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.
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.
Visitor centre – conditions of entry: As a condition of entry to the volunteer-run visitor centre, visitors are required to scan a QR code to complete a COVID Safe check-in with Service NSW. As we are in the early stages of welcoming our volunteers back, however, we cannot always guarantee our visitor – centre will be open. Ahead of your visit, contact the centre to double check.
Visitor centre – significant weather events: In the event of extreme weather or an Extreme\Catastrophic Fire Ratings, the Visitor Centre will be closed.
Visitor access to North Head Sanctuary (29/04/2021): The Obstacle Course Track, which is located between the Avenue of Honour and the Water Tower, has reopened, having been closed since October 2020 due to bushfire. It is accessible from the Water Tower (hole-in-the-wall) as well as the Avenue of Honour (northern and southern gates) between sunrise and sunset. The Australia’s Memorial Walk, Avenue of Honour and Third Quarantine Cemetery are also accessible; however, they are closed to the public between sunset and sunrise daily. Additionally, the Anzac Memorial and Lawn, as well as the North Fort Gun Emplacements, remain accessible. Walking tracks and trails that cross into Sydney Harbour National Park, which is managed by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), land will remain closed for the foreseeable future. This includes access to Fairfax Lookout. Further, the Hanging Swamp and Observation Post tracks will remain closed until repairs are completed.
Refer to the below map for full details on current walk and track closures.
Disruption to access and parking during works (05/05/2021): Three deteriorating demountable buildings (Buildings 40, 42 and 68) are being removed from the outer areas of the School of Artillery at North Head Sanctuary, commencing Wednesday 5 May (weather permitting). During these works, four 90-degree parking spots outside of Building 42 on North Fort Road will be unavailable for public use. Further, North Fort Road (south of bollards at Building 42) will be blocked during the removal of Building 68, meaning there will be no vehicle access. The works are anticipated to take between five and seven days in total. They are permitted to occur between 7am and 5pm on Weekdays and between 8am and 1pm on Saturdays.
Management of feral rabbits (21/01/2021): Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV1 – K5 or ‘Calici Virus’) will be released on Harbour Trust land at North Head Sanctuary, Manly commencing Wednesday 17 February (weather permitting). The virus release program will be coordinated by the Greater Sydney Local Land Services and will be carried out concurrently by land managers throughout the Greater Sydney region. Feral rabbits are a declared pest in NSW due to the significant amount of agricultural and environmental damage they cause.
A Harbour Trust contractor will be lay free feed of carrots in selected locations during the week leading up to the virus release. The virus is spread mainly by contact between rabbits or via insects such as mosquitos and flies and can therefore travel over significant distances; however, it doesn’t affect humans or any other animals. If domestic rabbits are vaccinated, they become immune to the virus.
Fox baiting (12/01/2021): Between 1 February 2021 and 1 July 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.
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.
Looking for things to do in Sydney? North Head is a place where you can enjoy the great outdoors and learn about military history...
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.
Look out for the yellow signs across North Head Sanctuary and follow the instructions to strike up a friendly conversation with different aspects of the site. We’ve brought to life key objects and landmarks so they can share their history and ask you a few questions.
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.
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.
[NOTE: Parts of the walk are currently closed. See 'Disruptions' for details.]
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.
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).
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.
[Note: The Third Quarantine Cemetery Tour is available EXCLUSIVELY for private group bookings.]
You're bound to work up an appetite and a thirst exploring North Head Sanctuary. Do yourself a favour and refuel at Bella Vista...
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 check operating hours and reserve a spot.
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.
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...
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 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.
Informed by community aspirations for North Head Sanctuary, the Harbour Trust has released a Draft Concept for this treasured public destination.
The Draft Concept proposes signature initiatives aimed at preserving, restoring and reinterpreting North Head Sanctuary as an invaluable community destination. The Harbour Trust is now seeking to continue its conversation with the community to understand the level of support and additional feedback for the proposed initiatives. Opportunities to have your say include completing an online survey (further below). Consultation closes 5pm on 11 June 2021.
Image: An artist's impression of a proposed accessible path network and native garden