Our History


The naming of Sylvania is unclear, but ‘sylvan’ which means inhabiting the woods, relates to the setting of this suburb. Politician Thomas Holt (1811 – 1888) owned land that stretched from Sutherland to Cronulla.

Holt built Sutherland House on the foreshore of Gawley Bay in 1818, on the eastern side of Sylvania. He established the Sutherland Estate Company in 1881 with a village and post office opening in 1882. The school opened in 1884 but closed in 1891 and wasn’t reopened until 1925. Sylvania Heights Public School opened in 1955.

The Sylvania Waters Estate was developed by L.J. Hooker in the 1960s, with the land offering water frontages with boating facilities.

Building of the estate

Developer James Goyen won the tender to design and promote the estate and sent a Sutherland Shire engineer to the Florida Keys in the USA which had a similar development.

Goyen built more than eight kilometers of retaining wall around the estate. He designed Sylvania Waters so that the water would circulate with the tides to prevent rubbish accumulating.

The first parcels of land went on sale in 1963, and three artificial islands were also created; Murray in 1964, Barcoo in 1967 and James Cook in the 1970’s. Streets were named after Australian rivers to emphasise the association with water, such as Shoalhaven, Tweed, Murrumbidgee, Hawkesbury and Barwon.

Sylvania Waters is the only housing estate in Sydney where your boat is on the same level as your car.


Five Minutes of Fame

Sylvania Waters was the location of a 1992 reality television program, called ‘Sylvania Waters’ which followed the lives of the Donaher family living in Macintyre Crescent. A joint production by the ABC and BBC, the suburb became infamous when the series screened across Australia and internationally.

One of the houses on the artificial islands in Sylvania Waters (James Cook Island) was used in the filming of the movie Superman Returns (2006).