A series of dedicated walking and bike tracks are an opportunity for visitors to discover military fortifications from the Second World War as well as visible evidence of the nation’s early quarantine practices.
Highlights include native wildlife, scenic outlooks, Australia’s Memorial Walk and historic landmarks including North Fort and the Third Quarantine Cemetery. Were it not for the epic harbour views, it would be hard to believe you are only 11km from Sydney’s CBD.
Planning to visit? For a hassle-free experience, refer to the information below ahead of your trip.
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 161 bus service runs from Manly Wharf to North Head. For public transport information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website.
Due to planned maintenance, there may be potential disruption to the water supply at North Head Sanctuary on Saturday 2 December from 8am to 11am. Public toilets and drinking water fountains may be out of service during this time. The nearest alternative public toilets are located at Little Manly Beach and Shelley Beach. We apologise for any inconvenience.
Due to potential disruption to the water supply at North Head Sanctuary on Saturday 2 December, the Visitor Centre will open at 11am. We apologise for any inconvenience.
From Monday 4 December to Friday 15 December, the walking track from Bluefish Drive and the Barracks Precinct will be closed. The closure is due to scheduled works for the installation of a fire main pipe along the existing track corridor at North Head Sanctuary. Detours via the Sydney Harbour National Park Burraga track either to Gunners Road carpark and Avenue of Honour or along North Head Scenic Drive will be clearly marked with signage to guide pedestrians. We apologise for any inconvenience.
Temporary site fencing has been erected at Building 17 (gym) for refurbishments. It is anticipated the works will be complete by February 2024. We apologise for any inconvenience. Learn more here.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is carrying out an ongoing baiting program at North Head Sanctuary to control foxes for the protection of native fauna including threatened species such as Long-nosed Bandicoots and Little Penguins. The current notification is for the period 1 August 2023 to 31 January 2024. The program uses manufactured baits, fresh baits and Canid Pest Ejectors containing 1080 poison (sodium fluoroacetate). Warning signs are located at the entries to sites being baited.
Visitors are advised not to touch the baits or ejectors. Further, pets may be affected (1080 is lethal to dogs and cats) and are not permitted at North Head Sanctuary. Working dogs must be restrained or muzzled in the vicinity and must not enter the baiting locations. Penalties apply for non-compliance. In the event of accidental poisoning, seek immediate veterinary assistance. For further information, please call the Harbour Trust on (02) 8969 2128.
Parking is available in marked spaces at North Head Sanctuary and a bike rack is located outside the visitor centre. 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.
Our Visitor Centre relies on the generosity and availability of our volunteers. While we endeavour to open from 10am to 3pm daily, we cannot guarantee the Centre will always be open.
Our visitor centre has wheelchair access and our nearby carpark provides accessible parking. For accessible toilets, see the 'Public toilets' information below. 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.
The Harbour Trust maintains public toilets, including accessible toilets, at North Head Sanctuary, and these facilities are included on the Department of Health’s National Public Toilet Map. The toilets available at this destination are listed below:
North Head Sanctuary is patrolled by rangers from 7am to 4pm and by security personnel from 4pm and 7am. 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 (7am to 4pm). Alternatively, to contact a security officer, call 0433 631 689 (4pm to 7am).
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:
Do not feed wildlife or bring dogs and other pets; only use bikes on designated bike tracks; do not litter or dump rubbish; 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 climb walls, fortifications, sculptures or cliffs; do not ride or use skateboards, roller-skates, in line skates or similar equipment on Harbour Trust land. For further information, see: Sydney Harbour Federation Trust (SHFT) Regulations 2021
No animals, except for assistance animals (as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992), are permitted to access Harbour Trust land at North Head which includes North Head Sanctuary.
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.
You're bound to work up an appetite and a thirst exploring North Head Sanctuary. Do yourself a favour and refuel at Bella Vista or Yorky Coffee.
Located near the visitor centre at North Fort, Bella Vista Café marries traditional and modern Italian cuisine with sweeping views of Sydney Harbour. In addition to serving takeaway coffee, beverages and snacks, Bella Vista offer a popular dine-in experience. Visit their website to view their trading hours and to reserve a table.
Bella Vista Café offers a dine-in experience and takeaway service daily. For trading hours, visit the venue’s website.
Located in the Barracks Precinct next to WOTSO at North Head Sanctuary, Yorky Coffee serves takeaway coffee, beverages and snacks out of a charming 1976 retro caravan. They operate 7:30am to 12:30pm between Monday and Friday. Visit their Instagram for weekly brunch specials and for details on how to text your order through ahead of your visit.
Enjoy the great outdoors and learn about the local military history.
Engage with nature, including a chorus of frogs, at the Hanging Swamp – a scenic landmark, with a walking trail, on the eastern side of North Head Sanctuary [view on map]. Classified as a Threatened Ecological Community, this stunning freshwater wetland features different species of native sedge and rush alongside a variety of shrubs and ferns, including Coral Fern, Bracken, Heath Myrtle, Crimson Bottlebrush, Scrub She-oak and Banksia.
Looking for an ideal picnic spot? Head to the sprawling field just east of the Barracks Precinct [view on map]. This lawned area is not only a relaxed setting for a picnic… it’s also a great place to pass a footy or fly a kite!
Key objects and landmarks have been awoken at North Head Sanctuary… and they’re eager to have a conversation with you! Look out for the green "Hello" signs, and have your mobile device ready, to engage in a lively and informative text message conversation. Plus: Stick around to the end of any conversation to find out how you can win a Cockatoo Island camping voucher worth up to $109 (T&Cs apply).
Our Defence of Sydney Tour is an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of those who served at North Fort, a former army base that once protected Sydney Harbour. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, you will descend into the 200-metre-long military tunnel complex and discover heritage gun emplacements and a once-secret underground bunker known as the Plotting Room.
The Third Quarantine Cemetery was established in 1881 for victims of a smallpox epidemic. During this tour, a knowledgeable guide will share stories of those who succumbed to smallpox, the plague and other epidemics. You will also experience the natural beauty of this final resting place, including unspoiled views of Sydney Harbour.
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!
The North Head Sanctuary Foundation (NHSF) 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.
Australia's Memorial Walk is an opportunity for reflection in an idyllic location with views of Sydney Harbour. Enjoy a walk along the paved pathway featuring monuments to the major conflict periods in Australia’s history. Open seven days a week, the Memorial Walk is maintained by the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Company (RAAHC), relying on grants, tax deductible donations and volunteer support. The RAAHC has produced a self-guided audio tour for the Memorial Walk. Download the tour map and listen to the audio here.
The Sanctuary Loop is a circuit trail of North Head Sanctuary, which visitors can complete in under 2 hours. Highlights include exceptional coastal views from Third Quarantine Cemetery as well as lookouts along the Fairfax Walk; endangered flora and fauna; diverse birdlife; decommissioned gun emplacements at North Fort; and Australia's Memorial Walk, honouring those who defended Australia during times of peace and war.
Visit North Head Sanctuary Foundation’s visitor centre, Bandicoot Heaven, to learn about local flora and fauna. Open Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 4pm, the volunteer-run centre aims to raise awareness of the sanctuary's natural environment. Bandicoot Heaven is located near the Parade Ground (view on map).
The dunes at North Head 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 birds, including the little wattlebird, the New Holland Honeyeater and the white-browed scrubwren.
It is also home to an endangered population of long-nosed bandicoots, as well as locally extinct species including the eastern pygmy possum, brown antechinus, and bush rat.
This area has enduring significance for the Traditional Owners and Custodians, the Gayamagal People, who know it as Car-rang-gel.
North Head was the backdrop for some of the earliest interactions between First Nations People and Europeans. It also occupies a notable place in the nation’s quarantine and military narratives. Between 1881 and 1925, the area was used to quarantine people suffering from deadly epidemic diseases and it also served as their final resting place. During the Second World War, 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.]
Learn more about North Head Sanctuary and our other extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour.