Exploring North Head, a Northern Beaches treasure

At the northern entrance of Sydney Harbour lies North Head Sanctuary – a fascinating place featuring heath-covered clifftops and offering dazzling panoramic views of the ocean, harbour, and Sydney skyline.

Whether you are an adventurous group looking for new experiences or enjoy nature walks or heritage tours, North Head has so much to offer everyone who’ll take the time to explore it.

To give you an insider’s perspective of what North Head has in store for you, here are a few highlights that come highly recommended:

Waterside adventures

North Head has some of the city’s best boat diving sites, which are quite popular among drift diving enthusiasts. Here, you can explore historic shipwrecks and, if you’re lucky, catch sight of common sea dragons and even red Indian fish.

North Head is also a favourite haunt among whale watchers, locals, and tourists – especially from May to November. Get out the binoculars to spot whales as they travel up to Queensland and back to Antarctica. If you want a close-up view, whale-watching boat tours generally head to open sea off Manly and the Northern Beaches. These tours are fun, exciting, and highly educational (and we’ve always seen whales). 

Best harbour vantage points

Who doesn’t love scenic views? You can leave the noise of the city behind and go for a walk through the peaceful and pristine heathland of North Head. Here, you’re sure to encounter diverse flora and fauna, remnants of the old military defences, and unrivalled views of Sydney and the harbour.

To enjoy the best harbour vantage points, head to the Fairfax, Harbour, and Northern Lookouts.

Heritage walks

For a bit of culture and history at North Head, you can go on Australia’s Memorial Walk in North Fort. The North Fort Plotting Room recently reopened after 70 years (and two years of restoration work). When this room operated during World War Two, the people working in the facility plotted sightings of unidentified shipping that came in from a chain of observation posts along the Australian coast. Located in a bushland setting, the 250-metre walk takes you through several major monuments and the Lone Pine memorial. Designed to commemorate those who have faithfully served the country during periods of war and peace, the Memorial Walk is both a solemn and spiritual place.

As of February, you can take a guided tour and see the tunnels, gun emplacements, and other remnants of the old military defences. Or you can also visit the cobblestone Avenue of Honour dedicated to soldiers who perished during the First World War.

Third Quarantine Cemetery tour

The heritage-listed North Head Quarantine Station functioned as a quarantine station from 14 August 1832 to 29 February 1984. Here, people suspected of carrying infectious diseases were kept in isolation until it was considered safe enough to release them.

If you opt to take a tour over this historic site, your guide will talk you through the colourful and tragic stories of people who succumbed to diseases like smallpox, cholera, measles, and other epidemics. If you’re lucky and it’s quiet enough, you might even hear the fairy penguins that live nearby (although they’re tricky to spot).

For those who want to indulge in a bit of the supernatural, you can sign up for a ghost tour of the historic North Head Quarantine Station. You could even stay the night and experience the place for yourself.

Stop, indulge, unwind

After all your excursions at North Head, it’s time to cap it all off with a visit to the Bella Vista Café, which opens daily. Here, you can indulge in some homemade traditional and modern Italian cuisine.

Excited yet?

Maybe it’s time to plan your visit to North Head and enjoy the many sights and sounds it has to offer.

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