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Visit North Head Sanctuary

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Image credit: Mark Merton
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Cost

Free Admission

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Hours
  • Bike tracks, foot paths and cemetery open sunrise to sunset, daily.
  • Visitor centre closed (See 'Disruptions').
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Transport
  • Car
  • Bus
  • Foot
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Location

Visitor centre – North Fort, North Head Scenic Drive, Manly, NSW 2095

 

Google Maps

A nature refuge, bordered by dramatic cliffs, North Head Sanctuary, Manly, is located on the peninsula at the northern entrance to Sydney Harbour.

This place holds significance to the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land, the Gayamagal people. As you explore the park’s coastal bushland, via dedicated walking and bike tracks, you’ll discover diverse flora and fauna, military fortifications from World War II and signs of the nation’s early quarantine practices. Were it not for the unspoiled harbour views, it would be hard to believe you are only 11km from Sydney’s CBD.

Plan ahead

Directions arrow

By car: From Manly, follow Darley Road onto North Head Scenic Drive and pass through the stone archway and Q Station roundabout. Continue for approx. 2km and turn left at North Fort to arrive at our visitor centre and carpark.

By bus: The 135 bus service runs from Manly Wharf to North Head Sanctuary daily. For public transport information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website.

Disruptions arrow

Update on visitor access to North Head Sanctuary (29/10/2020): North Head Scenic Drive is open from the Q Station roundabout, meaning visitors to North Head Sanctuary can access parking at the North Fort Visitor Centre as well as NPWS parking near Bella Vista Café. Further, walks and tracks have reopened on the Western side of North Head Sanctuary. The following areas and track are closed until further notice: Australia's Memorial Walk, the Gun Emplacements, Avenue of Honour and the Hanging Swamp. Refer to the below map for full details on current walk and track closures.

See also: North Head Sanctuary – Status of walks and tracks following burn

General (05/06/2020): Due to COVID-19, the Visitor Centre at North Head Sanctuary is currently closed, and no guided tours of the underground fortifications are available. We look forward to welcoming back our visitor service staff and tour guides early in 2021 to recommence these programs. Head to our COVID-19 updates page for further details.

Baiting (15/07/2020): Between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) will be conducting a baiting program at North Head Sanctuary (incl. the former School of Artillery) to control foxes and protect threatened species. The program will use manufactured baits, fresh baits and Canid Pest Ejectors (CPE’s/ejectors) containing 1080 poison (sodium fluoroacetate). All baiting locations will be identifiable by signs. Domestic pets are not permitted at North Head Sanctuary and visitors should not touch the baits or ejectors. Pets and working dogs may be affected (1080 is lethal to cats and dogs). Pets and working dogs must be restrained or muzzled in the vicinity and must not enter baiting locations. Penalties apply for non-compliance. In the event of accidental poisoning, seek immediate veterinary assistance. For further information, contact the Harbour Trust on (02) 8969 2167

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Parking is available in marked spaces at North Head Sanctuary. Check signage for any fees or time limits. Subject to sign-posted time limits, parking is free of charge for motorcycles and drivers with Mobility Scheme Permits. Parking permits issued by Northern Beaches Council and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service are not valid in Harbour Trust parking areas.

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Our visitor centre and carpark offer wheelchair access as well as accessible parking and toilets. Please keep in mind that North Head Sanctuary is a natural environment with uneven surfaces and that some walking tracks include stairs and medium inclines. There is a bike rack outside the visitor centre.

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North Head Sanctuary is patrolled by rangers from 8am to 4pm and by security personnel from 4pm and 8am. In the event of an emergency, dial 000 or 112 if mobile reception is poor. To contact a ranger during an emergency, call 0434 652 152 (8am to 4pm). Alternatively, to contact a security officer, call 0433 631 689 (4pm to 8am).

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For your own safety, and to protect the park’s flora and fauna, please remain on the dedicated walking or bike tracks when exploring the bushland and observe the following rules, enforceable by our rangers:

Conditions of entry: Do not feed wildlife or bring pets; only use bikes on designated bike tracks; do not litter, dump rubbish or leave dog waste; do not camp overnight; do not erect gazebos or marquees (without a permit); do not operate remote-controlled vehicles (including drones); do not smoke, light fires or use portable barbeques; remain on dedicated bush tracks; do not play amplified music (without a permit) or create excessive noise; do not undertake commercial activities (without a permit); do not hold private functions (without a permit); do not disturb plants, soil and rocks; do not skateboards or scooters on footpaths or walking tracks; do not climb walls, fortifications, sculptures or cliffs.

Total fire bans: In the event of a total fire ban, tracks and trails will be closed for the public’s safety (penalties apply). For more information, dial 1800 679 737 for the NSW Rural Fire Service’s bush fire information line.

Activities

Looking for things to do in Sydney? North Head is a place where you can enjoy the great outdoors and learn about military history...

Descend beneath North Fort on a guided tour

With its large network of gun emplacements and underground tunnels, North Fort was a crucial part of Sydney’s coastal defence system throughout World War II. During our 70-minute tour of this former army base, you will walk in the footsteps of soldiers who protected our shores – above and below ground.

Embark on a one-of-a-kind odyssey

Feeling ambitious? Embark on the 80km Bondi to Manly Walk, a massive network of public tracks spanning the foreshore between two of Sydney’s most iconic surf beaches. By the time you reach North Head Sanctuary, and complete a lap of our scenic Sanctuary Loop, you will be on the cusp of completing a one-of-a-kind odyssey. Well done!

Complete a lap of the Sanctuary Loop

The Sanctuary Loop is a circuit trail of North Head Sanctuary, which visitors can complete in under two hours. Highlights include exceptional coastal views from Third Quarantine Cemetery and Fairfax Lookout; endangered flora and fauna; diverse birdlife; decommissioned gun emplacements at North Fort; and the Australian Memorial Walk, honouring those who defended Australia during times of peace and war.

Commemorate our service people

A paved pathway featuring monuments to the major conflict periods in Australia’s history, Australia's Memorial Walk is an opportunity for reflection in an idyllic location with views of Sydney Harbour. Open seven days a week, the Memorial Walk is maintained for the community by the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company (RAAHC), relying on grants, tax deductible donations and volunteer support.

Join a nature walk or tour

The North Head Sanctuary Foundation works with the Harbour Trust to protect, maintain and promote awareness of the park’s delicate ecosystem. This includes running guided tours, including the regular Spring Wildflower Walks.

 

Eat and drink

You're bound to work up an appetite and a thirst exploring North Head Sanctuary. Do yourself a favour and refuel at Bella Vista...

Bella Vista Café

Located near the visitor centre at North Fort, Bella Vista Café marries traditional and modern Italian cuisine with sweeping views of Sydney Harbour. 

Currently, Bella Vista is serving takeaway coffee, beverages and snacks; however, they will be relaunching their popular dine-in experience from Wednesday 9 December 2020. Visit the venue’s website to reserve a spot!

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Nature

North Head originated during the last Ice Age when erosional forces separated it from Hornsby Plateau, transforming it into a ‘tied island’, linked to the mainland by Manly’s sandspit...

Today, North Head boasts a diversity of native flora and fauna across a range of habitats. The central area features dunes made up of wind-deposited sands dating back 140,000 years to the Pleistocene Epoch. These dunes support one of Sydney’s few remaining patches of Eastern Suburbs Banksia. Other vegetation types include heathland, littoral rainforest and wetland as well as ferns and colourful wildflowers.

North Head is a refuge for echidnas, reptiles, frogs and more than 100 species of bird, including the Rainbow Lorikeet, the Little Wattlebird, the New Holland Honeyeater and the White-browed Scrubwren. 

It is also home to an endangered population of Long-nosed Bandicoots, once common throughout Sydney, as well as locally extinct species including the Eastern Pygmy Possum, Brown Antechinus, and Bush Rat

To learn more about local flora and fauna, visit Bandicoot Heaven, a community-run education centre run by the North Head Sanctuary Foundation. Located in the Barracks Precinct, the centre is open from 10am to 4pm every Saturday and Sunday. The Foundation also operates a native plant nursery that propagates local species. To date, over 15,000 plants have been planted.

History

Traditionally known as Car-rang-gel, North Head has enduring significance for the Gayamagal People and occupies a notable place in the nation’s quarantine and military narratives...

In addition to being the backdrop for some of the earliest interactions between Aboriginal People and Europeans, North Head was once used to quarantine people with deadly epidemic diseases. Later, during World War II, military fortifications at North Head formed part of a defence system that spanned 300km of coastline. 

Image credit:The Quarantine Burial Ground, Spring Cove, Manly, George French Angas (1822-1886), National Library of Australia.

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Join the conversation

UPDATE (12/10/20): The Harbour Trust is inviting everyone to have a say on North Head Sanctuary...

We are in the early stages of refreshing our approach to this historically significant site and want to ensure our plans reflect the aspirations of the community.

To have your say on North Head Sanctuary, text “Hello Harbour Trust” to 0480 018 889 or complete our short online survey before 30 November.

This is the first of many opportunities to share your views with the Harbour Trust and we look forward to continuing the conversation. 

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