Spanning from Manly to Palm Beach and with some of the best real estate in Sydney, including North Narrabeen, Narrabeen, Elanora Heights, Ingleside and Warriewood, the Northern Beaches are full of historic and iconic spots.
Here are a few places that are instantly recognisable and have been for many years. Add some to your list to explore this month.
Historic spots on the Northern Beaches
This lighthouse is a must-see for anyone visiting or living on the Northern Beaches. Built in 1881, the Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse at Palm Beach is the northernmost point in the greater city of Sydney, making it geographically significant as well. The lighthouse has been kept in its original condition, just as the keepers would have lived back in the 1800s. Be aware, though, that it is a 1km walk to the lighthouse and requires moderate fitness as there is a steep hill to climb. It’s worth the walk, though, especially between May and September when, if you bring binoculars, you might even spot whales.
An historic site and a place to have a delicious breakfast or lunch, The Tramshed Cafe is well worth a visit if you are in or around Narrabeen. The restored tram at the cafe is a significant part of Northern Beaches’ history. It was the tram line that opened up the Northern Beaches to the rest of Sydney and helped the area to become that holiday hot spot that it is today. As shared on the Northern Beaches Council website, trams ran along Pittwater Road from Manly to Narrabeen from 1913 to 1939. The old Number 1753, R-class tram, formerly travelled between North Sydney and The Spit Bridge, transporting countless passengers from 1933 until it took its last trip in June 1958. The Tramshed Cafe is also directly next to a lovely new playground, making it the perfect blend of history, lunch, and a family day out.
Once the Manly Quarantine Station, Q Station is now a multipurpose space that includes a boutique hotel, wedding venues, conference spaces and, of course, one of Sydney’s most famous ghost tours. From 1832 to 1984, the Quarantine Station took in immigrants suspected of having diseases such as the Spanish Flu, smallpox or even bubonic plague. Sadly, many immigrants died at the Quarantine Station, which led to a huge array of ghost stories and its reputation as one of the ‘spookiest’ hotels in Australia.
Just as historic but far less morbid is the Manly Wharf. As the place where the famous Manly ferry docks when it comes from the city, Manly Wharf has long been the gateway to the Northern Beaches. Now it is also a thriving tourist hub with fine restaurants, activities and entertainment. Manly Wharf opened back in 1855 and a daily ferry service has operated since 1857, bringing visitors to and from this landmark spot.
Although it is not open to the public, a drive past Ingleside House at the top of Powderworks Road is a must for anyone interested in Northern Beaches’ history. The notorious Carl von Bieren built the house, the ‘Baron’ who tried to make his fortune with the Ingleside Powderworks but ended up fleeing to London. If you are interested in this story, make sure to check out our earlier blog about this fascinating character.
The heritage-listed Manly Dam was built in 1892 and can be found near King Street in Manly Vale. Manly Dam is now an excellent place for a picnic by the water, a trail walk or mountain bike ride and a chance to enjoy some native Aussie flora and fauna. The freshwater lake created by the dam is also a perfect place for watersports.
Of course, you can’t talk about history in the Northern Beaches without acknowledging the traditional owners of the land. If you are interested in local Aboriginal heritage, visit the Aboriginal Heritage Office (AHO) in Freshwater. While the museum is still closed after Covid, it will hopefully reopen soon, and the AHO is always organising walks, talks and activities to educate the public about Aboriginal heritage in our local area.
This list only scratches the surface of history on the Northern Beaches. What did we miss? What is your favourite historical site on the Northern Beaches?
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