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McKay Reserve and Walking Track, Palm Beach

Home > Sydney > Escape the City | Free | Fun Things To Do | Walks
by Sue Hinchey (subscribe)
A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published January 19th 2017
McKay Reserve Walking Track is a Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven Palm Beach
western access on Barrenjoey Road


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.

spotted gum pittwater
pittwater spotted gum forest


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.

walking trails palm beach
steep steps at the western end
Mckay Reserve Track Palm Beach
lovely vistas looking west over Pittwater


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.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse Palm Beach
views along Pacific Road


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.

Snapperman Beach Cafe Palm Beach
umbrellas out the front of Snapperman Beach Cafe


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.
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Why? walking tracks
Phone: 02-9970 1111
Where: Palm Beach, NSW
Your Comment
A nice and peaceful place to visit.
by RC (score: 3|1221) 1342 days ago
emphasis on 'a cool, cloudy day'. nothing like the feeling of being transported to another space in time. do you think 700 stairs is a deterrent for me? possibly. thanks for the lookout photos..
by lois (score: 2|114) 1328 days ago
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