Location: Middle Harbour
Clontarf is a residential suburb, located on the north shore of Middle Harbour 13 kilometres north-east of the Sydney central business district in the local government area of Manly Council.

Clontarf Beach
A pleasant harbour beach where, in 1868, an attempt was made to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh who was guest of honour at a summer picnic there. He was taken to hospital but made a quick recovery. The bullit fired at him at close range by an anti-Royalist Irishman had lodged in his braces, saving him from serious injury or death. The 'golden probe' used to remove the bullet is on display at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital museum. Clontarf Beach is the start of the Spit to Manly Scenic Walkway along the northern shores of Middle and North Harbours.
Facilities: toilets, picnic facilities, shaded grassed area, barbecues, childrens playground. Sandy Bay Road, Clontarf.

Barney Kearns Steps: From 1829, a ferry operated by a former Irish convict, Barney Kearns, who rowed passengers across the waters of Middle Harbour from Chinaman s Beach to Clontarf. A set of 216 gruelling stairs that climb up from Kiora Ave near Rosherville Reserve to Parrawi Road are named for the ferryman.

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Spit Bridge

The current Spit Bridge, a higher, 4-lane structure with a single-leaf electrically operated bascule span, replaced the earlier structure in 1949. The bridge raises hourly to let larger craft and yachts in and out of Middle Harbour. As with the previous bridge, increased traffic has turned it into a bottleneck.

In the 1850s, a man named Peter Ellery began rowing passengers across the Spit. He soon began operating a punt that could take horeses and people. He preffered the horses to swim, however, and charged less if they did this alongside the punt. Ellery's punt was unreliable so it was replaced by a Government operated service from 1870. The new punt was no more safe or reliable than Ellery's, in 1888 the punt capsized, with the loss of 8 horses and drays. A steam driven punt guided by steel cables was introduced in 1889.

The original Spit Bridge replaced the punt service in 1924. Described at the time as the ugliest bridge in Sydney, it had a centre span which was raised and lowered by a spider-like maze of girders, pulleys and cables hovering above it and mounted on the adjacent piers. Complete with a roadway, footway and tram tracks, it was built as a temporary measure only, but worked well, even though it was designed and constructed in a space of less than 12 months. Manly Council raised the required money and was given permission to be reimbursed from the collection of tolls after the bridge was built. By 1930 the bridge was paid for, the toll was abolished and control of the bridge was transferred to the Department of Main Roads the same year.

This bridge was a low-level opening timber bridge designed as a temporary measure; it was expected that it would be replaced with a high-level bridge within 20 years. On 5 May 1924 the first pile was ceremoniously driven by the Mayor of Manly, Ald. A.C. Samuels. The bridge was completed and officially opened on 23 December 1924. During the first five days of operation 16,451 vehicles crossed the bridge. The bill for a passenger on a bicycle was one penny and a car cost sixpence. By the 1950s the bridge was no longer adequate as vehicles would queue for over an hour to cross so it was decided to build a new one. It was finally completed and opened in November 1958.

The Spit to Manly Pathway

One of Sydney's classic and most popular walks, it follows a well-maintained track that passes through Clontarf Beach, and provides beautiful views over Middle Harbour. The pathway is great for both major exercise, or just a stroll along the shoreline of Sydney Harbour, as it can be walked in one go or in sections. Highlights include Middle Harbour; Clontarf Beach; Grotto Point; Crater Cove; Arabanoo Lookout; Dobroyd Head; Fairlight Beach. Duration: 4 hours. Distance: 9km. Grade: easy/moderate.

Grotto Point

Located at the confluence of the three harbours of Port Jackson, this popular fishing spot offers panoramic views to Manly, Middle, North and South Heads and Sydney's eastern suburbs. Like its neighbour, Dobroyd Head, Grotto Point is part of Sydney Harbour National Park. The walking path which passes across the headland is part of the Spit to Manly Walking Track. It offers expansive views up Middle Harbour to The Spit and across to Middle Head and Balmoral Beach.

The vegetation and landscape of the headland is the traditional image evoked by the termHawkesbury Sandstone, with shallow sandy soil vegetated by sandstone heaths and light woodlands which make up the largest areas of remaining natural vegetation around Sydney. The coastal heath seen here is typical of that found on the coastal headlands between Palm Beach and Royal National Park. Aboriginal axe grinding grooves and rock carvings of footprints, known as mundoes (pronounced mun-doe-eez), have been found on the rocks below Scenic Drive.

Grotto Point Light: the white stone lighthouse was erected in 1911 to guide ships through Sydney Heads. Its light aligns with that of Parriwi Light, also known as Rocherville Light on The Spit peninsula. Both the Grotto Point and Parriwi Head Lighthouses were designed by Maurice Festu. Access via Cutler Road, Grotto Point.

Grotto Point has three beaches, all are well hidden and away from the road so access by car is restricted. They are all fairly quiet and offer relative seclusion apart from passing walkers on the Spit to Manly Scenic Walkway which passes through the area. Facilities are limited at all three beaches, though Reef Beach has the most.

Castle Rock Beach

Castle Rock Beach: On Middle Harbour, has calm water and is the busier of the two beaches on this section of foreshore.

Washaway Beach: On the North Harbour side of the peninsula, has a strong swell as it faces the harbour entrance. Because of its isolation, it is often used for nude bathing.

Reef Beach: On North Harbour beyond Arabanoo Lookout, is also frequented by nude bathers. Aboriginal carvings of fish and a shield are visible on the tesselated rocks of Reef Beach after a storm. An Aboriginal shell midden extends the length of the back of the beach. It was here in the 1830s that a canvas village of hermits known as Pirate's Camp sprang up.

Public transport: bus No. 132, 133 from Manly; 171 from Manly Wharf and Wynyard. Alight in Woodland Street, walk down Alder Street and then to end of Cutler Road.


The neighbouring suburb of Balgowlah is located 12 kilometres north-east of the Sydney central business district. Balgowlah was named in 1832 after an Aboriginal word meaning north harbour in reference to its position from Port Jackson. In the early days of European Settlement it had been known as Little Manly. Sir Edmund Barton, Australia's first prime minister, resided in the building known as Whitehall in White Street. Since 2004, Whitehall has been the site of the Norwegian Seamen's Church.

The North Harbour Reserve on Condamine Street, south of the shopping centre, is a popular picnic spot for large groups. The reserve is also on the scenic walk that runs from Manly through Fairlight, Balgowlah, Balgowlah Heights and Clontarf to The Spit, near the Spit Bridge. Balgowlah is one of the destinations for the Hop-Skip-Jump free bus service operated by Northern Beaches Council. Numerous public buses also operate in the area, the majority coming through Balgowlah en route to Manly, Warringah Mall, Seaforth and the city.

Balgowlah Heights

Situated on a ridge up to 80 metres above North Harbour and Middle Harbour, Balgowlah Heights offers panoramic views of the harbour, Eastern Suburbs and Spit Bridge. The suburb features remnant Sydney Harbour bushland, contained in the National Park around Dobroyd Head and Grotto Point. Tania Park at the eastern fringe offers relaxed recreation and one can watch the Manly ferry cut its way to Circular Quay. Balgowlah is said to be the Aboriginal name of the whole of North Harbour. The area now known as Balgowlah was known to the Aborigines as Jilling.

Seaforth overlooks Middle Harbour and is linked south to Mosman by the Spit Bridge. To the west, Seaforth overlooks Sugarloaf Bay across to the suburbs of Northbridge, Castlecrag and Castle Cove. The Garigal National Park sits on the northern border. Middle Harbour has few beaches and the shoreline of Seaforth is no exception.

There are only two spots for swimming here, both of them quite small on tiny ribbons of beach. A swimming enclosure on the northern side of Pickering Point is accessed via Gurney Crescent. Sangrado Pool is located at the end of Sangrado Street alongside the Seaforth Sailing Club s boatshed.

Seaforth is not far from Military Road, Mosman and its fashion, food and antique temptations. Nearby Manly's lively cafe, restaurant and beachside pub culture, as well as several good galleries, bookshops and antiques stores, are only 3 km from Seaforth, to the East along Sydney Road. The Spit and Clontarf areas below Seaforth, offer quality dining and picnic facilities.
The Spit to Manly Walk

Also known as Manly Scenic Walkway, this is one of the most popular walks in the Sydney region, and is a must for anyone who enjoys walking and is eager to explore the bushland around Sydney. Allow yourself the best part of a day to make this popular hike along the foreshores of Middle and North Harbours. Lookouts at Grotto Pt, Cutler Rd and Tania Park offer expansive harbour views. Take a dip at Clontarf, Castle Rock, Washaway, Reeef, Forty Baskets, Balgowlah, Fairlight or Delwood beaches on the way. Easy to Moderate walk. 9.1 km one way.
How to Get There: ferry to Manly, or Bus No. 190 from Wynyard to Spit Bridge.
Fisher Bay

Close to but more isolated than Clontarf Beach, Fisher Bay (also known as Shell Cove) is accessible only by a walking track from Clontarf Beach or the northern end of The Spit Bridge, which is the first leg of the Spit To Manly Walk. Two small creeks flow into the bay after rain, the most visible one is a small stream of water which cascades down the cliff face alongside the walking path before flowing across the sandy beach into the bay. Due to the level of urban development in the surrounding area, the falls no longer flow all year round. No facilities. Location: Sandy Bay Road, Clontarf. Public transport: bus No. 168, 171, 173, E65, E66, E68 from Wynyard; or bus No. 183, 184, 187 from Town Hall; ferry to Manly, bus No. 140, 143, 144. Alight at Spit Bridge, walk east along foreshore to beach.

If you follow the track beyond Fisher Bay, you will see an Aboriginal cave shelter and a midden, which is essentially a pile of discarded shells marking a spot where pre-colinial Aborigines fed on oysters and other seafood caught nearby. Like all Aboriginal sites, middens are legally protected areas and the raised walkway was constructed to preserve it. The cave is on the left hand side of the track, the midden is on Bradys Point at the head of Fisher Bay.

During the Depression there were up to 32 legal residential houseboats moored in Middle Harbour. Today only four remain; this one  which started life as a steel-hulled barge  and three others in Pearl Bay, on the other side of Spit Bridge.

  • Get Directions

  • How to get there:
    bus No. 168, 171, 173, E65, E66, E68 from Wynyard; or bus No. 183, 184, 187 from Town Hall; ferry to Manly, bus No. 140, 143, 144.

    Spit Bridge

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