Nestled on beautiful North Head Manly is the Q Station Manly (aka North Head Quarantine Station) with commanding views over Manly, Balmoral Beach, South Head and Sydney Harbour. This is our review of the Q Station Manly spending one night which included a history tour, dinner at the Boilerhouse Restaurant and a buffet breakfast at the Views Cafe all part of the Q Station’s Romantic Package.
Sometimes the best staycations are right on your doorstep. The Quarantine Station is located 8 km from our home base and its location in the Sydney Harbour National Park makes you feel that you are miles away from civilisation.
Interesting fact: the Q Station is the only hotel in Sydney with its own private beach.
Where is the Manly Quarantine Station
Q Station Manly Map
Manly Q Station is located on North Head in Sydney Harbour 80 m above sea level. From the Quarantine Station, you can see stunning views over North Harbour, Manly, Port Jackson and the entrance to Sydney Harbour and South Head. It has a unique location in the National Park. The park is home to rare plants such as the endangered sunshine wattle and the eastern suburbs banksia scrub. Animals such as the ringtail possum, common brushtail possum, short-beaked echidna, eastern water dragon, diamond python and long-nosed bandicoot also call the Quarantine Station home.
There are 20 aboriginal archaeological sites and 3 cemeteries located in the National Park. 1500 historic inscriptions can be found across North Head, these inscriptions on sandstone are vulnerable to the moist sea air laden with salt.
Address: 1 North Head Scenic Drive Manly
Check out our Youtube video of our 24 hours at the Q Station
History of the Quarantine Station
Captain John Hunter and Lt William Bradley landed on Quarantine Beach on the 29th of January 1788 on their ship HMS Sirius. They were undertaking a survey of Sydney Harbour after landing at Port Jack Jackson on 26th January 1788 as part of the first fleet.
The very first ship to land at the Quarantine Station was in 1828. The ship “Bussorah Merchant” carrying convicts and guards had an outbreak of smallpox. The site was dedicated as a Quarantine Station by the Governor of NSW, Richard Bourke, in 1833. He nominated the land 1/4 mile above Spring Cove a quarantine area. This area was chosen as it could provide beaches for the landing of ships, and fresh water and it was remote from the settlement of Sydney. Work commenced on the building of the Q station in October 1837 and was completed in May 1838.
Migrant ships that arrived in Sydney that had passengers who had contracted diseases such as smallpox, typhoid, typhus, the Spanish flu and the Bubonic plague were directed to the Quarantine Station. From 1828 through to 1984, 580 ships came into the Quarantine Station, 13,000 people were quarantined and 527 people died, they are buried in the 3 cemeteries.
67 buildings were built on the grounds and depending on what ticket you travelled on the ship with e.g. 1st, 2nd or 3rd class that was the accommodation you were given. 3rd Class passengers camped on the beach and were given rations during their stay. The Quarantine Station housed a mix of healthy and sick passengers till the quarantine period was over. A non-white Asiatic section was also built.
The last ship the “Mooltan” was placed into quarantine on the 10th of June 1949 as during its voyage 6 passengers had died of smallpox.
The Quarantine Process
On arrival at the Wharf Precinct ship passengers were assessed by a Dr. Those who were already infected were sent to the Hospital, whilst others went through the quarantine process.
The inhalation chamber was the first step in the process of decontamination. Between 30 – 40 passengers were subjected to being squeezed into the chamber where 99% steam and 1% zinc sulphate were pumped into the chamber for 3 – 4 minutes twice a day for 4 days to dry out their lungs.
In step 2 luggage and clothes were passed through the ‘autoclave’ where high pressured steam was used to sterilise at 115 degrees that supposedly killed fleas, lice and bacteria. The autoclaves came from Britain and were first used in 1917.
A shower block, made up of 24 separate showers, was built to deep clean the 1st and 2nd class passengers in 1913. A mix of warm water and carbolic acid was used in the process.
Disinfected passengers were sent to their accommodation where they waited out their quarantine period. Each disease had a different quarantine period. Once cleared by the Dr they could leave but if during their time they fell ill with a disease they were sent to the hospital and their quarantine time would restart along with other passengers in the precinct.
The hospital was built high on the hill for fresh air in the sick zone. The first building was built with timber in 1883. The hospital complex consisted of two hospitals, living quarters for doctors and nurses, a kitchen and a dining room and a bathing block. The brick hospital building was constructed in 1914 and is known as H2.
The hospital could house 32 patients at a time. As you enter the main hospital building the scrub room is on the left-hand side and the servery is on the right-hand side. There are great views to be had from the balcony before entering the main ward on the north side of the building. The hospital rooms were designed and built to push out the stale air and to increase the flow of fresh air for the health of the patients.
Closure of the Quarantine Station
The Q station was closed in 1984. It was handed to the National Parks by the government. The National Parks had no budget so they ran Ghost Tours to raise revenue to preserve the site.
In 2002 the 1883 wooden-built hospital named H1 was destroyed by fire. A replica building now stands in its place.
Our 24 Hour Stay at the Manly Q Station
On arrival at the entrance to the Manly Q Station, all cars are to be parked in the car park close to the Reception. The Q Station offer a 24-hour shuttle service to transport you to your accommodation and around the site. On arrival, you are given a welcome sheet with a map and a very handy QR code that shows food and beverage options, the history of the Q station, things to do, shuttle information, COVID safety information and Manly’s top tips.
We chose the 15-minute scenic walk via the funicular stairway down to the Wharf Precinct to join our 11.00 tour with Martin. If you are fortunate to have Martin as your guide you are in for an excellent and informative tour from a very passionate tour guide. The tour lasts for an hour and discusses the history of the Quarantine Station and the viewing of the inhalation chamber, the autoclave, the shower block, hospital and mortuary.
If your room is not ready you can enjoy lunch at the Wharf Cafe or take some time to visit the Museum beside the cafe. If your room is ready arrange for the shuttle bus to take you back up the hill to Reception where you can collect your bags and arrange for the shuttle to take you to your rooms.
Our 1-night stay was booked in the Heritage Harbour Side Room in Block P12 Room 27. The room was located at the end of the building with stunning views over the harbour. As you enter the room there is a comfortable lounge area with a 2-seater and coffee table, TV, mini-bar and plenty of powerpoints for your technology. The modern bathroom was spacious with luxury toiletries. The large bedroom came with luxury linen, a heater, extra pillows and blanket if needed, and a desk with more powerpoints. You can also access the rear verandah from your bedroom with further views over the National Park towards Manly.
From our room, we could see the old wooden navigational beacon and one of the 12 stone cairns which marked out the Quarantine Zone along the high ground.
We took the opportunity to wander around the site before heading back to our verandah to enjoy the sunset before walking to dinner at the Boilerhouse Kitchen and Bar. What a dinner it was! We can honestly say that the Boilerhouse is one of the best restaurants in Manly. Enjoy a drink downstairs before heading upstairs to enjoy a scrumptious dinner. You can organise a shuttle to take you back to your accommodation after dinner.
We had a very comfortable night’s sleep, with no city noise and only the early morning bird calls to wake us from our slumber.
An excellent buffet breakfast was served in the Views Cafe in building P11 behind us.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We felt very refreshed after our staycation in the National Park and can highly recommend a stay at the Q Station.
Is there anything we would have added to our stay? Yes, a ghost tour. We did not organise a Ghost Tour this time as we wanted to enjoy our dinner at the Boilerhouse. We will return as we are keen to experience one of the Ghost Tours available in particular the Spirit Investigator. For more information on the Quarantine Station Ghost Tours available click here.
There are 3 cemeteries in the National Park that we would also like to visit when we return.
Final notes: Over the next few years the Manly Q station will undergo further renovations. We will watch with great interest the developments and look forward to returning for another lovely staycation.
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