In the very early days of the island colony of New South Wales, if a ship reported an illness or the outbreak of a disease aboard, the passengers would not be allowed off the boat and were quarantined at sea, off the Australian coast. Unavoidably, this meant that the ships’ crews didn’t really have an incentive to report any problems to the authorities because if they did, it usually meant a lot of additional costs that totally messed up the ship’s turn and its journey home with revenue passengers and cargo.
In 1836 this lead to the establishment of the the North Head Quarantine Station, on the north side of the entrance into Sydney Harbour. If a disease was reported, all the passengers and crew were made to disembark at the quarantine station and had to remain there until there were no more cases reported among any of the ship’s crew and passengers. Only then was everybody allowed to leave.
The building in the two first photos below is the old boiler house, where passengers’ luggage was disinfected. Behind it were the showers, where passengers had to disrobe and wash until the onlooking authorities were comfortable that they were sufficiently disinfected as well. The shower facility can be seen in the third picture.
The quarantine station sprawls over a vast area at the tip of North Head and today is part of the Sydney Harbour National Park. Obviously, it not longer operates as a quarantine station.
The area is really beautiful, and there are many walks you can take around the park and what used to be the old army barracks.
Currently, the quarantine station operates as the Q Station Hotel, which is operated by the ALL Accor group. The old buildings have been converted into guest accommodation. The Australian government emphasizes that the purpose of running the Q Station as a hotel is to generate funds for the conservation of this historical site. This also means that when the place was converted into a hotel, management had to make sure that all modifications and updates to the buildings could be made undone, to preserve the unique character of the place.
I spend two weeks in one of what used to be the officers’ cottages.
The cottage has two porches, two living rooms and three bedrooms to accommodate a total of six persons. There is one bathroom with toilet, a shower and toilet and a separate toilet.
There’s also a fully equipped kitchen if you prefer self-catering.
Breakfast is served in the main building, just a short walk from my cottage. The old boiler house has been turned into an à la carte restaurant that sits at the bottom of a set of stairs with 236 step. So at least you get to work off some calories on your way back to your accommodation. Currently, the Boiler House restaurant only opens Wednesday through Saturday.
From the Q Station it’s a walk of about 45 minutes to Manly wharf. There is a bus. However, that runs only once an hour, and it doesn’t run very later either, with the last bus departing the wharf at 19h42.
I very much enjoyed my stay at the Q Station. For the purpose of my visit – that bloody PhD – it was perfect. It’s quiet and secluded. And when you step outside to air the brain a little, the view of the sea is breathtaking.