About 3km south of central Manly, spectacular North Head offers dramatic cliffs, lookouts, secluded beaches, pretty paths through the native scrub, and sweeping views of the ocean, harbour and city. It's great to explore by bike or on foot, along the Manly Scenic Walkway. Grab a map and plot your own path through the headland, which takes in former military barracks, WWII gun emplacements, a quarantine cemetery and a memorial walk commemorating Australia's military. At the tip, Fairfax Lookouts offer dramatic clifftop perspectives.

North Head is believed to have been used as a ceremonial site by the native Camaraigal people. These days, most of the headland is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. There's a visitor centre at the North Fort complex, and a cafe. Tours of the defensive tunnels run at weekends. If you are there midweek, ask to see the worthwhile wartime propaganda film about the gun emplacements.

The 9km, four-hour Manly Scenic Walkway loops around the park; pick up a brochure from the visitor centre. Also here is the historic Q Station.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Manly attractions

1. Q Station

0.36 MILES

From 1837 to 1984 this sprawling historic complex in beautiful North Head bushland was used to isolate new arrivals suspected of carrying disease. These…

2. Store Beach

0.52 MILES

A hidden jewel on North Head, magical Store Beach can only be reached by kayak – you can hire them from Manly Kayak Centre – or boat. It’s a breeding…

3. St Patrick’s College

0.93 MILES

Southeast of Manly’s centre, this enormous Gothic Revival college (1889) lords over the rooftops from its hillside position. It used to be a seminary but…

4. Fairy Bower Beach


Indulge your mermaid fantasies (the more seemly ones at least) in the pretty, triangular ocean pool set into the rocky shoreline here. The life-size sea…

5. Shelly Beach

1.11 MILES

This pretty, sheltered, north-facing ocean cove is an appealing 1km walk from the busy Manly beach strip. The tranquil waters are a protected haven for…

6. Corso

1.42 MILES

The quickest route from the Manly ferry terminal to Manly’s ocean beach is along the Corso, a part-pedestrian mall lined with surf shops, pubs and sushi…

7. Manly Beach

1.43 MILES

Sydney's second most famous beach is a magnificent strand that stretches for nearly two golden kilometres, lined by Norfolk Island pines and midrise…

8. Reef Beach

1.45 MILES

This beautiful little cove is on the Manly Scenic Walkway in the Sydney Harbour National Park. It's got turquoise water and great views across to Manly.