The Aboriginal-owned Tribal Warrior Association runs cruises that give a unique perspective of the harbor and its history, including the traditional names of, and stories about, major landmarks. They demonstrate the fishing methods, food gathering techniques, and coastal lifestyle of the tribes that lived in the area prior to colonization, before giving a cultural performance on Shark Island.
Farther west, Cockatoo Island is the largest island in the harbor. Over the last 200 years it has been used as a prison, school, reformatory, and shipyard. Take a self-guided audio tour around the convict sites, workshops, and slipways, or camp overnight to experience it by moonlight.
For an eerie insight into the hardships of life in the early days of the colony, take an evening ghost tour of the Quarantine Station. Located on isolated North Head, it housed migrants from arriving ships who were suspected of having contagious diseases. Most passengers were free to leave after 40 days but over 500 died in harrowing circumstances and are now said to haunt the old buildings.
Further along North Head are the World War II remnants of North Fort. Heavy artillery was built into tunnels in the sandstone cliff to protect the city from potential invasion. Tours take you through the fortifications and tunnels, the Defence of Sydney Memorial Park and the Memorial Walk.
Cockatoo Island Ferries depart Circular Quay;
North Fort North Head, Manly; ferry to Manley, then bus 135;
Quarantine Station North Head, Manly; water shuttle from Darling Harbour or ferry to Manly then bus 135;
Tribal Warrior Association Tours depart Circular Quay;