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Shelly Beach to North Head Sanctuary

Home > Sydney > Free | Nature | Outdoor | Views | Walks
by Janelle (subscribe)
I like to participate in life rather than be a spectator. Music, dancing, theatre, travelling, food, cycling and walking are some of my passions. Writing is an enjoyable pastime that allows me to share my experiences.
Published April 8th 2018
Sydney, so far, yet so close
Walk, free, Sydney, nature, history, views
Stunning coastal views (image JW)


Walk into nature and history and experience the diversity of nature. North Head is an area rich in natural beauty and historical significance. The 9 km loop can be accessed from the car park at the top of Bower headland or you can take a very scenic and popular 30 minute walk from Manly Wharf along Cabbage Tree Bay to Shelly Beach. The beach area has drinking water, toilet facilities, a cafe and restaurant.

Beach, Sydney, walk, views, nature, free, family
Start from Shelly Beach (image JW)


Leave the activity and crowds of the beach behind as bird sounds and the smells of the Australian bush take over. Even mid-Autumn, there are plenty of wildflowers including banksias in bloom. Wildlife abounds here, you may be lucky enough to spot an echidna or bandicoot and you will see brush turkeys as well as birds, such as rainbow lorikeets, honeyeaters and wattlebirds.

Nature, wildflowers, Sydney, walks, free, family
Natural surrounds (image JW)


Amongst the almost pristine bush, you will come across evidence of human occupation. At one point, you need to enter through a hole in a wall built in the 1880s. This lovely sandstone edifice was built to separate church land from the Quarantine area of North Head. Other signs of human occupation are the WW2 gun emplacements and a quarry swamps.

Sydney, history, nature, walks, views, family
The historic wall (image JW)


The walk is a moderate uphill grade on sandstone steps and would be achievable by most families just make sure you have plenty of drinking water. After crossing Blue Fish Drive, the gradient flattens out onto a steel grid track which leads to the North Head Sanctuary and the visitor centre at North Fort.

History, Sydney, war, North Head, views, walks, family, free
North Head gun pits (image JW)


This area is also an important site for the local Aboriginal people being used for ceremonies and contains rock art and middens. From 1828, North Head was used as a Quarantine area for the colony and between 18881 and 1925 over 24 people were buried here. The former Quarantine station is now used as hotel accommodation (The Q Station).

Sydney, views, nature, walks, free, Manly, North Head
Views of Sydney from Fairfax lookout (image JW)


There is a cafe on North Head Scenic Drive and guided tours of the area are available from the visitor centre. Whale watching is a popular pastime here from mid-May to November. You can take as long as you like on this walk as there's are various interesting offshoots, it can be extended into the grounds of Q Station, looped back to Manly via Collins Beach or you can catch a 135 bus back.

Breathtaking views of the city, ocean and Sydney Harbour from an interesting piece of paradise
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Why? To see a different side of Manly
When: Daily during daylight hours
Where: North Head Sydney
Cost: Free
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