Hello, hello and welcome to Q Station in Manly. We are about to set off on a tour of this marvellous historic site.
Now, have you got a cup of tea? I’ve got mine here and I recommend you get yourself a cuppa as this is a long read with lots of pictures.
All sorted? Great. Come on, let’s go!
Contents of this post
So what is Q Station?
Q Station is Sydney’s old Quarantine Station, now restored and offering unique accommodation, a restaurant and cafes, an excellent visitor centre and guided tours.
You can visit Q Station for the day or a few hours, you can pop down just for a meal, you can stay for a night or a few days too.
Q Station makes a marvellous staycation for Sydney families; with gripping history for children to immerse themselves in plus plenty of active outdoors activities too.
Q Station – The History
Infectious diseases were a deadly reality in colonial times, and putting anyone suspected of being infected with smallpox, plague, typhoid, cholera, influenza and other illnesses into quarantine was the only way to halt the spread of disease.
North Head was first used as a place of quarantine in 1828 when a ship landed with convicts and guards. There has been cases of smallpox aboard on the voyage, so the ship was quarantined to protect the fledgling colony.
Over the years, this site was permanently established, with hospital and accommodation for dozens and even hundreds of people.
For some a stay at the Quarantine Station was like a beach holiday. However for many it was a battle between life and death, and death often won.
The Quarantine Station was in use until 1977, and later was looked after by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Then in the late 1990s, a process of transformation began.
The Quarantine Station has been restored with great love and care, it’s historic significance and features enhanced.
The new hotel and conference centre Q Station opened on 25th April 2008.
Read a full account of the story of this historic site in the book ‘From Quarantine to Q Station – Honouring The Past, Securing The Future’, from Arbon Publishing, available at Q Station.
Q Station – Accommodation
There are several types of accommodation at Q Station:
Heritage Rooms + Suites
Deluxe Rooms + Suites
For families, a three-bedroom Historic Cottage is ideal. We stayed on one of these, it had been used a worker’s cottage back in the day.
There are one king plus two queen bedrooms, then a very comfortable living room.
Great to see that toys for outdoor play are provided.
Modern and very comfy beds were given a thorough workout.
The kitchen had plenty of space, a good coffee machine, a microwave and a cooktop.
But there’s no need to cook as the Q Station has an excellent restaurant, see below. You can also have dinner delivered to your room, suite or cottage, from the room service menu.
The Luggage Store Visitor Centre + Cafe
If you visit Q Station as a day tripper, the Luggage Store Visitor Centre will be your first port of call. You’ll find an information desk where tours can be booked, and an extensive exhibition which explains the history of Sydney’s Quarantine Station. You will learn about the many ships which visited and the diseases which were so prevalent in those days.
For primary school children, this is a most fascinating place. My twins are 10 and they spent literally hours reading the signs and exploring the artifacts.
I must confess that I enjoy the gory side of history and so my very favourite exhibit was about the dreaded bubonic plague, or ‘black death.’
Just look at this photo of a pile of dead rats. Yuck!
The most heartbreaking stories tell of children whose parents died at the Quarantine Station, and of the terrible Spanish Flu which decimated the population just after the First World War.
The kids so enjoyed exploring the reconstructed First and Third Class ship cabins from the RMA Niagara.
The cafe down at the Luggage Store Visitor Centre is very comfortable and relaxed, serving simple meals, sandwiches, cakes and drinks.
In summer, you can hire snorkels from here to explore the beach and clear waters around the jetty.
The views from the outside seats towards Manly are sublime.
Just outside the Luggage Store there are many carvings on the rock face. Some are simple, others very complex and delicate.
Who wouldn’t stop for a long while here, looking at the names of ships, carved by hand, some with lists of the passengers who died.
Q Station – More Things To Do
- Take a ghost tour – read about our adventure on this post
- Take one of the history tours
- Explore the great bushwalking around North Head and the rest of this part of the Sydney Harbour National Park
- Kayak, swim, snorkel at Quarantine Beach
- Walk all around the Q Station
- Enjoy meals at the cafe and at Boilerhouse Restaurant
- Explore Manly and surrounds
Q Station For Day Trippers
Day visitors are warmly welcomed at Q Station. You can join a History or Ghost Tour, explore the site and the Luggage Room Visitor Centre, enjoy a swim or snorkel at Quarantine Beach and take in the sweeping views of Sydney Harbour.
Visitors can dine at Boilerhouse restaurant and the Luggage Store Cafe.
Q Station – Getting There
Ferry: You can catch a ferry to Q Station Wharf from Manly. See Ecohopper website here.
Driving: Private cars are not allowed on site (except for visitors staying in some cottages.) You need to drive to the main car park which is beside reception. From there a shuttle bus takes visitors to wherever they’d like to visit.
Public Transport: Buses run from Manly to the Q Station reception, read more at Transportnsw.info
Q Station G&Tea House
For a very special treat, you can visit the new G&Tea House, in one of the restored cottages on the headland at Q Station. There are four types of high tea on offer including a Children’s High Tea, this would make such a unique birthday treat.
The G&Tea House serves scones, pastries, cakes and sandwiches paired with coffee and tea and also with some tea infused gin cocktails. The vintage tea cups and teapots are gorgeous, as are the glasses the cocktails are served im. Divine!
Friday: 3pm to 7pm
Saturday: 11am to 4pm
Sunday: 11am to 4pm
To book your High Tea, contact the team on 02 9466 1500.
Q Station – Restaurants
Boilerhouse is Q Station’s main restaurant, open to hotel guests as well as evening visitors.
This is a fine dining venue but kids are welcome.
The kids play pack also proved very handy as we waited for our food to be served.
Hotel guests can breakfast at Views restaurant, and we did!
We also met some friendly, and rather cheeky locals just outside Views.
You’ll have gathered that myself and my twins enjoyed our night at Q Station enormously. We all learned a great deal about some terrible diseases, how contagious they are and how deadly.
We are so lucky to live in modern times, with no plague, typhus, smallpox, measles, cholera or Spanish flu threatening our families.
For us the Luggage Room Visitor Centre and the Q Station Ghost Tour were highlights.
I enjoyed my dip in the sea here too.
Next summer we will definitely return to snorkel.
Book A Stay or A Tour At Q Station
Call Q Station to discuss your family’s needs on (02) 9466 1500
To enquire or book tours visit the website or call Tour Reservations on (02) 9466 1551
Keep up with Q Station news on the Q Station Facebook page.
PS When in this area, you might be keen to find some more fun things to do in Manly with kids.
Check out info on the best areas of Sydney for families to stay here.
And that’s our tour over. A long post today!
History, gory stories, beaches, views and good food.
Have you visited Q Station with the kids?
If not, shall we meet up there one day!!??
This post was updated in March 2021.