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. Upon arrival, drop into our visitor centre, where a friendly volunteer will provide useful tips for your visit.
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.
Visitor Centre closed from 16 March until further notice: In light of recent Government advice surrounding COVID-19, our volunteer-run Visitor Centre at North Head Sanctuary will be closed until further notice. Further information
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.
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.
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).
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.
In recent weeks, the Harbour Trust has followed advice from the NSW Department of Health and the World Health Organisation and implemented measures to ensure the health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff.
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.
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 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.
A paved pathway featuring monuments to the major conflict periods in Australia’s history, the Australian 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.
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.
Update (26/03/2020): Until further notice, Bella Vista Café will open for takeaways only from 10am to 3pm daily.
Located near the visitor centre at North Fort, Bella Vista Café marries traditional and modern Italian cuisine with sweeping views of Sydney Harbour.
North Head, as it currently exists, originated during the last Ice Age when it was separated from the Hornsby Plateau by erosional forces and transformed 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 of North Head is covered by 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 types of vegetation include heathland, littoral rainforest and wetland as well as ferns and an abundance of colourful wildflowers.
North Head is home to an endangered population of Long-nosed Bandicoots, once common throughout Sydney. It is also a refuge for echidnas, reptiles, frogs and more than 100 species of bird, including the New Holland Honeyeater, the Rainbow Lorikeets and the Little Wattlebird. Recently, locally extinct species such as the Eastern Pygmy Possum, Brown Antechinus, and Bush Rat were re-introduced to the area.
To learn more about the flora and fauna at North Head, visit Bandicoot Heaven, a community education centre run by the North Head Sanctuary Foundation. Located in the Barracks Precinct, Bandicoot Heaven is open from 10am to 4pm every Saturday and Sunday The Foundation also operates a native plant nursery that propagates and plants local species for use in revegetation areas around the site. To date, over 15,000 plants have been planted.
North Head Sanctuary was the backdrop for some of the earliest interactions between Aboriginal People and Europeans, and the area was also used to quarantine Australia from deadly epidemic diseases. During the Second World War, North Head was one of the most heavily fortified sites in Australian history. Remnants of those fortifications can be explored today.
Image credit:The Quarantine Burial Ground, Spring Cove, Manly, George French Angas (1822-1886), National Library of Australia.