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q station manly ghost

All images © Tina-Louise Jackson

Holidays with Kids checks in to Q Station

Manly, NSW

Q Station Manly offers atmospheric fun for the whole the family, where history meets Sydney Harbour.

Fast Facts:

Traveller: Tina-Louise Jackson and family
Room: S15, three-bed cottage
Address: 1 North Head Scenic Drive, Manly NSW 2095
Date: July 2018
Family Factor: A quirky getaway that is close to the city with a side-order of ghosts.

Q station Manly accommodation


With commanding views of Sydney Harbour, Balmoral and Manly, Q Station combines history with thoughtfully renovated heritage accommodation and social areas, making it a uniquely fun and educational stay for all the family.

We stayed in Cottage S15, formerly one of the staff residences. The staff cottages were set high above the passengers’ accommodation, on what was deemed ‘healthy’ land, with the upside reserved for modern-day guests, allowing them to enjoy great views of the harbour. While not luxurious, with three well-sized bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with spa bath), and a decent-sized kitchen, the cottage has everything needed for a self-contained family stay. Even an iron and ironing board, if you’re feeling so inclined (I didn’t...).

Our daughter, Luka, rushes around excitedly as we open the door, and quickly chooses the room just behind ours, although I can’t help but think we might all be sharing the one room after the Ghost Trackers tour later that evening. She settles down on the comfy bed to read a little history of Quarantine Station, and how the modern-day Q Station came to be.

breakfast q station manly


We dine at Boilerhouse Restaurant & Bar in the evening. Despite being chilly and a tad windy outside, it’s cosy inside and several families are dining alongside us. The menu is designed as share plates, so we select a few mains plus starters and a side of veggies, and tuck in. My personal favourite is the fried Brussels sprouts. If you’ve ever struggled to get your kids to eat them – and even some grown-ups – then you should call in for their recipe. We did, and will be trying it at home.

The following morning, we head to Views Restaurant for a buffet-style breakfast, which offers plenty to fuel both the hungry and the fussy eater.

q station manly history


Being situated in Sydney Harbour National Park, rug up these winter holidays and take a family hike on one of the paths around the headland. Perhaps you’ll spot a whale or two on their annual migration up or down the coast. Families can also hire bikes from reception and take a tour on two wheels.

There’s a daily tour to learn more of the history of Quarantine Station, and the migrants who entered the country here. It’s super easy to take a self-guided tour, with plenty of placards telling the stories of the heritage buildings and the migrants who passed through here. It’s a great way to give kids a better understanding of how some of Sydney’s inhabitants arrived. Luka is fascinated, and enjoys reading out each explanation to us as we tour the buildings.

Q station Manly

As darkness falls, dare yourself to join one of the ghost tours for some spooky fun. For kids aged eight and over, take the Ghost Trackers tour. By torchlight, our guide, Snowy, leads us through some of the Q Station buildings, spinning tales of the history and the ghosts who apparently inhabit them. We visit the hospital precinct, the morgue and one of the cottages that may have housed the grave-digger, as well as the shower block. It’s eerie, very atmospheric and great fun. Kids can get involved carrying the torches to light the way and man the EMF meters, which detect electromagnetic activity (signifying ghostly presences) in the ‘haunted’ buildings. There’s huge excitement (and a little trepidation) as they flash orange and red as we walk through some of the rooms. For older children, several slightly scarier ghost tours run most nights. If you’re staying over, don’t worry; it’s apparently only the communal areas that are haunted, and we slept well that night!

There are several well-appointed Guest Lounges scattered around the site. We head to one in the First Class accommodation, equipped with a pool table and board games, great for some family fun. Luka bangs out a slightly out-of-tune ‘Chopsticks’ on the piano as I (try to) relax with a book on the sofa, before a rather lively (and one-sided) game of pool and a hotly-contested game of Monopoly.

q station manly ghost tour

For families

It’s all about old-fashioned fun. While the bright lights and cafes of Manly, and indeed the city, are only a stone’s throw away, the fun for us is being able to unplug, bring out the board games and settle in for some old-fashioned family fun. By day, there’s plenty to explore and get some fresh sea air, on foot or by bike, and by night there’s a selection of ghost tours. Ask which ones are most age-appropriate for your brood.

Kids will be enthralled by the storytelling of the tour guides, as they learn about how the Quarantine Station passengers started their new lives in Australia, and the ghosts that apparently reside here, and if rain stops play ... well, there’s always the piano.

child playing piano

Kids speak

"Whether I'm yanking the piano keys or drinking nice warm hot chocolate I had a great time! As we arrived at our accommodation I knew it was going to be a great experience. The house could have 6 people living in it and that means... there were 6 packets of biscuits!

"Before dinner we played Monopoly and I basically won because my dad every now and then was sneaking $100 into his pile of money which was sneaky. When we went on the ghost tour it was amazingly fun! Listening to our guide's experiences with ghosts which was fun and I even saw a ghost and scarily enough, my dad took a scary face picture and in the background there was a face but it just wasn't an ordinary face. It was a... ghost! On the whole, this was a fun and lovely trip and I rate it a 10/10."

Luka, aged 11

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