Lion Island (New South Wales)

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Lion Island
Lion Island at sunset.jpg
Lion Island viewed from Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park#West Head
Location New South Wales
Nearest city Gosford
Coordinates 33°33′25″S 151°19′04″E / 33.556917°S 151.317701°E / -33.556917; 151.317701Coordinates: 33°33′25″S 151°19′04″E / 33.556917°S 151.317701°E / -33.556917; 151.317701
Area 8 hectares (20 acres)
Established 1956
Governing body NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service

Lion Island is located at the entrance to the Hawkesbury River inside Broken Bay and is considered part of the Gosford local government area.[1] It is a descriptive name because it resembles a Sphinx, a mythical figure of a crouching lion.[2]

Original name[edit]

Lion Island. Looking north with Umina Beach and Brisbane Water in the background.

The island was originally named Mount Elliott Island by Governor Arthur Phillip in 1789, because it resembled Gibraltar where his friend, General Elliott, had inflicted defeats on French and Spanish fleets.[3] This name continued to be used by cartographers until the 1920s.[4]

Nature reserve status[edit]

In 1956, the Lion Island Fauna Reserve was established on the island. In 1977, it was reclassified as the Lion Island Nature Reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1967 and is administered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales.[5] The nature reserve covers all of the island, an area of approximately 8 hectares (20 acres).[1]

Due to the island's significant biodiversity it was added to the Australian National Heritage List in December 2006.[6]

The island is a breeding habitat for shearwaters[1][7] and is free of feral cats and foxes.[2]

The island has a weed infestation problem that includes Bitou Bush and Lantana.[1]

Little penguin colony[edit]

Lion Island contains the largest population of Little Penguins in the Sydney area.[1] In 2007, the population was approximately 300 breeding pairs and appeared to be stable.[8]

A more recent study has suggested that the colony has been in steep decline since the 1990s. No primary cause of the decline has been identified. By comparison, the nearby colony at Manly is believed to be stable.[9]

Lion Island supports mammalian predators, namely water rats, which have been observed running along the water’s edge at night.[9] Rat nest depredation has been proven to impact the Little penguin population on Granite Island in South Australia.

In 2012, penguin researchers observed that penguins' feeding trips were much longer than those taken by the population on Bowen Island in the Jervis Bay Territory.[9]

Access restrictions[edit]

Public access to the island is by permit, provided by the National Parks and Wildlife Service Regional Manager, and is restricted to conservation, education and research purposes.[1] No recreational facilities are provided on the island.[1]


The cap at the Eastern end of Lion Island is composed of Hawkesbury Sandstone. The shores of the island are composed of the older Narrabeen Group of sandstones and shales.[1]


In 2005, a documentary film claimed erroneously that the wreckage of a Japanese midget submarine, which disappeared after the attack on Sydney Harbour in 1942, was buried under sand on the seabed, just east of Lion Island.[10][11] The wreck has since been located near Bungan Head.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and Lion Island, Long Island and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves" (PDF). Plan of Management. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. May 2002. 
  2. ^ a b Lion Island sign board at West Head Lookout
  3. ^ Pratt, Eileen (1978) Place Names of the Central Coast. Brisbane Water Historical Society and The Entrance and District Society. p29
  4. ^ National Library of Australia
  5. ^ "Lion Island". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. 
  6. ^ Australian National Heritage listing for Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Lion Island, Long Island and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves
  7. ^ "Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Lion, Long and Spectacle Island Nature Reserves, Ku-ring-gai Chase Rd, Bobbin Head, NSW (entry AHD105817)". Australian Heritage Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 
  8. ^ Lion Island Little Penguin Threat Abatement (2007-04) NSW Department of Environment & Conservation. Retrieved 2014-08-13.
  9. ^ a b c "Penguin project in the making". Little penguin research. 2014-08-05. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  10. ^ Steve Meacham, Down to the wire ... solving a 60-year mystery, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 November 2005
  11. ^ Investigation fails to find midget sub, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 19 December 2005. 5:34pm (AEDT)
  12. ^ M24 Japanese Midget Submarine wreck site, State Heritage Inventory Search, New South Wales Heritage Office (Accessed 2007-08-16)