This stunning stretch of coastline spans a staggering 40km, starting at Manly and curving all the way up to the famous Palm Beach, a popular pilgrimage for fans of TV soap Home and Away. Unlike the beaches in the East, their northern cousins have a particularly laid back vibe, thanks in part to their distance from the CBD.
Things to do in the Northern Beaches
Surfers make a beeline for the National Surfing Reserves of Manly, Freshwater and North Narrabeen beaches, where the waves are particularly on-point. If you dream of catching a wave and hanging ten, sign up for surfing lessons from Manly Surf School and Manly Surf Guide who'll have you standing on that board in no time.
If you prefer a calm, sheltered beach to big waves head to the delightful Shelly Beach in Cabbage Tree Bay, Manly. This protected marine reserve is perfect for snorkelling and diving, the crystal-clear waters are warm and the area is teeming with colourful fish such as blue groper and cuttlefish.
The ocean isn't the only waterway on the Northern Beaches. Head inland from Newport or Avalon Beaches to get to the Pittwater foreshore. Enter via Australia’s second-oldest national park, Ku-ring-gai Chase and take the Red Hands Cave walking track which meanders to ancient Aboriginal ochre hand paintings.
Walking and cycling trails weave and wind all along the Northern Beaches. There is a wonderful bushwalking and cycling track around the tranquil Narrabeen Lagoon plus scenic lookouts dotted along the coast from North Head to Barrenjoey Head, Sydney’s northernmost seaside point.
Other things to do include whale watching from many of the vantage points along the coastline and fun tours, such as EcoTreasures’ wildlife discovery and Flamin’ Galah’sHome and Away adventure. There's a vibrant events calendar as well, which spans weekly and monthly markets as well as annual events.
Eat and drink in the Northern Beaches
The Boathouse started at out Palm Beach and its particular blend of casual, café cool is now at Shelly Beach as well as Moby Dick's Whale Beach. Manly is an eating-and-drinking hub with a range of casual options and the next suburb over you'll discover fantastic Italian fare, with views to match, at Pilu at Freshwater.
The Newport is a destination pub, this sprawling, beautifully renovated heritage property is situated right on the Pittwater foreshore. It's got pizza and pub fare downstairs and fine dining at Bert's, upstairs. Nearby at Whale Beach, is Jonah’s another fine dining venue and boutique accommodation with outstanding views.
Getting to the Northern Beaches
If you want to explore the Northern Beaches from top-to-bottom, the best way is to drive. It takes about 90 minutes to get from the CBD to Palm Beach. A ferry will take you from Circular Quay to Manly and busses go all the way north. You can also cross Pittwater on the Palm Beach ferry and alight at the Basin. Or, if you want to splash out catch a seaplane from Rose Bay.