I've just returned from walking the McKay Reserve Walking Track and I can still feel my heart thumping against my chest. On a cool, cloudy day this stairway to heaven is an outing in paradise. The western end, which overlooks Pittwater, begins at 1078 Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach, directly opposite the intersection with Iluka Road. Taking a deep breath, I pace myself up the steady climb of 700 stairs. The trail levels out in places so I get a chance to catch my breath. Views over Pittwater can be seen through the trees, and the blend of bush and rainforest is delightfully peaceful. I feel like I'm sitting in a treehouse.
The track winds past outcrops of huge rocks and a rainforest thread of palms and ferns fill this southern side of the hill. This reserve was established to protect plant communities in a condition similar to what was in the area when Captain Phillip first visited in 1788. The Pittwater Spotted Gum, in particular, is on the endangered list, and a forest of them stand like sentinels along the track.
At the top of the ridge line I reach a grassed area that backs onto Palm Beach suburbia, then the walk continues along Pacific Road before descending to the beach front. Through the trees I spot the iconic Barrenjoey Lighthouse and the descent to the beach is littered with ocean glimpses. The walk is not a long one - roughly 40 minutes each way. You can return the same way over the ridge, or catch an L90 bus along Barrenjoey Road back to where you've parked your car.
There are amenities at both the beach end and the western end of the track. I've parked on the western Pittwater side as there are a couple of fab coffee shops to choose from. The Snapperman Beach Café is directly opposite the entrance. Look for the umbrellas out the front, plus their coffee is hard to beat. A little further south along Barrenjoey Road is The Greedy Goat, that makes the best chocolate brownie I've ever tasted.
Please Note: this is not a walk for the faint-hearted. The incline is very steep in parts and you will need a moderate level of fitness to attempt it, or at the very least have plenty of stops along the way.