It is early on Saturday morning as the streets surrounding The Waterfront development at Shell Cove become crammed full with parked cars and traffic.
About 30 years since the department of public works first flagged the idea of a Shellharbour marina, the mammoth development is taking shape.
With water to at last flood the site in coming months, thousands of people accept the developer’s invitation, on Saturday, to walk along the bottom of the harbour floor before it is submerged for good.
The opportunity captures imaginations young and old.
Flinders’ Clarke kids – Reon, 4, Kyan, 3 and Nhya, 18 months - are among the many children in the crowd.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, to be on the bottom of the harbour before they fill it with water,” said their father Matt Clarke, with his wife Kara Clarke. “We’ll bring the kids back in a couple of years and say, ‘we walked along the bottom of that’.”
A 400-metre path snakes down from the street to the tip of a large public jetty – for now a fresh timber skeleton still awaiting decking.
Glenn Colquhoun, development director at Frasers Property, imagines people walking the length of the structure one day soon, ice creams in hand.
On Saturday, a pink ice cream truck parked underneath helps paint the picture.
“A lot of people don’t comprehend how bit the undertaking is here,” he said. “The water body is about 12 hectares – that’s about 30 per cent larger than the water body of Darling Harbour.”
“It’s got its headaches, but it is an amazing project to be part of. I’ve been working on this project for 18 years and seeing it come to fruition and seeing everyone come down today is very rewarding.”
Constant pumping keeps the site free of groundwater during construction. Filling up the harbour will be a months-long job.
“I’ve spoken to so many people this morning who have this expectation that it’s going to be like a plug and it will be like the parting of the water and it will be like flooding in, but it’s going to be a lot more gentle and low-key than that,” Mr Colquhoun said.
“It will just be an equalisation of the ground water and the ocean water.”
There is no talk of burying a time capsule or anything of significance ahead of the inundation, but with Saturday’s event, some small man-made marks have been left behind.
Maddison Lewis, 10, of Barrack Point, is among those who scratched their mark into the base of the jetty pylons.
She left her name and the initials of a good friend, 10-year-old Edyn Hannah Tani, who died on February 3 of leukemia. It was a small tribute, left on the north-facing row of pylons, nine back from the end, soon to be forever under the sea.