Last updated: April 6, 2023
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk is a popular hiking trail on the Barrenjoey Headland, the northernmost part of Palm Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
There are two walking tracks that go up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse on top of the headland, from where you can enjoy stunning ocean views.
Keep reading to find out more about these two walking tracks and how best to get there.
|Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk|
|Distance:||2.2 km (loop)|
|Grade:||Easy / moderate (steep sections)|
How to Get There
While there may be plenty of (paid) parking options available in the Palm Beach area, it can often be quite challenging to find a parking spot during busy weekends.
The main parking area at Governor Phillip Park is located off Beach Road. Turn into Barrenjoey Road from Pittwater Road and continue past the Palm Beach Golf Club (see map location).
Palm Beach has no train station, but there are many bus stops. It is, however, quite a long journey by bus from the city.
Bus number 199 travels into Palm Beach with a bus stop right in front of Governor Phillip Park. Check the NSW transport site for more information.
About the Barrenjoey Lighthouse
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands tall and proud on the highest point of the Barrenjoey Headland, the northernmost tip of the Palm Beach Peninsula, which is part of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
The heritage-listed sandstone lighthouse, at 113 metres above sea level, was built in 1881 and has been an iconic Sydney attraction for many decades.
From the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, you can enjoy beautiful views of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (west), Broken Bay (north) and the coastline north of Sydney (east). If you’re lucky, you may even spot some whales migrating during the months of May to November.
As you walk up the hill towards the lighthouse, the views will get better with each step you take. The area on top of the headland is also great for a picnic with million-dollar views.
Looking across Pittwater to the west, you might be able to see the West Head Lookout, another beautiful place to visit for panoramic district views.
The Name Barrenjoey
Where does the name Barrenjoey come from?
Arthur Phillip, the first Governor of New South Wales (late 18th century), called the headland “Barrenjuee”, which meant little kangaroo, or wallaby.
There have been different spellings for this name ever since, but in 1966 it was officially named Barrenjoey Headland.
In September 2013, a large part of the bushland on the hill was destroyed by a massive bushfire, but fortunately, the lighthouse got away unscathed.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Track Notes
The walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse is not difficult, but there are some steep parts to conquer. The Smugglers Track (see below) especially can be quite challenging.
It’s a relatively short hike, and the views are some of the best you can get in the Sydney area, very much worth the effort.
Start of the Walk
At the north end of the parking area, past the Boathouse Palm Beach, you will see a big sign pointing towards the beach on the Pittwater side.
This quiet beach, with usually very calm water, is called Station Beach and consists of a northern and a southern section.
Make your way to this narrow stretch of beach and walk towards the north for about 200 metres, and then turn right when you see the next sign.
Follow this trail for another 100 metres until you get to a junction where you need to choose between two tracks that are both going up to the lighthouse at the top of the headland:
- Smugglers Track
- Access Trail
It’s recommended to choose one of these two trails for the way up and the other one for the way back down to the beach.
That way, the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk essentially becomes a circuit trail.
1. Smugglers Track
The Smugglers Track, despite being the shorter one, is actually the most challenging of the two walking tracks.
It’s a fairly steep, 400 metres long, walking trail (grade 3) straight up to the summit of the headland.
Depending on your fitness and energy levels, you may want to save this track for the return trip and do it as a descent.
The track passes through bushland and includes a lot of steps, so make sure to bring some water with you as it can be quite hard, especially on a hot day.
The Smugglers Track got its name from customs officers who built this steep track in the 19th century to monitor any smugglers that were bringing contraband into Broken Bay.
2. Access Trail
The Access Trail (grade 2) is twice as long as the Smugglers Track but is a lot easier, although it does have some steep parts.
The Access Trail follows a narrow road to the top of the hill.
Once you’re at the top, there is plenty of opportunity to walk around and enjoy the far-stretching views.
Make sure to do some exploring around the lighthouse and do the extra stretch of walking track on the other side, which continues for quite a bit with more views to take in.
You might also find the grave of George Mulhall, who was the first principal keeper of Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
George Mulhall apparently was struck by lightning on the headland and later died in June 1885 after an illness.
Map and Route
Start the trail at the northern end of the car park, walking onto the small and beautiful beach facing Pittwater.
The first part of the walk, from the car park along Station Beach, is nice and easy, and soon arrives at an intersection. That is where you have to choose between the Smugglers Track (1) and the Access Trail (2).
About Palm Beach
Once you’ve completed the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk, it’s time to enjoy the rest of your day in Palm Beach.
Palm Beach is one of the most affluent beach suburbs in New South Wales, located 41 kilometres north of Sydney.
Due to its somewhat remote location, it’s a reasonably quiet beach suburb compared to, for example, Bondi Beach or Manly Beach. However, the area fills up quickly on warm summer days, especially on the weekends.
Besides hiking, there are many other activities to do in the Palm Beach area, such as swimming, kiteboarding, stand-up paddling, playing golf, and picnicking.
Keen to spend one or more days in Palm Beach?
Check out our extensive list of things to do in the Palm Beach area for some great ideas for activities, sightseeing spots, and places to eat.