The Port Macquarie breakwall is an iconic part of our town with many tourists and locals walking the length of the wall each day.
Apart from the gorgeous view, one of the reasons the breakwall is so popular is because of the brightly painted rocks that adorn the walking path.
But have you ever wondered how the breakwall came to be?
In July 1821 explorer and Surveyor-General John Oxley wrote to Colonial Secretary Goulburn asking that something be done about the large number of boats that were being destroyed crossing the Hastings bar.
“The bar was repeatedly examined during my stay of 10 days and never less than 13 feet of water found on it at high tide, the bottom soft sand," John Oxley wrote.
The river was quite navigable for the first 70 years of settlement, but the bar at the river mouth had always been been considered hazardous and could be treacherous in adverse circumstances, Mr Oxley said.
Eventually the Public Works Department drew up plans for a breakwall on the southern side of the entrance designed to direct the main current of the river over the sand bar, scouring it out and creating a deep channel.
George P Cook and partners won the contract to build the wall – which at the time was called a “training wall” – and in 1897 construction began.
The wall is made with rocks from a quarry where the Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council now sits, and to get the rocks to the wall a horse drawn tram was constructed.
In present-day terms, the tram line ran along Warlters Street near St Joseph’s Primary, crossed the Park Street intersection, travelled diagonally through Westport Park and crossed Kooloonbung Creek near Buller Street on a specially designed foot bridge.
From there it came up Short Street, crossing the Clarence Street intersection before heading towards where the breakwall now stands.
Six horse drawn carriages worked to bring the rocks to the wall.
In the first year of construction, the contractor was paid 37 cents per tonne and at the end of the first year 45,319 tonnes of rock had made 889 feet of wall.
After the first year there was a lot of unrest by the workers constructing the wall and work was delayed.
Work recommenced in 1900 with new contractor Cook and Curl, and was completed in 1904.
Later, in 1932, the north breakwall was constructed with stone moved by train.
These days the breakwall is a colourful montage of tributes, holiday reflections and memorials to people, places and experiences.
Each rock has a distinct and unique pattern or picture and it is a pastime of many to walk along and appreciate the art while taking in the sights.
Have you painted a rock at the breakwall? Why did you do it? We would love to hear from you.
If you have a great breakwall story contact Laura Telford via email at Laura.Telford@fairfaxmedia.com.au today.
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