From 1837 to 1984 this sprawling historic complex in beautiful North Head bushland was used to isolate new arrivals suspected of carrying disease. These days it has been reborn as a tourist destination, offering appealing accommodation and tours. Shuttle buses whisk you from reception down to the wharf, where there's a lovely beach, a museum in the old luggage store telling the site's story, an information desk and a cafe. Nearby is a bar and restaurant.
The quarantine station was an attempt to limit the spread of cholera, smallpox, influenza and bubonic plague. Passengers were accommodated according to the class of their ticket. Sandstone inscriptions record the names of ships laid up here; gravestones the names of those who never left.
Tours run to a daily or weekly schedule and must be prebooked; contact the office. The 2½-hour Ghostly Encounters tour ($49 to $55) runs nightly and rattles some skeletons; three-hour Extreme Ghost Tours ($75) take it a step further and try to summon the spirits. The two-hour daytime Quarantine Station Story tour ($35) highlights the personal stories of those who worked and waited here, while the 45-minute Wharf Wander ($18) is a truncated version for those short on time.