There's no need to wait for the heat waves of summer to come rolling in. Right now is, in fact, the best time to visit the northern-most tip of Sydney's peninsula. The beaches are less crowded, the traffic snaking northwards is less congested and it's easy to find yourself a spot out of the chilly southerlies. Like the locals, you'll think you're in paradise. There's so much to do and, for the sake of space, I'm just covering north of Dee Why to Palm Beach (I'll save the rest for the next instalment).
There are beautiful beaches to comb, and hundreds of coffee shops to visit, but with a stunning coastline of cliffs plunging into the ocean, waterside mansions to gawk at, a placid Pittwater to explore and walking trails crisscrossing the environment, here are my suggestions:
COLLAROY Long Reef Headland: 1. walk it. The well-defined coastal trail goes all the way along the beach to Dee Why. 2. paraglide off it. 3. play tennis on it. 4. play golf on it. When you're finished and famished, get yourself to the
5. Upper Crust Pie Shop: They have a huge range to choose from and possibly the best pies on the peninsula. If it's a rainy day, head to 6. Collaroy Cinema: this quirky, art-deco style cinema shows the latest releases, but its decorative features hark back to the golden era of movies. 7. Collaroy Beach Club: After the movies you can get meals and refreshments at the licensed Beach Club just over the road, or give the kids a run around in the grassy
9. Pittwater Golf Centre: The kids can play mini golf.The adults can belt it out at the
10. Driving range, or
11. Have a golf lesson, and while the kids are still put-putting,
12. Relax in their new on-site Café. Markets:
13. Berry Reserve markets are held on the edges of lovely Narrabeen lagoon on the 3rd Sunday of the month.
14. The Beaches Market are held at Pittwater Rugby Park every Friday, stocking the best, fresh farm produce, baked goodies, fish, meat, jam, deli products and hot food stalls. Walks:
15. The 8km walk around the lagoon has a well-formed path and takes about 2 hours.
16.Do sections of the Bicentennial Coastal Walkway, starting near North Narrabeen ocean rock pool.
17. Stay at the caravan park.
18. Hire a pedal boat or kayak, or learn Stand-up Paddle at Narrabeen Boat Shed. The shallow lagoon and lack of current or swell makes it a fantastic place to learn.
When you're all tuckered out and need sustenance, stop by
19. P&N's Daily Scoop: Fantastic flavoursome gelato, plus gluten and dairy-free options; there's soy and almond milk for the coffee too. Or need something more substantial?, step right next door for
20. Lakeside Fish Market: It has both fresh Australian seafood and quality cooked fish and chips - perfect for a winter's day.
21. Warriewood Cinema: A 7-screen complex, 2D and 3D latest releases, plus licensed restaurant and games area makes this a one-stop entertainment venue.
22. Wetlands Walk: This easy boardwalk across a large sand plain wetlands in Sydney's north is full of birdlife. Check out my story here.
23. Chocolate-making Courses:Lindsey & Edmunds run regular workshops, plus the storefront café sells handmade organic chocolates.
24. Barefoot Bowls: Enjoy Sundays from 12-5pm at Mona Vale Bowling Club for a roll-up and sausage sizzle afterwards.
25. Skate Park: Opened last year and caters for all generations, standards, hosts events, clinics and comps.
26. Flying Fox Café: Set on the edges of Pittwater, with a large playground onsite, F.F. is great for coffee and kids, or
27. The green space, trike track and barbeque area adjacent is fine for all the family. Then follow the walking trail to Winnererremy Bay: where you'll find
28. An off-leash dog park,
29. Boat-launching ramp,
30. nearby coffee shop and a safe sandy foreshore, the park also has barbeques, public seating and amenities.
31. Golf Club: Kid's Free Movie Night on the first Friday of the month,
32. Wednesday night is 'Steak Night', and
33. Kid's Golf Clinics are held every Friday during term.
34. Katandra Bushland Sanctuary: Nestled just off Mona Vale Road, this bush sanctuary is open to the public on Sundays from July - October, 10am - 4pm. The wildflowers are out in spring and a short 1-2km walk takes you through rainforest remnants.
35. Skipper-a-Clipper: For the more adventurous, hire a yacht or catamaran for a day or weekend to make your own fun.
36. Church Pt Ferries: take you across the water to Scotland Island and the western foreshores of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Stock up on food and drink at the General Store then visit Elvina Bay, Lovett Bay, or why not stay at -
37. Pittwater Youth Hostel: Celebrating its 50th birthday this year, its location in the bush is great for bird-watching, photography, or just a weekend away to escape the city.
38. The Mirage: A great accommodation option for a special night or two away from the city (popular for weddings), right on the edge of Pittwater. All you have to do is wander next door to
39. The Newport:Merivale's swanky and family-friendly watering hole overlooking Pittwater. Chill out and watch the yacht's putter by.
40. Puppy Preschool: Pittwater Animal Hospital runs puppy classes to help you get started with training your new best friend
41. Newport Surf Lifesaving Club: has a shady Children's Playground at the back of the surf club,
42. A Nippers programme operating over summer teaching surf safety plus
43. An upstairs bar and venue centre
44. Weekly yoga classes.
45. Stand-up Paddle-Board: Have a lesson in the tranquil waters of Clareville Beach. Barbeques, picnic tables and amenities are nearby.
46. Shopping Precinct: A double cinema, independent clothing boutiques, beachy homewares stores and a plethora of healthy eating places, gives the main drag a great holiday vibe.
47. Avalon Golf Club: Royal Av. the locals call it. A 9-hole course where the public can play 7 days a week. It's fully licensed and a great venue for special occasions.
Rub shoulders with the stars of Home & Away at Palm Beach
48. Barrenjoey Lighthouse: the sandstone monolith built in 1881 is a half-hour walk (not wheelchair friendly) from the northern end of the carpark. Tours are available. There are no toilets or drinking water at the top so bring your own.
49. Palm Beach Golf Course: serenely sitting on the edge of Pittwater at the base of the lighthouse, this flat 9-hole course is Sydney's little secret. Easy walking and scenic views across the water, plus a punchy little Clubhouse across the road for refreshments afterwards, make this a fabulous day out. Visitors are welcome for a bargain $22 for 9 holes.
50. Palm Beach Ferries: Fantasea Cruising ferry service takes you across to Ettalong (check out their markets), or the Basin for camping. Palm Beach & Hawkesbury River Cruises take you to Bobbin Head or Cottage Point for lunch, or drops you off at quaint and quiet Patonga Beach for a picnic.
51. Seaplane Flights: Impress your house guests by taking a seaplane flight from Palmy to Watsons Bay, be delivered to a waterside restaurant, or just take a scenic flight around the beaches.
52. Bible Garden: High on the hill overlooking the beach and lighthouse, a secluded patch of land, dedicated by Gerald Hercules Robinson in the 1960's to provide a contemplative place to admire God's creation.
53. Eat: Simple fish and chips opposite the wharf, an elegant lunch at Barrenjoey House, or decadent 5-star at Jonah's Restaurant, high on the cliffs above Whale Beach.
54. Follow the celebrities of Home and Away while they film with a tour to their favourite locations.
55. Welcome the sunrise with a Kayak Tour. Visit the western foreshores and learn about the area's history.