South Head Heritage Trail

40 min to 45 min

1.7 km
circuit

↑ 49 m
↓ -49 m

Easy track
This walk explores the tip of Sydney Harbour's South Head. On this walk, you will visit several historic and scenic places, following a footpath most of the way. You will start at Camp Cove, the first landing place for Europeans in Australia, and also visit a number of gun emplacements, designed to protect the shores from the threat of invasion. Also enjoy the panoramic ocean and harbour views from the cliff line at Hornby Lighthouse. A wonderful walk for those wanting to explore wide open views and get a glimpse of history. Let us begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we travel today, and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.
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Camp Cove Car Park. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Clff St. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Entrance at nothern end of Camp Cove Beach. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Northern end of Camp Cove Beach. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Kiosk at Camp Cove. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Looking south along Camp Cove. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Steps at the Northern end of Camp Cove. | Photo by admin, 2010.
The old Cobblestone Road. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Gun Emplacment looking down on Camp Cove. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Gun aimed at the City. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Path leading up the old road. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Great Harbour Views. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Toilets. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Looking down to Lady Bay. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Lady Bay Beach lookout. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Timber boadwalk north of Lady Bay Beach lookout. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Circuit intersection. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Path leading to cottage on South Head. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Head Lighthouse Keepers cottage. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Head Lighthouse Keepers cottage and path. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Gum emplacement opposite the Head Lighthouse Keepers cottage. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Path winding along the tip of South Head. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Hornby Lighthouse and a gun emplacement. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Distinct patern on Hornby Lighthouse. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Great water views from South Head. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Hornby Lighthouse. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Gun Emplacment and Hornby Lighthouse looking into the harbour. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Inside a gun emplacement. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Gun emplacment looking out to the ocean. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Footpath leading down to the driveway. | Photo by admin, 2010.
Downloads GPX PDF

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Safer Bushwalks
Tips on staying safe on track
Before you start any bushwalk ensure you;
• Tell someone you trust where you are going and what to do if you are overdue
• Have adequate equipment, supplies, skills & knowledge for the whole journey
• Consider the impact of weather forecasts, park/track closures & fire dangers
• Can respond to emergencies & call for help at any point
• Are healthy and fit enough for this journey
If not, change plans and stay safe. It is okay to delay and ask people for help.
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Getting There
Transport options and directions
Start At the intersection of Victoria Street & Cliff Street (-33.8394299,151.2800165)
Mode Bus Car (There is free parking available.)
DirectionsFrom Cahill Expressway, M1, Sydney.
  • Turn on to William Street Exit then drive for 195 m
  • Continue onto Palmer Street and drive for another 215 m
  • Turn left onto William Street and drive for another 6.5 km
  • Turn right onto Towns Road and drive for another 570 m
  • Turn left onto Old South Head Road and drive for another 1 km
  • At roundabout, take exit 2 onto Old South Head Road and drive for another 1.7 km
  • At roundabout, take exit 2 onto Robertson Place and drive for another 130 m
  • Turn slight left onto Military Road and drive for another 500 m
  • At roundabout, take exit 1 onto Short Street and drive for another 280 m
  • Turn right onto Victoria Street and drive for another 60 m
  • Turn left and drive for another 6 m
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Track Notes
Turn by turn instructions & maps
Getting started
From the signposted 'Camp Cove Car Park, this walk follows the 'No Through Road' sign to the end of 'Cliff St'. The footpath leads past a 'Camp Cove timeline' information sign then, at the end of the road, turns left, coming to the front of the kiosk at the northern end of Camp Cove Beach.....
Turn map Directions & comments
At the intersection of Victoria Street & Cliff Street Start (a service road).
Camp Cove Car Park (about 8 m back from the start).
After another 15 m continue straight.
After another 35 m head up the steps (about 5 m long)
After another 25 m find the "Camp Cove" (25 m on your left).
Camp Cove
Camp Cove

Camp Cove is home to a lovely, yellow sand, north-east facing beach. The cove is on the protected side of South Head and is a popular spot for swimming and relaxing on the beach. At the northern end of the beach is a kiosk, toilet block and an entrance to Sydney Harbour National Park. The cove was an important location to the Cadigal (Gadigal) people who gathered fresh water, shellfish, launched their canoes and buried some of their people nearby. This cove is also believed to be the first landing place for Europeans in 1788. The name Camp Cove was given during that landing and appears on the earliest maps of Sydney Harbour.
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Camp Cove is home to a lovely, yellow sand, north-east facing beach. The cove is on the protected side of South Head and is a popular spot for swimming and relaxing on the beach. At the northern end of the beach is a kiosk, toilet block and an entrance to Sydney Harbour National Park. The cove was an important location to the Cadigal (Gadigal) people who gathered fresh water, shellfish, launched their canoes and buried some of their people nearby. This cove is also believed to be the first landing place for Europeans in 1788. The name Camp Cove was given during that landing and appears on the earliest maps of Sydney Harbour.

At the intersection of South Head Lighthouse Walk & South Head Heritage Trail continue straight, to head along South Head Heritage Trail (a footpath).
After another 6 m pass the toilet (5 m on your right).
After another 35 m pass the shelter (45 m on your left).
After another 10 m continue straight, to head along South Head Heritage Trail.
After another 115 m find the "Cannon" (8 m on your left).
Cannon
Cannon

This cannon was placed here prior to 1890, along with the rest of this gun emplacement and rifle walls. The emplacement was designed to protect a military jetty and boat shed from the threat of an invasion. The 'Cobblestone Road' beside the cannon was built during the late 1870s or early 1880s and extends from the jetty in Camp Cove up to Hornby Road above. The road was build to carry supplies and ordnance from Camp Cove to the various military installations on south head.
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This cannon was placed here prior to 1890, along with the rest of this gun emplacement and rifle walls. The emplacement was designed to protect a military jetty and boat shed from the threat of an invasion. The 'Cobblestone Road' beside the cannon was built during the late 1870s or early 1880s and extends from the jetty in Camp Cove up to Hornby Road above. The road was build to carry supplies and ordnance from Camp Cove to the various military installations on south head.

Then come to the "Camp Cove Beach Lookout" (20 m on your left).
After another 6 m (at the intersection of Lady Bay Road & South Head Heritage Trail) continue straight, to head along South Head Lighthouse Walk (a service road).
After another 40 m pass a seat (10 m on your left).
After another 35 m pass a seat (6 m on your left).
After another 125 m pass the toilet (on your right).
After another 45 m continue straight, to head along South Head Lighthouse Walk.
After another 35 m find the "Lady Bay Beach" (20 m on your left).
Lady Bay Beach
Lady Bay Beach

Lady Bay Beach is an official nudist beach found on the inside of South Head. Facing west, this beach is surrounded by a long cliff and a rocky shoreline. There are great views across the water to Middle Head. Officially declared a nude bathing beach by Neville Wran in 1976, nudity is only permitted on the beach and water. The beach is also known as 'Lady Jane Beach'. You are welcome to use the beach clothed or unclad.
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Lady Bay Beach is an official nudist beach found on the inside of South Head. Facing west, this beach is surrounded by a long cliff and a rocky shoreline. There are great views across the water to Middle Head. Officially declared a nude bathing beach by Neville Wran in 1976, nudity is only permitted on the beach and water. The beach is also known as 'Lady Jane Beach'. You are welcome to use the beach clothed or unclad.

After another 100 m find the "Lady Bay Lookout" (8 m on your left).
Lady Bay Lookout
Lady Bay Lookout

Some may find it strange having a lookout platform overlooking a nudist beach, but the harbour and city views are great. This fenced and timber-decked lookout platform is found on the main walking track at the northern end of the bay. The lookout's main view is south-west along the beach and harbour towards North Sydney. There are a few trees growing up over the view, which adds further interest to the outlook.
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Some may find it strange having a lookout platform overlooking a nudist beach, but the harbour and city views are great. This fenced and timber-decked lookout platform is found on the main walking track at the northern end of the bay. The lookout's main view is south-west along the beach and harbour towards North Sydney. There are a few trees growing up over the view, which adds further interest to the outlook.

After another 15 m turn left, to head along South Head Lighthouse Walk.
After another 180 m find the "Lightkeepers Cottage" (15 m on your right).
Lightkeepers Cottage
Lightkeepers Cottage

Two homes were built on South Head for the Hornby lighthouse keepers. The first cottage is the Head Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage in the clearing, with the assistant's house being closer to the lighthouse. This arrangement is unusual - normally, the head keeper's house would be closer. The head lightkeeper's house was completed about three years after the other house, around 1860. The first head lighthouse keeper was the well-motivated James Johnston, who was aboard the Dubar (a sailing ship on route from England) that smashed against the rocks near The Gap in 1857. 121 souls were lost that evening and James Johnston was the only survivor.
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Two homes were built on South Head for the Hornby lighthouse keepers. The first cottage is the Head Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage in the clearing, with the assistant's house being closer to the lighthouse. This arrangement is unusual - normally, the head keeper's house would be closer. The head lightkeeper's house was completed about three years after the other house, around 1860. The first head lighthouse keeper was the well-motivated James Johnston, who was aboard the Dubar (a sailing ship on route from England) that smashed against the rocks near The Gap in 1857. 121 souls were lost that evening and James Johnston was the only survivor.

After another 25 m come to the viewpoint.
After another 90 m find the "Hornby Lighthouse" (6 m on your left).
Hornby Lighthouse
Hornby Lighthouse

Opened by Sir William Denison (then Governor of New South Wales) in 1858, this distinct red and white vertical striped lighthouse was originally powered by a high-tech kerosene lantern. The lighthouse was built in response to two significant losses of life near South Head - firstly in 1857, the 'Dubar' (on it last leg from England), when 121 of the 122 people on board lost their lives, and soon after, the 'Catherine Adamson' when 21 lives were lost near North Head just two months later. Since 1933, this lighthouse has been automated and is now powered with a 12 volt, 55 watt Quartz Halogen Lamp (similar to a down light in a kitchen).
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Opened by Sir William Denison (then Governor of New South Wales) in 1858, this distinct red and white vertical striped lighthouse was originally powered by a high-tech kerosene lantern. The lighthouse was built in response to two significant losses of life near South Head - firstly in 1857, the 'Dubar' (on it last leg from England), when 121 of the 122 people on board lost their lives, and soon after, the 'Catherine Adamson' when 21 lives were lost near North Head just two months later. Since 1933, this lighthouse has been automated and is now powered with a 12 volt, 55 watt Quartz Halogen Lamp (similar to a down light in a kitchen).

After another 55 m find the "Gun Emplacements" (10 m on your left).
Gun Emplacements
Gun Emplacements

Gun emplacements like these have been built up and down the coast, and around the shores of Sydney Harbour. The first emplacement, built in 1788, was designed as a signalling station to notify the arrival of a ship. Then in 1839, the undetected arrival of ships, from the fast developing USA, caused a great concern. This triggered the building of the well-known fortifications at Bradleys Head and Fort Denison, as well as these ones at South Head. Another enemy at the time, France, then joined a campaign against a newer enemy - the Russians - in 1853, which prompted the completion of these gun emplacements. Guns were installed in 1872. In WWII, it was a Japanese enemy who these guns were trying to keep out, then in 1944, when the threat of invasion was less of a concern, the emplacements where disarmed.
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Gun emplacements like these have been built up and down the coast, and around the shores of Sydney Harbour. The first emplacement, built in 1788, was designed as a signalling station to notify the arrival of a ship. Then in 1839, the undetected arrival of ships, from the fast developing USA, caused a great concern. This triggered the building of the well-known fortifications at Bradleys Head and Fort Denison, as well as these ones at South Head. Another enemy at the time, France, then joined a campaign against a newer enemy - the Russians - in 1853, which prompted the completion of these gun emplacements. Guns were installed in 1872. In WWII, it was a Japanese enemy who these guns were trying to keep out, then in 1944, when the threat of invasion was less of a concern, the emplacements where disarmed.

After another 45 m (at the intersection of Hornby Light Road & South Head Lighthouse Walk) continue straight, to head along South Head Lighthouse Walk.
After another 65 m continue straight, to head along South Head Lighthouse Walk.
After another 155 m continue straight, to head along South Head Lighthouse Walk.
After another 250 m (at the intersection of South Head Heritage Trail & South Head Lighthouse Walk) continue straight, to head along South Head Heritage Trail (a footpath).
After another 85 m continue straight, to head along South Head Heritage Trail.
After another 55 m (at the intersection of South Head Lighthouse Walk & South Head Heritage Trail) continue straight, to head along South Head Lighthouse Walk (a steps).
After another 40 m continue straight.
After another 50 m come to the end.

Turn map Directions & comments
Start.
Find the Lady Bay Beach at the start.
Lady Bay Beach
Lady Bay Beach

Lady Bay Beach is an official nudist beach found on the inside of South Head. Facing west, this beach is surrounded by a long cliff and a rocky shoreline. There are great views across the water to Middle Head. Officially declared a nude bathing beach by Neville Wran in 1976, nudity is only permitted on the beach and water. The beach is also known as 'Lady Jane Beach'. You are welcome to use the beach clothed or unclad.
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Lady Bay Beach is an official nudist beach found on the inside of South Head. Facing west, this beach is surrounded by a long cliff and a rocky shoreline. There are great views across the water to Middle Head. Officially declared a nude bathing beach by Neville Wran in 1976, nudity is only permitted on the beach and water. The beach is also known as 'Lady Jane Beach'. You are welcome to use the beach clothed or unclad.

Find the Lady Bay Lookout at the start.
Lady Bay Lookout
Lady Bay Lookout

Some may find it strange having a lookout platform overlooking a nudist beach, but the harbour and city views are great. This fenced and timber-decked lookout platform is found on the main walking track at the northern end of the bay. The lookout's main view is south-west along the beach and harbour towards North Sydney. There are a few trees growing up over the view, which adds further interest to the outlook.
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Some may find it strange having a lookout platform overlooking a nudist beach, but the harbour and city views are great. This fenced and timber-decked lookout platform is found on the main walking track at the northern end of the bay. The lookout's main view is south-west along the beach and harbour towards North Sydney. There are a few trees growing up over the view, which adds further interest to the outlook.

Then head down the steps (about 15 m long)
About 75 m past the end is a toilet.
The end.
Turn around and retrace your steps back the 20 m to the main route.
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Terrain
Know the Hills, grading & facilities

South Head Heritage Trail


Grading
Class 2/6
Easy track
Length 1.7 km
Time 40 min to 45 min
Quality of track Clear and well formed track or trail (2/6)
Gradient Gentle hills with occasional steps (2/6)
Signage Clearly signposted (1/6)
Infrastructure Generally useful facilities (such as fenced cliffs and seats) (1/6)
Experience Required No experience required (1/6)
Weather Weather generally has little impact on safety (1/6)

Some facilities on route
Shelter: There is one 130 m from the start.

Toilet: There are 2 on route, on average they are 580 m apart with the largest gap of 1.3 km.

Seat: There are 2 on route, on average they are 580 m apart with the largest gap of 1.4 km.


Order of key facilities on route
ItemFrom StartName & link to notes
Toilet
95 m[toilet]
Shelter
130 m[shelter]
Seat
270 m[seat]
Seat
305 m[seat]
Toilet
430 m[toilet]
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