From farm to race track to drive-in, this Frenchs Forest property has great history

While perhaps hard to imagine, in the early 1950s Frenchs Forest was still semi-rural. The area where the Forest Hotel is today was the 30-acre Boomerang Farm, owned and developed originally by George and Mary Alderton. They bought the property in 1897 and built a substantial home on it.

Active farming of flowers, vegetables and fruit ceased with World War 2 and post-war the property entertained picnickers, sporting and equestrian events and motorcycle racing.

The Manly motorcycle club organised time-trial type events on a purpose-built dirt circuit on part of the property. Equestrian gymkhanas, including polocrosse, were held on a very large field which had been the area where crops were grown. Barn dances were also held.

In 1955 the Northern Forests Development Company bought the western half of the site, where the motor bike track had been, and built the Skyline drive-in theatre. This opened in October 1956 and, along with its sister at Dundas which opened simultaneously, was the first drive-in theatre in Sydney.

Then in 1960 the Antler Hotel opened on the eastern end of the site, leaving a portion of land between the two new developments, still containing the original house. This strip had been purchased by the Commonwealth in 1956 and the house was used by the RAAF until 1976. They had a radar station a short distance away beside Warringah Road.

In 1987 the property was purchased by the Australian Telecommunications Commission but the house was eventually demolished in the early 2000s for the development of the Forest Central Business Park. The Skyline drive-in had closed in 1986, its site also becoming a business park.

Every piece of land has a story, but Boomerang Farm’s is perhaps more interesting than most.

Richard Michell is the vice-president of the Manly, Warringah and Pittwater Historical Society and the secretary of Friends of Dee Why Lagoon. Visit and respectively.