One of the most breathtaking views on Australia’s east coast is found driving the Coast Road south from Skennars Head, overlooking Sharpes Beach. Often seen in television commercials, the sight is vastly different from 1866 when John and Anne Sharpe selected 240 acres extending westward from the ocean.1
Then the beautiful clear water and white sands were of little interest to a farming family who were more concerned with the quality of soil for crops and pasture for cattle. The beach did become a favoured spot for picnics.
Other family members came to the area from the south coast and commenced growing sugar cane.2 They established Prospect Sugar Mill at North Creek, Ballina, the largest privately run mill at the time.3 Some foundations remain adjacent to the 11th tee of the Ballina Golf Course.
However, the heyday for private mills came to a close in the late 1880s with emergence of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at Broadwater.4 The family commenced dairying which was profitable for many years.
Along with remnants of the mill and some of its sandstock bricks, the Sharpes’ legacy incorporates the beach bearing their name. The Pines homestead, built by John Sharpe Jnr in the 1860s, derived its name from two Norfolk Island pines planted nearby. Sadly, the building burnt down in 1960.5
The Sharpe property was sold c1970,6 with the site between Headlands Drive and Angels Beach roundabout known locally as ‘Dr Stewart’s farm’. Iconic Norfolk Island pines line its boundary with the Coast Road. Since May 2017 the property has been subject of a development application by Intrapac Property Pty Ltd for housing and a commercial centre.7
Sources: 1,2,5,6 Sharpe B M, Two hundred years of Sharpe family history 1790-1990, 1992, ps36,10,40; 3 John Sharpe & Sons – Prospect Sugar Mill, The Northern Star; Lismore, 2.11.1878; 4 Death of Mr John Sharpe, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12.2.29 p12; 7 Ballina Shire Council website http://da.ballina.nsw.gov.au/Application/ApplicationDetails/010.2017.00000244.001/. accessed 17.2.2019