Last updated: September 8, 2020
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk is a popular hiking trail in Barrenjoey Headland, the northernmost part of Palm Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches region.
There are two walking tracks that go all the way up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse on top of the hill, from where you can enjoy stunning ocean views.
Looking across Pittwater to the west, you can spot the West Head Lookout, another beautiful place to visit for the best panoramic views.
|Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk|
|Distance:||2.2 km (loop)|
|Grade:||Easy / moderate (steep sections)|
How to Get to Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Headland
Despite the fact that Palm Beach is Sydney’s northernmost beach town, the area tends to get very busy during weekends. And while there is plenty of (paid) parking available, it can often be quite challenging to find a parking spot.
The main parking area at Governor Phillip Park (map) is located off Beach Road. Driving in from the south, turn into Barrenjoey Road from Pittwater Road and continue along until it flows into Beach Road past the Palm Beach Golf Club.
Alternatively, catch the L90 bus to Palm Beach from Central, Town Hall or Wynyard in the city.
The bus stops right in front of Governor Phillip Park, but be mindful that this bus trip takes quite long, with lots of stops on the way.
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 years.
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).
As you walk up the hill towards the lighthouse, the views will get better with each step you take. The top of the hill is also a great location for a picnic with million dollar views.
You may even spot some whales that are migrating north during the months of May to November.
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 huge bushfire. The damage of the fire is still visible in some places, and it will take some years for the bushland to fully recover.
Fortunately though, the lighthouse got away unscathed.
Walking to the Lighthouse
At the very north end of the parking area (past the famous Boat House Palm Beach) you will see a big sign pointing towards the beach, on the Pittwater side.
This quiet beach, with very calm waters, is called Station Beach, and consists of a northern section and a southern section.
As a side note, the southern section of Station Beach is now a dog-friendly stretch of sand, albeit on-leash and only on certain days and at certain times.
Check the Northern Beaches council website for more details about which section is dog-friendly, and during which days and times.
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 point where you need to choose between two tracks going up to the lighthouse at the top of the hill:
- Smugglers Track
- Access Trail
What’s great is that you can choose one of these two trails for the way up, and the other one for the way back down to the beach.
This 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.
So you may want to save this track for the return trip going down, depending on your fitness and energy levels. It’s a fairly steep, 400 metres long, walking trail (grade 3) straight up to the top of hill.
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.
It’s also recommended to wear decent walking shoes for this short but steep climb.
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 and 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.
Also be sure to go for a walk around the lighthouse and do the extra stretch of walking track at the other side.
You’ll also see the grave of George Mulhall, who was the first principal keeper of Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
George Mulhall apparently died in June 1885 when struck by lightning.
Book a tour and see the outdoor filming locations of “Home and Away” in Palm Beach. You will get the inside scoop on the people and places behind the hit TV series from your expert guide. You may even get to see the filming in person and meet some of the cast.
Once you’ve completed the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk, it’s time to enjoy the rest of your day in Palm Beach.
The Palm Beach peninsula is one of the most famous 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, although the area fills up quickly on warm summer days, especially in the weekends.
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.
The walk up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse is not difficult, but there are some very steep parts. Especially the Smugglers Track can be somewhat challenging.
It’s a relatively short hike though and the views are some of the best you can get in the Sydney area, very much worth the effort.
This walk makes for a great day out as there are lots of other activities in the area, such as swimming, kiteboarding, stand-up paddling, and golf.
The area also has sufficient parking (make sure you buy a parking ticket!) and great picnic and BBQ facilities. It’s worth pointing out that there are no bathroom facilities at the lighthouse.
Map and Route of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk
Start your walk right at the end of the car park, walking onto the small but very pretty beach on the Pittwater side.
The start of the walk is marked with an X in the below map. The first part of walk, along Station Beach, is marked with #1.
The Access Trail (or Barrenjoey Track) is marked with #2, and the Smugglers Track is marked with #3.