest point at the corner of Elizabeth and Bathurst Streets. This is about 500 m south of the obelisk in Macquarie Place, at the start of the Great North Walk.
Discoverer’s Obelisk: (34° 0′ 17″S, 151° 13′ 3″E) the Captain Cook Memorial Obelisk was erected in 1870 in what is now the Botany Bay National Park at Kurnell (about 18 km from Circular Quay on the Great North Walk). It recognizes Captain Cook’s discovery, on the 29th of April 1770, of Botany Bay where he anchored the ‘Endeavour’ and made the first British landing on Australia to claim ‘the Great South Land’ for Britain.
Explorers’ Obelisk: (33° 32′ 50″S, 151° 13′ 36″E) if you spend much time around Brooklyn Wharf, you are almost bound to find the obelisk. It commemorates the discovery and naming of the Hawkesbury River in 1789 by the earliest European explorer in Australia, Governor Arthur Phillip. It also recognizes the importance of the railways to this area being erected just before World War II and unveiled by the NSW Commissioner for Railways, T. J. Hartigan on 17th June 1939. On the Great North Walk.
Aboriginal Memorial Obelisk: (33° 28′ 19″S, 150° 53′ 40″E) this unusual memorial dates to 1952 and is located in the Sackville Reach Aboriginal Memorial Reserve in Lower Portland on a stretch of the Hawkesbury River known as Cumberland Reach. To find the Aboriginal Memorial Reserve, turn left off Holmes Drive into the Hawkesbury City Council reserve and follow to the road end. There is parking space at the entrance to the Aboriginal Memorial Reserve, then walk approximately 100 metres along the track to the memorial. Although the monument does not list any individuals, it commemorates the Hawkesbury Aboriginal community as a whole. The inscription reads: This Obelisk / Erected / As A Memorial / To The Aborigines / Of The Hawkesbury / For Whom This Area / Was Originally Reserved. This is about 33 km due west of the Great North Walk at Wondabyne.
Henry Kendall Obelisk: (33° 25′ 38″S, 151° 18′ 32″E) Henry Kendall has an obelisk dedicated to him: "Kendall Rock” Obelisk. Located near Henry Kendall's cottage on the road back to the freeway, this has a verse of ‘Names Upon a Stone’ by the poet inscribed on its plaque:
“There was a rock-pool in a glen
Beyond Narrara's sands;
The mountains shut it in from men
In flowerful fairy lands;
But once we found its dwelling-place --
The lovely and the lone --
And, in a dream, I stooped to trace
Our names upon a stone.”
This is near the Great North Walk and very close to Henry Kendall’s cottage – a recommended visit. Interestingly, the poem is annotated as “inscribed to G. L. Fagan, Esq.”. The Fagan family owned the ‘Henry Kendall’ cottage at the time Kendall lived there and hosted his stay. There was said to be a stone cairn erected in 1913 at the site of his first home near Ulladulla in the far south of the state. A sandstone monument replaced this cairn in 1972.
Railway Man’s Obelisk: (33° 45′ 09″S, 150° 38′ 37″E) in Knapsack Park (John Whitton Memorial Place) in the Blue Mountains, this memorial obelisk commemorates the work of John Whitton: the acknowledged father of the NSW Railways. Whitton, a Yorkshireman, was appointed Engineer-in-Chief of the NSW Government Railways in December 1856 and by the time he retired in 1889 he had overseen the growth of NSW railways from 34 km to 3538 km. This brick-built obelisk, about 45 km due west of the Great North Walk at De Burgh’s Bridge, was unveiled in 1980.
Ending with the most modern.