SCHOOL HOLIDAY IDEAS (72 HOUR ITINERARY)
The Easter School Holidays are upon us again and if you are like many parents, you may be thinking of fun and unique ways to keep the kids occupied, engaged, happy (and as far away from their iPads as possible) with Easter school holiday activities in Sydney. Life can become so busy during the school terms with sport and extracurricular activities. The holidays are about spending quality time with your children, but that is not always achievable for parents on a full time work schedule with kids committed to sports and music programs. This means it isn’t always possible to take long breaks away together as a family, so if you can get getaway for a few days and spend some fun time together that would be a bonus, right?
So, if you are looking for a family holiday filled with a unique historical difference, Q Station, located at North Head on the shores of Sydney Harbour, is the ideal base for your Sydney holiday and with our “Egg-Stra special” Q Station Easter accommodation offer – there is even more reason to book an extended stay!
Hidden amongst native Australian bush land within Sydney Harbour National Park, with stunning views overlooking Sydney Harbour, here you are only a short ferry ride away from all the action and school holiday activities in Sydney, in the heart of the city, yet far enough away to feel like a relaxing retreat.
To take the stress out of the school holidays we have created a 72 hour itinerary for you and the kids to explore Sydney’s ‘backyard’ and learn a lot about our history and culture along the way.
7:00am: Enjoy a hearty breakfast
Kick off day 1 of your Sydney school holiday adventure by fueling your bodies with a hearty early morning breakfast at Q Station’s Views Restaurant overlooking the picturesque views of the Sydney Harbour you’ll be ready for a jam-packed day!
The best part about staying at North Head within Sydney Harbour National Park is that you’re surrounded by bushwalks, native wildlife, tours, fun activities for all ages, hidden beaches and delicious restaurant options as well as opportunities for kayaks, snorkeling or ferry transport. Stock up your backpacks with water and snacks for the day and you can set off straight from the hotel to explore. Be extra prepared and download Q Station’s map to find your way around.
We recommend that you arrive the night before to get a good night’s sleep (guaranteed with the comfy beds in the historic and unique Q Station accommodation), so you have plenty of energy to greet the day.
8:30am: Fairfax Walk
The Fairfax walk offers an easy and enjoyable 1 kilometre loop which the entire family can enjoy. The path along one of Sydney’s most scenic walks is ideal for children and as the path is paved, offering a smooth partially wheelchair accessible track in Sydney. The Fairfax track begins at the end of the North Head Scenic Drive and loops around the top of North Head featuring breath-taking views of the ocean, Sydney Harbour and Sydney CBD. Depending on whether you are looking for a more leisurely stroll or get the heart rate going, it will take approximately 30 – 60 minutes to complete. It’s an exceptional walk for keen whale watchers during the June-July and August-October migration seasons so bring your binoculars!
If you have time and energy to burn after completing the walk you can decide to continue on through the North Head Sanctuary and from here you can wind your way back down to Manly to join the Manly Scenic Walkway. Once you’re in Manly, treat the family with a coffee or ice cream break!
10:00am: Explore Q Station Visitor Centre
After returning from your rejuvenating morning walk, head to the Q Station Visitor Centre and immerse yourself into the history and heritage of the Q Station. The Visitor Centre is located on the wharf adjacent to Quarantine Beach, within what was the luggage storage facility of Sydney’s former Quarantine Station which also functions as a museum with significant features being preserved. The centre offers free admission so pick up a takeaway coffee at the Visitor Centre Café and explore the museum yourself until the Wharf Wanderer history tour begins.
11:00am: Wharf Wander History Tour
The Wharf Wander Tour is an interactive opportunity to understand the arrival and daily operation of passengers and staff at the former Quarantine Station. The tour runs for 45 minutes and explores heritage buildings to discover the stories of migrants through the 19th and 20th centuries. We recommend that you arrive 15 minutes for before the start of the tour and make certain you are still wearing comfy walking shoes!
If you are here on a weekend you may want to take part in the more in-depth Quarantine Station Story Tour where you will really find out what it was like to be quarantined!
Book a tour online or in person at the Visitor Information Centre.
12:00pm: Enjoy a Light Lunch
Enjoy a light lunch from the selection of sandwiches, pies and snacks at the Visitor Centre Café and spend more time immersing yourself in the history and heritage we have to offer at Q Station.
1:30pm: Spend the afternoon at Quarantine beach
After a busy and informative morning, head back to your room and change for some family time at Quarantine Beach.. The beach is 200m long, faces northwest and is in a quiet and sheltered location hemmed in by rocks with silvery sand and clear, calm water. Relax on the beach, build sandcastles or throw a frisbee with the kids and dip your toes in the water if you are game!
If you are keen to head out on the water, hire out some single or double kayaks and paddle boards at Q Station and paddle out on the calm water to Collins Beach and back before heading back to the room to get ready for an early dinner.
5:00pm: Early Dinner at the Engine Room Bar
Enjoy an early relaxed dinner at the Engine Room Bar which overlooks the beautiful Quarantine Beach. The tasty pizza or burger menu will be sure to warm your belly before getting the chills on a ghost tour!
Alternatively, if your children are a little older (15+) and are true Sydney foodies, book in a Ghosty Dine experience and enjoy an eight plate share menu at the Boilerhouse Restaurant & Bar at 6pm before joining the Ghostly Encounters tour at 8pm.
6.30pm: Get prepared to be Scared!
Reputed to be one of Australia’s most haunted sites, Sydney ghost tours have operated at the Q Station since the early 1990’s. Where you consider yourself believers or non-believers this is a great way to bring the whole family together as you take part in the Ghost Trackers Ghost Tour for a spooky night traversing the well-worn paths around and through the buildings of the former Quarantine Station as you listen to ghost stories and do a little ghost hunting! Running for 2.5hours the tour is recommended for children 8 years and over and their accompanying adults.
09:00am: Snorkeling at Shelly Beach
After a leisurely breakfast at the Views Restaurant, pack your bag with swimmers and a towel, lace up the walking shoes and head to the tour desk to hire a snorkel and flippers for a walk out to the gorgeous Shelley Beach for the morning – approximately a 35-40 minute trail walk from the hotel (if your feet are a little tired from yesterday, it’s only a short drive from the hotel).
Popular with scuba divers and snorkelers alike, Shelley Beach is a protected marine reserve which lies adjacent to North Head. With a maximum depth of 12 metres it is home to a large variety of marine life which can be viewed in the relatively shallow water.
1:00pm: Enjoy Lunch at The Boat House Restaurant (Shelly Beach)
Set right on the beach The Boat House Shelly Beach is an idyllic spot to enjoy an incredible seafood lunch after all that snorkeling. If you are a lover of seafood delish menu selections like the Kingfish Carpaccio, Cold Seafood Platter or a simple light lunch of a bucket of tiger prawns and sourdough washed down will an icy cold bear or glass of wine are exquisite.
3:00pm: Explore North Head Sanctuary
Dry off and head along down the walking track to North Head Sanctuary for a well-deserved refreshment at Bella Vista Café, located inside the heritage listed North Fort Building at North Head Sanctuary.. Bella Vista overlooks incredible views of Sydney Harbour and if you enjoy Italian food, you may decide instead to leave Shelly Beach a little early and enjoy a lunch at Bella Vista Café with the delicious flavours of homemade traditional and modern Italian cuisine.
Along the 1.5 – 2 hour North Head Sanctuary Loop which passes by former School of Artillery buildings, you will spot a diverse range of birdlife and flowering plants as well asmilitary remains and incredible views of the city and harbour.
6:00pm: Dinner at the Boilerhouse
Enjoy fresh modern Australian cuisine at the Boilerhouse Restaurant & Bar. Housed in the original boiler house building from the days of the Sydney’s former Quarantine Station and refurbished into a uniquely styled restaurant, the Boilerhouse has an incredible atmosphere of natural surroundings and you might just spot some hungry water dragons looking for leftovers!
8:00pm: Adults Only – Extreme Ghost Tour
Leave the kids with a babysitter and have a quick drink in Engine Room Bar for courage before heading back to the Visitor Centre to take part in the Extreme Ghost Tour. Not for the faint hearted (or for people under the age of 18 years) this tour offers a personal emersion into the spiritual energy of the Quarantine Station site and takes a unique path through stories of the darker side of the quarantine as told by psychics and mediums.
09:00am: Experience Sailing with the family
After a leisurely breakfast at the Views Restaurant, take a 10-15 minute drive to the Manly Yacht Club and meet with the team from Champagne Sailing who will take you and the entire family on a fun and enjoyable private charter catamaran sailing experience on the Sydney Harbour. Their professional skippers can literally show you the ropes, so you can help sail the yacht around the harbour – or you can just sit back, relax and take in the view.
Champagne Sailing have catamarans to suit groups from 2 up to 40 guests and you can either choose to enjoy lunch on the boat or head into one of the many Manly restaurants for a delicious meal. For more information and bookings, contact the Champagne Sailing team directly.
1:00pm: Enjoy a leisurely lunch in Manly
After all that fresh air you will surely have worked up an appetite and if the family enjoys seafood, you can enjoy the freshest Australian seafood in Sydney at Garfish Restaurant and Bar Manly. Idyllically located on the harbour side of Manly with incredible views of the East Esplanade Park, affectionately known as ‘The Office’ by Manly locals. At Garfish you can share delicious entrees like the hiramasa kingfish sashimi, salt and pepper squid, grilled scallops and pork belly, as well as hearty main meals such as Moreton bay bugs, sri lankan fish & king prawn curry (divine!) or steamed kinkawooka black mussels. If seafood isn’t your thing (really?!) there are plenty of mouthwatering vegetarian, meat and poultry dishes to choose from.
Looking for something a little more low key yet super tasty? Beaches Pizza Bar boasts the best pizza in Manly with a large range of pizzas on their Beaches pizza menu or you can give you can satisfy those taste buds with some delicious Manly Mexican fare at Mex & Co Manly.
3:00pm: Relax and Unwind on Manly Bach
After a big day of sailing spending a few hours relaxing on Manly Beach with the family is a great way to wind down the day. Go for a stroll along the beach, take a dip in the ocean or if the kids have energy to spare (and let’s face it, they usually do!) why not enroll them in a Manly learn to surf program. Manly is renown for its surf culture so it’s the perfect spot to give surfing a go for the first time or refine those surfing skills. Manly Surf School has experienced instructors who will make this a fun and safe learn to surf experience – and one that the big (adult) kids will enjoy too!
6:00pm: Dinner at the Engine Room Bar
After a jam packed 3 days we think you can be certain of a relaxed and quiet dinner with the kids at the Engine Room Bar followed by an early bedtime where the groans of ‘I’m bored’ will be replaced by ‘I’m tired’ and the good news is you won’t have to hear it for long before they crash out leaving mum and dad time to enjoy what’s left of the last night and think about the incredible time away you’ve spent together.
There’s still so much more to experience without needing to roam too far from the hotel and this brochure gives you even more insight on the tracks and tours. They are even more things to see and experience around Manly and the heart of Sydney too so if you don’t have time this trip we are fairly certain you will be back to explore and stay with us again at Q Station.
THE BEAUTY OF EDUCATION AT Q STATION
A Reflection by julie regalado
I have been here for nearly eleven years and what an amazing experience it has been! As a lifelong learner and educator, this exceptional site has pushed me to abandon any pretence of ‘knowing it all’ or ever ‘being the expert’- as the richness and complexity of it is always more than any one person can encompass.
This site of Q Station reveals the 60,000 year history of the Aboriginal people who have known this place, North Head, as a rocky out crop on the banks of a river when the land extended much further out into what is now the Tasman Sea. Clues of this culture now known to be the oldest continuing culture in the world and one to have survived and adapted to an ice age and all that came after that, are here when we pay attention.
This place reminds us of first contacts, early migration and settlement, of infectious disease, death and survival. It tells of ships’ voyages and the hopes and dreams of those on the ships. It reminds us of the doctors and nurses who worked and died here, of families that lived here, immigrants detained here, and the Vietnamese orphans brought here at the fall of Saigon. And, then, of course, there’s the ghosts!
When the penguins make their way into the harbour at fire light, when the white cockatoos forage on the cones from the massive Hoop Pine, when that big crow sits in the tree outside the Visitor Centre and squawks loudly as I try to talk with a school excursion group, when the black cockatoos cry out in those plaintive tones, the blue tongue lizards sun on the pathway, and the echidnas wander the grassy area on the hill, you realise that there is more here than any one of us can ever fully know.
So, my tactic as a learner and educator has been to try to stay humble and curious and to look at how the Teaching & Learning team can facilitate an experience that is about discovery and meaning-making. On the Education Programs you will hear a few dates and lots of stories, go into heritage buildings, play in the sand, get your hands on artefacts, and the Education guides will ask a lot of questions. And while the programs are aligned with the NSW and Australian curriculum, our whole purpose, really, is to facilitate a meaningful experience that connects us with this place and its many stories.
In a recent article in Education HQ Gordon Cairns comments on what he observes of himself and his colleagues as mimicking badly behaved students in Professional Development (PD) situations. At Q Station, while we may occasionally get cold reactions or suspicious eyebrows at the beginning of a school’s visit or teacher PD workshop, we very rarely see that by the end of it. Cairns suggests that teachers put the mobile phones away and use such experiences to understand what is meaningful for any age learner, and how to foster relevant learning situations. This is what the Teaching & Learning team at Q Station do every day –as our teaching environment is always changing and there is always more to learn.
I have often thought that with so many educational services moving to online delivery, places like Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park will become even more crucial in how we, humans, learn to make sense of how we live on this planet.
I feel privileged and honoured to have worked at Q Station and to have gotten this opportunity to know this exceptional site. It is the banksias & tea trees, the flannel flowers, sandstone outcroppings, the sparkling harbour, and the sunshine wattle that have taught me about my adopted country of Australia and what it means for me to be Australian. For this, I will be forever grateful!
If you would like to bring your class to Q Station for a school excursion, contact 02 9466 1566 or H8773-CR3@accor.com or alternatively fill out the Education Program enquiry form here.