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Botany Bay: the origin of Australia

Botany Bay lies just a few miles south of Sydney’s central business district: this is the place where the British, under the command of Captain James Cook, first set foot on shore in 1770. Today the bay is part of Botany Bay National Park, filled with beautiful landscapes, nature walks and fascinating museums.

Initially, the English named the bay Sting Ray Harbour because of the large numbers of stingrays that were found there. However, within a few days more than 3,000 new species of plants had been discovered and Sting Ray Harbour was renamed Botany Bay.

The waters of Botany Bay
The waters of Botany Bay


Captain Cook’s Landing Place

In the wake of James Cook

The place where Captain Cook first went ashore, on the southern Cape of the bay, is now marked as 'Captain Cook's Landing Place'. There is a monument in the form of a stone needle and the visitor centre displays various exhibits that provide more information on the history of Botany Bay. The arrival of Cook had a significant impact on Australia’s original inhabitants, the Aborigines, who were eventually driven out of the area or killed.

The first fleet

January 1788 marked the arrival of the First Fleet from Great Britain, 18 years after the arrival of Captain Cook. Eleven ships with over a thousand settlers, including convicts, arrived on the shores to set up the first British colony. Two days later, Captain Arthur Phillip planted the British flag in Sydney Cove claiming the country on behalf of the United Kingdom: every year, on 26 January, the country celebrates the event with Australia Day. The day is a national holiday and there are festivities throughout the country, including in Sydney. The programme is different each year, but the day always concludes with a spectacular fireworks display.
Spectacular fireworks over Sydney
The La Perouse Museum

The misfortune of La Perouse

Another explorer who set foot in Botany Bay – also in January 1788 – was Jean-François de Galaup, the Count of La Perouse. He was able to offer vital supplies to the settlers. However, during one of his many trips La Perouse’s ships sunk in mysterious circumstances: the wrecks were only discovered many years later in the Solomon Islands. At the North Cape of Botany Bay is the La Perouse Museum and Visitors Centre which is mostly dedicated to the French explorer and his fleet. The museum displays a large collection of maps, navigation instruments and relics salvaged from the shipwrecks of the La Perouse expedition.

Birds and fish

The combination of history and nature makes Botany Bay an attractive destination. The beautiful National Park is the habitat of unique native plants, dozens of bird species and a rich underwater world. It is also a popular dive site. There are great walking trails and miles of white sandy beach. Visit the viewing platform at Quibray Bay, an excellent spot for bird watching.
White-faced heron