An abandoned quarantine station doesn’t sound like the ideal Sydney getaway, but when the NSW national parks, the National Heritage, a new top-class exec chef and an international hotel group combine forces, you’ve got the perfect staycation storm.
Q Station – only 20 minutes from Sydney CBD – is a unique proposition. It’s close enough to be a city break, yet so tucked away and secret you could be 100 miles from home.
Located up the top of North Head in Manly, Q Station is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. This means no unauthorised vehicles are allowed inside the 30-hectare property and the natural beauty of the area is stunning.
It’s also protected by the National Heritage Trust, so everything you see has been maintained to its original state. The whole area – from the grounds you explore to the buildings you sleep in – is as it was during its 150 years as a quarantine station. Minus the infectious deadly diseases of course!
Here’s what we discovered on our recent visit to this iconic piece of Sydney’s history.
Q Station Retreat
There are 4 types of rooms at Q Station – though there may be more coming with another block soon to be built.
Heritage Room & Suites, Deluxe Room & Suites, Historic Cottages, and Retreat Suites.
Rates start at $199 per room.
We stayed in one of the Retreat Suites, which are located in the old isolation area. As you’d expect, this is the quietest, most secluded part of Q Station – just how we like it!
The Retreat Suites also come with access to your own private lounge area, which has a deck looking out over the Harbour towards the city and the sunset.
Because the rooms have all been kept as original as possible, the fixtures and fittings do feel a bit tired, and there’s no air con, only ceiling fans and windows (with screens).
Mrs Romance and I talked about this because we didn’t know if it was a sticking point or not. We came to the conclusion that you don’t come to somewhere like Q Station for luxury apartment living. You come here for the uniqueness of the location, the history and the seclusion. It’s all about the experience. And to have all of this so close to the city is incredible.
There are 3 places to eat at Q Station, and all of them are now under the control of the charismatic and artfully skilled Executive Chef Matt Kemp. His style is well-known to be focused on fresh, domestic produce in simple dishes packed with flavour.
Views Restaurant offers a very satisfying buffet breakfast daily – though coffee can be tricky to find.
Engine Room Bar down near the beach has a very chilled vibe if you’re looking for relaxing lunch, dinner or drinks options. The bar has been set up where the boilers are that sent hot water to the autoclaves, showers and laundry rooms back in the day.
Boilerhouse Restaurant and Bar has a more formal vibe, though it’s still relaxed and friendly. The food menu here is to die for and the wine list has been expertly chosen.
Lunch and dinner are only available Thursday to Sunday here but even if you’re not staying at Q Station overnight, these venues make for an excellent dinner option – especially for a romantic night out.
Things to do
There are so many things to do at Q Station if you’re somehow bored of relaxing on the secluded beach or on your sundeck.
- Swim and snorkel off the beach – there are turtles and stingray right by the wharf. You can hire snorkels at the museum café or bring your own. Beach towels are also available at reception free of charge.
- Hire bikes to explore the area (ask at reception).
- Kayaking and SUPing (book at reception).
- Yoga on the beach with FlowmOcean (book at reception).
- History tour – there’s so much to Q Station, even just around the wharf area. I could write a whole other post just one what I learnt from the tour we did – I’d need a fact check though!
- Ghost tour – over 500 people died at Q Station of various sicknesses, including the Black Plague. As a result, Q Station is said to be one of the most haunted places in Australia.
The ghost tours are not only the spookiest but the most dynamic way of learning about the history of the place… though if you’ve got a nervous disposition, beware!
Where is it?
It’s only 20 minutes from Circular Quay by ferry. The Eco Hopper ships take you straight to Quarantine Station Wharf, which is also where the new arrivals would have docked before being processed.
Alternatively it’s only a 5-minute taxi ride from Manly or the 135 bus takes you to reception.
You can drive to Q Station, but you need to park at reception and have the complimentary Q Station shuttle bus take you around.
Why come here?
For escaping the city, you can’t get much better than this. And if you’re coming here for romance too, Q Station is totally a double win.
If you want to spend a weekend with a few close friends, this place is perfect.
And if you want to show some out-of-towners a completely different side to Sydney, you’re onto a winner – especially as it’s so close to the city.
Q Station Retreat
North Head Scenic Drive
Check out our other recommendations for escapes from Sydney here and for more Sydney staycation inspiration, click here.
Where do you go to get away from all the craziness? Is there a secret spot you love about your hometown? Tell us in the comments!