Spring has certainly arrived, Summer is in the air and the city of Sydney is buzzing. First swims of the season, lazy lunches, catch ups with family and friends, hitting the beach…the list goes on.
I absolutely love this time of the year to start doing fun outdoor activities with my husband and kids. The kids, in particular, seem to get a new lease of life after hibernating through winter. Last month SydneyMum stayed at Q Station and took part in one of the two history tours, a fantastic outing…
Our guide was lovely, engaging and brimming with facts about the early days of the Quarantine Station. Chosen in 1832 by Governor Darling, who, losing one of his children to whooping-cough understood the importance of preserving the colony, North Head was isolated yet accessible to ships and surrounded by water with a natural spring and deep anchorage. Every ship had to dock and for every passenger, North Head was the first view of their new home – well, at least for the next 40 days! If you were liable to be or suspected of carrying an infectious or contagious disease.
It closed in 1984 when its last 16 years were used as a detention centre for refugees.
There were no buildings until 1838 and in 1886, at the complaint of an English barrister who saw ‘it ill-fitting for a man of his standing to fetch his own water’, the station accommodation was divided into classes: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Asiatic (any non-white person who suffered the worst treatment).
The tour starts at the wharf, the ‘unhealthy ground’ as it was known because passengers were inspected and sent either to isolation or to their accommodation. The area has several buildings including the former luggage store – now a museum boasting old headstones and luggage artifacts; the boiler rooms and engine room – now amazing restaurants and a bar; the fumigation rooms for luggage and the showers. Every passenger was instructed and watched to shower with carbolic acid soap, leaving the skin turn itchy, dry and peel. The hospital is on higher ground and the mortuary was sadly off-limits for us on the day.
The station protected the colony from various diseases – Scarlett Fever, Typhus, the Plague, the Spanish Influenza, Small Pox…During its life, roughly 582 ships were detained at North Head and more than 24,000 people were quarantined. Of those, only about 800 died, an incredible feat! And really did allow the colony to thrive, becoming what Sydney is today.
What drew me in the most, was the emotional footprint left all over the station. From the accommodation buildings to the showers which exposed to others nakedness, a foreign concept to many. And the hospital with its beautiful high ceilings… every inch of the place is steeped in history and tells a story. The tour is fantastically educational for young and old.
So, why not make a day of it? Take the ferry, pack the swimmers, pack a lunch or enjoy eating there and discover what QStation has to offer!
It really is one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets!
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