Back to previous page
PDF Print

Sydney Harbour National Park

Learn more

Learn more about why this park is special

Sydney Harbour National Park is a special place. Here are just some of the reasons why:

Native birds and animals

Water dragon (Physignathus lesueurii), Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: John Spencer

You'll probably spot at least one of the park's 150 bird species on your visit, like a white-bellied sea eagle or a New Holland honeyeater. If you're near Manly, you may be lucky enough to glimpse an endangered little penguin as it is the state's only known mainland colony. If you happen to see unusual webbed footprints on a beach or shoreline, they may well belong to a native water rat looking for seafood in shallow water close to the shoreline.

  • Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk Take the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk for beautiful views of Sydney Harbour. This easy walk takes you from Taronga Zoo to the beach and cafes at Chowder Bay, and there is a guided tour to downloa...
  • Fairfax walk The paved Fairfax Walk is easy, gentle and ideal for walking with children. Located at North Head in Sydney Harbour National Park, it's a great walk for whale watching.
  • Wet and dry environments - Bradleys Head Wet and dry environments - Bradleys Head is a school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park. It's for Stage 1 (Years 1-2) primary school students, focusing on HSIE as a KLA. Visit wet and dry envir...
  • WilderQuest WildThings Come on a WilderQuest WildThings excursion for Stage 1 students, focusing on science and technology. We’ll investigate the living world in Sydney Harbour National Park, home to native birds and animal...
  • WilderQuest WildTracker Take a WilderQuest WildTracker school excursion for Stage 2 students, focusing on science and technology. Students will carry out investigations and explore the living world in Sydney Harbour National...

Diverse landscapes

Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

Immerse yourself in nature at Sydney Harbour National Park. Exploring its varied scenery, you'll find everything from sandstone cliffs and rocky foreshores to quiet beaches and bushland. Stand beneath gigantic Sydney red gums and Port Jackson figs or absorb the sheer size of the harbour from a headland lookout.

  • Bottle and Glass Point Bottle and Glass Point is an ideal picnic spot in Nielsen Park in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Enjoy lovely harbour views and go fishing, snorkelling, diving or swimming.
  • Manly scenic walkway Also known as the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk, Manly Scenic Walkway is among Sydney's best walking tracks. Enjoy bush, beach and beautiful views on this excellent day walk.

An island paradise

Bradleys Head, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

The park protects five historic harbour islands. Discover the rich convict and maritime heritage of Goat Island, along with stunning views from all angles. Why not picnic at Rodd or Shark Island? Set aside for public enjoyment as early as 1879, both offer picnic areas, beaches and paths for you to explore. The park’s exceptional landscapes are the perfect setting for fishing, swimming, scuba diving and soaking up the views. Head to Clark Island for an Aboriginal cultural experience and enjoy the city lights as you dine on Fort Denison. Sydney Harbour National Park is beloved by landscape photographers, so why not bring your camera and take a few shots? 

  • Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head is named in honour of Arabanoo, the first Aboriginal man to live among European settlers. It's a great spot for whale watching, offering views over North and South Hea...
  • Bradleys Head Amphitheatre Bradleys Head Amphitheatre is an exceptionally popular place within Sydney Harbour National Park. A fabulous lookout, it's also a great picnic area and fishing spot.
  • Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk Take the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk for beautiful views of Sydney Harbour. This easy walk takes you from Taronga Zoo to the beach and cafes at Chowder Bay, and there is a guided tour to downloa...

What we're doing for Visitor facilities and experiences in this park

Aboriginal heritage

Arabanoo lookout, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: John Spencer

Before Australia became a British colony, the area around Sydney Harbour was occupied by the Eora, Guringai and Daruk Aboriginal Nations. Upon the arrival of settlers and convicts, land was cleared to make way for the developing colony, and Aboriginal people were forced further and further away from their traditional camping and hunting grounds. As the colony spread, more evidence of Aboriginal life and culture was destroyed. Today, despite the great spread of the city, you can find many Aboriginal sites like rock engravings and middens - examples of an ancient and enduring cultural heritage and a record of the Eora Peoples' connection to Country.

  • Aboriginal culture and bush tucker: Bradleys Head Join an NPWS Aboriginal guide on this fascinating morning of cultural exploration on the shores of Sydney Harbour. On this tour, we'll visit beautiful Bradleys Head, near Taronga Zoo.
  • Aboriginal culture: expanding contacts Arabanoo lookout Aboriginal culture expanding contacts Arabanoo lookout is a Stage 4 (Years 7-8) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park which focuses on history as a KLA. Embark on a learning journey of Abor...
  • Aboriginal culture: expanding contacts Bradleys Head Aboriginal culture expanding contacts Bradleys Head is a Stage 4 (Years 7-8) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park which focuses on history as a KLA. Embark on a learning journey of Aborigi...
  • Aboriginal culture: expanding contacts Nielsen Park Aboriginal culture expanding contacts Nielsen Park is a Stage 4 (Years 7-8) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park which focuses on history as a KLA. Embark on a learning journey of Aborigin...
  • Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head Arabanoo lookout at Dobroyd Head is named in honour of Arabanoo, the first Aboriginal man to live among European settlers. It's a great spot for whale watching, offering views over North and South Hea...
  • Grotto Point Aboriginal engraving site Sydney Harbour National Park’s rock engravings immerse you in Sydney’s Aboriginal heritage. Head to Grotto Point at Dobroyd Head for historic rock art and scenic views.
  • Who's Arabanoo? This school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park is for Stage 2 (Years 3-4) students and focuses on HSIE. Walk down the track to Reef Beach with an Aboriginal ranger to hear about the cultural hi...
  • WilderQuest WildThings Come on a WilderQuest WildThings excursion for Stage 1 students, focusing on science and technology. We’ll investigate the living world in Sydney Harbour National Park, home to native birds and animal...
  • WilderQuest WildTracker Take a WilderQuest WildTracker school excursion for Stage 2 students, focusing on science and technology. Students will carry out investigations and explore the living world in Sydney Harbour National...
Show more

What we're doing for Aboriginal culture in this park

A world of history

Fort Denison, Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

Although British authorities first planned to set up their penal colony in Botany Bay, the First Fleet of convicts only stayed in Botany Bay for a few days and then set sail around the coast to Sydney Harbour, where the colony was established. Since then, Sydney Harbour has continued to play an important part in the development of the nation and a number of places in the park have strong links to Sydney's history. You'll find buildings constructed using convict labour, maritime and military fortifications, and the Quarantine Station which once housed new boat arrivals to Sydney, protecting Sydneysiders from infectious disease.

  • Beehive Casemate tour NPWS is conducting a series of guided tours of this historic fortification in Sydney Harbour National Park. We'll explore the rarely opened Beehive Casemate as part of this tour at Middle Head, near M...
  • Convict kids - Goat Island Convict kids - Goat Island is a Stage 2 (Years 3-4) school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park, focusing on HSIE. History comes to life on Goat Island when you unexpectedly find yourself on tria...
  • Fort Denison Fort Denison is a heritage fort on a Sydney harbour island, once called Pinchgut. This former military site is the most complete Martello Tower in the world and a popular Sydney attraction.
  • Goat Island heritage tour Take a fascinating tour of Goat Island, an iconic Sydney landmark in Sydney Harbour National Park.
  • Japanese mini submarine tour: Fort Denison In 1942, 3 midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour to attack naval vessels docked there. What happened next? Find out on this great harbour tour into Sydney's history in Sydney Harbour National Park.
  • Military relics at Bradleys Head Discover Sydney's military history at the Bradleys Head Fortifications Complex. Bradleys Head is next to Tarongo Zoo in Mosman NSW.
  • South Head Heritage trail The short and easy South Head Heritage trail takes in scenic Sydney Harbour, views, historic gun emplacements and the distinctive red and white striped Hornby Lighthouse.
  • Three islands tour aboard the Gargarle Join an NPWS guide on the historic launch Gargarle for a fascinating tour of three islands in Sydney Harbour. The Gargarle was built in the 1950s to transport maritime workers to and from Goat Island.
  • Tour de Forts - Middle Head This excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park is for Stage 2 (Years 3-4) students and focuses on HSIE. Students will visit observation posts, searchlights, gun emplacements and other defensive struct...
  • Tour de forts Middle Head The tour de forts Middle Head school excursion in Sydney Harbour National Park is for Stage 5 (Years 9-10) students which focuses on history as a KLA. The Middle Head forts complex covers 150 years of...
  • WilderQuest Convict kids on Fort Denison Take this exciting guided WilderQuest journey back in time on Fort Denison. During this fun school holidays activity you'll find out what it was like to be a convict transported to NSW.
  • WilderQuest Convict kids on Goat Island Do you love stories about long ago? If you do, this WilderQuest holiday adventure's for you. We'll take a trip to Goat Island and into Sydney's past.
Show more

Plants and animals you may see

Animals

  • Humpback whale breaching. Photo: Dan Burns

    Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

    The humpback whale has the longest migratory path of any mammal, travelling over 5000km from its summer feeding grounds in Antarctica to its breeding grounds in the subtropics. Its playful antics, such as body-rolling, breaching and pectoral slapping, are a spectacular sight for whale watchers in NSW national parks.

Plants

  • Grass trees, Sugarloaf State Conservation Area. Photo: Michael Van Ewijk

    Grass tree (Xanthorrea spp.)

    An iconic part of the Australian landscape, the grass tree is widespread across eastern NSW. These Australian native plants have a thick fire-blackened trunk and long spiked leaves. They are found in heath and open forests across eastern NSW. The grass tree grows 1-5m in height and produces striking white-flowered spikes which grow up to 1m long.

  • Blueberry ash. Photo: Jaime Plaza

    Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus)

    The blueberry ash is a rainforest shrub which produces blue olive-shaped berries and spectacular bell-shaped flowers, which often appear on the plant together. It is a tall slender shrub or small tree found in rainforest, tall eucalypt forest and coastal bushland in eastern NSW, south-east Queensland and Victoria.

  • Flannel flowers. Photo: Michael Jarman

    Flannel flower (Actinotus helianthi)

    The delicate flannel flower is so named because of the soft woolly feel of the plant. Growing in the NSW south coast region, extending to Narrabri in the Central West and up to south-east Queensland, its white or pink flowers bloom all year long, with an extra burst of colour in the spring.

  • Smooth-barked apple. Photo: Jaime Plaza

    Smooth-barked apple (Angophora costata)

    Smooth-barked apple gums, also known as Sydney red gum or rusty gum trees, are Australian native plants found along the NSW coast, and in the Sydney basin and parts of Queensland. Growing to heights of 15-30m, the russet-coloured angophoras shed their bark in spring to reveal spectacular new salmon-coloured bark.

Hornby lighthouse and South Head. Photo: David Finnegan