Most Australian race tracks when they reach the end there use get turned into housing estates or industrial parks. But not Catalina Park Raceway in Katoomba.
Catalina Park Raceway, also known as The Gully, was a little race track famous for events in the 1960s and ’70s and was still used for smaller motorsport sprint style events until the mid-1990s, that is the exception to that rule and still exists, all but abandoned if you know where to look for it.
Unlike Oran Park Raceway, Amaroo Park Raceway and Surfers Paradise International Raceway which were all closed to make room for residential developments, or Warwick Farm Raceway which made way for an industrial complex expansion. The Blue Mountains’ Catalina Park Raceway was closed permanently and left abandoned after being declared a sacred Aboriginal site in 2002.
Prior to the 1940s when the site was developed initially as a tourist park, it was home to a sacred Aboriginal summer camp for the Gundungurra and Darug people.
However in 1946, developers took over and created a tourist attraction in order to encourage people to visit the Blue Mountains. They built a dam featuring a Catalina PBY-5 flying boat (hence the venues name) as well as a number of rides and a swimming pool. All of which had been neglected over ten years later leading to the race track being developed on the same site.
When Catalina Park Raceway was eventually built, it was shaped like a squashed triangle with a number of elevation changes and a mix of high speed and tight corners leading it to be it quickly become known as one of the best tracks in the country, and hosting several touring cars races while it was run Australian Racing Drivers Club until 1969.
Eventually, tracks like Oran Park and Amaroo Park were built closer to Sydney, leading to the decline in bigger events being held at the 2.1 kilometres. Although a rallycross track through the middle of the venue did see a resurgence of events during the ’70s.
I could probably go on all day about the site, but you can read a full history on Catalina Park Raceway over on this Wikipedia page or this great article from Just Cars.
Nowadays the track still remains, albeit well overgrown in some sections, and is accessible as a public park behind the Katoomba Sports and Aquatic Center.
I’ve been there a couple of times now, often to show other people in the motorsport industry the remains of Catalina Park Raceway. I’ve taken many photos there over that time particularly in 2016 and 2018, here’s a collection of some of my shots.
The plaque detailing some of the history of the site, located at the entrance near the Katoomba Sports and Aquatic Center.
The remnants of the pit straight and the start/finish line.
As you walk around the track you gain an appreciation of not only the history and the dangers of early motorsport but also how much nature has reclaimed different sections of the venue now that it has been left to the elements.
The further you walk around the track the narrower the track gets and you can see sections that have collapsed leaving the old armco hanging in the air.
That wraps up my photos from Catalina Park Raceway. It’s something a bit different, but it was interesting to see a piece of Australian motorsport history that still remains to this day.
If you are looking to explore Catalina Park Raceway for yourself, make sure you take the time to see the rest of what the Blue Mountains, particularly Katoomba has to offer as well.
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1 thought on “Abandoned: Catalina Park Raceway”
Thank you for your information about Catalina Park. As a former resident of Katoomba I regularly return there for short stays and last time I was there I searched and searched for the old raceway and the cottages where we used to stay across the road, but found nothing but the old pool and a new pool where I guessed the race track had been. . We drove our 1962 Fiat 2300 round the track back in the 60s, and would love to have seen the track again. Will search for it again next week when I return again.
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