SYDNEY HARBOUR WALK – an historic finale

It's pretty damn spectacular when you reach the Pacific Ocean.



Soon after he landed with the First Fleet in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip decided he ought to get to know his neighbours, the Aborigines.

He liked the look of the ones he’d seen around North Head. He’d even named the area Manly, after the manly specimens of the species that camped there. So Phillip kidnapped a gentleman called Arabanoo and took him back to Sydney Cove. It was the sort of thing governors did in the days before pesky human rights commissions made it all more complicated.

All went swimmingly for a while. Arabanoo learned English and taught the new arrivals some of his Cadigal language. But a year later Arabanoo died in a smallpox outbreak, and Phillip himself was speared (not fatally) at Spring Cove, just round the corner from Manly.

North Head is a spectacular outcrop overlooking the entrance to Sydney Harbour. It’s been a great vantage point for taking potshots at passing ships, so it’s not surprising to find a fort there, which once housed an Artillery School and Artillery Museum.

For me, at the end of my epic trek around Sydney Harbour, it was a great vantage point for shooting photos of some of the places I’d been.

First I had to get there, trekking around the shoreline. Manly Beach was packed on a fine sunny day, but there was a hidden gem at Collins Flat.

The few people who know about this secluded beach at Collins Flat may not be happy that I'm advertising it in cyberspace.

From there I trekked up to the main road leading out of town to the North Fort. There was an intriguing sign by the roadside…

Is there anywhere else in the world where they publish bandicoot road toll figures?

I made a short detour off the road and back to the water’s edge to continue my education.

The word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian ‘quarantina’ or forty days – the time suspected carriers of bubonic plague were quarantined in 14th century Venice. There – maybe you didn’t know that either.

If ever I’m unlucky enough to catch bubonic plague, the Q Station on North Head would be an excellent place to recuperate. Not everyone who came here in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was so lucky.

Headstones retrieved from the Quarantine station cemetery. Too many, too young.

From the early days of the New South Wales colony, it was necessary to quarantine new arrivals from ships suspected of carrying plague, smallpox, TB or cholera. The Quarantine Station operated until the 1980s, when it was converted first to a museum, then to its current use as an up-market guesthouse, with eating facilities and history and ghost tours.

The Boilerhouse by the dock where inmates landed is now a smart bar and restaurant.

For those with no fear of smallpox-riddled ghosts, the Q Station could be an excellent place to stay in Sydney.

Over 1500 samples of graffiti left by unfortunate quarantine inmates are now carefully preserved.

The museum, shop and restaurant are open to visitors and strongly recommended.

From there it was not much more than a stroll up the hill to reach the Fairfax Walk looping to the lookout. It was a popular spot for tourists, so there was no problem finding someone to take my photo as a harbour-conquering hiker.

See all that behind me? That's where I walked.


Well, that’s it, the end of the road.

Was it a good thing to do? Absolutely! I have some modest bragging rights, and I’ve even managed to sell the story about my adventures to a paying client. Stay tuned for more.

Walked today – 12.6km

Total walked to date (ie Grand Total for the whole trip) – 184.4 kilometres.

Route from Manly to North Head (and back again)

Coming up next – nothing!

9 Comments

Filed under Hiking

9 responses to “SYDNEY HARBOUR WALK – an historic finale

  1. Bravo! You’re an inspiration! Now let me see if I can get Euan to come with me …!

  2. Thanks Libby. The time to beat for the trip is…um…

    Nah, just take your time. It’s better that way.

  3. Duncan Ball

    Well done, Richard! We had wanted to be the first of our friends to do it but you’ve stolen our thunder so maybe we won’t. Duncan & Jill

    • Duncan and Jill, my thunder is not hard to better – just add a few kilometres by turning left at the Spit Bridge and walking the rim of Middle Harbour before continuing to Manly – I took a shortcut there.

  4. Have enjoyed sharing your epic trek. Looking foreword to your next adventure

  5. Oh my, this was a fascinating conclusion to your multi-stage walk! Well done on making it all the way. Really enjoyed ‘walking’ with you. :-)

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