Feel like you’ve been here before? When you rock up on this beach, it probably does look familiar. That’s because Palm Beach – Palmy to the locals – is the sunny, drama-riddled setting for Home & Away. You may know it better as Summer Bay.
It’s hard to believe you’re still, technically, in Sydney. This peninsula, about 75 minutes’ drive north over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is surrounded by water. To its west is Pittwater – beyond that body of water is NSW’s second-oldest national park, Ku-ring-gai Chase – while the eastern side of the peninsula faces the Pacific Ocean.
So, pack your swimsuit and sunscreen, jump in the rental car and head north. Here’s what to see and do on a day trip to Palm Beach.
If you need to stretch your legs about halfway there, stop at Oxford Falls. It’s a quick walk from the car park to the top of the falls, but a much better view of the water tumbling over the rocks can be seen from the bottom. Just follow the trail down. Be careful though; it’s pretty rough.
Once you arrive at Palm Beach, one of the most popular walks is the hike to Barrenjoey Lighthouse, set on the headland and surrounded by national park. Built in 1881, the stone lighthouse marks the most northern point in all of Sydney. There are several trails leading up to it where there are incredible views. In winter, it’s a great spot for whale watching.
Not a lot of people know the Bible Garden, high on the escarpment at the south end of Palm Beach. The former owner put in the hard yards, creating terraces and sandstone walls then planting the landscape with plants referenced in the Bible. Now, anyone can wander in and enjoy the epic views and the serenity.
Park that rental car near the beach and get ready to hit the sand. There’s more than 2km of it at Palmy and there are plenty of places to dip your toes in the ocean. Remember to be surf safe and head into the waves between the flags. You’ll usually find them in front of the North Palm Beach Surf Lifesaving Club (yep, it’s also the Summer Bay SLSC).
The southern end of the beach is protected by the headland. There’s a calm rock pool there, where you can go for a swim. Plus, the waves are smaller near the rock pool, so it’s a good spot if you’ve hired a surfboard from Beach Without Sand and are having a crack at getting upright. If you prefer to watch, the bigger waves and better surfers can normally be found at the north end of the beach when the waves are pumping.
On the other side of Palm Beach is tranquil Pittwater, where boat houses and jetties line the shore and you can watch the seaplanes come in to land. If you’re keen to try some paddle sports, this is the spot. At Clareville Beach, slightly south of Palmy, the folks at Avalon SUP rent boards and can even book in a lesson for you if you’re new to stand-up paddle boarding.
Another option is to join Pittwater Kayak Tours for one of the guided paddles. Explore the beaches by kayak, go across to Ku-ring-gai National Park and visit the Aboriginal caves and artwork, and enjoy a swim at a secluded stretch of sand. It’s a great way to get a different view of the natural beauty of this part of the world.
All that hiking, swimming, and paddling will build up some kind of appetite. Ask anyone where to eat in this part of the world and they’ll nod sagely and point you towards Jonah’s. And why wouldn’t they? It’s perched on the clifftop overlooking neighbouring Whale Beach, with jaw-dropping views from every table. But it is fancy – there’s no drying off, slipping on your thongs and getting a table for lunch. But the modern Australian menu, loaded with delicious seafood dishes, is fantastic, so if you’ve got an occasion to celebrate, it’s an enticing option.
For something for casual, check out the Boathouse Bakery. It’s a laidback affair, serving burgers, fish and chips, salad and lots of fresh cakes and pastries. A favourite with the locals is Coast Palm Beach. Grab a table and check out the menu of cafe classics, as well as a plates of fresh seafood and delicious prawn rolls.
If you want to grab wraps, slices of quiche, muffins and pastries for a picnic, duck into Pronto Creative Food. There are loads of options for takeaways, including healthy poke bowls, burgers, coffee, and smoothies. For fish and chips on the beach, head back towards Avalon and place your order at Oceana Traders. You can even go upmarket and get prawn tacos and panko-coated barramundi. Just add ocean views.
When you’re ready to drive to Palm Beach and explore, hire a rental car from the Darlinghurst branch in Sydney.