Walking through North Head’s peaceful and pristine heathland, it can be easy to forget that you’re only 11km from the CBD. As you explore, you’ll encounter diverse wildlife and flora, military remains, and stunning views of the city and harbour.
Right in Manly’s backyard are beautiful walks, breathtaking views, bike-riding paths, military relics and a thriving hub of health and well-being professionals. A remarkable setting, North Head Sanctuary is home to delicate and diverse flora and fauna complete with hanging swamps. Its wild, island-like nature has made North Head Sanctuary a place for isolation, observation and contemplation. Rich in history and a special place for the Aboriginal people, the dramatic cliffs of North Head form a memorable entry to Sydney Harbour with superb views of the harbour from the cliff tops. The interconnectedness of so many elements make North Head such a special place.
Walks & self guided tours
The 1 ½ - 2 hour Gunners’ Walk passes by former School of Artillery buildings and explores much of the heathland. Highlights include the many flowering plants, diverse birdlife, and views of the city and harbour. You can find a map of this walk in our visitor guide, which is available for download here or can be picked up at the Gatehouse Visitor Centre.
North Fort Tour
Take a 45 minute guided tour through WWII tunnels, gun emplacements & more at North Fort. Hear how North Fort contributed to the Defence of Sydney & enjoy magnificent views of the harbour.
When: Every Sunday
Time: 10:30am, 11:30am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm
Cost: $7 adult, $5 child/concession, $20 family (two adults and up to three concessions)
Bookings: Sundays on site only.
Where: North Fort - North Head Scenic Drive, Manly.
By car: Drive along North Head Scenic Drive, through Parkhill Archway and past roundabout. Continue for approx 2 kms. The entrance to North Fort is on your left & signposted. Follow the driveway through the stone wall to the car park inside. Tour booking office is opposite the car park near the stone wall.
By foot: As above or if coming from Shelly Beach, walk through North Head Sanctuary (former School of Artillery) along North Fort Rd (internal road) and through the wall. Follow the road around to your right. The booking office is last building on your left opposite the car park.
Conditions: Tour includes bush tracks, stairs and underground tunnels
Group Tours: Group tours are also available by appointment. Minimum group size of 20, subject to guide availability .
Tel: (02) 8969 2100 - Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm
Food & beverage
Bella Vista Cafe serves traditional home-style Italian food made only from the highest-quality ingredients. It is open seven days a week from 8am-5pm serving breakfast, morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea.
Serve it up on the tennis courts located behind Building 1 at North Head Sanctuary. The cost is $20 per hour with a minimum booking of one hour. Booking, including pre-payment, is essential and can be made by contacting the Harbour Trust on (02) 8969 2100 during office hours, Monday - Friday.
If history is your thing, then North Head Sanctuary plays host to important military fortifications which were integral to Sydney’s defence in WWII and the Third Quarantine Cemetery where over 240 people were buried between 1881 – 1919.
The Nursery Group is part of the North Head Sanctuary Foundation, a group of volunteers partnering with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to maintain and preserve the vision of the Sanctuary at North Head. Much of the Sanctuary is Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, an endangered ecological community, which the nursery showcases throughout the Sanctuary.
For more information visit the North Head Sanctuary Foundation Room on North Fort Road in front of the Nursery, open every weekend from 10am – 4pm.
The bushland at North Head Sanctuary provides habitat for a wide range of native species. Keep an eye out for birds like New Holland honeyeaters, white browned scrub-wrens, rainbow lorikeets, and little wattlebirds. If you are lucky, bandicoots and possums may also make an appearance.
North Head Sanctuary is also home to the Long-nosed Bandicoot. The population at North Head is in danger of extinction and has been listed as an “endangered population”. Once it was widely distributed along the east coast of Australia, and was once common throughout Sydney. Find out more about the Long-nosed bandicoot (PDF - 370.34 KB)
The walking track at North Head Sanctuary—which leads to North Fort and then Fairfax Lookout in Sydney Harbour National Park—offers a number of places to view the city through untouched bushland.
Visit the Discovery Room at the Visitor Centre for free children’s activities. There is a range of books to read, a microscope to examine bush remnants and other interactive activities.
Australia’s Memorial Walk
The Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company have created the Australian Memorial Walk located in North Fort at North Head Sanctuary. The walk honours those who have served and supported the defence of Australia in peace or in war. The paved pathway links five monuments erected to remember the major conflict periods in Australia’s history. If you are interested in purchasing a memorial brick to be placed along the walk, please contact the Royal Australian Artillery History Company.