Sydney Harbour National Park. National Park in New South Wales, Australia

Sydney Harbour National Park

National Park in New South Wales, Australia

Sydney Harbour National Park Photo © Ian Sanderson

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Sydney Harbour National Park

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Beak - Sydney Harbour National
	Park
Beak - Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo by Ian Sanderson
Sydney Harbor National Park is located in and around one of the most iconic harbor areas in the world. It protects Sydney Harbor and its islands, inlets, bays, and shores. The entire national park lies within Sydney and comprises almost 400 hectares. Protected areas include, but are not at all limited to, South Head, Middle Head, and North Head, Manly to the Spit, the Harbor Islands, and Nielsen Park. The North Sydney Harbor Aquatic Reserve protects the waterway between Dobroyd Head and North Head and lies within the national park. The stunning skyline of Sydney can be seen from various spots within the park.

The park is known for its historic Aboriginal, colonial and military sites, marine reserves, islands, beaches, walking trails, swimming spots, and quiet picnic areas. Sydney Harbor National Park is home to ancient Aboriginal rock art sites, but also to buildings built by convicts in colonial times. Its large number of features attracts many tourists and Sydneysiders.

Sydney Harbor National Park is the setting for one of the biggest annual events in Australia. The fantastic New Year’s Eve fireworks over Sydney Harbor can be seen from various viewing areas inside the park. Another large event that takes place there is the Sydney to Hobart (Wikipedia Article) yacht race.

Sydney Harbour National Park -
	Sydney Harbour National Park
Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo by Senning Luk

History

The Gap - Sydney Harbour
	National Park
The Gap - Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo by Madeleine Holland
The Cadigal (Wikipedia Article) Aboriginals have inhabited these areas for many thousands of years, creating several rock paintings and prints that now provide a valuable look into their history.

The first Europeans to visit the area were colonists who set up a convict colony in Sydney Harbor. Some of the buildings that were built by convicts can still be seen today. Examples are Cadmans Cottage in The Rocks and the Quarantine Station at Manly. Large areas of the foreshores of the harbors have been affected by development over time. The remaining protected bays, shores, and inlets are there because of the lobby work by conservationists and thanks to the presence of military bases. Sydney Harbor National Park was officially established in 1975.

North Head
	Cliffs - Sydney Harbour National Park
North Head Cliffs - Sydney Harbour National Park. Photo by Angus.L

Things to See and Do

The national park offers a wide variety of activities. From admiring ancient rock art and historic buildings to hiking on stunning coastal trails or sea kayaking, the options are virtually endless.

Visitors can explore almost the entire length of the world-famous Sydney Harbor. There are options for everyone and trails suited to all abilities. Short and easy strolls lead to fine lookouts, but there are also longer day hikes and even the 100-kilometer-long Great Coastal Walk. The park’s small bushland areas are all connected by great hiking trails that make their ways over exposed cliffs, around rocky plateaus, and past the mansions of Sydney’s rich and famous. Suggested hikes are the Fairfax Walk on North Head, the trail from Bradleys Head (Wikipedia Article) to Chowder Bay, the Hermitage Foreshore Track in Nielsen Park, the South Head Heritage Trail, and the excellent Manly to the Spit Walk.

At Bradleys Head, South Head, and North Head people can visit historic military fortresses set on cliff tops. Other historic activities include harbor tours, cruises guided by Aboriginals, walking tours on Cockatoo Island (Wikipedia Article) and excursions to fascinating Fort Denison and beautiful Shark Island.

The northern parts of the park are where the best beaches are located. Chinamans Beach, Manly Beach, and Balmoral Beach are all excellent. The southern edge is where visitors can find parks and sheltered picnic areas. This is a popular weekend hangout among Sydney’s residents.

Night tours are a great way to learn about the (nocturnal) wildlife in the national park. During daytime numerous sea birds can be spotted on the coastal cliffs or in the trees of Middle Head and North Head. South Head and North Head are good places to spot migrating whales, while the North Harbor Aquatic Reserve offers great diving and snorkeling opportunities.

An alternative way to explore and see Sydney Harbor National Park is renting a sea kayak or sailboat and visiting sheltered bays.

How to Get There

Because Sydney Harbor National consists entirely of areas within Sydney, most of it is easily accessible by car or public transport. The national park surrounds the harbor and almost all of the nearby suburbs can be reached from the CBD. Many ferries cross the harbor and even run to some of the Harbor Islands. Water-taxis can transport visitors to some of the park’s beaches and coastal parks. Virtually all public transport leaves at Sydney's main transport center: Circular Quay.

Similar Landmarks

Sydney Harbor National Park is unique in Australia in the sense that it lies completely within a major city. There are, however, a lot of other coastal national parks in Australia. Wilsons Promontory National Park, Freycinet National Park, Francois Peron National Park, Great Otway National Park, and Coorong National Park are just several examples.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 08, 2015

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