In a way it is hard to say which beach is the best beach in Sydney. When it comes to accessibility these ones up North really don’t make the grade. Well, if you do happen to have a car, and live within a reasonable distance, then maybe they aren’t that bad, but when you are either like a friend of mine, who lived in the far west, or me who happens to be a tourist that does most of his touristing by public transport, then maybe not. Anyway, this is sort of one of the things that I wanted to do since I was a kid, namely because when I was starring at the street directory that my Dad happened to have, I always wanted to know what was on that peninsula that seemed to be as far north in Sydney as you could go.
Well, one day when I was in Sydney I decided that I would do just that. Okay, being the type of person whom I happen to be, namely a meticulous planner, I had actually planned my trip up to the Northern beaches, and in fact had this desire that I would then visit all of the pubs and I slowly made my way back down to Manly (which I have to admit is a pretty cool beach, and quite accessible as well). Okay, there does happen to be this bus that departs from out the front of Wynard Station and proceeds to make a two hour trip to what is known as Cape Barrenjoey. Well, I woke up early, as you need to do when making such a trip, and proceeded to Wynyard Station, when I discovered that Sydney Busses had decided to implement a new bus route – that very day. Well, it is a double decker bus, and is supposed to be a high frequency service to take us tourists upto the beach, and all the rich tradies into the city.
Well, it was as high frequency as you could expect, particularly when you reach a spot known as the Spit, which is a narrow bridge that opens up at certain points during the day to allow all those rich people that have spent way too much money on a ridiculous boat, to actually get out and maybe go for a bit of a sail on the harbour. Oh, and the traffic along this particular stretch of road is absolutely horrendous (as is the case with most parts of Sydney), but then again it is cheaper than putting in a railway, which no doubt would have to run most of the way underground (though I would have thought that Sydney would have become an expert and building tunnels by now, considering the number that already run under the city).
As it turned out, this wasn’t the only difficulty that I ended up having. You see, this new double decker bus really only runs as far as Mona Vale, so when I ended up there I had to change buses. Well, the bus that I caught was supposed to go all the way up to Palm Beach, expect that the bus driver, for some bizarre reason, decided that he didn’t want to go all the way to Palm Beach, so dumped us all at Avalon Beach. Now, I’ve actually been to Avalon Beach eons ago when I was up in Sydney with my church. Now, Sydney weather can be a real nightmare at times, because we had spent the hottest part of the day, wandering around Pennant Hills, a Noeuveu Riche suburb that pretty much lacked trees, so by the end of our tour of duty we were sweating like pigs. Well, our leader, who happened to have grown up in Sydney, decided that it would be a great idea to go to the beach. By the time we got to the beach however, the weather had changed, and basically it was no longer the type of weather that made me want to throw myself into the water.
Trip Across the Sound
So, this time up at Avalon was just as bad. You see, it was the middle of Summer, or at least at the beginning, and that is supposed to mean that the weather should be all sunshine and lolly pops. Well, not so much this time because when I got off the bus at Avalon, it was at that particular time that it decided that it would be a great idea to start pouring down with rain. Fortunately, there was a coffee shop, and a Woolworths, nearby, so that meant I could grab a cup of tea, and an umbrella (one that, surprisingly I have yet to lose). Oh, and speaking of umbrellas, there happens to be a law (sort of like Murphy’s Law) that goes along the lines of the more you pay for an umbrella, the more likely you will end up leaving it at the pub.
So, I decided to walk, and after three buses went by (another law – the next bus will always go by when you are halfway between bus stops), I finally managed to catch a bus and continue my trek up to Palm Beach. Well, there is a spot where you can catch a ferry across the sound to the National Park on the other side where there are some rather interesting walks. Well, I decided that I might just catch that ferry and go for a walk. The problem was that the stop I wanted to get off at is the last stop, and the ferry takes a circuitous route around the sound. Now that I was standing on the beach, in front of a bunch of houses and next to a ferry wharf, I suddenly realised that there weren’t any shops here – in fact if you want anything you have to catch the ferry to Palm Beach, and then make you way down to Avalon, or Mona Vale. Okay, they do have a General Store there, but honestly, it doesn’t have much in the way of supplies.
The other problem was that I couldn’t actually find the path up into the hills. I looked, and looked, and looked, and simply could not find it, so I decided that I would just sit down and read my book, since it was going to be an hour before the ferry returned. That was when I noticed some other hikers heading towards the park, or should I say cliff face, and promptly disappeared into the bush. Well, I went to check it out and sure enough I discovered the path. So, I started climbing, and climbing, and climbing, and then looked at the time and said ‘screw it, I’m going home’. I have since returned and completed the hike, but that is another post for another time. Oh, and I also sort of misread when they ferry would arrive, so you can now picture me making a mad dash along the beach (and running on the beach is not fun at all, despite what the movies tell you), and fortunately just caught the ferry.
The Land of Home and Away
Now, I’m not sure if you have heard of this Australian soap opera named Home and Away. If you’ve heard of Neighbours, then it is basically exactly the same, except it is set at the beach. I shouldn’t be too harsh, since pretty much 90% of Australia’s famous actors made their mark initially on these shows (Kylie Minogue, Heath Ledger, Russell Crowe, though he is from New Zealand, and I should point out that Hugh Jackman actually turned down a role on Neighbours, and that certainly didn’t hurt his career).
Anyway, once back on the other side, I caught the bus that took me as far north as I could go, and that was the entrance to the Port Phillip Park. It was here that I jumped off the bus since I could only continue by foot, which I did. Anyway, as I wandered north I walked past a Surf Life Saving Club. At first I expected it to be the Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club, but to my surprise the words Summer Bay Surf Life Saving Club was painted all over it. Honestly, I almost bashed my head against the wall. Seriously, Summer Bay doesn’t exist. Well, there is a reason for this madness, because this is where they actually film Home and Away. I discovered that the hard when on my way back I decided to head towards the coffee shop for a drink. Well, I could see some activity going on there, so I thought nothing of it, until a security guard appeared from nowhere, gang tackled me to the ground, and started beating the crap out of me.
No, not really, he just, in his rather stern and dour demeanor, indicated that this wasn’t a real coffee shop, and I would have to go and hydrate elsewhere. I did try to bribe him (I really wanted to gate crash the set and completely ruin the scene), but I was too honourable for that. Oh well, I just went and had a drink at a drinking fountain.
However, Cape Barrenjoey. Well, you know how I pointed out that running along a beach isn’t all that fun, well walking through sand dunes isn’t either. In fact it is really slow going. Okay, when I was a kid I loved sand dunes, especially running around, rolling down them, and simply having huge amounts of fun. Unfortunately that isn’t all that possible anymore, since they are all protected areas (you know, climate change and all that, and they also provide barriers against fierce storms). Yet, to get to Cape Barrenjoey you have to walk through the sand dunes, and while there are defined paths, you are still walking on sand, which isn’t at all solid.
Yet, once you get to the foot of the cape everything changes. basically you end up at the old customs house and there are two paths up there – the easy one, and the smuggler’s route. Mind you, I’m not all that sure why there would be a smuggler’s route right next to the custom’s house, because I was always under the impression that smuggler’s were trying to avoid was customs. Anyway, being the adventurous person that I am (who also forgot to bring a bottle of water with me) I decided to take the smuggler’s route. Well, not surprisingly, it was pretty steep, and rather narrow, but after a rather exhilarating climb I finally reached the top, which happens to be a light house. Once again, I shouldn’t be surprised because this is the entrance to a river, and there are a number of towns along this river, so having a light house on top of a rocky cape short of makes sense.
Oh, and the views were pretty good as well.
Back to the Beach
So, it was time to head back down, play cat and mouse with some security personal, photo bomb the Home and Away set, and the high tail it back to the bus as fast as possible. Well, it sort of worked out that way, with the exception of photo bombing Home and Away. I did catch the bus, and proceeded to make my way back down the coast, getting off the bus every so often, to grab a beer at the pub. However, the question is probably still sitting in your mind as to whether I actually went down to the beach?
Well sort of. I wandered down a street to have a look at Mona Vale, which turned out to be much less touristy than I expected. Then there is Narrabeen, Collaroy (though I decided to skip Collaroy) and of course Dee Why. Once again, I skipped Dee Why beach in favour of simply going to the pub. I guess, then, the question really comes down to what the pubs were like. Well, it certainly isn’t the land of the hipsters, and many of the pubs, in what appears to be a rather monied part of Sydney (it is considered to be an ultra safe liberal seat, which is why Tony Abbott has literally cemented himself here – though he was finally given the boot in the 2019 election) seem to be decidedly working class. In a way, though, I’m not all that surprised, particularly since tradies these days do end up making some pretty good money.