Sydney by ferry

North Head and the Quarantine Station

When you're approaching Manly on the ferry, North Head appears to be mostly untouched bushland, with a few buildings rolling down to the shore.  Those buildings are part of the Quarantine Station, which dates from he early 19th century.  But there is much more to North Head, and it has a long history.  That history also includes North Fort, and more recently, the Lady Fairfax walking track located right on North Head within the National Park.

The biggest complex on North Head is the old Quarantine Station.  In the words of the QStation website:

From the 1830s to 1984 migrant ships arriving in Sydney with suspected contagious disease anchored inside North Head and off-loaded passengers and crew into quarantine. This was to protect local Sydney residents from the threat of infection.

After several weeks most passengers were released to settle as Australian residents. Some passengers experienced a first class resort, making new friends and sharing dreams of a bright new future. For others it was a far more frightening experience of disempowerment, disease and death.

Today, the Quarantine Station has been redeveloped as a resort and conference facility that retains its history.  There is plenty to do apart from staying here.  Entry to their museum is free, there are history tours and you can eat at either the Luggage Store cafe or the Boilerhouse Restaurant.

Behind the Quarantine Station is North Fort, built to defend Sydney from invasion in the 19th century.  The artillery museum that was once here is no more, but Sydney Harbour Trust does tours of North Fort on Sundays between 10:30am and 2pm.  See the same link for details of the self-guided Gunners' Walk and the on-site Bella Vista Cafe (8am - 4pm daily).

At the end of Scenic Drive is the Fairfax Walk.  It's short but has great views, and is a good place for whale watching in season, or watching cruise liners enter & leave the harbour.  See Wild Magazine's downloadable track notes and map.

You may not want to drive to North Head (given the substantial car parking charges) and it's not really practicable to walk from Manly because it will take a bit too much out of your day.  There are two good public transport options.  From Manly Wharf, you can catch the 135 bus, which runs as far as the Quarantine Station hourly, and continues to North Fort at two-hourly intervals in the middle of the day.  From North Fort, the Fairfax Track is about another kilometre's walk. Alternatively, the ecohopper ferry can get you to the Quarantine Station wharf from the city.  It's more expensive than the Manly ferry but may be worth it depending on what other travel you are doing.

This page was last modified on Fri Jul 1, 2016
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