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Visit North Head Sanctuary

Image credit: Mark Merton
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Cost

Free Admission

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Hours
  • Footpaths and bike tracks: sunrise to sunset.
  • Third Quarantine Cemetery open 8am to 5pm daily
  • Our volunteer-run Visitor Centre is open from 10am to 3pm daily commencing 4 March.


See Disruptions (Plan Ahead) for relevant info.

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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

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Hours
  • Footpaths and bike tracks: sunrise to sunset (See: Disruptions)
  • Third Quarantine Cemetery: 8am to 5pm
  • Visitor centre: Our volunteer-run Visitor Centre is open 10am and 3pm daily commencing 4 March.


See Disruptions (Plan Ahead) for relevant info.

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

Planning to visit? To ensure your time with us is enjoyable and hassle-free, refer to the below information ahead of your trip…

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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.

Disruptions arrow

Visitor Services Closed: Due to the heavy rain forecast, our Visitor Services (including our Visitor Centre) will be closed today, Thursday 7 April. 

Visitor Centre: 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.

Upgrades to the North Head Scenic Area: NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service are carrying out upgrades to the North Head Scenic Area, including the carparks and landscaping, to improve the visitor experience and access to this section of the Sydney Harbour National Park. Works commenced in October 2021 and are expected to be completed in late May 2022. The works area extends along North Head Scenic Road from Bella Vista Café to the start of the Fairfax Loop road. For the duration of the works, visitors will still be able to drive and park at North Fort, visit North Head Sanctuary and access Bella Vista Café, which remains open to visitors.  The following disruptions will occur:

  • The loop section of North Head Scenic Road will be closed to pedestrians and vehicles until mid-2022.
  • Fairfax track will be closed to pedestrian until mid-2022
  • Carpark 1 and 2, located along North Head Scenic Drive at the entrance to the Fairfax Loop will reopen at the end of June 2022.
  • Local buses will be required to stop at the roundabout at the Q-Station. Buses and other large vehicles will not be able to access North Head past the Q-Station roundabout.   

For up to date information on the project including the upgrade plans, visit environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/parks-reserves-and-protected-areas/park-management/community-engagement/north-head-upgrade

Visitor access to North Head Sanctuary (January 2022): The public areas of North Head Sanctuary are largely open as is neighbouring land at North Head managed by the NSW National Parks. The following exceptions apply:

  • Although Fairfax Walking Track is accessible to the public, temporary fencing is in place to ensure public safety and support vegetation to regenerate.
  • Fairfax lookout will remain closed until the NPWS has repaired the fences and made the area safe. Visitors are advised not to enter the closed lookout area and keep to paths.

Fox baiting: 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 2021 to 31 January 2022. 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.

Visitor access to North Head: Since October 2021, NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) have been carrying out upgrades to the North Head Scenic Area, including the carparks and landscaping, to improve the visitor experience and access to this section of the Sydney Harbour National Park. NPWS plan to carry out these works in stages to minimise impact on visitor access:

  • Pedestrians will have access to the Fairfax track from late January 2022.
  • The loop road will be closed to traffic between October and March 2022.
  • Carpark 2 is closed until March 2022.
  • Carpark 1 is currently open but will be closed from January 2022 (date to be advised) until March 2022.
  • The Bella Vista Café and North Head Sanctuary (managed by the Harbour Trust) will be open during the duration of works.
  • Site fencing will be in place at North Head Scenic Drive around the construction zone.

Please check the current alerts when planning your visit, particularly around the upcoming summer holiday season.

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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.

Night at the Barracks

Located on Manly’s peninsula at North Head, the Barracks is an iconic landmark steeped in defence history. It will be the backdrop for an exciting open-air concert series later in 2022…

Running select nights between Friday 9 September and Sunday 9 October, Night at the Barracks will feature open-air performances by leading Australian leading performers – including rock, opera and jazz musicians as well as dance companies – across 15 iconic shows. The all-start line-up includes Jessica Mauboy, David Campbell, James Morrison, Emma Pask, David Hobson, Lucy Durack, John Foreman and The Aussie Pops Orchestra, The Tap Pack, Sydney Dance Company, Tim Campbell and Bonnie Anderson and Australian Rock Collective.

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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...

Say "hello" to North Head Sanctuary

Key objects and landmarks have been awoken at North Head Sanctuary… and they’re eager to have a conversation with you! Introducing our 'Hello Harbour Trust' initiative. 

When you next explore the area, look out for the green "hello" signs to kickstart a lively and informative conversation.

Descend into North Fort on a guided tour

The Defence of Sydney Tour is an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the men and women who served at North Fort, a former army base that once protected Sydney Harbour. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, you will marvel at heritage gun emplacements and descend into the 200-metre-long military tunnel complex. Finally, our guide will demystify an underground bunker once shrouded in secrecy: The Plotting Room.

Delve into the history of a breathtaking coastal cemetery

Established in 1881 for victims of a smallpox epidemic, the Third Quarantine Cemetery is included on Australia’s National Heritage List as a significant example of the nation’s evolving quarantine practices. During our volunteer-run Third Quarantine Cemetery Tour, a knowledgeable guide will share stories of those who succumbed to the ravages of small pox, the plague and other epidemics. Attendees will also experience the natural beauty of this final resting place, including unspoiled views of Sydney Harbour.

 

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!

Join a nature walk or tour

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.

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.

 

 

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 Australia's Memorial Walk, honouring those who defended Australia during times of peace and war.

Learn about local flora and fauna

The North Head Sanctuary Foundation (NHSF) visitor centre, Bandicoot Heaven, is an opportunity for locals, students and other visitors to learn about local flora and fauna. Open Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 4pm, Bandicoot Heaven aims to raise awareness of the sanctuary's natural environment including the endangered population of Long-nosed Bandicoots and one of Sydney’s few remaining patches of Eastern Suburbs Banksia. The volunteer-run centre is located near the Parade Ground (view on map). 



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

Update: Bella Vista will be closed on Thursday 19 May due to staff shortages. 

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.

 

 

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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 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...

History of North Head Sanctuary (Overview)

North Head was the backdrop for some of the earliest interactions between Aboriginal People and Europeans. 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 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.]

The Secret Military History of the Plotting Room (Exhibition)

The Harbour Trust has partnered with Google Arts & Culture on a collection of immersive digital exhibitions that showcase our heritage destinations on Sydney Harbour. The Secret Military History of Manly's North Fort Plotting Room demystifies an underground wartime bunker once shrouded in secrecy and celebrates the efforts by our specialist volunteers to faithfully restore it.