As I am about to start the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk, in the gently warming spring sunshine, I have to wonder: Is this one of the best day trips in Sydney? The air is light, the colours are bright with a vague fog in the distance from the traditional late winter back burning, and I am feeling very content after climbing the hill. And the question comes: why did it take me so long to come back? I visited Palm Beach in my early Sydney days and of course, I was duly blown away.
Barrenjoey Headland: Sydney’s Northernmost Point
At the tip of Palm Beach, Barrenjoey Headland is Sydney’s northernmost point and it holds this position is spectacular fashion. Looking back at Sydney, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse towers over the isthmus. The headland offers sweeping views over Pittwater, Broken Bay and the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk: A Hike, But Not Too Hard
From the car park, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk takes about half an hour to the top. The track is concreted and not too steep, so it’s quite a comfortable climb. On the way down, I recommend you take the original Smugglers Track. Built by Customs officers in 1850 in order to monitor boats bringing contraband into Broken Bay, the Smugglers Track is a lot narrower and steeper. However, the descent faces the isthmus and the views are beautiful.
Palm Beach: The Essential Holiday Feel
I am amazed at how many times I get that holiday feel right in Sydney. Having grown up in a highly urbanised environment, living in Sydney gives me so many chances of finding isolation in nature. Incredibly, Palm Beach is still part of metropolitan Sydney, but the general feeling is that of a holiday spot. The beaches, the parks and the restaurants all contribute to taking you away from your day to day life. The Boathouse was busy even on a weekday but the location on Pittwater is ideal for a post-hike lunch or drink.
The Isthmus: Scenic Views
Looking back on the isthmus from the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk is probably one of my favourite sights in Sydney. Facing the south, you have the choice between the Tasman Sea and Pittwater, and the promontory on the left is the Bangalley Headland, overlooking Avalon Beach, which is one of Sydney’s best beaches.
Dolphins and Whales
On the day of my visit, there were dolphins frolicking off the beach, much to the delight of surfers and paddle boarders. I didn’t capture them very well with my camera but it was a lovely sight. In winter, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk is also a great location to catch a sight of whales cruising along the coast.
The End or the Beginning?
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk may be at the northernmost point of Sydney, it also marks the start of the NSW Central Coast. Turning to the north, you can admire the view over Broken Bay, with the almost haunting presence of Lion Island. Further on, you can catch glimpses of Bouddi National Park on a clear day.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse: A Little History
Standing at 91 metres above sea level, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse was built in 1881. The lighthouse and the keepers quarters remain in very good condition. Tours are available on Sundays only. The lighthouse is a well-known Sydney icon and a great place to take overseas visitors.
There is a track around the headland, so you can explore further and take in various views including that of West Head Lookout.
One of Best Day Trips in Sydney
A day trip to Palm Beach on a sunny day is a fabulous change of scenery, with a rewarding walk and an insight into Sydney’s complex coastline. There are activities available for all ages and tastes, such as golf, kayaking and fishing. For “Home & Away” fans, filming is often underway at Summer Bay. A visit to Palm Beach is a sure way to excite or renew your interest in Sydney. There are so many other viewpoints in sight that you will want to expand your explorations further. The NSW Central Coast is a ferry ride away and a drive to West Head will complete your views of Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Palm Beach. And if you have the time to discover Sydney’s best-kept secret, head to The Basin.
Palm Beach is accessible by the L88 or L90 bus from the centre of Sydney. If you travel by car, there is a patrolled car park at the foot of the Barrenjoey Headland for up to $20 a day. There are no toilets or water on the headland so take what you need with you. Finally, there are guided tours of Barrenjoey Lighthouse on Sundays.