North (Sydney) Harbour Aquatic Reserve


North (Sydney) Harbour  Aquatic Reserve is located between North Head and Dobroyd Head in the northern part of Sydney Harbour, covering an area of approximately 260 hectares.


  • conserve the biodiversity of fish and marine vegetation
  • protect fish habitat
  • facilitate educational activities
  • facilitate scientific research.


Historically, the reserve was the site of some of the first marine specimen collecting conducted in the 1830s by the superintendent of the Quarantine Station.

The aquatic reserve includes a variety of habitats, including rocky shores, sandy beaches, nearshore reefs, sandy seabed and harbour waters up to around 20 m deep.

Sheltered coves contain seagrass habitats and nearshore reefs support kelp habitats that are used by many species, including seahorses and sea dragons. The rocky reefs and kelp beds are also home to many different invertebrates and fish and the boulder habitats in deeper waters are inhabited by colourful sponges and corals. In summer, tropical fish are a common sight, carried from the Great Barrier Reef along the NSW coast by the East Australian Current (EAC).

An area of critical habitat for the little penguin is located within the reserve.

What can I do in the Aquatic Reserve?

You can enjoy many marine activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, boating and line fishing. You can line fish for finfish only (fish with a backbone), subject to other NSW fishing rules and regulations.

Spearfishing is prohibited.

No invertebrate animals, cunjevoi or marine plants (whether alive or dead) can be taken or collected from this reserve. This means that you cannot collect shellfish, fish for squid or cuttlefish, collect any marine animals or plants from the shore, pump for worms or collect empty shells (because they provide important homes for living organisms).

Other than finfish, no marine animals or plants can be harmed in the reserve.

Avoid anchoring in seagrass beds to help protect this important fish habitat.

Be the eyes, ears and voice for aquatic reserves and report:

  • Illegal or suspect fishing or collecting activities, or damage to aquatic habitats, to the Fishers Watch Phoneline on 1800 043 536 or online
  • Water pollution or fish kills to the Environment Line 131 555.
  • Suspected aquatic pests or diseases to the Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) Hotline: 1800 675 888 or email
  • Injured or sick marine mammals, reptiles or seabirds to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation group or National Parks and Wildlife on 1300 072 757.

Explore the Aquatic Reserve

North Harbour Aquatic Reserve

A good viewing point to see the reserve is from the top of Dobroyd Head, where you can see across to North Head which marks the southernmost boundary of the reserve. Photo: Renata Pronk.

North Harbour Aquatic Reserve

Dobroyd Head viewed from the water. Photo: Renata Pronk.

North Harbour Aquatic Reserve

The historical Quarantine Station is located on the eastern side of the reserve with a wharf at Quarantine Beach. Photo: Renata Pronk.

North Harbour Aquatic Reserve

Some of the common fish species that are seen in the harbour are yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis) which often swim amongst the kelp on rocky reefs. Photo: Renata Pronk.

North Harbour Aquatic Reserve

The deeper reefs within the reserve are adorned with colourful sponges, ascidians and corals. Photo: Renata Pronk.

North Harbour Aquatic Reserve

The gloomy octopus (Octopus tetricus) can be found hiding in cracks and crevices. Photo: Renata Pronk.

Getting there

There are many places to access the reserve along the foreshore including from the Quarantine Station in Sydney Harbour National Park via North Head Scenic Drive. On foot, you can get to the reserve via the Manly scenic walkway, and it can also be explored by boat.

Further information

Please contact us at