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Hike to the McGaw Ruins and Whitehorse Beach

Hike to the historic McGaw Ruins and have a swim at Whitehorse Beach

The walk to the McGaw ruins is almost identical to the Flint & Steel Hike, however when the Flint & Steel track branches you turn left instead of right. (Ignore the hand written warning on the sign).

You will soon find the spectacular ruins of the McGaw house the only house ever built on the West Head Peninsular - it was originally a subdivision called “Commodore Heights” and may never have been National park if the subdivision was successful! The McGaws refused to leave when the area was declared National Park. The house burnt down in 1971 after the McGaws moved to Narrabeen and all is left is the massive sandstone foundations.

Taken from “Pittwater Online News”

“For decades people have reported either visiting a wonderful house in the 1950's and 1960's that disappeared by the time they went back again or finding the residue foundations of what was clearly once a substantial place that had been constructed among the bush.
What is so unusual about this house is where it once was - at Flint and Steel Point and overlooking Flint and Steel beach in the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. The existence of a spring near this location, with crystal fresh water, made possible being able to live there.
Built by a gentleman named Eardley Henderson McGaw, born at East Road, Invercargill (New Zealand) on May 15th 1891, to John Henderson McGaw and Minnie Phoebe Kate Brind (married in 1890), the house itself was said to have started small and grown and grown.  

In The McGaw House, Flint and Steel Bay, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, 1920-1971 and 1984 by Tessa Corkhill ( A report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for Historical Archaeology II, University of Sydney, October 1984) Tessa explains a Land Titles search showed that Eardley Henderson McGaw, Manufacturers Agent, was issued with a Certificate of Title on December 13th, 1928 – according to Document 44 of this file this was the result of an oral promise by the owners of the land, John Miller and Rosa Jane Mobbs. Mr. McGaw had a statuary Declaration, dated August 30th, 1928, in which he states that; 
'‘some four or five years ago I entered into a verbal agreement with Miller and Mobbs that “if I erect a cottage to the value of £160 within 4 years they would give me the land on which the cottage was erected”
He had apparently been living nearby on a 'flat piece of land on the Hawkesbury' by the early 1920's. 

THE doctor told Eardley McGaw that he had a bad heart and must give up work. McGaw took the doctor's advice because the warning was grave. So he went and lived in a cave on the Hawkesbury River. He lived the life of a caveman for six months, and then he built a house of palm-tree bark. Many rats, however, came to live in the house with him, and the games they played running about in the bark were disturbing. He, therefore, started on the 'House that Mac Built.' 
Six years he took to build it as it stood. Room was added to room until nine were constructed.

As you can see by old the photographs in the , the appearance of the Mc Gaw house suggests something of the Swiss, the Norwegian, the Basque, or maybe the French or German. The walls and floors are concrete; and wonderful work it is for a man who has had no previous experience in building. He has even achieved a very creditable archway, and the fireplace is a masterpiece of graceful lines with coloured concrete blocks, to give a decorative appearance. The floors on the ground floor, too, are of .green, red, and ochre-coloured concrete blocks. ' The floors of the top story are of cut timber. The only materials Mac bought were the joists, floor boarding, concrete, and cedar doors, and they were purchased second-hand at a sale in Sydney. The cedar doors came from Sir John and Lady Hay's Sydney house, and are valued to-day at over £12 each. The sand for the concrete was carried up from the river in kerosene tins — and the hill is a very steep one. (His heart was on the mend, no doubt.) 
THEN, when the walls were built, the real 'magnum opus' began. Mac started to gather shingles for the roof. He went into the hills and searched out forest oak. He would find a tree, cut it down, saw the trunk into 15-inch sections, quarter them, then split them into shingles. He would fill a chaffbag with about sixty or seventy, lift them on his back, and walk the two or three miles to the house. (I think his heart must have been almost normal then.)He hewed his shingles out of gulleys, and he lowered them down precipices, and always there was that arduous two or three miles walk. The house is roofed with 50,000 shingles. How far did he walk? You can work it out for yourself, but I should say that he must have covered a couple of thousand miles carrying his bag of shingles. He had, of course, the journey there, which would also amount to over two thousand miles, as well as the simple little performance of cutting the shingles. Now, as you travel down the Hawkesbury River, you may see this house that Mac built standing halfway up the cliff. He and his wife run it now as an accommodation house, and should you desire a peaceful holiday under novel conditions in a house where the huge windows have no glass frames in them, where you climb up ladders to bedrooms to gaze out beneath overhanging eaves across a blue river to the golden sands of Patonga Beach, then you may ask the launchman to drop you there. It says a lot for the climate of the Hawkesbury River that it should build up a sick man into one who can carry a 70lb load up a steep hillside without any undignified loss of breath; who can walk in to Pymble in five hours over a rough track. I trust that no unforeseen set of circumstances will ever bring me into physical conflict with the man.”

Trip Satistics



2 hours 30 mins

Time to complete


Effort Level


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