The northern most point of Sydney is something to be enamoured with. Surrounded by water, with the vast Pacific Ocean on one side and picturesque Pittwater on the other, it is an aquatic delight for lovers of the deep blue. These waters lap onto shores of pristine beaches and quiet bays, hidden coves and dramatic cliffs. From Mona Vale across to Church Point and up to Palm Beach, beautiful parks, bustling cafes and restaurants dot the foreshore. No matter what time of year you visit the Pittwater area, you will always have something to see or do. Here is a helpful list to get you started:
1. Climb Barrenjoey Lighthouse
Situated at the northern most point of the peninsula and positioned 91 metres above sea level, Barrenjoey Lighthouse is the godfather of attractions on the Northern Beaches. Only accessible on foot, the pristine headland boasts sensational views over to the central coast and back down towards the heart of Sydney city. There are two tracks you can choose to take; either the steep ascending “Access Trail” on the north/west side or “Smugglers Track” on the south/east side which weaves in and out of caves and provides views over Pittwater and the surf beach. Early morning or late afternoon are the best time to walk the track as you will catch the spectacular sunrise over the ocean or watch the sunset over the hills of Ku-ring-gai.
2. Hire a Surfboard at Kiddies Corner
Known for its calm waters and small waves, the south end of Palm Beach, aka “Kiddies Corner”, is the perfect place to hire a board and tick learning to surf off your bucket list. With crystal clear waters, a beautiful wide beach and a 50m ocean pool nestled into one of Sydney’s most affluent coves, Kiddies Corner is a visitor’s (and local’s) dream destination.
3. Drive to West Head Lookout
The 30 minute drive from Mona Vale to West Head is one for the view-seekers! The viewing point itself is a large 180˚ sandstone platform, perfect to be able to see across Pittwater to Barrenjoey Lighthouse, up and beyond Lion Island to the Central Coast and even up the Hawksbury. The road leading to West Head Lookout is flanked on either side by beautiful Australian bush. Hidden within are exciting walking tracks for the adventurous types. As the gate closes at 6pm, be sure to leave the national park by then.
4. Swim at Paradise Beach
Located at the back of Avalon, on the Pittwater side is one of the Northern Beaches best kept secrets. The small and stunningly simple Paradise Beach has a netted area for swimming and a long jetty — perfect for an evening picnic. Named aptly after its beauty, the beach is an idyllic location to spend a day out and is also perfect for a relaxing swim. Families can pack a picnic and set up for the day, sit quietly amongst friends and watch the sun go down as your toes hang gently off the edge of the wharf into the cool blue Pittwater pond.
5. SUP at Clareville
For a bit of fun, or some serious exercise, hire a stand-up paddle board and head straight to the delightful Clareville Beach. When an easterly wind blows, Pittwater glows and the flat long beach of Clareville is ideal for water sports and family days out. Paddle your way through the labyrinth of moorings whilst lunch is being prepared on the beach. As a favourite spot amongst locals, be sure to get there early on those hot summer days.
6. Have Sundowners at The Newport
As the beautiful Australian sun sets behind Bayview, there is no better place to enjoy an afternoon drink or snack on Pittwater than at The Newport, by Merivale. As the largest beer garden in the Southern Hemisphere, The Newport is something to be admired and takes having a drink with friends to another level. Sip on a pint of beer and munch on delicious snacks from “The Shack”. Or if you’re feeling a bit fancy, order some fresh Sydney Rock Oysters or a bucket of Queensland Tiger Prawns to go with your “Juniper Fizz” cocktail. Forever buzzing in summer and warm and cosy in winter, The Newport is one of the Northern Beaches shining gems, a definite must see.
7. Kayak from Church Point
With a vast waterway at your fingertips, what better way to see Pittwater than on a kayak! Church Point, on the southern end of Pittwater, is a great meeting point to rent a kayak from a local. Paddle across to Scotland Island and kayak around it if you’re feeling adventurous (approx. 2.5km round trip). You can pull up onto the many different beaches and take a walk around the island. Keep in mind there are no shops located on there, so bringing your own food and drink is essential.
8. Picnic at Bangally Headland
Looking for a picnic spot with a difference? Want to avoid crowds? Bangally Headland is the perfect place to do so. Situated above impressive rugged cliffs, between Avalon and Whale Beach, is a perfectly sloped grassy hill, an ideal spot to enjoy a home-packed lunch. Spend a Saturday afternoon somewhere different. Save money and bring your preferred cheese and crackers, favourite bottle of wine and sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery around you; waves lap the coastline, rolling in one by one and seabirds dive in and out of the water looking for their next feed. It is a truly beautiful place to visit and it’s off the beaten track, a hidden gem some would say.
9. Hire a Boat from Palm Beach
Ready to don your skipper’s hat and take to the big blue? What better way to do so than to hire a boat from Palm Beach and venture across Pittwater, find a beautiful bay and set up shop for the day. Bring your fishing gear (hiring is always a great option if you don’t have any with you), pack a picnic lunch and follow your nose. The Basin is a top spot to head towards, with beautiful wildlife at your fingertips (think kangaroos and goannas) and vast flat land which is ideal to pitch a tent if you feel like camping under the stars for the night.
10. Wander the streets of Avalon
Known for its boutique shops and vibrant café and restaurant scene, Avalon is idyllic for that perfect Sunday brunch and stroll. The main strip of shops is situated about 200m back from Avalon Beach (renowned for being one of the most popular surf spots along the peninsula). Sit back at The Avalon café and sip on a coffee or juice whilst the kids play on the beach or at the famous Avalon Skate Park 100m away. Feeling peckish? There is a plethora of delicious food choices — from the comfy nook that is the Chelsea Tea House, to the Vietnamese Mekong Merchant where you may possibly have the best banh mi roll of your life. Also worth a mention is the delectable and irresistible La Banette Boulangerie, where you can pick up freshly baked breads and French patisserie treats alike (arguably the best on the Northern Beaches). If you’re visiting Avalon over the Summer months, make sure to pop in to Rukus by Night, you won’t be sorry as your lips smack around the best Asian-style pork belly on the peninsula.