The Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk is a very popular hiking trail on the Barrenjoey Headland, which is found at the northernmost part of Palm Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. And that is about 40km north of Sydney. Wow, that’s a mouthful isn’t it? But true, it is a very popular hiking trail and is quite easy to do. And if you do hike it, you will be treated to panoramic 360 degree views of the area. Throw in a few whales – if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time of year – and a visit to where they film Home and Away (North Palm Beach) you are in for a great day out. Here is how you can make the best of your hike of the Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk at Palm Beach.
Where is Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk
Barrenjoey Headland is at the end of Palm Beach, the most northern beach on the Northern Beaches Peninsula in Sydney. You cannot miss it – it dominates the area. Most people can visit in a day making it a great Sydney day trip.
Where does the name Barrenjoey come from?
The first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, called the headland ‘Barrenjune’ meaning wallaby or little kangaroo. In 1966 it was officially named Barrenjoey Headland.
When to visit the Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Headland
Anytime is a good time to visit Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Headland. However, it is very busy on the weekends. During the summer months and even the cooler months the locals will be enjoying the area, surfing and swimming and eating in the cafes and restaurants. And finding a car park (paid) can be very challenging. If possible, a mid-week visit might be better.
Visit where they film Home and Away
If you are a fan of the Australian soap TV show Home and Away, you are in for a treat before, or after, you hike the Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk. This is because a lot of filming of the show is at North Palm Beach – and the North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club doubles as a backdrop – Summer Bay Surf Life Saving Club for the show. Why not pop into the club for some Summer Bay merchandise. You can also book a tour of ‘Summer Bay’. Find out about tours and book here. Now on with our walk!
How to get to the Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk?
You can either drive, get the public bus or arrive by seaplane to the Barrenjoey Headland.
Bus to Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk
Catch the B-Line or 199 bus from anywhere along the main road on the Northern Beaches Peninsula – Barrenjoey Road – also the name of a highly popular drama series on Australia’s national broadcaster. The 199 starts in Manly and ends at Palm Beach while the B-Line starts at Wynyard station and goes to Mona Vale. From there, you can walk to the 199 bus stop. There are lots of stops along the way. Get off the bus at Governor Phillip Park in Palm Beach – right outside the Palm Beach golf course, a couple of stops before the end of the bus line. Walk through the park In front of you, to the end of the carpark where you will see the sign to the beginning of the Barrenjoey Headland Light Walk.
Car to Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk
There is only one road in to the Barrenjoey Headland and Palm Beach. When driving from the south, turn into Barrenjoey Road and continue until it becomes Beach Road. Just past the Palm Beach Golf Club, you will find the main parking area at Governor Phillip Park. You will need to pay for parking which is $10 per hour and then walk to the end of the car park where you will see the sign for the beginning of the walk.
Seaplane to Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk
This is a spectacular way to reach the Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk. Landing on the water is truly a great experience, and the views coming in are spectacular. Check out Sydney By Seaplane or Sea Wing Airways for details of flights.
To make your hike up the Barrenjoey Headland more enjoyable take water, wear good walking shoes. Also, wear a hat and use sunscreen.
Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk – Two Ways Up To The Top
Walking up the Barrenjoey Headland Access Track
The Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse Walk begins with a walk along Station Beach for a few hundred metres. Then you will see a sign with two ways to get to the Lighthouse – steps (shorter) or a ‘ramp’ (details below). From the carpark, the distance you will walk is about 2.2km and it should take about 1.5 hours to return. This will be determined by how fast you walk and how long you spend at the top. It is graded as an ‘easy to moderate’ walk but it is quite steep in sections.
Depending on your fitness you can take ‘Smugglers Way’, which is a flight of stairs, a steeper but shorter track than the access trail. It got its name from customs officers in the 19th century. Built to monitor smugglers bringing contraband into Broken Bay, which is behind the Headland it offers great views so remember to stop to appreciate them.
The Access Trail
The Access Trail is a winding trail – almost a road – that leads you to the top of the Headland. It is quite scenic, providing regular and fantastic views back over Palm Beach and the Kuringai Chase National Park. Stopping to take photos is a great excuse to cover your panting from the steepness of some parts of the access trail – well it was mine! But you do need to catch your breath sometimes.
What’s at the top of Barrenjoey Headland?
At the top of Barrenjoey Headland you will find the Barrenjoey Headland Lighthouse, the grave of the first Lighthouse caretaker and some awesome views – particularly north to Ettalong and the Central Coast. Gosford is a popular retirees town, home of the Central Coast Mariners in the A-League, and a commuter town for many city workers.
About The Barrenjoey Lighthouse
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse is at the top of the Barrenjoey Headland. It was designed by James Barnet and built by Isaac Banks, from sandstone in 1881. It is quite impressive, standing at 113 metres above sea-level. Even though the sign at the bottom of the hike says no toilets, water or coffee shop at the top, there is a toilet. But it is best to go before you go up – there are a number of toilet blocks at the Governor Phillip Park.
When you walk around the small grounds you will find the grave of the first Barrenjoey Lighthouse Keeper. His name was George Mulhall and he was unfortunately struck by lightning while doing his duties.
There are tours of the Lighthouse on Sundays each hour from 10am – 3pm. Very worthwhile.
Grave of the First Lighthouse Caretaker
Great views from the top?
Once your reach the top of the Barrenjoey Headland, you will be treated to fabulous panoramic views. You can see back over Palm Beach, into the Pittwater and Kuringai Chase, over to the Central Coast and out to sea. You may even see some whales if it is the right time of year – winter and early spring (May to November). There is a grassy area where you could sit, enjoy the views and maybe have a picnic.
The way down Barrenjoey Headland
You can return the way you came up, either by the access track or take the steps.
How to Extend your stay in Palm Beach
Palm Beach with Barrenjoey Head in the distance
Once you have completed the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk, you may want to spend some time at North Palm Beach and Palm Beach. After all, you are there! So what else is there to do at Palm Beach I hear you ask and how can you extend your stay? Well, Palm Beach is a water- and sun-lovers paradise. Enjoy the surf at the beach (eastern) side or head to the Pittwater side and enjoy the calmer waters. While walking back to Governor Phillip Park, you could detour to the end of Station Beach at the very popular Boathouse restaurant for lunch and be treated to great food. If you can, sit outside and watch the boats sailing by and the seaplanes landing. Golf lovers may want to book a round of golf at the Palm Beach Golf Club, right next to the car park. Or you could set up a picnic in the grounds of Governor Phillip Park. There is plenty to do here.
You can catch the bus a couple of stops to Palm Beach where you can book a surf lesson or have a swim in the rock pool. Or grab something to eat in the coffee shop and ogle at some of the multi-million dollar homes built on the side of the peninsula cliffs. Then drive or catch the 199 bus back home or to your accommodation. The bus runs every 10 minutes and is hard to beat.
Accommodation in Palm Beach and on the Northern Beaches
Extend your stay in Palm Beach beyond a day by booking some accommodation. There are different types of accommodation available around the Northern Beaches.
A visit to the Barrenjoey Headland to walk to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse is a popular day out for any Sydneysider or visitor to Sydney. Throw in a visit to Summer Bay and maybe a meal and a surfing lesson and the effort you put in to get to the area will be well worth it. Remember the bus goes to the Golf Club, saves parking costs, drops you right there and is very regular. If you have been to the Headland, or are planning to do it, give me a shout out. I would love to hear your thoughts or answer your questions following in the comments.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She is the creator of Live Work and Play in Australia. She loves coffee, chocolate and parmas and currently calls Melbourne home. Read More.