Spectacular Watsons Bay, with coastal walks that display stunning views both of the Gap and South Head, sits on the harbour side of the tip of the South Head peninsula, separating the Tasman Sea from Sydney Harbour in the State of New South Wales. The bay is situated 11 km north-east of Sydney's business centre and is a popular tourist attraction. The area around Watsons Bay includes the portion of the expansive Sydney Harbour National Park that is located on the South Head. The entire park boasts 392-hectares of protected waterfront areas and islands in and around the entrance of Sydney's beautiful harbour.
Take the city ferry which is still the most popular way to go over to the bay starting from Circular Quay. This is about a 20 minute ride of pure pleasure and relaxation as you take in the beautiful scenery of the harbour including: Sydney Bridge, The famous Opera House and several bays. Public transportation is especially advantageous on weekends as there is very limited parking.
The Watsons Bay fishing village is the oldest in Australia dating back to 1778. This area still is a flourishing inlet favoured for its fresh seafood and picturesque views. Watsons Bay is where governor Phillip the first governor of New South Wales and his party first came ashore January 21 1788.
Things to do in Watson Bay
There is many things to do here: swimming, hiking, paddling, canoeing, snorkelling, scuba diving, boating, sightseeing, birdwatching and witnessing native wildlife, picnics and barbecues, restaurants, cafes, and kiosks and during the winter be sure to take in some spectacular whale watching as the whales head north for their annual migration.
Take a scroll back in time as you walk and explore the culture from the past. You will see a wide variety of structures such as buildings built by prisoners, historic lighthouses, military fortifications plus aboriginal sites
A short stretch from the Watsons Bay ferry wharf, on the east side of the harbour of South Head, is Camp Cove Beach. This gorgeous sandy beach with stunning views of Sydney's skyline is a great place for the whole family. Its calm waters make it excellent for swimming or snorkelling and the sandy beach is ideal for relaxing or sauntering along the beautiful coastline while taking in the breathtaking harbour views. There is ice cream and drinks for sale at the nearby kiosk or bring your own picnic.
Exploring Watson Bay on foot
Select one of the two walking paths to explore. Both take about one hour for a round trip starting from the Watsons Bay wharf. The first one, South Head Heritage trail, gives you a rare look at history coupled with beautiful views starting at the north end of the beach and directing you past Lady Bay Beach. This beach is for serious sunbathers as it is a legal nudist beach where clothes are optional. Continue along the trail past historic gun emplacements to South Head Hornby lighthouse. This red and white striped lighthouse tower was built in 1858 after the shipwreck of Dunbar happened in 1857 where 121 lives were lost at the foot of South Head. The lighthouse gives you gorgeous panoramic views from Middle Head and North Head in the north to Sydney harbour looking west and to the east lies the widespread Pacific Ocean where you are able to enjoy whale watching during the winter migration.
The second walking trail heads south past the Gap. This is an ocean cliff on the east side that faces the Tasman Sea and sadly today it is well known as a suicide spot, with many deaths each year. These cliffs located in the Woollahra Municipality overlook the spot where the Dunbar a sailing ship was shipwrecked in 1857 killing 121 people. The Dunbar unfortunately mistook the bay of the Gap as the harbour entrance and sailed into the rocky cliff. There were 63 passengers and 59 crew members on board the ship. Only 1 person survived this horrific accident. Today the anchor of the Dunbar is placed on the cliff with an memorial tablet.
Continue following the trail past the Gap, followed by the signal station, the oldest facility that has been in continuous use since it was installed in Australia and next the Macquarie lighthouse which opened in 1818 making it the first and longest operating lighthouse in Australia.
Doyles at Watsons Bay — Sydney's first seafood restaurant
One of Sydney's most famous seafood restaurants is Doyles. You will spot Doyles restaurant as soon as you arrive in Watsons Bay. Its location is right on the shoreline of the bay where you can wine and dine while overlooking Sydney Harbour. Relax and enjoy the exquisite panoramic views. Doyles Seafood has been owned by 5 generations of the same family since 1885 when first opening its doors. To experience your fresh seafood at Australia's first ever seafood restaurant, you may either dine in or take out. Doyles is opened 7 days a week.
You will find the Watson Bay Hotel, restaurants, cafes plus the HMAS naval training base is located close by at South Head.
Camp Cove is Wheelchair accessible from Watson Bay ferry wharf.
It would be a good idea wear sunscreen and bring a sun shelter or umbrella as the beach has hardly any shade.
Facts For Your VisitFee: No
Many tourist attractions are temporarily closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Please verify any opening hours below with the attraction before visiting.
- Monday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
- Tuesday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
- Wednesday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
- Thursday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
- Friday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
- Saturday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
- Sunday: 9:00 am - 5:30 pm
North Head Scenic Drive
Manly New South Wales 2095
Loosey B. Dec-08-2017
If you don't have a car, don't bother. You can see the views from easier places. The bus runs every hour and seems like it's never on time. It doesn't... Read More
Shandos C. Jan-18-2016
Great spot to take in an awesome view of the Sydney skyline or the sea outside of the heads. (Particular during the whale migration season, when whales can... Read More
Tim W. Sep-01-2014
I only had a few days in Sydney. A local suggested that instead of going to the more touristy Bondi Beach, that I take a 40 min ferry ride to Manly Beach,... Read More
Accommodations near Sydney Harbour National Park:
|Ferry Line||Nearest Station||Walking Time|
|F4||Circular Quay||1 minute|
How to get to Sydney Harbour National Park by Ferry
The best way to get there from the Central Business District is to take the F4 Sydney Ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay. It's a spectacular 22 minute ferry ride including a stop a Rose Bay. You'll be in Watsons Bay as soon as you step off the ferry.
Map & Instant Route Finder
Click&Go Map and Route Finder with public transit, walking, driving or cycling directions. Get up-to-the-minute transit times for your route.