Spend a day Exploring Palm Beach Sydney

I love Palm Beach, Sydney’s most northerly beach. It’s somewhere that feels a million miles from the busy city streets and the trip to get there along Sydney’s northern beaches offers wonderful views. 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. Even a short visit will show you why. Check out our Palm Beach guide and plan your perfect day out.

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Palm Beach in Sydney provides a perfect example of Aussie beach life. It’s the most northerly point of the Sydney suburbs and an ideal spot to explore year-round.

A day trip to Palm Beach makes a pretty big day out. It’s a little over 41km from the Sydney CBD and can take an hour to reach by car, even longer by bus, but it’s a very scenic journey.

The name Barrenjoey means wallaby or little kangaroo in the traditional Garigal language.

Palm Beach is one of the Sydney Beaches that are easy to visit 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.

Visit the Palm Beach of Home and Away

If you think this looks a little familiar, it could be because Palm Beach doubles as Summer Bay, and provides most of the outdoor filming locations for the Australian soap opera Home and Away.

Palm Beach Sydney
Home and Away’s Palm Beach

The North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club is one of the largest in New South Wales. The surf club itself provides one of the inside sets for the tv show, and there is often filming on the beach. Visit the beach during the week, mainly Monday through Wednesday, you might catch them in action. There is not usually filming over the summer holidays.

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.

Hike to 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.

Barrenjoey Light House Palm Beach
Barrenjoey Lighthouse

To reach the top, you will have to tackle one of the two hiking trails.

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 trail“, a 2.5km bush track that will take a little over an hour and a half to the top. I would consider this second option suitable for anyone with an average fitness level.

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

You can find a map of the track here.

Make sure you leave time to return before sunset because it can be quite challenging finding your way back in the dark! If you have head lanterns, this is an excellent spot to capture the night sky.

Stars shining over Barrenjoey Lighthouse, Palm Beach.
Astrophotography at Palm Beach Credit: Destination NSW

Check out the Beaches

With beaches on both sides of the peninsula, you have plenty of sand to choose from.

Walk along Palm 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. You will find some excellent examples of Aboriginal rock art at the southern end of the beach, including fish and boomerang engravings. There are also some magnificent modern carvings in the boulders at this end of the beach.

The southern end, known as Kiddies Corner, is also the safest spot to swim. There are also a couple of pools, including a 50m perfect for swimming laps if that is more your thing.

Morning sun rising over Palm Beach in Sydney's northern suburbs.
A perfect day at Palm Beach Credit: Destination NSW

The Northern end of the beach can be pretty dangerous, and I recommend you stick to swimming in the flagged areas. This part of the beach is popular with experienced surfers.

There is also a 35-metre ocean pool right at the southern tip of the beach.

Views of Barrenjoey Lighthouse from Palm Beach Rockpool, Palm Beach on Sydney's northern beaches.
Palm Beach Ocean pool in the southern corner of the beach Credit: Destination NSW

Check out the Pittwater Beaches

On the Pittwater side, there are three beaches; these are separated from the ocean beach by Governor Phillip Park. On this side is

  • Station Beach
  • Barrenjoey Beach
  • Snapperman Beach

These are calm and generally flat,

Explore Pittwater

Pittwater is equally beautiful as the ocean-facing side of Palm Beach. With its free BBQs and shaded area giving a bit of respite from the sun, Governor Phillip Park is a lovely place to linger.

Boats on Pittwater
Boats on Pittwater – take a ferry service to the Central Coast

A little further along, you will find Snapperman Beach, which, on a weekday, you are likely to have all to yourself.

Ride the Palm Beach Ferry

One great to explore Pittwater is to take a ferry ride from Palm Beach Wharf. There are two ferry service operators, Palm Beach Ferries (Fantasea) and The Boathouse Ferry Company, whose ferry serves its three venues in season.

Palm Beach Ferries operates two routes across Pittwater and Broken Bay:

Palm Beach – Bennetts – Bonnie Doon – Basin – Currawong – Mackerel

This route is a pleasant way to see more Pittwater with little effort; a return trip takes 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can jump off and explore some of Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park- the hourly service makes this a viable option.

  • Ride to Great Mackerel Beach and hike to Resolute Beach or even up to West Head Lookout
  • Hike from The Basin to Great Mackerel Beach 
  • Jump off at the Basin for a picnic or some bushwalking
  • Currawong is lovely for a walk and swim but note – there are no public toilets here.

Palm Beach to Ettalong Beach via Wagstaffe

A return trip crosses Broken Bay and takes just under an hour. It passes Barrenjoey Headland, the mysterious Lion Island and Box Head as it makes its way to Brisbane Water and the Central Coast.

If you want to stay awhile, you have a couple of options.

  • Jump off at Wagstaff and walk to Box Head in Bouddi National Park.
  • Ride to Ettalong and have lunch at one of the restaurants there. The Box Restaurant, right on the water. But there are plenty more options, just a short walk away. Ettalong Beach is a great beach for families.
  • Hit up the Ettalong Markets held every weekend from 9am-4pm.
Palm Beach Ferry arriving
The Palm Beach Ferry arriving at the wharf

The Boathouse Ferry Company operates a new service to three destinations using the original ‘Merinda II’ Pittwater Ferry. They have a venue at each of these locations.

  • Palm Beach and Patonga – 30 minutes
  • Newport and Patonga – 90 minutes
  • Newport to Palm Beach – 30 minutes

So besides eating, what is there to do? Well we suggest

From Patonga – hike the Patonga to Pearl Beach track – just one of the great walks on the Central Coast.

You may end up on this cute wooden ferry or the newer Fantasea Catamaran.

They also offer a variety of lunch cruises.

Take in the view from the Bible Garden

The Bible Garden is very much a hidden gem; in fact, many people give up 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.

View of Palm Beach from the Bible Garden
The view back over Palm Beach and Pittwater from the Bible Garden

The garden was created in the 1960s by a local man in memory of his wife, like Wendy’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay. He included all the plants mentioned in the bible hence its name.

Check out the lifestyles of the rich and 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 celebrities enjoying this little piece of paradise include Beyonce and Nicole Kidman; even the Queen has stayed here.

Play a round at Palm Beach Golf Club

This 18 hole course welcomes visitors for casual golf or meals. Bookings are recommended. Nine holes will set you back $27, and Eighteen holes are $35.

Book a Kayaking or Stand up Paddle Boarding Tour

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

Friends enjoying a sunrise kayaking experience in Pittwater with Pittwater Kayak Tours, Palm Beach.
Pittwater Kayak Tours, Credit: Destination NSW

If you are new to this, Eco treasures 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. This sunrise paddle leaving from Palm Beach might also appeal if you are an early riser.

Shop at Palm Beach Market

Held in Governor Phillip Park on the 4th Sunday of every month, The Beaches Market sells a variety of home wares, food and fashion are on offer from 9am-3pm.

Walk Palm Beach to Manly

One of the longest coastal walks in Sydney, you can make your way back to Manly past all the northern beaches. At 50km, few people complete the walk in one day. If you just want to do a section of the walk, you could start with the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk and make your way to Whale Beach and Avalon Beach to Newport Beach.

This itinerary by my friend Tara at Sydney Coast Walks is a great resource for anyone who would like to tackle this.

Where to eat in Palm Beach

While there is not a huge amount of choice here, what is here is good, and you can get a reasonably priced meal too. All the best options are at the southern end of the peninsula and mainly on the Pittwater side.

Barrenjoey House just south of the ferry wharf. They don’t do breakfast but offer contemporary Australian cuisine on their lunch, afternoon and dinner menus.

Their weekday happy hour is definitely a good option, with $8 beers and $9 prosecco. I also recommend the oysters and for something more filling the Lobster flatbread.

Food and drink served at Barrenjoey House Palm Beach.
Barrenjoey House – Credit: Destination NSW

Dunes Palm Beach is a casual cafe in Governor Phillip Park across the road from the beach. A kiosk offering breakfast until 11.30am and then casual meals like burgers and fish and chips. Dunes also have a dining room menu with shared plates and seafood.

For fine dining, check out Jonah’s – it’s perfect for a special occasion meal. There is also a restaurant at the Golf Club.

Sadly, the much-loved fish and chip shop closed down earlier this year. There are a couple of cafes if you want to grab a coffee, but we usually stick to one of the places above.

If you are happy to picnic you will find picnic sheds in Hordern Park, but barbecue facilities are a little harder to find. There are some at the Basin

How to get to Palm Beach

Getting there: L90 (Limited stops) bus from Wynyard Station takes over an hour to reach Palm Beach. The drive from the city centre will take you about an hour, perhaps longer, depending on traffic.

You could also join a tour that visits Palm Beach like this one that takes in the Northern Beaches and Kur-ring-gai National Park.

Parking: Parking in the Palm Beach area 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.

Best time to visit: Most visitors stick to summer, however, this is a good spot year round. You need a beautiful sunny day to make the most of it.

Check out more gorgeous New South Wales Beaches to visit on your next day trip. Or check out our list of 75 things to do in Sydney for free.

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

2 thoughts on “Spend a Day Exploring Palm Beach Sydney”

  1. Barrenjoey Lighthouse is not generally open to the public on Sundays between 11am and 3pm, as stated above. The headland on which the lighthouse is situated is open to the public – it’s part of Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park. The lighthouse tower and keepers cottage on the headland can only be visited by members of the public on guided half-hourly tours run by NPWS volunteers on Sundays (first tour at 11am and last tour at 3pm) at a current cost of $10 adults and $5 school age children. Booking can be made on the NPWS website.

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