South Head

Sydney Harbour National Park

Overview

There's no shortage of lookouts at South Head. The Gap offers some of Sydney's finest views and good opportunities for whale watching. South Head is also great for a swim, try Camp Cove or Lady Bay Beach.

Type
Lookouts
Where
Sydney Harbour National Park
Accessibility
Hard
Price
Free
Entry fees
Park entry fees apply
Hire this venue

South Head is available for events and function hire.

Please note

South Head is known for its sheer ocean cliffs, military history, and the whimsical-looking Hornby Lighthouse. But it’s the picture-perfect ocean views most likely to keep you coming back again and again.

The Gap features an unbeatable lookout. Hike to the top and gaze out over the Tasman Sea and Sydney Harbour. If you’re there between June and September keep your eyes open for whales on their annual migration journey.

Walk the South Head Heritage trail, where you’ll find even more lookouts – it’s hard to tire of that panorama. Check out 19th century gun emplacements along the way.

Swim at Camp Cove or at Lady Bay Beach and stop to see the Dunbar shipwreck memorial and site. You’re bound to be hungry after all that sea air – stop for fish and chips in Robertson park or at one of Watson’s Bay’s restaurants.

Take a virtual tour of South Head captured with Google Street View Trekker.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/lookouts/south-head/local-alerts

Park info

  • in Sydney Harbour National Park in the Sydney and surrounds region
  • Sydney Harbour National Park is open sunrise to sunset but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.

  • Park entry fees:

    Bradleys Head carpark: $8 per vehicle per day. North Head carpark: $5 per vehicle per day. There are pay and display machines that accept cards and coins - no change given. Chowder Bay Road parking: Monday-Friday: $3 per hour, to a maximum of $16 per day. Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: $4 per hour, to a maximum of $20 per day. If you hold an NPWS All Parks or Multi Parks Pass, you can park free for up to four hours per day - additional time can be purchased. Car parks operated by Sydney Harbour Federation Trust or Mosman Council are not covered by your pass. Please check signs carefully.

    Other fees:

    Landing fee or tour fee applies to visit Sydney Harbour islands. To visit Shark, Clark or Rodd islands all vessels, including kayaks, need to pay a $7 per person landing fee. To arrange, please contact 1300 072 757 (13000 PARKS). Annual NSW Parks Passes not valid for landing fees.

    Buy annual pass (//pass.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/).
See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about South Head.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    South Head is in the South Head precinct of Sydney Harbour National Park. To get there:

    • Drive along New South Head Road past Vaucluse to the end
    • Turn right into Robertson Road, then left into Military Road, which becomes Cliff Road.
    • Turn left into Short Street then right into Cove Street and right into Victoria Street
    • Continue to the end and leave the car at Camp Cove carpark.

    Alternatively, the Eastern Suburbs Ferry from Circular Quay, as well as buses 324, 325 and 380, stop a short walk from Camp Cove. Check out the Transport Info website for more information.

    Park entry points

    Road quality

    • Sealed roads

    Vehicle access

    • 2WD vehicles

    Weather restrictions

    • All weather

    Parking

    Parking is available at Camp Cove carpark, including several designated disabled spots.

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    Beach safety

    Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents. These beach safety tips will help you and your family stay safe in the water.

    Mobile safety

    Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency + app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

    Water activities

    Beaches, rivers and lakes in NSW national parks offer lots of opportunities for water activities. Please take care in the water and find out how to help your family and friends stay safe around water.

    Accessibility

    Disability access level - hard

    Wheelchairs can access this area with some difficulty

    • Lookouts and walks are not suitable for wheelchairs
    • The area around Watson’s Bay’s restaurants and Robertson Park are more accessible

    Prohibited

    Drones

    Flying recreational drones is prohibited at South Head because it's located within 5.5km of an airfield or helicopter landing site. 

    The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) states that drones should not be flown within 30m of vehicles, boats, buildings or people, or within 5.5km of an airfield. Drones can also impact on public enjoyment and privacy, interfere with park operations, and may pose a threat to wildlife in some areas. For more information, see the Drones in Parks policy.

    Contact the local office to obtain consent if you wish to fly a drone for commercial filming or photography purposes. 

    Commercial filming and photography

    Commercial filming or photography is prohibited at South Head and Hornby Lighthouse unless prior consent has been obtained.

    Find out how to apply for permission to conduct commercial filming or photography and download an application form.

    Contact the local office to obtain consent for commercial filming or photography.

    Pets

    Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

    Smoking

    NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

    Nearby towns

    Parramatta (27 km)

    Parramatta offers a fascinating insight into early colonial life in Australia. Don't miss a visit to Old Government House, now one of 11 Australian Convict Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

    www.sydney.com

    Sydney City Centre (8 km)

    No trip to Sydney is complete without spending some time in the city’s beautiful parks. Whether it’s in central areas like Hyde Park or the Royal Botanic Gardens or further out in Centennial Parklands, there’s plenty of green space to go out and enjoy.

    www.sydney.com

    Watsons Bay (1 km)

    With stunning harbour views and gorgeous beaches, Watsons Bay is the perfect destination for anyone seeking the authentic Sydney experience. Visit Watsons Bay and take a stroll along the picturesque coastline, or eat fish and chips at one of Australia's most celebrated seafood restaurants, or soak up the sun at Lady Bay - a popular nude beach!

    www.sydney.com

    Learn more

    South Head is in Sydney Harbour National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

    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 Mosman.
    • Convict kids on Goat Island 'Guilty of petty theft – your punishment is penal transportation to Australia for the term of your natural life.' Discover what life was like for the first convicts of Australia in this unique Stage 2 (Years 3-4) excursion on historic Goat Island.
    • 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. Fort Denison is currently closed for maintenance and conservation works. 
    • Goat Island heritage tour Take a fascinating tour of Goat Island, an iconic Sydney landmark in Sydney Harbour National Park.
    • Greycliffe House and Nielsen Park heritage tour Enter the world of the mid 1800s when you visit Greycliffe House. It's been a part of Sydney's history since its first residents moved in. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the grounds after the tour.
    • 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, easy South Head Heritage trail takes in scenic beaches and Sydney Harbour views, historic gun emplacements, and great whale watching from the distinctive red and white striped Hornby Lighthouse.
    • Strickland House Step back in time as you walk up the lush lawn to Strickland House in Vaucluse. This 19th-century estate is a heritage treasure and boasts one of the best harbour views anywhere in Sydney.
    • Strickland House heritage tour Wind back the clock and explore the varied history of Strickland House on a guided tour. With stunning harbour views, it was home to leading figures of Sydney's establishment in the 19th century.
    • Three islands tour aboard the Gargarle Join an NPWS guide on the historic boat, 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 structures at Middle Head.
    • Tour de Forts Middle Head In the early days of colonial Sydney, the Middle Head area formed a key line of defence against attack via sea. This Tour de Forts history excursion for Stage 5 students (Years 9-10) explores these fortifications, including lookouts, gun placements and ammunition stores.
    • 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

    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: 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 Aboriginal culture from pre-colonisation to now.
    • 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 Aboriginal culture from pre-colonisation to now.
    • 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 Aboriginal culture from pre-colonisation to now.
    • 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 Head and the Pacific Ocean.
    • 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 history of the area and learn about the European history of surrounding sites.
    Show more

    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 Head and the Pacific Ocean.
    • 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.

    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.

    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.

    • 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.
    • Living world WildTracker: Bradleys Head On a WildTracker excursion, Stage 3 (Years 5-6) students investigate and analyse the natural environment of Bradleys Head. Students identify and group species and discuss adaptations that help these species survive and thrive here.
    • Living world WildTracker: Nielsen Park On a WildTracker excursion, Stage 3 (Years 5-6) students will explore and analyse the natural environment of Nielsen Park. We'll identify and group species and discuss the adaptations that help these species survive and thrive here.
    • The earth's environment at Bradleys Head The earth's environment is a fun, Stage 1 (Years 1-2) geography excursion at Bradleys Head. Students will identify the physical features of this beautiful place. They'll discuss how people interact with the place in both past and present contexts.  
    • WildThings at Bradleys Head Book your WildThings school excursion for Stage 1 (Years 1-2) students in Sydney Harbour National Park. Together we'll explore the living world and identify the features that help native plants and animals thrive here.

    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 in Wollemi National Park. Photo: Rosie Nicolai/OEH

      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.

    Environments in this park

    Education resources (1)

    School excursions (14)

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