Liz Stark continues her Australian travels by visiting Palm Beach, fictional setting of Home and Away’s Summer Beach. She finds the real deal far more enticing…
If you fancy the perfect night’s stay outside of Sydney, then jump in a car and head straight to Palm Beach. Sydney’s northern beaches can all be accessed in less than an hour (if you beat the traffic!). You are truly spoilt for choice of sand and surf, so roughly speaking it’s a good idea to explore either the southern destinations off Pittwater Road (Manly, Freshwater, Curl Curl, Dee Why and Collaroy) or hit Barranjoey Road at Mona Vale and dedicate time to the more northern beaches.
With every kilometre you drive the houses seem to get bigger and the beaches emptier! You can easily check out Newport, Bilgola, Avalon, Whale Beach and Palm Beach over a weekend.
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
BARRENJOEY LIGHTHOUSE | if you’re doing a whirlwind trip around the tip of the northern beaches, then definitely head straight up to this pretty little lighthouse. It’s an easy walk (maybe 20 minutes up stone steps) from the harbour side at Palm Beach. The views from the top are spectacular, taking in the sweeping bays to the south and looking out to Broken Bay, Killcare and Bouddi National Park to the north.
TINNIES | we were spoilt with an unbeatable sunny Saturday despite it being almost winter. Sydney, you show off. With no real agenda for the day we decided to hire two tinnies from Barrenjoey Boat Hire and venture out on Pittwater Bay. So – much – fun!
Also check out: motor over to The Basin, which is a lovely campground area in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park (there are park entrance fees of around $3 per person, if the ranger catches up with you).
THE NEWPORT | a lot of people raved to us about this addition to the Merivale empire. Owner Justin Hemmes is responsible for the major refurbishment and re-opening in spring 2016 that is definitely attracting the crowds. We went on Saturday evening and it was heaving! It truly felt like a plush Disneyland for adults. The venue is mind-bogglingly huge, with loads of outdoor seating, a music stage and about seven different eating options.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
THE BOATHOUSE | I love this idyllic wooden restaurant extended on stilts right on the water of Pittwater Bay. The setting is pretty much unbeatable, although as a result it can be hard to get a table on a sunny weekend. We stopped for a glass of wine after the tinnies on Saturday afternoon, however by Sunday lunch time there was no room for us when we tried to eat.
THE SERPENTINE | this is a lovely scenic detour on the drive up to Palm Beach that affords a nosey at all the mega mansions, as well as access to lovely Bilgola Beach.
Also check out: Bumbalino Kiosk, right on the sand, is a great brunch option for travel to the northern beaches.
BARRENJOEY HOUSE | this place is a bit more of a splurge, but never fails to deliver the freshest seafood and great service. We enjoyed lunch here on Sunday afternoon before heading back from Palm Beach to Sydney. The seafood platter at $42 with shrimps, oysters, Balmain bug, scallops and fish and chips easily serves two adults.
Also check out: on a previous trip we’ve taken advantage of the $180 per person package which includes accommodation, evening meal and breakfast. It feels like pretty good value and the major bonus is not having to think about cars and who can or can’t drink!
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR OF:
ALF’S SURF SHOP | I’m sure every person from the UK (and probably not a single Aussie) will feel obliged, or excited, to pay a little homage to Alf and the crew of Summer Bay. Palm Beach is where Home and Away’s exterior scenes have been filmed since 1988! Personally I think the kiosk – the only real link to Alf’s name and the show – is a little underwhelming, though I have to admit I used to be more of a Neighbours fan. Come to this part of the world for the beauty not the soap show.
TRAFFIC JAMS | if leaving from Sydney, try your very hardest to get away as early as possible on a Saturday morning. The traffic ambling along the often single lane road between the city and the northern beaches can get very heavy. Likewise, aim to avoid rush hours and work commutes as it will double your journey time.
TAXIS | one of the best things about Palm Beach, and surrounding areas like Whale Beach and Avalon where we stayed, is that they are so peaceful and remote despite being only an hour’s drive from Sydney. The only hurdle is if your group wants to go out for dinner and a drink in the evening. Uber seems to have just cropped up here as well, but I think our friends who came home later in one got lucky (not like that….). It was impossible to book a maxi taxi for 7 to The Newport and guarantee a return, so we ended up taking the two cars.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
THE BIBLE GARDEN | this is a not religious connection for me; instead I am feeling increasingly inspired to be green-fingered! During his 60s Gerald Hercules Robinson met acclaimed botanist, Tatham Whitehead who had created a list of the 148 plants mentioned in the Bible, then planted them in chronological order. Robinson, who has since passed, was determined to bring the idea back to Australia and now his gardens – which contain 143 of the 148 biblical plants –have passed into the hands of the Pittwater Council and The Friends of Bible Garden.
AND KNOW THIS: Although Palm Beach is well-known as the location for Summer Bay, it’s not the only location that’s been used for Summer Bay over the years. West Head, Collaroy, McCarrs Creek, Pitt Town, Cattai, Bayview and North Ryde have all featured on the long-running show.
ABOUT LIZ STARK
Liz Stark has been passionately exploring the world for over a decade, inspired by nineteenth century explorer, photographer and naturalist Isabella Baird. She even named her own blog after her: Fly Isabella.
Liz studiously seeks out the must-dos, the worth-a-looks and the don’t bothers in an effort to see everywhere worth seeing at least once during her lifetime. So far her travels have taken her to Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Sumatra, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. And, of course, we’re following her Australian travels avidly…