Lake Macquarie History

Swing Bridge at Cooranbong

The Swing Bridge at the end of the Sanitarium factory's private road at Cooranbong has become a well-known landmark around the area after it was built across Dora Creek in 1934. It was designed and built by Harry Tempest, first manager of the Sanitarium Plant Development Division. The bridge played a significant role in relieving the need for personnel to row or swim across the Creek.

photo: swing bridge at cooranbong

The story goes that it was built primarily for Oleta Leech, the wife health-food factory scientist and laboratory director, William D. Leech. This American couple started work at Avondale in 1934, and lived on the south-side of Dora Creek, with Oleta teaching some history and German classes at the College. Although there were alternative routes, the main method of accessing the estate was to swim or row the short distance across the creek. Being terrified of deep water, Oleta would always take the long way around. But the row boats were prone to being “borrowed’ by unknown persons. When the factory decided to provide the funds for a foot-bridge there were mixed feelings within the immediate community. Some were delighted while others feared their privacy and isolation would be destroyed. The latter did come true.

Initially the College faculty ruled that crossing the bridge was out of bounds for indoor students. These rules were softened in 1965 allowing young men to cross the Swing Bridge and go to the Red Hill store.

A large eucalypt on the College side of the Swing Bridge came to be known as Billy-can Tree. South-side customers of the College dairy would hang their milk billies on nails hammered into the trunk and the College dairymen would fill them on their daily round.

The original bridge had stout timbers, however in the eighties after a suspicious semi-collapse they were replaced with galvanised steel supports. Although some parts have worn and been replaced and it has been covered by flood waters multiple times it is real testament to the factory’s early engineering and draftsmen who designed and built it.

photo: swing bridge at cooranbong

In November 2006 the Lakes Mail newspaper reported that "The popular swing bridge straddling Dora Creek in Cooranbong may soon be closed as part of a general security upgrade by Avondale College campus and it's neighbouring Sanitarium Health Food Factory on the same site."

This did not happen the bridge is still being used during daylight hours, and remains a popular site for photographers.


Chamberlain, Michael (Michael Leigh) 1997, Cooranbong, first town in Lake Macquarie, 1826-1996 : a history including Martinsville and Dora Creek, M. Chamberlain, Lake Maquarie City, N.S.W

Hook, Milton 1998, Avondale : experiment on the Dora, Avondale Academic Press, Cooranbong, N.S.W

Parr, Robert H & Litster, Glyn 1996, "What hath God wrought!" : the Sanitarium Health Food Company story, Sanitarium Health Food Co, Berkeley Vale, NSW, Australia

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