A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published July 20th 2017
Sydney's hidden secrets are revealed at North Head, Manly
North Head Sanctuary is just 11kms from Sydney's CBD and part of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust - a self-funding agency created by the Australian Government. It's a nature reserve/historical site/artist's precinct and all-round scenic destination all rolled into one. It's the perfect place to take overseas or interstate visitors, and it's also the perfect place to learn more about Sydney's secret hidden history.
THE WALKS: The North Head Sanctuary (the name given to the land's end after driving east through Manly) is covered in native bushland and walking tracks. You can access the area walking from Manly's Shelley Beach, or the road allows cars and buses through to North Fort. The Memorial Walk leaves from North Fort, is paved, and links five monuments commemorating Australia's participation in major world conflicts. It honours Australian Defence Force personnel during both war and peaceful times, and the engraved red bricks list names of the fallen. It's also possible to purchase a commemorative brick. The Sanctuary Loop passes through the historical Barracks Precinct (former School of Artillery), gun placements, and weaves a meandering path through restored bushland and past unique ecological sites such as the hanging swamp and rare flora and fauna. Fairfax Walk leads you out to the end-tip of the promontory and gives you views 13 nautical miles out to sea, across to South Head and Hornby Lighthouse, and westwards to Sydney city's skyline views. The easy, level 1km loop is also a great spot for whale-watching. Guided wildflower walks or group tours are also available. For more information, click here.
the commemorative plaques on the Memorial Walk, North Head
North Fort was Sydney's number one line of defence during WW2 and the tunnels and gun placements can be seen by guided tours on weekends at 10.30am, 11.30, 1pm and 2pm. This tour involves steps and going underground so a degree of fitness and closed footwear is required. A relatively new guided tour takes place on the second Saturday of each month, taking in the 3rd Quarantine Cemetery where 240 people are buried. Soldiers and nurses' stories of trying to survive epidemics, including small pox and the plague, is delved into and the isolation of their final gravestones is a sombre dedication. Bookings for both tours are recommended and can be done at the Information Centre. Adults $7/Child $5/Family $20. For more information, click here. If you're feeling adventurous, try staying overnight at the Quarantine Station and doing a Ghost Tour. Click here for more information.
the Barracks Precinct now houses artists and small business
THE ARTIST'S PRECINCT A thriving hub of health and wellness professionals now utilise the buildings that once housed Australian military personnel. Set up In June 2012, Building 19 in the Barracks Precinct is now the Australian Bronze Gallery, featuring sculptures and artworks, and is open 9am-3pm Tues - Sunday. Building 20 houses Bandicoot Heaven, the Sanctuary Foundation's headquarters for tracking and monitoring the endangered Long-nosed Bandicoot population. The unique habitat of the area also supports populations of lorikeets, wattlebirds, echidnas, and lizards. A Nursery Group, staffed by volunteers, propagate plants from seed and cuttings to preserve and regenerate the former army grounds. Tennis courts are available for hire at $20/hour and are located behind the main Parade Ground. For reservations, click here.
THE COFFEE SHOPS Newly opened Bella Vista Café is located inside the heritage-listed North Fort building and its position high on the hill offers amazing views across Sydney harbour, and it's open 7 days 9am-4pm. In Bldg 19 near the Parade Ground Australian Bronze Gallery also offer tea, coffee and light refreshments.Within Q Station closer to the water's edge there is a Café and Museum on the wharf. This area is maintained by Sydney Harbour National Parks and Wildlife and is open Sun - Fri from 10am to 4pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 8pm. There are picnic areas, toilet facilities and water fountains at various locations so drop into the Visitor Centre to grab a map and get your bearings.
VOLUNTEERING The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is fully self-funded and relies on volunteers for ongoing support. It's main two centres are here at North Head and the other at Cockatoo Island. Volunteers sometimes move between the sites, depending on staffing requirements, so if you live in Sydney and have time on your hands, it's a great way to enjoy your own backyard. For more information click here.
North Head Sanctuary is open daily 10am - 4pm, and closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.