Exploring Palm Beach

Palm Beach is well known in the UK and Europe as the setting of Australia’s longest-running soap opera Home and Away.  It is also very popular as a beach getaway for well-off Sydneysiders. A short visit will show you why.

Updated: 3 September 2019

Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse – The “home” of Home and Away.

Palm Beach provides a perfect example of Aussie beach life, and it’s a great place to explore year-round. It’s also the most northerly point of the Sydney suburbs and an ideal spot to take a walk.

Exploring this area makes a pretty big day out. It’s a little over 41km from the centre of the city and can take an hour to reach, even longer by bus, but it’s a very scenic journey. The trip is entirely possible to do by public transport, making it a good option for visitors who have a little time on their hands and want to see beyond the tourist meccas of Manly and Bondi.

Home and Away

If you think this looks a little familiar, it could be because Palm Beach is the setting for the outdoor filming of the Australian soap opera Home and Away.

The North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club provides one of the inside sets, and there is often filming on the beach. If you visit the beach during the week, mainly Monday through Wednesday you might catch them in action. There is not usually filming over summer.

Die-hard fans can also join a Home and Away tour.  Pop into the Palm Beach Kiosk if you want to buy any Summer Bay souvenirs.

Lifestyles of the rich and the famous 

In summer Palm Beach can become an excellent location for a bit of celebrity spotting. It is not unusual to find the rich and famous holidaying here in one of the $100,000-week holiday rentals. Pink stayed here after one of her tours. Other celebs seen enjoying this little piece of paradise include Beyonce and Nicole Kidman, even the Queen has stayed here.

Did you know?  The name Barrenjoey means wallaby or little kangaroo in the traditional Garigal language.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Sitting high on the northern headland the Barrenjoey Lighthouse is one of the best-known features of the area. It was built from sandstone quarried right here and opened in 1881. The lighthouse is generally open to the public on Sundays from 11am-3pm.

To reach the top, you will have to tackle one of the two walks. The first option is Smugglers Track. This route starts from the Pittwater side just past the ferry wharf. It’s the shorter choice, but it’s steep. So while it starts easy, the last 500m will get your legs working hard. If you fancy a challenge, this is the route for you.

Alternatively, you can head along the beach and take the less interesting named “access track” a 2.5km bush track that will take a little over an hour an half to the top. I would consider this second option suitable for anyone with an average level of fitness.

From up here, you get a 180-degree view of Pittwater,  Ku-ring-gai  National Park, and the Central Coast. It is also a fantastic spot for whale watching in season (July to November)

You can find a map of the track here.

Palm Beach lighthouse Barrenjoey headland

Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with views across the National Park, Hawkesbury River, and Pittwater. Make sure you leave time to return before sunset because, as we once learnt, it can be quite challenging finding your way back in the dark!

Exploring the Beach

At 2.3km long, there is plenty of walking to be done down at the water’s edge. If you are not keen to walk to the lighthouse, then head off to the south end of the beach for a swim in the rock pool. There are some excellent examples of Aboriginal rock art here, including engravings of fish and a boomerang. There are also some magnificent carvings in the boulders at this end of the beach.

The safest spot to swim is at the southern end, where the water is pretty calm. There is also a couple of pools including a 50m perfect for swimming laps if that is more your thing.

Exploring the Pittwater side

Equally as beautiful as the ocean-facing side of Palm Beach Governor Phillip Park with its free BBQs and shaded area giving a bit of respite from the sun. A little further along you will find Snapperman Beach which on a weekday you are likely to have all to yourself.

The Bible Garden

The Bible Garden is very much a hidden gem; in fact, lots of people give up when they are trying to find it. Lucky for me on my first visit, I was with a local who often visited to sit and study in the peace and quiet. The garden was created in the 1960s by a local man in memory of his wife, kind of like Wendy’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay. He decided to include all the plants mentioned in the bible hence its name.

Palm Beach Sydney from south end
The view back over Palm Beach and Pittwater from the Bible Garden

What else can you do in Palm Beach

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If you are looking for a getaway from Sydney, this is a perfect spot. While I would be happy to sit back with a book or two and this view, there is plenty to do if you do feel like a little more activity.

Palm Beach Ferries 

I recommend taking one of the ferries that leave from the Palm Beach wharf.  You can take a ferry to Ettalong on the central coast for lunch or just make the 1-hour return trip for the gorgeous views.

You can also take a 20 minute trip around Pittwater to places like the Basin, one of the most popular local campgrounds.

They also offer a variety of lunch cruises.

pittwater view
Exploring Pittwater by ferry is breathtaking

Palm Beach Golf Club

This 18 hole course welcomes visitors for casual golf or meals. Bookings are recommended so call first to confirm (02) 9974 4079

Kayaking or Stand up paddle boating

The Pittwater is the perfect place to try your hand at kayaking or if you are an old hand, then rent a kayak and head off to explore the nooks and crannies of this water paradise.

Ecotreasures run great guided small-group Kayak tours from the basin. On your trip, you will learn about the aboriginal history of the area and get to spot plenty of local wildlife. If you are an early riser this sunrise paddle leaving from Palm Beach might also appeal.

You can also hire your own paddleboard for 3 hours for only $25

Getting there:  L90 (Limited stops) bus from Wynyard Station or drive – but parking can be a struggle in summer.

Best time to visit: All year round but you need a beautiful sunny day to make the most of it.

Where to eat: $ – Palm Beach Fish and Chips, $$$ The Boathouse on the Pittwater side.

Insider tip: Parking here costs $10 an hour and if you think you will find free parking – I am 99% sure you won’t lol.  Grab the first spot you find and walk into the main area or catch the bus.

Find out more about walks in the area here.

Want more ideas for exploring Sydney’s hidden gems? Pop over and join our Sydney Expert Facebook group and ask a local for some tips.

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