The Hawkesbury River was the main route to Sydney for early settlers and ship building soon began along its banks.
As the settlement grew, the type and number of ships constructed expanded– from small cutters and sloops to schooners capable of traversing the Pacific. Small feeder boats moved goods, produce and people from farms along the river and its tributaries to market. Locals would travel into town in a rowboat or dugout canoe.
By 1804, at least five Hawkesbury-built sailing vessels were registered. One was the 16-ton sloop the Hope, built by Andrew Thompson in 1802 specifically for the Hawkesbury – Sydney trade run – at the time, one of the busiest of the colony.
In 2019, the remains of an early colonial boat were discovered in the river opposite Thompson Square. Investigations revealed that it may have been built at one of the shipyards along this stretch of the river. While its date is uncertain, it was probably made no later than the mid-19th century.