Sydney Heads

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The Sydney skyline seen from North Head.

The Sydney Heads (also simply known as the Heads) form the two-kilometre-wide entrance to Sydney Harbour in Sydney, Australia. North Head and Quarantine Head are to the north; South Head and Dunbar Head are to the south; and, Middle Head, Georges Head, and Chowder Head are to the west and within the harbour.

The Hornby Lighthouse is located on South Head and is Australia's third-oldest lighthouse. Macquarie Lighthouse, Australia's first lighthouse, is three kilometres to the south on Dunbar Head.

North Head[edit]

South Head, Watsons Bay
The Beehive Casemate was carved into the cliff face at Obelisk Bay on Sydney Harbour in 1871

North Head is a headland south-east of the suburb of Manly. It is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. The headland is a promontory of sandstone and is 3.85 square kilometres in area.

Sydney Quarantine station[edit]

The Sydney Quarantine station is located on North Head and is one of the few still-existing facilities that once operated in each state of Australia until the 1980s. From 1828, Spring Cove, on the western side of North Head, was used to quarantine new arrivals to Sydney to minimise the spread of communicable diseases such as smallpox and whooping cough. In 1832, the whole area of North Head was set aside for a quarantine station.[1] A permanent quarantine facility was set up in 1837 and continued to operate until 1984.

In 1975, Vietnamese refugees were housed there; and, in 1975 and 1976, Cyclone Tracy victims from Darwin, Northern Territory were also housed there.[1] The Station was finally closed in 1984 and the management of the site passed to the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service.[2]

Defence facilities[edit]

From 1934, defence facilities were installed on the headland but were wound down in 1945. From 1953, there was a School of Artillery and it used the former defence facilities. The harbour reserve was established in 1979. The School of Artillery relocated to Puckapunyal army base in Victoria in 1998, but an artillery museum remains on the headland. In 2001, the site was passed to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust for management.[3] In 2010 the artillery collection was moved to the Army Museum Bandiana[4] in Victoria; the Trust plans to establish an exhibition on the defence of Sydney on the site.[5] There are still remains of the gun emplacements and artificial tunnels used by the army, many of which can be seen either by the public or on guided tours.[6]

Australian Institute of Police Management[edit]

Also located on North Head is the Australian Institute of Police Management, housed in a secure compound which has been the 'Seamen's Quarters' of the Quarantine Station, a place where sailors with acquired STIs were treated and securely confined behind high sandstone walls (prior to the development of modern antibiotics).

South Head[edit]

Historic painting of South Head

South Head is a headland, part of Sydney Harbour National Park, to the north of the suburb of Watsons Bay.

A twenty-minute foreshore walk on the South Head Heritage Trail offers dramatic views of Middle Head, Manly, North Head and the Pacific Ocean. Starting at the delightful Camp Cove Beach, an 1870s cobblestone path leads first to Lady Bay (also known as Lady Jane) Beach, one of three in Sydney where nude bathing is lawful. It then loops around the headland, passing Hornby Lighthouse, its lightkeepers' cottages, and several gun emplacements from the end of the 19th century.

HMAS Watson, the Royal Australian Navy training base, is also located at South Head.

Middle Head[edit]

Middle Head is a headland between North Head and South Head, beside Middle Harbour. It is part of Sydney Harbour National Park.

Middle Head has an extensive network of defence fortifications and tunnels, including the Middle Head Fortifications, the Georges Head Battery and the Lower Georges Heights Commanding Position and other forts located around Sydney Harbour. The fortifications feature "Tiger Cages", where the military trained soldiers by simulating prisoner of war conditions in Vietnam.

HMAS Penguin is located at Middle Harbour.

An underground fortress tunnel network situated on Middle Head, Mosman. Part of the Middle Head Fortifications tunnel system.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Australian National Heritage listing for North Head
  2. ^ "North Head Quarantine Station". Department of Environment & Conservation (NSW). Retrieved 18 April 2006. 
  3. ^ "Former School of Artillery, North Head". Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. Archived from the original on 19 February 2006. Retrieved 18 April 2006. 
  4. ^ Army Museum Bandiana Retrieved 20 December 2010
  5. ^ "Last Rounds for Artillery Museum at North Head" Retrieved 20 December 2010
  6. ^ A section mentioning the emplacements and tunnels on the Harbour Trust Website

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°50′12″S 151°16′52″E / 33.836772°S 151.281052°E / -33.836772; 151.281052