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 November 12th 2017
Pittwater, purely peaceful this is paradise unplugged
You could be dreaming of the French Riviera, the Caribbean, or a Mediterranean cruise, but a much cheaper option and closer to home is the serene and scenic Pittwater - no passport required.
This beautiful waterway about 40kms north of the CBD was named in 1788 after William Pitt, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is, technically, a drowned valley estuary and collides with the Pacific Ocean at Palm Beach, where Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands sentinel. It separates Palm Beach from the Central Coast and its western foreshores incorporate West Head and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Several estuaries feed the water system, making it an important marine environment that includes mangrove wetlands, sand flats and seagrass meadows. The swells that push in around Lion Island create tidal pull, but there are no waves to speak of. Consequently, this sublime bay is an aquatic playground. Here are ten fab ways to it:
Take a hike: The easiest and cheapest thing to do is to walk it, well, parts of it at least. Much of the eastern foreshores have been urbanised, but the trail from Palm Beach up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse takes about 30 minutes and gives you infinite 360-degree panoramic views over the ocean and surrounding suburbs. On the western side of the water is West Head, in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Standing at the main lookout, you'll see Broken Bay on your left and Pittwater on your right. Iconic Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Lion Island is right in front of you. Interpretive signs, picnic areas, and Aboriginal Heritage Walks fill the surrounding native bush. At the southern end of Pittwater, a boardwalk traces the waterline, passing mudflats and mangroves at Church Point and Bayview. Start at either McCarrs Creek Reserve (a sheltered picnic ground where the creek joins Pittwater), Church Point Wharf or Flying Fox Café, Mona Vale. Allow at least an hour. You can catch a bus to do the return journey, and there are several coffee shops and swimming spots along the way.
Fantasea Ferries from Palm Beach, a great way to explore Pittwater
Take a ferry ride: If you want the easiest and most relaxing thing to do, then jump on a ferry at Church Point Wharf. Mix with the locals on their daily commute to Scotland Island or Elvina Bay, or hire a ferry for the day with full catering and guided tour. Alternatively,Palm Beach also do trips across to Ettalong, Mackerel Beach, and The Basin. For a wonderful day out Fantasea run day trips puttering all the way up Pittwater to Bobbin Head for lunch, complete with guided commentary. This is a divine day out. Surrounded on all sides by the national park, you'll pass tiny coves and secret beaches that make you feel like you've been transported to some far-away place.
Take a kayak tour: For the more energetic, Pittwater Kayak Tours run guided tours that give you an up-close-and-personal nature experience on the waterway. Choose from a single or double kayak, swim at a secluded beach, learn the indigenous history of the area, and enjoy light refreshments on either a sunrise tour, or a 3-hour morning tour. The guides are very experienced in all aspects of skill training plus health and safety laws. If you're already well-equipped and have your own kayak or canoe, then explore the secluded bays and coves at your leisure. There are boat-ramps at Church Point, Bayview, Newport, Careel Bay and Palm Beach offering easy water access.
Try your hand at Stand-up-Paddle Boarding You could launch your board just about anywhere from Cottage Point, Church Point, Bayview, Careel Bay or Palm Beach - the easy access and sheltered coves make this waterway a SUPpers paradise. If you're new to the balancing board, then the placid pockets of Pittwater make it a great place to learn. Try Paddlecraft Sydney at Bayview, or EcoTreasures who work from The Basin on the western foreshores - suitable for adults and children. These guys are eco-warriors and know where to find the enigmatic sea-horses that drift amongst the shallow seabeds.
Take a Water-Taxi Much easier than haling a cab, much more scenic than sitting in automobile traffic, a water taxi is your go-to mode of transport if you just need to get from A to B, or you don't even know where A or B is! No paperwork involved, they can scoot you around the backwaters and deliver you to the secluded beach, wharf or doorstep of your choosing. The drivers are experienced and know the area like the back of their boat. Try Palm Beach Water Taxi Service or the Pink Taxis of Church Point - these little Pinkies can go where the bigger ferries can't.
boats of all shapes and sizes are available for hire
You don't need the skills of a Sydney-to-Hobart yachtsman to skipper your own clipper. Church Point Charter, based at Princes Street Marina, Newport, has options and education to suit your skill level. Or if you'd rather sit back and let someone else do the work of skippering, then Pittwater Yacht Charter at Bayview has expansive catamarans and crew provided to make your day on the water an easy one.
Take the dog out: No need to leave your furry friend at home. Rowland Reserve, Bayview, is an off-lead dog park situated on a scenic stretch of land, Winnererremy Bay. It's one of the few places where dogs have access to the beach area, and on weekends there's often a mobile dog wash and coffee cart. Sit, sip and enjoy the panoramic views north over Pittwater while Rufus runs wild. There's also a convenient boat ramp.
flying high over paradise
Take a sea-plane ride: So this is top of the list in the extravagance stakes but it will be one of the most memorable things you do - ideal if you have overseas visitors, or for a special treat for yourself. Sydney Seaplanes run scenic flights over the entire northern beaches. Longer flights can deliver you to Watson's Bay or Rose Bay. Or how decadent to be delivered by plane to waterside restaurants such as Berowra Waters Inn or Cottage Point Inn for a sensational meal, or a picnic on Shark Island.
Stay a While:
If the thought of all that activity wears you out, then stay a while. The Basin campground is just a short ferry ride from Palm Beach, or a steep walk down from West Head, but it's worth it. Surrounded by Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, you'll feel like you're on another planet, not 45 minutes from Sydney CBD. Another great option if you like the bush is Pittwater YHA. Nestled high on the hill overlooking Pittwater, the hostel is a perfect weekend escape. Fill your head with birdsong and your lungs with fresh air. Bushwalk and discover Aboriginal rock carvings, or fish and swim at the bottom of the hill. Jump on the ferry from Church Point, where you can pick up food supplies from The General Store. For something a little more decadent, channel your inner celebrity and can stay overnight on a Beneteau yacht moored at Palm Beach. With swim decks and ladders, bathroom and sleep cabins, these high-class vessels are a unique and special accommodation option. Run by LINK=http://www.taylormadeescapes.com.au]Taylor Made Escapes[/LINK], catered food and sailing can also be organised.
Bayview Yacht Racing Association clubhouse on the foreshores of Pittwater
Try your hand:
At Twilight Yacht Racing, or Dragon Boat Racing. Bayview Yacht Racing Association (you'll pass their cute club-house if you do the Church Pt - Mona Vale waterside walk) offer learn-to-sail courses for all ages. Why not learn a new skill, make new friends, fire up that competitive spirit, and soon you'll be calling Pittwater your home away from home.