March 27, 2020
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk is a short bush walk with big rewards, amazing views over Palm Beach and whale watching in Winter and early Spring.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse WalkBarrenjoey Headland is a relatively small peninsula, primed for spectacular views. From the top you can see the vast stretch of Pacific Ocean to the east, Hawkesbury River to the north and the gorgeous still waters of Pittwater and Broken Bay to the west.
The walk via Smugglers Track looks down over Palm Beach and Pittwater. It has 360 degree views from the top of the headland with a heritage lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s cottages
Quick Start Guide
- Distance: 3km return (1.4 miles)
- Time: About 30 minutes up to the lighthouse. Allow same time for return.
- Track Conditions: Marked track. Some uneven natural stone steps.
- Grade: The track goes straight up the side of the headland. Steep in sections, some people may find this tough.
- Water: At the parking area.
- Public transport: See details below.
- Coffee: The Boathouse, Palm Beach. 100m from the carpark.
- Toilets: At the parking area. Temporary toilets have also been installed at the top of Smugglers Track, behind the cottage, with a permanent facility to be built in 2020.
- Mobile phone reception: Yes
- Swimming: Yes, at Palm Beach.
Palm Beach Lighthouse Walk
You’ll start on the western, Pittwater side of the peninsula, rather than the Palm Beach side.
At the far northern end of Governor Phillip car park, is a signed walking track to Barrenjoey Headland. The track is well-marked.
There are two routes to the top; the more genteel Access Trail or the shorter, but steeper, Smugglers Track.
Take the Smugglers Track for the best views. About halfway up is a great photo spot overlooking Palm Beach.
Spend some time exploring Barrenjoey Lighthouse and cottages on the headland.
You may want to take the Access Trail back down, just to mix things up a bit and make the walk a loop. The Access Trail to the lighthouse is a narrow road, so it lacks that lovely bush walk feel.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse was built in 1881 from sandstone quarried on site. The only way you can peek inside the lighthouse is on a guided tour run by National Parks every Sunday.
You’ll also find the grave of Barrenjoey Lighthouse’s first keeper on the headland – George Mulhall. He was struck by lightening four years into the job. Hmm, did we mention don’t walk up to the lighthouse in wild weather?
Even though there are a few buildings up on the headland, they don’t include toilets. Or water. Or a fancy cafe. The closest public toilets are at Governor Phillip Park near-ish to the car park.
Overlooking Palm Beach
The extraordinary views of Palm Beach to the left, and Broken Bay to the right, is the most photographed viewpoint of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk. There is a rock platform just off to the side, about halfway up Smugglers Track, which is the perfect place for this view.
Getting to Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse
Palm Beach, or “Palmy” is as far north as it can get, and still call itself Sydney. It’s right on the tip of a long peninsula – 45 kilometres (28 miles) north, and a little over an hour drive from the city centre.
The phrase “exclusive end of the Northern Beaches” is sometimes bandied about, probably due to the price of local real estate and favoured celebrity holiday spot. But anybody can feel golden sand between their toes, and soak in million dollar views.
Where to start the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk
The track starts (and ends) at the northern end of Governor Phillip Park car park, just past The Boathouse cafe, on Beach Road.
Palm Beach Lighthouse Walk Parking
Park in Governor Phillip car park (Pittwater Council parking fees apply) or on Barrenjoey Road.
Closest Street Address The car park is on Beach Road, Palm Beach. But if you type “Governor Phillip Park, Palm Beach” into Google Maps, you won’t get to the very end of the street where the car park is located. So closest for Google Maps purposes is “The Boathouse, Palm Beach”. The car park is just past this point.
How to get to Palm Beach by Public Transport
Catch the L90 bus from the bus interchange at Wynyard Station in the centre of the city. It’s a long bus trip: up to 2 hours in busy periods, and more than 50 stops even on this “limited stops” service.
Or catch the B1 bus, also from Wynyard, to Mona Vale. Change buses at the Mona Vale terminus for the 199 bus to Palm Beach.
Both the L90 and 199 buses now continue on past Palm Beach's ferry wharf and stop directly outside Governor Philip Park car park, near the start point of the Barrenjoey lighthouse walk.
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The only other way to get to Palm Beach, is as a day trip or tour (best suited for fans of Australian soapie Home and Away, who may recognise Palm Beach as the fictional Summer Bay).
Where to stay near Palm Beach
Palm Beach is a popular Sydney getaway because it's still in the city's borders, yet feels a million miles away. Even for locals, staying in the area will turn a weekend walk into a relaxing getaway.
Jonahs – and it's restaurant – at Whale Beach (the beach next to Palmy) is synonymous with Sydney luxe. Barrenjoey House, right near the base of the walk, now offers seven boutique rooms above the delicious Boathouse Cafe.
Here are all the accommodation options in the Northern Beaches (of which Palm Beach is the northern-most tip).
Now that you've done the Palm Beach Lighthouse Walk, you may also like…
- Palm Beach is the northernmost point for Sydney's Great Coastal Walk. Tackle the whole walk over many days, or break it down into sections including the Palm Beach to Manly Walk.
- Find more of the best whale watching sites in Sydney. These are all land-based vantage points, free to access.
- I would so much love to see this part of the coast from the sky. This seaplane flyover of the Harbour and northern beaches, including Palm Beach, is on my wishlist.