West Head Lookout safety improvements

National Parks and Wildlife Service is improving visitor safety and access at West Head Lookout in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

West Head, in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, is a popular destination for visitors. The West Head Lookout is one of Sydney's best vantage points, with views across Broken Bay to Barrenjoey Headland, Lion Island and the Central Coast.

The West Head Lookout was built in the mid-1960s. In early 2021, an assessment of the condition by a structural engineer identified structural and safety risks to visitors.

Temporary fencing was installed in May 2021, and in 2023 we will be undertaking works to upgrade the lookout.

What is happening at the West Head Lookout?

In 2022, the National Parks and Wildlife Service prepared designs to address safety and structural issues. The designs also considered concerns from stakeholders about protecting the heritage and aesthetic values of the site. We appreciate the considered and constructive feedback provided by the community through this process.

In early 2023, a tender for construction works was released, and a contractor was appointed in April 2023. A works program has been developed, and construction commenced on 25 May 2023. Works are expected to take approximately 6 months to complete. Closures will be in place at West Head Road after Resolute Picnic Area. During the construction phase, there will be no pedestrian or vehicle access in or around the West Head Lookout.

For your safety, please do not enter fenced areas.

National Parks and Wildlife Service has a duty of care to take steps to reduce the risk of harm to visitors where the risk is foreseeable and not insignificant.

You can read more about the Visitor safety policy.

Visitor safety policy

The West Head Lookout presents risk of a fall injury. While this risk may be acceptable in remote areas with low visitation, it is not acceptable at West Head – where the level of risk is heightened by direct access and increasingly high visitation.

The proposed safety improvements have been designed to minimise the impact of balustrades on sight lines from the main lookout area, while the use of balustrades along the entry and exit points represent practical means of preventing falls in those areas.

Planning and design was undertaken in 2022 and 2023, including stakeholder engagement.

Construction works commenced on 25 May 2023 and are expected to take approximately 6 months.

The park's stakeholders, visitors and users will be kept informed of this project as it develops. Updates will be available from this project webpage and the project newsletter as they become available. Anyone can sign up to receive the newsletter; please complete the online form below to register.

Following NSW planning legislation, we will conduct a rigorous environmental and heritage assessment of the site with input from relevant specialists. The proposed works align with the overall strategy for the management of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park outlined in the plan of management (2002; amended 2014).

The heritage and character of places in our national parks are a consideration for all projects that require repairs, remediation works or upgrades. This must be balanced with our responsibilities for visitor safety and risk management.

An engineering inspection was completed as part of National Parks and Wildlife Service's Asset Management Program. This inspection revealed concerns about the structural stability of the lookout. Further investigation was undertaken, and advice was provided, which led to the installation of temporary fencing in May 2021. A long-term solution has been developed to remediate the lookout and reduce the risk to visitors.

We must consider potential risks for harm within all national parks in New South Wales, particularly in places that experience high visitation, such as West Head Lookout. The 2 components of this work – strengthening the wall and lookout with below-ground supports and reducing the risk of falls will improve the overall safety of this structure.

The structural improvements that will be delivered as part of this project are essential to avoid the risk of collapse or failure. In addition, fatalities have occurred in national parks due to falls, and we are responsible for managing and reducing this risk where possible.

We have sought expert advice to inform and guide this project. This has included:

  • landscape architecture, including the original landscape designer Mr Bruce Mackenzie
  • structural engineering
  • geotechnical engineering
  • heritage
  • risk assessment
  • environmental impact
  • Aboriginal heritage
  • Building Code of Australia advice
  • access consultant advice

In planning this project, design options considered the physical and visual impacts on the lookout, including character and views, as well as risk to visitor safety and our responsibilities for managing this risk.

We are committed to retaining the special character and iconic views from West Head whilst ensuring visitors' safety.

We have worked with landscape architect Bruce Mackenzie, who designed the original Commodore Heights West Head landscape layout for architects RC Smith and Thompson in 1963, to deliver a design that balances visitor safety with preserving the lookout's original design intent and landscape values. We are fortunate and grateful to have Mr Mackenzie, one of Australia's most influential landscape designers, working on this project.

We refined the proposed works since exhibiting updated designs for visitor safety improvements at West Head Lookout in September and October 2022. The design now includes a lower balustrade of 1 metre height, with sections of lower falls risk treated with a less intrusive horizontal design. We have also added a seating area at the upper rotunda to facilitate viewing of the northern outlook.

Finalised design for the ramp section, showing the rotunda at left and eastern lookout at right

The West Head Lookout concept designs can be downloaded.

Download concept plans

Update October 2023

The West Head Lookout safety improvements are on track for completion by mid-November 2023.

  • 22 Oct 2023

Update August 2023

Work progress.

  • 03 Sep 2023

Update June 2023

Works progress, site management and access

  • 11 Jul 2023

Do you have any questions?

If we have missed anything, please send us your question and the project team will provide updates via this webpage.