Sydney Harbour National Park is a national park scattered across Sydney Harbour, Australia and was first gazetted in 1975 and is one of the many national parks within metropolitan Sydney and is renowned for its sheltered beaches, tranquil picnic spots, rich Aboriginal, colonial and military heritage, aquatic reserves and most importantly; harbour islands. It's where history meets the harbour.
Sydney Harbour National Park is located on 12 different landforms:
|Bradleys Head |
A headland protruding from the north shore of Sydney Harbour, its named after the First Fleet naval officer William Bradley. The original Aboriginal inhabitants belonged to the Borogegal clan of the Eora nation, and was known as Borogegy, Booraghee, Booragy or Burrogy. Also on the headland is an active lighthouse, Bradleys Head Light, constructed in 1905.
|Clark Island |
A 0.9 ha uninhabited island that has picnic tables, toilets, and drinking water. The island derives its name from Lieutenant Ralph Clark, an officer of the First Fleet and in the early days of New South Wales, naval officers were allowed to keep their own vegetable gardens, which were tended by convicts. Clark established one such garden on this island, which was unsuccessful as any produce was soon stolen as a result of the limited rations available at the time.
|Dobroyd Head |
A headland in the suburb of Balgowlah Heights. It contains examples of ecosystems at risk such as coastal heath. Also home to numerous Aboriginal rock engravings and trails.
|Fort Denison/Muddawahnyuh |
Fort Denison on Sydney Harbour is within the visual catchment of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Royal Botanic Garden and the Sydney Harbour Naval Precinct. Fort Denison is the only Sydney Harbour island which is no longer described as an island. Even Garden Island, now visually part of the mainland (and anything but a garden) is still known as an island. The island known as Mat-te-wan-ye (small rocky island) to Aborigines and Rock Island to the first settlers, is now popularly known as Fort Denison and viewed as a built artefact rather than an island.
|Georges Head |
a heritage-listed former military fortification and part of the network of fortifications that were established to protect Sydney Harbour from attack. The buildings in the precinct illustrate the evolution of defence accommodation from the 1871 Barracks (later the Officer's Mess) to 1892 Married Quarters (now Gunshot Alley) to the 1954 separate individual rooms.
|Goat Island/Me-Mel |
Goat Island is prominent island located west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, not for goats and also used as a film-set for the Aussie television series Water Rats. Now, it's the highlight of the Aboriginal cultural tour, having a lot of historical Aboriginal significance.
|Middle Head/Gubbuh Gubbuh |
Middle Head has an extensive network of defence fortifications and tunnels, including the Middle Head Fortifications, the Georges Head Battery and the Lower Georges Heights Commanding Position and other forts located around Sydney Harbour. The fortifications feature "Tiger Cages", where the military trained soldiers by simulating prisoner of war conditions in Vietnam. HMAS Penguin is also located at Middle Harbour.
|Nielsen Park |
A heritage-listed historic site, park and nature reserve located at Greycliffe Avenue, Vaucluse in the Municipality of Woollahra local government area of New South Wales, Australia. The traditional lands of the Birrabirragal indigenous people, the park was designed by John Frederick Hilly, James Barnet and the Office of the New South Wales Government Architect. It is also known for Shark Beach, where unusually, you get a west facing beach in Sydney, and one of the few where you can see the sunset directly.
|North Head |
Part of the National Heritage listed headland which includes the North Head Quarantine Station and has been symbolically regarded by ships arriving in Australia since 1788 as the entrance to Port Jackson, New South Wales. Also the largest and most prominent section of Sydney Harbour National Park. Home to a former Quarantine station, that was used to isolate people coming from ships back in the day. Now the former Quarantine station is now a motel, well known to most Sydneysiders.
|Rodd Island |
The westernmost and southernmost of the islands, Rodd Island has been historically isolated and still is, to this day. While the island has no ferries or boats coming, that means that having a peaceful day on the barbie or just having a lovely picnic is possible here, without any disturbance.
|Shark Island |
Used as an animal quarantine station and naval depot until 1975. However, sadly known for having shark attacks nearby.
|South Head |
A twenty-minute foreshore walk on the South Head Heritage Trail offers dramatic views of Middle Head, Manly, North Head and the Tasman Sea. Starting at the delightful Camp Cove Beach, an 1870s cobblestone path leads first to Lady Bay (also known as Lady Jane) Beach, one of three in Sydney where nude bathing is lawful. It then loops around the headland, passing Hornby Lighthouse, its lightkeepers' cottages, and several gun emplacements from the end of the 19th century. Additionally, its home to the Gap, an ocean cliff known for its great height.
Residential development has impacted a significant amount of the harbour foreshores over many years. Much of what remained was preserved partly due to the presence of military bases, and partly because of the work of conservationists. Early conservationists were responsible for stopping mining at Ashton Park in the 19th Century. Other places were saved because of people such as Niels Neilsen, who became the New South Wales Minister for Lands and a strong advocate of a public reserve around Sydney Harbour. Nielsen was ahead of his time when he used the phrase "national park" in regard to the harbour foreshores, but Sydney eventually caught up with him.
Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to revert all the damage done in past decades, however, there was still much that could be preserved. In the 1960s were a particularly active time in this regard. In 1965 the Government of New South Wales began buying land around the foreshores, and the National Trust suggested a national park in 1968. In the following year, the NSW Government announced a plan whereby it would buy Commonwealth land around the harbour. The Sydney Harbour National Park was finally gazetted in 1975, with Nielsen Park at Shark Bay being added in 1978. Extra land was transferred from Commonwealth to State Government control, and added to the national park in 1979; the historically important quarantine station at Manly; Q station was added in 1984.
Most of the park is a coastal landscape with some hills, no higher than 30m in altitude. At times, there may be moments where you might feel like "is this Sydney?" due to the large amount of greenery.
When it comes to the shore, there are some near perpendicular cliffs, and some in artistic shapes and forms; providing a perfect place to relax and read a book by the ocean.
Flora and fauna
Sydney Harbour National Park is one of the last homes of the endangered bandicoots. Most of these can only be found at North Head but they are occasionally spotted at other places too. Bandicoot spotting is at best around 8PM to 11PM at a stay in Q-station. Whale watching is popular during May-November, and it's pretty common to spot one if you're at the heads. Some unique types of plants that you might see is the Grass Tree, the blueberry ash, a flannel flower or a smooth barked apple. Additionally, along the North Head to Manly path, there are some information boards where you can have a look at each types of flora you see on the way. QR reader needed.
Most of the park's climate is very similar to the climate in Sydney. However, since the park is in multiple locations, the climate may vary, depending on where you are.
As a general rule, it's best to bring some warm clothes after Easter, and go summer camping after the Labor Day long weekend. At max, during the warmer months, it can go up to 35˚ during the day, and 20˚ at night. During the colder months, it's usually around 20˚ during the day but sometimes after August, it can go up to 25˚. At night, it's usually around 15˚ but can go to 10˚ in July.
Visitor Information Centres
Due to the sheer scale, there would ideally be one for each and every bit. However, at this stage, the only section with a visitor information centre in North Head, and unusually, it has two, not one.
- 1 North Head Sanctuary Visitor Centre (Sydney Harbour Federation Trust), ☏ . M-F 9AM-4PM Sa-Su 8:30AM-5PM. More about the North Head in general.
- 2 Q Station Visitor Centre, Hospital Rd, Manly (If you're not staying at Q station or coming outside, you'll need to do the following: First, follow the signs to Q station from Manly. Then you'll have to park your vehicle and come to reception. Reception should call a shuttle bus for you and give you a ride down. However, you will have to walk back up though, or you may have a little bit of luck calling reception), ☏ . 10AM-8PM. Visitor Centre about North Head along with café.
From Circular Quay wharf 4, use theTaronga ferry line to Taronga Zoo. From Taronga, walk on the road away from the cul-de-sac and then you're there at Bradleys Head.
Situated near to Double Bay, and not serviced by scheduled ferries. You will need to reserve a place and pay a fee of approximately $7 per head to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Additionally, you also can't moor a boat here.
- From Manly, use 162 to Curban Street, and then walk south towards Dobroyd Scenic Drive.
- From Circular Quay, use the line, and take the 162 as above.
- If you're coming by car, follow the signs to Balgowah, north of the Spit Bridge.
Fort Denison/Pinchgut Island
There is a scheduled ferry service operated to Fort Denison by Matilda/Captain Cook every day of the week. You can get a return ferry there with Matilda Cruises for $17/$15, which includes the park entry fees, and admission to the museum there, but not the tour or admission to the tower. The ferries depart from Circular Quay at wharf 6.
From the Spit Junction, head south on Military Road, not towards A8. Then, at the roundabout, turn left onto Middle Head Road. Keep following Middle Head, until you hit the end of the road.
Thebus service also provides services to the Balmoral Naval Hospital from the Mosman Town Centre, from there, it's a simple three minute walk.
To come to Mosman by ferry, take thefrom Circular Quay Wharf 4 to South Mosman Wharf, and then take the bus to the Balmoral Naval Hospital.
Goat Island is the nearest island on the western side of the bridge. Goat Island was open to the public for significant periods in the past. However, this island has now closed to the public, however, ferries still occasionally run. The best way to explore the rich history of Goat Island is on a guided tour with NPWS or a well reputed tour guide and contact Sydney Harbour Tall Ships for a schedule. The Aboriginal cruise ship also takes you for a tour there.
From Mosman, go to the very end of Middle Head Road. There will be a carpark, and you should be good parking your car there. $8 parking fees apply.
Nielsen Park is half an hour away east from the CBD and can be reached by following the signs towards Vaucluse. From Bondi, simply head north on Military Road (unrelated to the Military Road in Mosman).
If you're going by public transport, from Circular Quay, take theCircular Quay to Manly ferry. Then, take the service up to north head. Services operate usually every 10-30 minutes.
If you're going by car, from Manly, take Darley Road up passing St. Pauls Catholic College, and passing the old Manly hospital, and you'd have arrived. Once there, turn right, and go underneath the small arch. Make sure, if it's a heavy vehicle to use low gear up Darley Road.
Situated in Iron Cove, just off Rodd Point. Not served by ferries. Access by water taxi or drop off. Island landing fee of $7. Must be booked and paid for in advance, and the island capacity is limited to 100, and single groups are limited to 50. You cannot moor a boat on the island.
Shark Island is served by an hourly Matilda Cruises ferry on weekends and NSW public school holidays only. The price of $17/$15 round trip per adult includes the National Park landing fee.
If you're going by public transport, from Circular Quay Ferry Wharf, take theCircular Quay to Watsons Bay ferry. This service used to be called the F4 Cross Harbour service however, it is now cut into half, with a separate Watsons Bay service.
Fees and permits
Since this is not one connected park, it will vary across places, however, most of Sydney Harbour National Park is free to access, but in most cases, parking fees apply. So below is just a list of notes:
- No entry fees on the mainland
- Entry fees do apply on some islands.
- On the mainland, parking fees do apply
- Parking fees are usually restricted to that location. e.g, a parking ticket bought at North Head won't be valid on Bradleys Head, but can be valid in North Head, until the time it expired. This means that you could leave and revisit, but it must be before it expires.
Here's a list of the parking fees:
- Bradleys Head carpark: $8 per vehicle per day
- North Head carpark: $5 per vehicle per day, no change given
- Chowder Bay Road parking: Monday-Friday: $3 per hour, to a maximum of $16 per day. Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: $4 per hour, to a maximum of $20 per day.
- If you have an NPWS pass, then you can park for free for four hours a day
- Country Pass parks and single park passes aren't valid here.
Additionally, pets are prohibited in most parts, but Nielsen Park and Green Point Reserve is an exception.
In some landforms such as North Head, taking the car is the best solution to getting around. For all other bits of the park, you for the most part cannot take your car in. Most places, however, will have a designated carpark.
Since this is not one connected park, you will need some other form of transport apart from walking to get from one section to another. However, below, shows how you can get from one place to another, and how to get around each section.
However, apart from North Head, the best form of transport within a section is by walking, as most of the time, there are no roads, or the roads are too narrow.
The national park protects the landforms of Bradleys Head, Clark Island, Dobroyd Head, Fort Denison, Georges Head, Goat Island, Middle Head, Nielsen Park, Rodd Island, Shark Island, Sydney Heads including the Quarantine Station at North Head and The Gap bluff at South Head. The national park also protects the waterway between North Head and Dobroyd Head, defined as the North Sydney Harbour Aquatic Reserve. However, Goat Island is not closed and is no longer accessible to visitors. Most of these places that are protected were home to some forts that were put in WWII as defence forts.
Bradleys Head, Mosman
- 1 Ashton Park. Small reserve and a hidden gem that gives you the rural coastal city feeling. Be aware that this is one of the most chaotic NYE spots, so if you're here to watch the NYE fireworks, then arrive at about noon.
- 2 Booraghee Amphitheatre. 24/7. Picnic area for couples on their honeymoon. Just beside it, it's become a popular spot for rockfishing. Additionally, photographers and Sydney Harbour lovers flock to this spot, just so they can get the perfect shot of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and Fort Denison. Oh, and the inside of the Amphitheatre has been used for weddings and other events.
- 3 Bradleys Head Fortification Complex (Bradleys Head Forts). A heritage-listed former mast and defensive battery and military fortification and now war memorial and recreational area. The 1840 fort was cut into the sandstone bedrock outcrop on the tip of the headland and included a barbette gun pit at the eastern end and the small circular bastion at the eastern end of the fort is from 1854.
- 4 Bradleys Head Lighthouse (Bradleys Head Light), ☏ . 24/7. An active heritage-listed lighthouse which was introduced in 1905 as a navigation marker and warning light to ships entering and leaving the harbour. A fog siren was added in 1906, modified in 1936 and the concrete structure was introduced in 1949 and was listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 18 April 2000.
- 5 H.M.A.S. Sydney I Memorial Mast. 24/7. Memorial that can be seen from the Lighthouse, blended with the background. It sometimes may be considered as part of Bradleys Head Fortification complex, but is its own place in its own right. Free.
- 6 Rifle Wall, Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman. 6AM-8PM. A convict built battery built after four American ships landed in Australia undetected. Today, the mast of HMAS Sydney towers over the parapet is a striking monument to the WWI warship.
Defence ditches were added in the late 19th century after British troops left Sydney and remnants of earlier fortications are other features of this unique harbourside location.
- 7 Taronga Zoo Sydney, Bradleys Head Rd, Mosman, ☏ . 9:30AM-4PM. Sydney's most popular zoo, attracting thousands of visitors every day, even when it's not the holidays.
An entry fee applies to Clark Island, of $7. Make sure to bring some coins with you.
- 8 Clark Island Pier. The only way you could access the island. A pretty historic pier, and has historically been the only way to access the island.
- 9 Clark Island Reserve. The former location of Lieutenant Clark's failed garden was, and the food was often nicked by convicts.
- 10 Peak of Clark Island. You'd be thinking, what is there to see on the peak of such a tiny failed island. Look west and you could see an elevated view of the Barbour bridge and the Opera House, with your view uninterrupted by ferries and yachts. You might see cruise ships, but they won't block your view either.
Dobroyd Head, Balgowlah Heights
- 11 Arabanoo Lookout. 24/7. The lookout here is named and in memory of Arabanoo, the first Aboriginal person to live with European settlers. The spot is now popular for whale and boat watching and is one of the most important sites to indigenous Australians. Free.
- 12 Castle Rock Beach. 24/7. A quiet place to relax, and is stop 7 on the Spit to Manly walk. There are some rocky edges towards the sides of the beaches, so if you are swimming, stay within the centre, incase a wave comes pushing you towards the rocks, something which is not uncommon. Free.
- 13 Cutler Road Lookout, 6 Cutler Rd, Clontarf. 24/7. A good place to view the harbour, day or night and also view the cliffs of Dobroyd Head.
- 14 Fairlight Lookout. A lookout which looks 1/2 rural and 1/2 urban. The lookout is also not fenced, and you'll know it's Fairlight lookout when going down, and just as the path turns right, you've arrived at Fairlight lookout.
- 15 Forty Baskets Beach. Secluded beach with harbour views, and lots of small rock pools. About forty.
- 16 Grotto Point Aboriginal engraving site, Barrabooka St, Clontarf. Rock arts include humans, marine, boomerangs and land animals and can be seen up close.
- 17 Grotto Point Light (Port Jackson Entrance Range Front Light), Lighthouse Track, North Harbour. 24/7. Lighthouse with stunning harbour views and popular NYE spot. It was first lit on September 1, 1911 and is one of four such lighthouses designed by architect Maurice Festu in a style now sometimes referred to as "Disney Castle".
- 18 Reef Beach. A beach that looks somewhat like a reef. Don't swim here though, since the waves come crashing, and there are so many rocks here, a lot more than your regular beach. But that doesn't mean that it's not enjoyable – there's still the shallow tropical waters, and of course, Sunbathing; a Sydney classic.
- 19 Old Tania Park Lookout, Dobroyd Scenic Dr, Balgowlah Heights. 24/7. Another lookout that has a different perspective 24/7. Free.
- 20 Washaway Beach. Famous short getaway beach, for those who do not want to be surrounded by houses.
Georges Head, Mosman
- 21 3 inch anti aircraft gun. A commonly used gun during World Wars I and II. Now just a tourist spot.
- 22 Georges Head Battery (Georges Head Military Fortifications), Chowder Bay Rd, Mosman (Parking available in Chowder Bay). 24/7. The site consists of the original battery and barracks, designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet, located at the end of Suakin Drive, Georges Heights, two later batteries located adjacent to the corner of Middle Head Road and Best Avenue, Georges Heights, and the Beehive (or Lower) Casemate adjacent to the Armoured (or Upper) Casemate in Chowder Bay Road. The Georges Head Battery is one of three forts in the area that were built for the purpose of defending the outer harbour.
- 23 Beehive Casemates (Armoured Casemates), Chowder Bay Rd, Mosman.
- 24 Gunners Barracks (Former Officers Barracks), End of, Suakin Dr, Mosman, ☏ . 10AM-5PM. Former Officers barracks, which is now a restaurant, with a harbourside view.
Goat Island was the home to the first water police station and harbour fire brigade. Following this, the island served as a shipyard. In more recent years it has been a location for filming.
- 25 Old Goat Island Fire Brigade. Sydney's first water fire brigade, which is now a historic building.
- 26 Old Goat Island Shipyard. An old shipyard used, but now a tourist spot.
Middle Head/Gubbuh Gubbuh, Mosman
- 27 Abandoned Lookout. A lookout that is literally ... abandoned. Getting here will require you to go slightly off path, but it doesn't require any pioneering skills. It does require you to go under some narrow trees, but mostly this occurs after storms.
- 28 Cobblers Beach (Cabblers Beach). A quiet small, skinny beach which has been more popular for nude swimming and sunbathing in the twenty first century.
- 29 Inner Head Middle Battery, Middle Head Rd, Mosman, ☏ .
- 30 Lower Georges Heights Commanding Position.
- 31 Middle Head Community Garden, 4 Govenors Rd, Mosman. Community garden to encourage healthy eating.
- 32 Obelisk Beach. Tiny, small hidden cove bordered by rocks, trees & vegetation, popular for nude swimming & nude sunbathing although unlike Little Congwong beach in La Perouse where almost everyone is nude, there are chances here that there are people who aren't nude.
- 33 Outer Middle Head Forts, Old Fort Road, Mosman. 6AM-8PM. The outer fort out of the three Middle Head forts in Middle Head.
- 34 Sergeant Major's Quarters, 1 Govenors Rd, Mosman. 24/7. Free.
- 35 Soldiers' Institute, 4 Govenors Rd, Mosman. 6AM-8PM. Former Soldiers' institute during WWII.
- 36 Tiger Cages, Old Fort Road, Mosman. 6AM-8PM. There's about eight model canons here, all in line. Free.
Nielsen Park, Vaucluse
- 37 Aboriginal Rock engravings at Milk beach. Aboriginal rock engravings on Milk Beach, displaying a fish.
- 38 Aboriginal rock engravings at Bottle and glass point. At the very northern end of Bottle and glass point, showing some Aboriginal charcoal drawing of fish.
- 39 Bottle and Glass Point, Bottle and Glass Road, Vaucluse. 24/7. A small spit on Nielsen Park with nice ocean waves, walking trails and picnic spots. It's also one of the most popular spots in Sydney for rockfishing. Also, remember to wear a lifejacket, as many have been caught for not wearing one here. Free.
- 40 Greycliffe House (Greycliffe Gardens), 6 Steele Point Rd, Vaucluse, ☏ . A historic building by the harbour. While now it may be used as an event centre, tourists come here, often to see the outside.
- 41 Hermit Beach (Lawrence Pogue Beach). A smaller beach than most might expect
- 42 Milk Beach. 24/7. Small quiet beach, for those who want some peace. Not famous for milk. There is also some Aboriginal engravings here. Free.
- 43 Queens Beach. Another beach, where you could take photos just as well as the postcards.
- 44 Shakespeare's Point. Picnic spot. Not related with anything about Shakespeare.
- 45 Shark Beach, Promenade Road, Vaucluse. 24/7. Known for a couple of shark attacks nearby? Nope, that's Shark Island. The name Shark Beach comes from the name of Shark Bay, known for a lot of Sharks. However, Shark Beach is safe from sharks, however, it's best to not go too far out, swim or kayak. Finally, during the summer months, a net is put around the beach, so sharks do not come in the swimming area.
- 46 Steel Point Battery. Steele Point at present consists of a three-gun battery. The passageways, tunnels, magazine store and barrack room are now partially buried. The stone lintel cover of the entry to the rear emplacement was smashed and the tunnel filled with debris, allowing water to seep in causing damage to the interior. The stonework of the lower emplacements and connecting passages are in good condition and there is still one gun emplacement located above ground.
- 47 Strictland House. Was a women’s convalescent home in the early 20th century and later an aged care. Now, people watch an unforgettable sunset by the sea here.
- 48 Vaucluse Bay Range Front Light. Viewing the lighthouse from the street (80 Wentworth Rd) is very difficult due to the steep terrain so the lighthouse is best viewed from the water.
- 49 Vaucluse Bay Range Rear Light. Active lighthouse located on the east side of the entrance to Vaucluse Bay and one of four such lighthouses designed by architect Maurice Festu in a style now sometimes called "Disney Castle".
- 50 Whale Rock, Vaucluse Road, Vaucluse. 24/7. A rock that looks very much like a whale ;). Free.
- 51 The Barracks Precinct, 33 North Head Scenic Drive, Manly (When going along Darley Road, go under the fort. Then, bear left, and then follow signage.). A historic Australian Army site, with well preserved barracks and artillery with views of Sydney Harbour. Additionally, tours of underground tunnels are available on weekends.
- 52 Barrel Display. A 9.2 in gun barrel display.
- 53 Collins Beach. Small beach, which has a small waterfall off a rock when rainy. Water here is unusually shallow as well, and looks more a tropical paradise than Sydney.
- 54 Former Guest House (Former First Class Precinct or P6), Main Axinal Road, Manly (Use the Q-station shuttle bus). 24/7. A free display of all the antiques and items that were used during quarantine, including an old stove.
- 55 Gun Position (Gun Position - Historical Site), Bluefish Drive, Manly. 24/7. Features a historic WWII site that was put in place to prevent a Japanese Invasion. However, it was never used and now it is a tourist spot.
- 56 Harbour Lookout. A harbour facing lookout
- 57 North Head Quarantine Station Hospital, Hospital Road, Q station, Manly. Free. Former hospital that was used to treat the infected when the Quarantine Station was in use. Displays some of the early 19-20th century medical tools.
- 58 Northern Lookout.
- 59 North Point. A clifftop walk with lots of World War II era military installations.
- 60 Quarantine Beach, Q-station, Manly. 24/7. This is a swimming spot in Sydney Harbour. It is a fairly average beach, but has an interesting westerly outlook which allows you see the sun setting over the bay, which is very unusual in Sydney, where looking over the water usually means you are facing east.
- 61 Quarantine Station Wharf. You'd think that this is just your ordinary wharf, but there's some historic artwork here, depicting the styles of the early 20th century.
- 62 Shelly Hedland Upper Lookout. A small lookout, giving you a good view of both Shelly and Manly beaches. Not wheelchair accessible.
- 63 Store Beach. A difficult to access beach, but do-able from Collins Beach. It was where ships used to unload provisions for the Quarantine Station but now it can only be accessed by a private boat or by foot.
- 64 Third Quarantine Cemetery. A cemetery for the third class passengers from ships.
The following are the lookouts along the way along Fairfax Track. These can only be accessed via the Fairfax Track, which is a 700m loop. While the Fairfax Track may be a nice track to see, make sure if you're travelling with young children, make sure they do not pick things off the ground. There are UXO's on the ground, and it is a federal offense to even move them.
- 65 Fairfax Lookout, Fairfax Walking Track, Manly, ☏ . 24/7 - Temporarily closed. Has views of the Pacific, South Head and back to Sydney.
- 66 North Head Artillery Lookout, Fairfax Track, Manly, toll-free: 1300 072 757. 24/7 - Temporarily closed. While close to Fairfax Lookout, this lookout provides completely different views. This one shows views of the former barracks, and ocean, as this is an east facing lookout.
If you want to take a tour of the island and visit the tower, you need to purchase a ticket which includes the ferry transport 24 hours in advance from the Sydney Visitors Centre at Cadmans Cottage in The Rocks. The National Parks and Wildlife Service run a half-hour guided tour for $27/$17 and $72 for a 4 person family. That includes the ferry trip to the island. Standby tickets are available for the tours from the cafe on the island for $10, but these are subject to availability.
There is a rather upmarket cafe on the island. There is a morning brunch for $47 adults and $43 children (which includes the tour). Lunch is also available.
- 67 Fort Denison (Muddawahnyuh). 9AM-5PM. Temporarily under maintenance. Once a defence facility, then under attack from US friendly fire in WWII, now a popular tourist spot in the iconic Sydney Harbour. If you want to take a tour of the island and visit the tower, you need to purchase a ticket which includes the ferry transport 24 hours in advance from the Sydney Visitors Centre at Cadmans Cottage in The Rocks. The National Parks and Wildlife Service run a half-hour guided tour for $27/$17 and $72 for a 4 person family. That includes the ferry trip to the island. Standby tickets are available for the tours from the cafe on the island for $10, but these are subject to availability.
This is the westernmost island of Sydney Harbour National Park. While there's not much to see, 68 ferry watching. has become more increasingly popular in the past decade.
However, Rodd Island is not served by ferries. Access is only by water taxi or drop off. There is an island landing fee of $7 and must be booked and paid for in advance, as the island capacity is limited to 100, and single groups are limited to 50. Additionally, you cannot moor a boat on the island.
While getting here is hard and there is not much to see in this island, going next to the wharf will give you a view of the entire CBD, featuring 80% of the highlights of Sydney. There's also the 69 Old Shark Island Ferry Wharf (Shark Island Light). which is mostly underwater now. However, the not-underwater sections still give you a good view of the eastern suburbs - often some of the world's most expensive houses, just after some in NYC. There's also a popular shed here as well, most renowned for giving you a view of the harbour.
However, Shark Island is also not served by ferries. Access is only by water taxi or drop off.
- 70 Boowambillee. The main hub on the island.
South Head, Watsons Bay
- 71 Aboriginal Rock engravings (On south side of Signal Hill Fortifications on the sea cliff at its highest point). A rock carving of a fish.
- 72 Don Ritchie grove. A park and reserve with a couple of cool sculptures and a memorial in memory of Don Ritchie.
- 73 Gap Bluff Center, Gap Bluff Rd, Watsons Bay. A centre about the Gap Bluff run by the NSWNPWS.
- 74 Gap Bluff Lookout, 27 Military Road, Watsons Bay. 24/7. A lookout to see the unique and picturesque Gap Bluff Cliffs. Free.
- 75 Hornby Battery, Watsons Bay. 24/7. Another one of those batteries. Free.
- 76 The Hornby Keepers Cottage. Where the old former lighthouse keepers used to stay.
- 77 Hornby Lighthouse, South Head Heritage Track, Watsons Bay. 24/7. A former lighthouse that was used for oncoming entering ships entering Sydney Harbour at night. Free.
- 78 Lady Bay Beach (Lady Jane Beach). 24/7. Another north westerly and easterly facing beaches, which are unusual to see in Sydney. Popular for seeing ships - mainly cruises at sunset. Both sides are popular for nude swimming and nude sunbathing. Free.
- 79 Officers' Mess.
- 80 Signal Hill Battery. Signal Hill Battery was one of a set of three coastal defence fortifications and were the last link in Sydney's outer defence perimeter, which was intended to defend Sydney from bombardment by an enemy vessel standing off the coast.
- 81 South Head Signal Station, 21 Old South Head Rd, Vaucluse. Signal station on South Head.
- 82 South Head tunnels tour. A 1.8km guided tour, which shows a world beneath full of sandstone. Adult $25 per person. Concession $20 per person.
There's plenty of things to do in Sydney Harbour National Park, for most interests, whether it's hiking, swimming, or learning about Aboriginal culture.
Bradleys Head, Mosman
- 1 Bradleys Head Fishing Spot. has been a popular spot for fishing, even in the 20th century. While there are no signs saying the location, face east, and there you are. But most of the time, there's always people there.
- The 2 Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk (Taylors Bay Track). is a short but nice coastal harbour walk, from Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay. It's the only walk to connect two sections of the park together. It's 4 km one way, and is an NPWS Grade 3 track. Free
While there may not be anything to see in Clark Island, hiking to the top provides magnificent and resplendent views of the harbour. There are multiple trails and walking paths in Clark Island, and you have the choice of whether to go the easy slow not-so-steep path or the steep path.
- 3 Lighthouse Track. 24/7. The track used to get to Grotto Point Lighthouse. The difficulty is slightly harder than the other tracks, but is still very easy. Free.
- 4 Washaway Beach Track. A side track off Lighthouse track to get to Washaway Beach.
- 5 Dobroyd Head track.
Green Point Reserve
- 6 Green Point Walking trail. A 100m loop trail.
Nielson Park, Vaucluse
- 7 Hermitage Foreshore Walk. 24/7. Coastal 500m walk, usually with a picturesque view at any time of the day. Free.
- 8 Mount Trefle Track. Short walking track from Shark Beach to Vaucluse town centre.
North Head, Manly
- 9 Cycling, Just outside the Q-station reception. Bike hire is available just outside the Q-station reception. Also, it is a self served one, meaning that if an error occurs, usually the Q-station staff will be able to help. $1.95/h.
- Ghost tours @ Q station. A tour, experiencing one of Sydney's most haunted areas. Believer or not, still a worthy tour, known by almost any worthy Sydneysider. Unlike most ghost tours, this one has no age limit.
- 10 Fairfax Track (Fairfax Walking track). 24/7 - Temporarily closed. A small short 700m loop trail, which gives picturesque views of the Harbour, the ocean and the former battery. Suitable for most ages, however, if you're going with young children, make sure they do not pick up things on the ground. These may be UXO's and it is a federal civil offense to even move them, and the penalties are hefty. Free.
- 11 North Head to Manly Trail. 24/7. A bike path, but there's more people who walk this track. Free.
Walk the outer loop of the island, and have a picnic on the barbie. Oh, and you may occasionally see a shark while on the barbie. Won't attack you though.
South Head, Watsons Bay
- 12 South Head Heritage Trail, Watsons Bay. 5AM-10PM. A 470m loop track which gives you a lot to see, including Lighthouses and Cottages that were used by the former lightkeepers and some old batteries, used in WWII. Free.
- 13 Gap Bluff Walking Trail. 24/7. A small short loop trail which is used to see the Gap Bluff Cliffs. There is a small bit where it goes very close to the cliffs, and the ocean. Free.
Other things to do
- Aboriginal cultural cruise in Sydney Harbour, ☏ . A tour about how significant the harbour was, to indigenous Australians, and getting to know a bit about the local language that was spoken here.
- Sydney Princess Cruises. (Oz whale watching tours). A whale watching tour in Sydney Harbour. May-November only.
There aren't much souvenir shops here, however, souvenirs can be bought at the reception at Q-station, North Head or at Taronga Zoo in Bradleys Head. However, the Taronga Zoo souvenirs are more Taronga centred than a Sydney Harbour National Park souvenir. You could also get a souvenir at some places like Strickland House or Grotto Lighthouse, the real beauty of the park is history with the harbour, and not buildings.
Bradleys Heads, Clontarf, Georges Head and Middle Head, Mosman
These are all the restaurants and cafés within the boundaries of the park, or the only way out is through the park.
- 1 Drift Café, Chowder Bay Rd, Mosman, ☏ . 7AM-4PM. A large café with different types of Aussie food.
- 2 Gunners Barracks (Former Officers Barracks), End of, Suakin Dr, Mosman, ☏ . 10AM-5PM. Former Officers barracks, which is now a restaurant, with a harbourside view.
- 3 L'Héritage, 7b Chowder Bay Rd, Mosman, ☏ . 10AM-10PM (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Authentic français restaurant
- 4 Middle Head Café, 1110 Middle Head Rd, Mosman, ☏ .
- 5 Ripples Chowder Bay, Building 7 C, Chowder Bay Rd, Mosman, ☏ . Modern Aussie cuisine with harbour view and water views.
Please note that this restaurant/cafe is closed until the entire Fort Denison opens
In the park
- 7 Bella Vista Cafe, 203/33 North Head Scenic Dr, Manly, ☏ . M-F 9AM-4PM Sa-Su 8AM-5PM. Cafe with harbour view.
- 8 Boilerhouse Kitchen and Bar (Views Restaurant), Sydney Harbour National Park, located in Q station, Manly. A popular spot if you're a meatlover.
- 9 Views Restaurant. M-F 7-10AM Sa-Su 7-11AM. Mainly to have brekkie.
Slightly outside the park
These are places to eat, and are just within 1km proximity of the park. Most visitors often go to the Manly town centre, as there's a lot more variety in Manly, and getting there is easier rather than taking the bus to the Q-station restaurants.
- 10 Fish Shack, Ground Floor, 33 South Steyne, Manly, ☏ . Nice fish and chips restaurant with beach view.
- 11 Mex and Co, Shop 3/30-32 S Steyne, Manly. M-F 11:30AM-9PM Sa-Su 11AM-9PM. Mexican Food, with beachside view. Make sure to make a booking via a phone call on afternoons, as if you are just seconds late, you might not get a table.
- 12 The Nielsen, Greycliffe Ave, Vaucluse, ☏ . 8AM-3PM. Seaside restaurant with different varieties of seafood.
South Head-Watsons Bay
- 13 Camp Cove Kiosk, S Head Heritage Trail, Watsons Bay. M-Sa 7:30AM-7PM Su 7AM-7PM. Café.
Most of these places do not provide alcohol or wine. In some places, they are even prohibited, and you could be checked at any time.
- 1 Middle Head Officers' Quarters, 3 Governors Road, Mosman, toll-free: 1300 072 757. Check-in: 2PM. Has Carpark, drinking water, showers, toilets, electric power. This cottage can sometimes be called its own world at times, due to the amount of greenery here.
- 2 Gardeners Cottage, Nielsen Park, Fig Tree Rd, Vaucluse, ☏ , toll-free: 1300 072 757.
- 3 Steele Point Cottage, Steele Point Rd, Vaucluse, ☏ , toll-free: 1300 072 757. Small historic harbour side cottage in one of Sydney's most expensive suburbs; Vaucluse. $390 for 2 nights.
- 4 Q-station, 1 N Head Scenic Dr, Manly, ☏ . A former Quarantine Station used to quarantine people from ships if they had any illness. Now a motel. A side tip, you will need to pay $40 more if you want an attached bathroom, as there weren't attached bathrooms back in the day. Additionally, usually you'd get to go straight to your motel, however at Q-station, a bus will take you to your room, free of charge.
- 5 Constables Cottage, ☏ . A small cottage on South Head.
While camping is usually the only form of accomodation in most national park, there are no camping sites in Sydney Harbour National Park as most of the area is unsuitable for camping. Additionally, camping is prohibited in some areas to protect bandicoots.
While there are great views here, backcountry stays aren't a thing here, for a couple of reasons. The first one is the fact that most of this national park had only existed to protect the remains of the small reserves near military bases. The second one is that since these are next to military bases, there may be UXOs here. By civil law, it's a severe penalty to even move them, making it a difficult one. The third one is that some of these are time patrolled, with bookings required to camp and only at designated areas.
- Watch out for the small Sydney funnel web spider. They are known to have lethal bites.
- Carry some water with you at ALL TIMES, regardless of the season.
- Most of the time formats used here at restaurants and attractions here are in 24 hour time. Be sure to do some converting, if 12 hour is your dominant time format.
- Often, people can go crazy, just to find a rock during NYE. Unless you've deliberately come on NYE for the fireworks, and your experience may not be so great due to the heavy crowd
- Artillery Drive is heavily protected, and only wastewater management staff and residents are allowed.
- The maximum limit inside the park is 40km/h. Avoid speeding, as the low limit is meant to protect the bandicoots.
- Don't damage Aboriginal rock engravings - it's very disrespectful and disgraceful. And thus, this can result in a $60000 fine.
- Watch out for endangered bandicoots at night. Do not flash lights at them. If you're taking a photo, make sure your phone's flash is off. Otherwise, don't even think about it.
- Cockatoo Island is only a mere few kilometres away and can be accessed by the Cockatoo Island Ferry line or the Parramatta River line.
- Barangaroo may not be park of the National Park but it still has lots of greenery, and also is home to a famous Chinese Garden.