The Stunning Cliffs of The North Head Manly Walk

The Stunning Cliffs of The North Head Manly Walk

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There is no shortage of gorgeous views in Sydney, you could almost become blase about it. In order not to forget that I live in one of the world’s most spectacular, I love going back to Sydney’s spectacular viewpoints. Every time, I get a reminder of how fortunate I am to live here and how much Sydney has to give to the explorer. North Head is one of Sydney’s seven headlands and an imposing presence at the entrance of Port Jackson. Take a walk with me and be inspired by the stunning cliffs of the North Head Manly Walk.

View over Port Jackson from the North Head Manly Walk

North Head Manly Walk: North Fort

North Fort is part of the North Head Sanctuary and like Middle Head, bears witness to the military defence of Sydney. There is a 45-minute tour of the tunnels and gun emplacements available.

North Fort is a short drive beyond the beach suburb of Manly, turn left to North Fort just before the Bella Vista Cafe.

North Head Manly Walk: Memorial Walk

Memorial Walk is an outdoor educational journey into Australia’s presence in various international conflicts and peacekeeping missions. Before you start the walk, take a moment to admire the breathtaking views over Sydney Harbour and the CBD. This was a nice surprise when I did the North Head Manly Walk, the place is interesting and the views are magnificent.

When you do the North Head Manly Walk, don't miss Memorial Park

The walk around North Head Sanctuary starts here and will take you all the way to Manly.

The War Memorial is on the North Head Manly Walk

North Head Manly Walk: Fairfax Lookout

Fairfax Lookout is a short loop walk at the southernmost tip of the North Head Sanctuary. You can reach it in ten minutes on foot from the Memorial Walk or drive there. The path loops around the headland amidst tea trees and offers stunning views over the ocean and South Head.

The Fairfax Lookout is on the North Head Manly Walk

At the time of my visit, some of the lookouts were partially closed off due to the cliff becoming unstable. Still, the views are amazing. When I stand there watching the view, I can’t help but think of the First Fleet sailing through the heads and being presented with the most beautiful harbour… No wonder this location seemed perfect for colonial settlement. Of course, the presence of water was instrumental in this but I love the romantic notion that beauty attracted the first fleet!

You may spot some whales on the North Head Manly Walk

The North Head Manly Walk is a great spot for whale watching, you can see the tourist boats from the cliff tops. If you equip yourself with a good pair of binoculars and a great deal of patience, you might just see a pod of whales on their migration. While the view over the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney is incredible and gives a good idea of how dramatic that part of the coast is, don’t forget to look down. Some of the colours in the waters below will leave you breathless.

You will see some beautiful colours on the North Head Manly Walk

There is a path that takes you around the headland, through the Memorial Walk and all the way to Manly in about fifteen to twenty minutes.

North Head Manly Walk: Q Station

If you have enough time, I do recommend visiting the Quarantine Station. As early as 1830, this remote location was used to isolate newly-arrived people suspected to be carrying highly contagious diseases such as Spanish Influenza, Smallpox and even the Bubonic Plague. The Quarantine Station was in use until the 1970s and is now a hotel, conference centre and museum. It is quite a moving visit, with many objects and artefacts saved from its residents.

North Head Manly Walk: Shelly Beach

The North Head Manly Walk will take you to Shelly Beach, one of Sydney’s prettiest and most secluded beaches. In the bushland above Shelly Beach, there is a fantastic viewpoint over the succession of beaches towards the north. You can access the rock on the picture below, however, take great caution, you have to get very close to the edge of the cliff.

View over the Northern Beaches from the North Head Manly Walk

Alternatively, you can enjoy the view safely from a park bench located under a rock ledge, and if you have time, indulge in whale watching.

The best whale watching spot on the North Head Manly Walk

At the end of the North Head Manly Walk, Shelly Beach is a lovely spot for a relaxing afternoon. Enjoy a casual drink or lunch at the Boathouse Cafe and Kiosk. I find Shelly Beach a wonderful reminder of how extraordinary the Sydney lifestyle is. This is suburban Australia, certainly wealthy, but nevertheless unique.

The North Head Manly Walk ends at Shelly Beach

North Head Manly Walk: Manly Beach

You can reach Manly Beach easily from Shelly Beach on the boardwalk. Manly is a little like Bondi, quintessentially Sydney, only a little quieter.

Take a break at Manly Beach at the end of the North Head Manly Walk

Manly is where the North Head Sanctuary walk ends. I find it a lovely suburb, bustling from tourists and shoppers alike. I often hear newcomers to Australian wondering if office workers go for a surf at lunchtime… Or if that’s an urban myth? Well, it’s true! I did see a guy change from his suit into his board shorts and go for a quick surf at Manly! My favourite thing to do there is to enjoy some fish and chips on the beach… However, you have to watch out for the seagulls! There is a plethora of cafes and restaurants along the beachfront and the Corso is well-known for its shopping experience.

How to get there

If you start the North Head Manly Walk at North Fort, take the 135 bus from Manly Wharf. It runs every half hour approximately. Ferries run from Manly back to Circular Quay, as well as buses.

Views over Manly Beach from the North Head Manly Walk

If you are looking for more ideas on what to do in Sydney, other headlands include West Head and Barrenjoey Lighthouse.

In Sydney’s North, there are more great day trips to The Basin and Bouddi National Park. If you are looking to spend some time on the beach, I have a list of the best ones in Sydney.

If you want to spend more time around Sydney Harbour, which I highly recommend, you can focus on things to do for free or outdoors. Of course, there are many other places where to take some great photos of Sydney Harbour. And if you get back to Circular Quay, don’t forget to explore The Rocks and to take the views from the Pylon Lookout.

Have you visited North Head? Do you have any tips for my next visit? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Save these tips about North Head on Pinterest!

There are some beautiful cliffs at North Head in Sydney
North Head has a beautiful coastal walk
North Head in Sydney has some beautiful coastal views


  1. Natalie @ Obsessive Cooking Disorder

    August 3, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    My goodness this is so pretty! I love the lookout photos especially. My bucket list one day!

    1. Delphine

      August 3, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Natalie, thank you for stopping by, I hope you get to visit Sydney sometime!

  2. Dominique| Perchance to Cook

    August 3, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    I love your photos! The water looks so bright and peaceful. I would love to travel here one day, but until then, these photos will do!

    1. Delphine

      August 3, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      HI Dominique, thank you for dropping by. Sydney should definitely be on your travel bucket list. I’m really pleased my photos inspire you, I have plenty more to come!

  3. Samantha

    August 3, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    You are right – the colors in the water totally took my breath away! I’ve always wanted to travel to Sydney, and now I want to even more!!! Your photos are absolutely gorgeous!!!

    1. Delphine

      August 4, 2017 at 8:56 am

      Hi Samantha, I’m very pleased that you like my photos. Winter gives us some very nice colours over here, very crisp and clear!

  4. Anshula Varma

    August 4, 2017 at 1:00 am

    The colour of the water is so, so pretty! I can’t believe it’s real! I’ve never heard of Manly Beach but it seems so pretty (and I like the fact that it is a lot quieter than Bondi Beach).

    1. Delphine

      August 4, 2017 at 8:54 am

      Anshula, I agree that the colour of the water is absolutely stunning. Manly is a great beach, it’s busy but not as much as Bondi. I am preparing a post of the beaches in Sydney, and there are many!

  5. Ada Karolina

    August 4, 2017 at 1:41 am

    It looks so beautiful over there! I cant wait to visit Sydney one day! The beaches there are so gorgeous ! Looks like a lovely gateway from the city !

    1. Delphine

      August 4, 2017 at 8:53 am

      There is plenty to see and do in Sydney, I am busy writing lots of posts, you’ll have plenty to choose from. The great thing is that North Head is actually in the metropolitan area, we are very lucky to have lots of nature around!

  6. Kristal

    August 4, 2017 at 1:59 am

    Travel bucket has just grew. The look out point is so great.

    1. Delphine

      August 4, 2017 at 8:52 am

      Hi Kristal, thank you for dropping by. Sydney is so beautiful, it should be on every bucket list!

  7. TeeShares

    August 4, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    oh, I loove Sydney! But I’ve never been to any of these places you have. Have saved and shared your post.

    1. Delphine

      August 4, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      Hi Tendai, thank you for dropping by. Hopefully Sydney is on your travel bucket list now. And I’m glad my posts are inspiring you!

  8. Mica

    August 4, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    It’s so beautiful! 🙂 I’m heading to Sydney with the kids in a couple months so I wouldn’t be able to do all of this but I think a stop at Manly beach after a little ferry ride would be achievable! 😀

    1. Delphine

      August 4, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      Hi Mica, you’ll have a great time in Sydney, there is plenty to do. Taking the ferry to Manly is a great idea. If it’s not too cold, having an ice-cream by the beach is the perfect getaway, enjoy the trip!

  9. anniesnomsblog

    August 4, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Wow, these photos are all breathtaking!! North Fort is spectacular and the sea looks so blue. Here, the ocean looks kind of blue/grey/green – not that nice to look at! I really need to visit Australia one day!

    1. Delphine

      August 4, 2017 at 9:00 pm

      Hi Annie, I’m really pleased you like my photos! The colour of the ocean is real, it’s a great thing about Australia, I hope you get to visit someday.

  10. Danielle Isom (@ImMakingTime)

    August 4, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Visiting Sydney is on my bucket list for sure, and has been for years. Hopefully I’ll make it there sooner than later. These views are absolutely stunning and I’d love to do a little whale watching.

    1. Delphine

      August 5, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Hi Danielle, thank you for dropping by. Sydney is a great place to visit, there is so much to see and do… I am working on more blog posts, stay tuned!

  11. Bailey

    August 5, 2017 at 9:16 am

    This is so beautiful! I really hope to make it to Australia someday to explore all of these beautiful sights.

    1. Delphine

      August 6, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      Hi Bailey, Australia has so many beautiful sights, I’ve been here for 20 years and I still have so much to see! I hope you get a chance to visit some day!

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