When planning a relaxing retreat, Sydney, as the largest and most populous city in Australia, is not the first destination that comes to mind. However, with more than 240 kilometres of shoreline and waterways, there’s more to Sydney and its natural harbour than meets the eye. Sydney Harbour is that hard on the outside / soft on the inside cookie. On the outside, it might be a busy metropolis with its abundance of skyscrapers, iconic landmarks and bustling ambiance, but on the inside it is a natural wonderland waiting to offer you the many joys of a simple life. It is here in the soft and warm middle of the cookie that the historic Q Station lies. When you combine natural beauty, rich history, ghost stories and an unbeatable location, experiences that otherwise dance in your day dreams, come to life. With accommodation options ranging from simple heritage rooms to historic cottages and activities ranging from kayaking to ghost tours, the Q Station is the perfect setting for any occasion to celebrate the simpler and finer things in life from day trips, family vacations, weddings or even a solo retreat to get in touch with nature. If you don’t believe me keep reading for 5 reasons to escape to simplicity at the Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park.
1. The sunset against the skyline will make you never want to miss a sunset again…
With it’s position on the northern edges of Sydney Harbour, the Q Station is in a prime position for some epic sunset views over the harbour. Whether from the top of the funicular stairway or the guest lounge in the Isolation Precinct of the park (my personal favourite spot), the sunset is sure to get the cones in your eye firing. There’s few better ways to finish the day than curling up with a glass of wine and this view of boats sailing, as the sun sets at ever deepening angles showing you a whole new – much more peaceful – side to the city of Sydney.
2. There are some seriously picturesque walks that offer you one-on-one time with Mother Nature…
As you stroll through the North Head sanctuary within which the Q Station is located, it is easy to forget that you are a mere 11km from the Sydney CBD. With a number of walks available featuring diverse wildlife (including echidnas!) and flora, military remains, and stunning views of Sydney Harbour from afar, the Q Station offers visitors the opportunity to experience the invigorating charm of the Australian bushland. Don’t go past the Fairfax lookout – just a short 30 minute walk from the Q Station reception. You might even spot some whales if you visit between May and December!
3. The lantern-led evening ghost tour will get your heart pumping…
Do you believe in ghosts? I was a major skeptic before visiting the Q Station. However, after an overnight stay on the site, that is considered to be one of the most haunted places in all of Australia, I definitely left a lot more open to the idea of ghostly energies haunting this world after a few eerie occurrences.
Given that the site witnessed the death of over 500 people during its operation as a quarantine station, with the remains of many of those victims still contained within three cemeteries on the grounds, if ghosts do exist you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be here. Stories of ghosts and paranormal occurrences at the Q Station trace all the way back to during its days as a quarantine station. Since then so many stories have been collected that ghost tours of the site have been running regularly since the early 1990’s.
To find out more about the ghost tours on offer at the Q Station click here.
4. Sydney’s rich history is just waiting to unfold right before your eyes…
Between 1833 and 1984, the Q Station served as a quarantine station for migrant ships arriving into Sydney Harbour, when they were suspected of carrying an infectious or contagious disease. In order to protect the local residents of Sydney, arriving passengers were forced to stay at the quarantine station for approximately 40 days* before they were allowed to settle in Sydney. Passengers experiences at the quarantine station varied depending upon their class – whilst first class passengers were treated to a resort-like experience rich in tennis courts and fine dining areas, the lower classes were kept in conditions rich in disempowerment and disease. In its 150 years of operation, over 500 people died at the quarantine station from deadly diseases including the Bubonic Plague, Spanish Influenza, Smallpox & Typhus. Today, the Q Station serves as a museum to this noteworthy period of Sydney’s history. The accommodations are renovated versions of the very same buildings that passengers would stay in when the site was operated as a quarantine station. The site also offers exhibitions of artifacts and numerous history tours. Furthermore, reminders of the passengers can be seen in messages engraved into the soft sandstone in the wharf precinct.
To find out more about the history tours on offer at the Q Station click here.
* Interesting fact: the term quarantine actually comes from the Italian phrase quadrant giorni, which referred to the 40-day period that ships were required to anchor for before docking when arriving to the port of Venice during the outbreaks of the Black Death plague in the 14th century.
5. It’s just a 40 minute ferry ride from the Sydney CBD…
Getting to the Q Station couldn’t be easier. Although a short 5-minute drive from the centre of Manly on Sydney’s northern shores, I recommend catching the Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper from Circular Quay. This way you receive the full historic experience of arriving to the site off the boat, just as the quarantined passengers did so many years ago. Moreover, the ferry ride amplifies the experience of escaping the busy city for a simpler and more natural setting. You also have the option to hop back onto the ferry during your stay at Q Station and experience some of the other iconic places around Sydney Harbour, such as Taronga Zoo, Sydney Aquarium and Wildlife World, Luna Park and Watson’s Bay.
To book your relaxing/educational/spooky Sydney Harbour escape click here.
I was invited to stay as a guest at the Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park but as always all opinions are my own 🙂
Elle is a world-wanderer, star-gazer, dog-lover and meteorologist in the making. When she’s not busy studying the Earth’s climate, she’s off experiencing it first hand all around the world. Over the past 3 years, Elle has traveled to 31 countries across Europe, Asia, Oceania and the United States and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. You can follow her colorful adventures on her Instagram, Facebook and blog.