The Aboriginal name for Balls Head is 'Yerroulbine'. This reserve contains many Aboriginal sites including archaeological deposits/middens, art sites and rock engravings. It is thought that Balls Head Reserve was a site where men came to perform sacred corroborees to honour their ancestors of the Dreamtime.
Named after Lieutenant Henry Lidgbird Ball, Commander of the ship 'Supply' in the First Fleet of 1788, Balls Head was the original foreshore land included in the large Wollstonecraft Estate, which remained largely undeveloped at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1912 the Quarantine Depot was established in Berrys Bay to service the boats operating to and from the Quarantine station at North Head. This is now the National Maritime Museum's working depot.
There was some debate in the earlier part of the 20th century as to the use of the location for commercial and residential purposes versus open public space. Strong public protests resulted in it being declared public parkland in 1926.
European industrial sites dating back to the 19th century were located north of the Quarantine Depot and these featured the original stone store (house), later the torpedo depot and still later ship repair yards and oil storage tanks. Some of these stone stores were used for shelter by homeless people during the Depression in the 1930s.
Bush regeneration began on Balls Head in 1980 and the Bushcare group has been working weekly on the site since 1990.
Follow Balls Head Drive from Bay Road off the Pacific Highway at North Sydney. One large car park on the headland is available for parking. Street parking on Balls Head Road is also available. A 5 - 10 minute walk from Waverton railway station, turn left and follow Bay Road, which leads into Balls Head Road and then into Balls Head Drive.
Several picnic areas, dedication plaques, foreshore caves and historic flagpole. The flagpole is situated 300ft above sea level, marking the highest point west of the Harbour Bridge. In early settlement times it was used as means of communication with Government House.
Vegetation is predominately Open Forest, with Sydney Red Gums, and Red Bloodwoods and an understorey of Grevilleas, Wattles, Banksias, Geebungs, as well as shrubs and grasses. In sheltered gullies, species such as Cheese Trees, Sweet Pittosporum, Blueberry Ash, NSW Christmas Bush, Lillypillys, and Mock Olive flourish. On the south/western side of the reserve you can hear the wind blow through the stands of She Oaks. There are Port Jackson Figs, filled on summer nights with Grey-Headed Flying-fox eating the fleshy fruits. Some locally rare orchids can also be found on the reserve.
Balls Head reserve is a refuge for native fauna, with Geckoes, Blue-Tongue Lizards, Skinks, Common Eastern Froglets, Brushtail and Ringtail Possums, a colony of Large Bent-Wing Microbats, and many species of birds living and visiting the area. Sea birds can be found on the rocks around the foreshore and Parrots, Lorikeets, Kookaburras, Butcher Birds, Wrens and Figbirds can be found in the trees. Keep an eye and ear out for migrant Cuckoos and Koels in summer.