08-09-2017 08:13 PM - edited 08-09-2017 09:07 PM
In a desperate attempt to cure insomnia, I counted the number of beaches north of Sydney Harbour, rather than sheep. I eventually settled on 'around 20', depending on your definition of beach, and fell asleep. Mission accomplished! Having lived in Sydney’s north my whole life, I realised how each beach has something completely different to offer. So, in an effort to entice you to explore a little deeper than Manly or Palm Beach, I thought I’d share a few local tips on some of the other gems waiting to be discovered on the ‘insular peninsula’.
Shelly Beach - Take a 10 minute walk south from Manly Surf Club to Shelly Beach, then stride up the hill past The Boathouse. Turn left at the coastline, and join the round trip dirt path to find some sneaky lookouts with sweeping views of the ocean. You may see locals surfing Winki Pop, ski paddlers conquering the headland, and a surf boat crew chasing runners out to sea. Turn right at the coastline, and take the trail uphill to North Head for even more spectacular views. Don’t forget to snap a pic of yourself climbing through the hole in the wall when you find it! If you have time, explore some of the war memorials at North Head, but lookout for endangered bandicoots. Of course there’s great SCUBA diving at Shelly Beach, but every guide book will tell you that.
Manly Beach (aka South Steyne): This is one of Sydney’s ‘must do’ beaches, due to the iconic ferry ride you can catch there from the city. I caught the fast ferry from Manly to work for 10 years with many memorable moments: whale sightings between May and October, a few very hairy rides in storms, and having a glass of vino during my trip most Friday afternoons. In my opinion, it’s the best commute in the world (besides catching a chairlift to work in USA and Canada!). Having lived in Manly for so long I could spill MANY local secrets, but I have too many other beaches to get to, so….
North Steyne: I was a volunteer lifesaver at North Steyne Surf Club for many years, and competed for the club in the iconically Aussie sport of surf boat rowing. North Steyne is quieter than Manly, so it’s worth the extra 5-10 minute walk north for more space to stretch out your towel. North Steyne is always buzzing with cyclists chasing their post-workout latte, and locals walking their dogs. It’s the home to the Australian Open of Surfing, so you can rent a board over the road and surf where some of the top pros in the world have caught a few waves.
Queenscliff: Tucked away at the north end of the beach, Queensie is a great little spot for families. It's more protected due to the headland, and has an ocean pool if sand and waves aren’t really your thing. For thrill seekers, try to find the Wormhole (but you didn’t hear it from me). There’s a little bike path that goes under the bridge and past the lagoon, which is an unleashed area for dogs who you’ll spot having the absolute time of their lives.
Freshwater: Freshy is a small, protected beach, with big real estate price tags. I’ve surfed here many times and didn’t cop nearly as much abuse as I would have at some of the more crowded beaches! Maybe the statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku on the headland was looking out for me :) If you’re up for a fancy meal, hit up Pilu - one of the very few restaurants my Dad has visited more than once. For a cheaper option, grab takeaway in the Pilu kiosk, and soak up the sunshine on the grassy knoll. Beware that Freshy gets CRAZY busy in summer, because it truly is one of the best beaches around.
South Curl Curl: South Curly is quite rough, which is one reason their surf boat crews are so good - they’ve had to conquer all sorts of waves during training! If you come here, don't go home without strolling along the boardwalk towards Freshy - a short but spectacular little walk where you’ll feel alive after being splashed by waves and dusted with sea spray. When it’s finished, the new Harbord Diggers will no doubt be a top 10 place to visit. But for now, hang out with the locals and their dogs at Gustos for a top breaky, followed by a dip in the ocean pool.
North Curl Curl: One of my favourite beaches! Being tucked away behind the headland, it’s usually quite protected from big waves and winds. If you hate kids, don’t come here - it’s one of the most family friendly beaches up this way. There’s a small ocean pool just around the headland, and a trail that goes up and over to Dee Why if you’re feeling adventurous.
Dee Why: Another one of the more well known beaches, due to the plethora of cafes along the beachfront. For an absolute waterfront cafe, go to The Beach Shed, but not during a king tide - it was completely annihilated in the big storms of 2016! There are many cafes, but my favourite is Girdlers (try the cacao smoothie). Dee Why is busy, so get there early to score a parking spot and piece of sand. There are 2 great playgrounds for the kids too, at each end of the beach.
Long Reef: Longy is a hidden gem. It’s not obvious from the road, so you’ll use Google Maps to find the right street to turn at. If you're heading north, you'll need to 'chuck a U-ey'. For this reason, it’s always pretty quiet with plenty of parking. Whenever I’ve swum or surfed here, I swore I was in Hawaii with the crystal clear water and manageable waves. Beware though: I’ve burned the soles of my feet nearly every time I’ve visited. Wear thongs (ok, flip flops) til you hit the water, as this sand gets uncannily HOT for some reason.
Collaroy: I fell in love with Collaroy as soon as I moved here. You can watch a movie at the (hard to miss) blue cinema, slam down an L90 smoothie (locals will understand that reference) at Sloppy Tee's, then run it off by hugging the coastline south from Collaroy Surf Club, over to Fisherman’s Beach, then up and around Long Reef headland with breathtaking 270’ ocean views.
Narrabeen: South and North Narrabeen make up the other ‘half’ of Collaroy Beach. While there’s a cute new beachfront cafe at South Narra called Drip & Co, keep heading north for a bit more action. You’ll find locals lining up for caffeine at Zubi in the morning, and margaritas in the evening at Mexicano. Beware of the shore dump if you take a dip at North Narra!
Turimetta - Say what!? This is probably the least well known beach on the Northern Beaches. With no surf club or cafe, there are also no crowds - just surf and a heck of a hill to get to it. It’s popular with surfers who know how to read the waves, and aren't afraid of a brush-turkey or two!
Warriewood: Park at Turimetta, and walk for 10 minutes on the coastal bush track to Warriewood. The view as you come around the bend on the cliff’s edge is breathtaking. Warriewood is the location of my first ever ocean swim over to Mona Vale. While I don’t have fond memories of swimming through a pack of jellyfish while nursing a hangover with lightning strikes in the distance, I won’t hold this against Warriewood in general. It’s a great little beach, best enjoyed at sunset with fish and chips.
Mona Vale: I spent every Saturday here last summer, training for The Big Swim, a 2.8km swim from Palm to Whale Beach. Many sessions were cancelled due to rough conditions but we were rewarded once with around 60 dolphins surfing the waves in front of us. Incredible! I’ve also spotted PODS and PODS of whales here too. You can’t beat the breaky wraps at Bronze Kiosk to get amongst the local vibe, or Armchair Collective down the road for bite to eat amongst chic homewares.
Bungan: If my mate didn’t live here, I probably wouldn’t know it existed! Detour right off Pittwater Rd, turn right again, score a parking spot, then walk down one of the steepest roads in Sydney to land on Bungan Beach (probably best to use Google Maps!). You’ll find mostly surf-board carrying locals here, and very fit looking ones at that. They’ve got to get up and down that hill after all!
Newport: If you have kids, check out the playground. There’s a little trampoline that will keep ‘em busy for hours. Newport has a chilled out vibe, more so than neighbouring Avalon which has more of a ‘scene’. There are a million local hot spots, but I choose to get a caffeine kick in the courtyard of Zubi (yep, same guys as Narrabeen) or a local brew at 4 Pines. Walk up the bush track at the north end of the beach, then down the hill to find yourself in….
Bilgola: Yes, another one you may miss if you’re in a car zooming up ‘the bends’. Bilgola is nestled between Newport and Avalon, with just one cafe (oh hello, it’s Zubi again!) keeping locals nourished. I spent my wedding morning here, diving through the waves and soaking up the sunshine before the chaos of the day ensued. Couldn’t have asked for a more chilled out beach, with a spectacular sunrise, to spend it at. Worth the detour!
Avalon: As hinted at before, Avalon has developed into quite the hotspot, with a sea of homewares stores and cafes serving almond lattes and cronuts. Apparently you have to dress the part to fit in here, wearing your ‘Avalon stripes’ as seen in the TV series, Avalon Now. I do love this beach though. We often spend Sunday morning with the whole fam (plus dogs) devouring bacon & egg rolls at The Avalon beach cafe. When the surf’s up, the backdrop is spectacular, with huge swells and true locals taking it on with finesse.
Whale Beach: With an average house setting you back a mere $4 million, Whale Beach is currently the 9th most expensive suburb in Oz. It’s not hard to see why, with every house boasting spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The beach itself can be calm - or extremely treacherous, as I discovered the hard way getting spectacularly dumped. Most of my time at Whale Beach is spent daydreaming about owning my own multi-million dollar business, winning the lottery, or inheriting a fortune to afford this idyllic lifestyle. Dream on, dreamer.
Palm Beach: You’ll find Palm Beach in the guidebooks because 1. it’s the the most northern beach in Sydney and 2. it’s where one of our local TV series is filmed, Home and Away. Keep your eyes open for celebrities, as it’s a well known holiday spot for the rich and famous. One of my favourite walks is up the track to Barrenjoey Lighthouse - a 10 min uphill climb from the harbour side. If you don’t fancy twisting your ankle, you can take the easier, but longer, 800m switchback route instead. Join the crowds at The Boathouse afterwards - you’ve already earned that mouth watering burger and beer battered chips.
Have you visited any of these beaches? Share your tips to help others discover the less well known (and best) beaches of Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
08-10-2017 10:25 AM - edited 08-10-2017 10:28 AM
08-10-2017 12:09 PM
I haven't been any of these beaches @GillianC.but I will be there soon.
Your article is a complete information and knowledge about these beautiful beaches.
It will help 1st time visitors and even 10th time visitors too.
08-10-2017 01:30 PM
Encourage us by their Delicious Food Photos 😁👍
As a father of three daughters I think Newport Beach will be Ideal to start with 😊
Very nice Post and Photos 👍👌👍
Keep It Up @GillianC