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While Sydney’s most northern and arguably most scenic suburb, Palm Beach, is best known as the filming location of Australian soap opera Home and Away, it has plenty more to offer than the chance to marvel at Alf Stewart’s name above the Surf Club.
With endless golden sand and huge crashing waves to the east, the serenely still waters of Pittwater to the west, and superb views across the narrow northern beaches peninsula from up at Barrenjoey Lighthouse, it’s no wonder the area has become a weekend retreat for the wealthy.
But fret not, you don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy the breath-taking beauty of Palm Beach Sydney. For as little as $2.60 return (on a Sunday) you can hop on the bus from the city, lay down your towel on the sand and soak up the rays with the stars.
While most tourists head straight for the well-known attractions such as the beach, lighthouse and surf club, there’s actually a multitude of great things to see and do at Palm Beach, from secret gardens with killer views to boat trips and hillside walks. So if you want to explore beyond the tourist traps, here’s my guide on how to explore Palm Beach Sydney like a local.
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Relax at the Beach
On the eastern side of the peninsula is the beach you’ll be most familiar with if you’ve ever watched Home and Away. With 2.3km of the golden sand synonomous with Sydney’s northern beaches, amazing surf and Barrenjoey Lighthouse up on the hill, this is where most visitors head to. It’s beautiful but can get very busy on weekends.
If hefty waves aren’t your thing, cross over to the western edge of the peninsula where you can float around in calm Pittwater whilst enjoying views of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
If the crowds at the main beaches get too much, head south along the western side until you pass Palm Beach Wharf and reach Snapperman Beach where you can usually spread out to your heart’s content. Either walk down along Barrenjoey Road or park for free on Illuka Road and nip down the walkway next to number 100.
Swim at Palm Beach Rock Pool
At a whopping 50m long, Palm Beach rock pool at the bottom of the eastern beach is impressive indeed! The pool has changing rooms and toilets as well as great views all the way to the lighthouse. Continue past the pool to see the brightly painted pillars beneath the rocks.
Walk to Palm Beach Lighthouse
The stunning view across the narrow tip of the peninsula is the image you’ll see most often when researching Palm Beach, and what you’ll be rewarded with if you take the short but steep walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The track starts at the northern end of the beach on the west side of the peninsula.
Drive to the Bible Garden
To enjoy elevated views without the sore calves, drive on up to Palm Beach’s best-kept secret, the Bible Garden, established in the 1960s by South African native Gerald Hercules Robinson. A devout Christian, Robinson was inspired to create the garden after visiting a Bible garden in the grounds of Bangor Cathedral in Wales.
Designed to be a ‘comprehensive reflection of biblical meanings and to serve as a collection of Holy land plants’, the Palm Beach Bible Garden is designed in biblical chronological order with plants at the top of the slope mentioned in the book of Genesis, and a Helichyrisum oriental plant at the lowest point representing immortality.
You can find the well-hidden Palm Beach Bible Garden at 6a Mitchell Road. Note that there is only a small handful of parking spaces so it may get full on a busy day.
Visit the Home and Away Landmarks
For all you Brits visiting Sydney, you’ve probably heard that Palm Beach is where soap staple Home and Away is filmed. As well as checking out the recognisable beach on the eastern side, head north to spot the Summer Bay Surf Club.
Governor Phillip Park
On the western side of the peninsula, above Beach Road, is Governor Phillip Park. With barbecues, picnic tables and a children’s playground, it’s the perfect spot for lunch.
Palm Beach Market
Held underneath the Norfolk Pines of Governor Phillip Park between 9am and 3pm on the fourth Sunday of every month (except November and December, when it’s held earlier), the iconic Palm Beach Market has been running since 2008 and sells high quality homeware, fashion and jewellery as well as specialist food items.
Coast to Bay Walk
The walk to Barrenjoey Lighthouse isn’t the only hillside walk in the suburb. I stumbled across the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at the start of the lesser-known Coast to Bay track completely by accident! Starting from either Hordern Park on the ocean side or Barrenjoey Road on the Pittwater side (see the map below), you can cross from one side to the other via elevated McKay Reserve.
Palm Beach Sydney Restaurants & Cafes
If you fancy a bite to eat or just a coffee, Palm Beach has plenty of options. The most well known with pretty Pittwater views is probably The Boathouse over at Governor Phillip Reserve, with outdoor seating on the jetty out the back.
At 1108 Barrenjoey Road near the wharf, is the almost-100-year-old Barrenjoey House, which offers guesthouse accommodation in addition to a café, bar and restaurant.
If you’re visiting the surf club, you’ll be able to grab refreshments from the adjoining kiosk, as well as Summer Bay merchandise.
For a rustic café loved by locals, try The Greedy Goat at 1031 Barrenjoey Road.
Palm Beach Shopping
Walk south down Barrenjoey Road, just below the northern end of Illuka Road, and you’ll find a sprinkling of shops, cafes and cute boutiques.
For beautiful, beach-inspired items for your home, try The Boathouse Home Pop Up store at 1 Beach Road.
Hop on the Ferry to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
If you have the time, hop on the Fantasea ferry at Palm Beach Wharf and enjoy the 45-minute trip across to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and back. To make a day of it hop off at Mackerel and do the beautiful walk to West Head Lookout. Click here to read all about my brilliant day trip there.
Admire Palm Beach Architecture
There are some mega mansions in this well-to-do suburb, mostly tucked behind trees up in the hills. If you’re a fan of interesting architecture you’ll enjoy wandering around gazing at them.
For more ideas on beachy days out in Sydney, have a read of my posts on how to spend a day in Watsons Bay, things to do in La Perouse and what to do at Wattomolla Beach in the Royal National Park. Happy exploring!