Venue hire For lease Have your say Contact us search arrow Subscribe
Image credit: Mark Merton | Aerial image of North Head Sanctuary in Manly.

Visit North Head Sanctuary

Cost

Free admission

Hours
  • Walking and bike tracks: sunrise to sunset, daily
  • Cemetery: 8am-5pm, daily
  • Visitor Centre: 10am-3pm, daily
Further information
Transport
  • Car
  • Bus
Further information
Location

Visitor Centre, North Head Sanctuary (North Fort Precinct), North Head Scenic Drive, Manly, NSW 2095

Google Maps
Just a short drive from Manly Beach, North Head Sanctuary is a coastal parkland bordered by dramatic cliffs on the peninsula.

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.  

How to get here

Planning to visit? For a hassle-free experience, refer to the information below ahead of your trip.

Directions arrow

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 car park.

By bus: The 161 bus service runs from Manly Wharf to North Head. For public transport information, including timetables, visit the Transport NSW website.

Alerts and disruptions arrow

Click here to view alerts and disruptions for North Head Sanctuary.

Parking arrow

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. 

Facilities and accessibility arrow
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.

Accessibility

Our Visitor Centre has wheelchair access and our nearby car park 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. 

Public toilets

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:

Emergency and security arrow

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).

Visitor guidelines arrow

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 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

Animals

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.

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.

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 or Yorky Coffee.

Bella Vista Café

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.

Yorky Coffee Caravan

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.

Things to do

Enjoy the great outdoors and learn about the local military history.

Discover the Hanging Swamp

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.

Take a break, have a picnic

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!

Enjoy our Talking Object Tour

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). 

Descend into North Fort with a guide

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.

Explore a historic cemetery with a guide

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.

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

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.

Complete a lap of the Sanctuary Loop

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 Bandicoot Heaven

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). 

Learn about local flora and fauna

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.

History

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.]

Helpful links

Learn more about North Head Sanctuary and our other extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour.