The ruins of the old Fretus Hotel are reached via the Calabash Firetrail, which follows Dusthole Ridge to Calabash Point above Berowra Creek. The trail follows a public road reserve through Crown Land along the ridge (none of the bushwalk is within Marramarra National Park), so dogs are allowed on-leash – or you can ride your mountain bike. Starting from a gate at the end of McCallums Road, the trail passes a couple of rural properties.
The wide firetrail is fairly level and it’s very easy walking for the first 2.5km.
There’s a very steep descent around the 2.5km mark, where the sandstone seems to have been hewn in places when the (now eroded) road was constructed.
A rock platform next to the road has some Aboriginal engravings, including a fairly weathered kangaroo.
The Calabash Trail descends a bit further, before narrowing a little to become more of bushwalking track. It passes a few wide rock platforms, which are just off the main trail.
As the continues to descend the ridge towards Calabash Point, there are views over Berowra Creek to the east and north, and Calabash Bay to the west.
Soon the ruins of the old Fretus Hotel come into sight. The first small stone building (separate to the main building) was thought to have been an outhouse.
The solid sandstone walls of the main building are still (mostly) standing, although there’s no floors or ceiling left, and a few trees are growing up the ruins. Built around 1900 after John Fretus purchased 40 acres of land in the 1890s, the hotel would have been a single storey structure, with a central corridor connecting all the rooms.
The sandstone walls of the hotel were lined with plaster, and over a hundred years of graffiti are carved into the walls, dating back to the 1930s. But please don’t add any graffiti… the old Fretus Hotel is now heritage-listed.
There’s an interesting story behind the ruins, which were originally a hotel in in Sans Souci. When Fretus lost his hotel licence (or fell on bad times – there’s a few slight variations to the story) he decided to move the hotel to this remote location. The stones and building materials were ferried by coastal steamer and carried up to the top of the steep ridge.
Fretus believed a new road would be built from Berowra Railway Station to Berrilee, crossing Berowra Creek via a ferry service at Calabash Point. This would make the site perfect for a hotel servicing travellers along the new road. But… the road ended up going from Berowra to Berowra Waters, further south (the Berowra Waters Ferry commenced operation in 1902). With no road access to Calabash Point, the hotel rapidly fell into disrepair and was abandoned by 1920.
There’s some filtered views over Berowra Waters from the hotel – there would have been stunning views when Calabash Point was cleared of trees. Rock platforms on the edge of the ridge make a nice spot for lunch or a break, before the walk back up to the car.
Getting to the Fretus Hotel ruins
The firetrail starts at a locked gate at the end of McCallums Road in Berrillee; it’s about half an hour from Hornsby, or one hour north of Sydney. There’s limited parking near the start of the trail – please make sure you don’t block any driveways. There’s no access from Calabash Point down to the water.
More information on Calabash Point
While some Web sites suggest that the walk crosses private land, this is incorrect: the route to Calabash Point generally follows a public road reserve through Crown Land, and bushwalking / mountain biking access is permitted.
Other bushwalks in and around Marramarra National Park include: