Last updated: May 14, 2020
Surrounded by the waters of the Tasman Sea, Broken Bay and Pittwater, Palm Beach is Sydney’s northernmost beach town. Situated 40km north of the Sydney CBD, Palm Beach has a unique atmosphere that resembles a little tropical paradise.
Palm Beach is a popular day trip destination for Sydney-siders, as well as a niche holiday retreat for tourists, backpackers, and Australian and international celebrities alike.
We have prepared a complete guide on things to do in Palm Beach, with not only beautiful sightseeing spots, but also exciting water activities and great places to eat.
Top 15 Activities in Palm Beach
In no particular order, here are 15 great ideas for things to see and do in Palm Beach.
1. Hike up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse
It’s certainly not the toughest hike, but with coastal walk as well as bush walk characteristics, combined with beautiful panoramic views, the Barrrenjoey Lighthouse walking track is an absolute must.
Built in 1881, the heritage listed Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands at 113 metres above sea-level on the highest point of the Barrenjoey Headland, the northernmost tip of the Palm Beach Peninsula.
The views from up the hill of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in the west, Broken Bay in the north, and the coastline north of Sydney to the east are absolutely incredible, and make the effort of climbing up very rewarding.
2. Have Lunch at the Boathouse
A visit to Palm Beach is not complete without a lunch session at the popular Boathouse. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the Boathouse really is an institution in Palm Beach and surroundings.
The Boathouse is located on Station Beach at Governor Phillip Park facing the calm waters of Pittwater, and provides outdoor seating on the jetty at the back of the establishment.
Besides being a popular cafe, the Boathouse has also served as one of the various locations in Palm Beach for the popular TV series Home and Away.
In the show, the Boathouse is actually called the Pier Diner in Summer Bay.
3. Visit the Bible Garden
If you think the views from the Barrenjoey Lighthouse are good, wait til you visit the Bible Garden on the southern side of the Palm Beach peninsula.
Located at 6a Mitchell Road, the Bible Garden is a true hidden gem, mostly overlooked by tourists and day trippers visiting Palm Beach.
The Bible Garden is a peaceful and quiet Christian garden made up of a series of grassed terraces that lead down to a viewing platform which provides spectacular views of the beach and the headland.
The land that the garden sits on is currently owned by Pittwater Council, and the garden itself is managed by the Friends of the Bible Garden, a non-profit community organisation.
4. Go Stand-Up Paddling at Clareville Beach
Clareville Beach is a quiet and secluded strip of sand just south of Palm Beach.
The beach, with its sheltered waters, is very suitable as the base for a stand-up paddling session over Pittwater.
The beach is home to Tony Henry’s Avalon Stand Up Paddle, an accredited SUP school dedicated to growing this exciting sport on the beautiful Northern Beaches.
You can take up lessons, join a daily paddle group, or otherwise simply hire a board and do your own thing.
5. Catch a Ferry and Visit Resolute Beach
Another must-visit secluded beach close to the Palm Beach peninsula is Resolute Beach, located on the other side of Pittwater in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Against the backdrop of the Barrenjoey Headland, and with beautiful emerald green water and virtually no tourists around, swimming at Resolute Beach is quite a unique experience.
If you’re visiting Resolute Beach, make sure you follow the relatively short hiking trail heading north to the West Head lookout, one of the best lookouts in the greater Sydney region.
The views from West Head are fantastic, and is a great opportunity to see the Palm Beach peninsula and the Barrenjoey Headland from a different perspective.
To get to Resolute Beach from Palm Beach, simply catch a ferry to Great Mackerel Beach and follow the walking track to Resolute Beach.
6. Go Kayaking Across Pittwater
The best way to soak up the natural beauty of Pittwater and its surroundings, is by paddling around in a kayak. You can either bring your own gear, hire a kayak, or go on an official kayak tour.
Pittwater Kayak Tours does kayak tours daily that also involve swimming at secluded beaches and guided bush walking.
It’s an exciting adventure that allows you to see and experience the best of Pittwater and the Palm Beach peninsula.
7. Catch a Ferry to Ettalong
If you do have a few days to spend in Palm Beach, why not catch a ferry to Ettalong Beach on the Central Coast. This scenic ferry trip navigates past the Barrenjoey Headland, crosses Broken Bay, before it arrives at Ettalong Beach.
The water at Ettalong is usually quite calm and shallow, which makes it a great beach for swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddling.
The Ettalong Beach foreshore has been upgraded in recent years, and now features playgrounds, barbecue facilities and cafes overlooking the beach.
A cycle path connects Ettalong Beach with Umina Beach located just around the corner further south.
8. Do a Home and Away Tour
Who hasn’t seen an episode of Home and Away at least once? Filmed mostly in Palm Beach, Home and Away has been one of Australia’s most iconic TV hit series since 1988.
In the show, Palm Beach is called Summer Bay, and the North Palm Beach Surf Lifesaving Club is called the Summer Bay SLSC. Just so you know!
If you’re a fan, why not book a guided tour and have a closer look at the outdoor filming locations of Home and Away in the Palm Beach area.
You will get the inside scoop on the people and places behind the hit TV series from your expert guide, and you may even get to see the actual filming taking place, and meet some of the cast.
9. Go Fine Dining at Jonah’s
Overlooking beautiful Whale Beach, Jonah’s restaurant offers contemporary Australian cuisine showcasing some exceptional Australian and international produce. Their extensive wine list contains a large variety of vintage Australian and international wines.
If you do decide to dine at Jonah’s, you would certainly be in good company, as Jonah’s s has hosted numerous celebrities from entertainment, politics, business and royalty over the years.
Feeling generous and have a few spare dollars to spend?
You can also fly to Jonah’s by seaplane from Rose Bay for a gourmet lunch session. This once-in-a-lifetime experience includes return flights, transport to and from the restaurant, and a 3-course lunch.
10. Do a Cruise to Bobbin Head
Situated along Cowan Creek in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Bobbin Head is a popular family day-trip destination with excellent picnic areas, gas barbecues and playgrounds.
Surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, the Bobbin Head area is also home to a great variety of hiking trails, making it a popular spot with bushwalkers.
From the Palm Beach ferry wharf, you can hop on a cruise that travels around the Ku-ring-gai Chase peninsula, past the West Head lookout, and onto Cowan Creek, all the way to Bobbin Head.
This service is provided by Palm Beach Hawkesbury River Cruises and runs only on weekdays, not including public and school holidays.
11. Visit Whale Beach
Situated just south of Palm Beach facing Dolphin Bay, Whale Beach is a picturesque, 600 metres long strip of sand with a relatively quiet and pleasantly secluded atmosphere.
Whale Beach has a beautifully round shape, and is surrounded by two impressiveley high sandstone headlands; Careel head at the southern end and Little Head at the north end of the beach.
Whale Beach has its own surf life saving club that was formed in 1937, and has a recognisable club house with BBQ deck, function room, a gym, change rooms, first aid room and gear sheds.
The beach can at times be quite hazardous with strong rips, so make sure that you always swim between the flags.
12. Swim at the Palm Beach Rockpool
Keen to do your morning swim laps in style and in idyllic surroundings? Just like various other beaches in Australia, Palm Beach also has its very own rock pool.
Quietly tucked away on the eastern side of Palm Beach at the southern end, the 50 metres long Palm Beach Rockpool is in excellent condition and has change rooms and toilets available.
13. Have a Picnic in Governor Phillip Park
Situated in between the two beaches in Palm Beaches, Governor Phillip Park is a hugely popular green space that tends to fill up quickly during weekends.
This is also where most visitors to Palm Beach park their car, with lots of metered parking options available along Park Road, towards the Barrenjoey Headland.
Governor Phillip Park itself is a beautiful park area with various picnic areas, barbecues and playgrounds. It also provides easy access to the beaches on the eastern as well as on the western side of the Palm Beach Peninisula.
14. Go Surfing at Palm Beach
A visit to Palm Beach is not complete without a good surf session scheduled in.
Palm Beach certainly has excellent surf conditions, with experienced surfers typically heading to North Palm Beach, and beginner surfers heading to the sheltered southern corner.
New to surfing? Manly Surf School has a mobile branch at the southern corner of Palm Beach where you can book surf lessons if you’re keen to give this sport a try.
If you want to find out what the current surf conditions are in Palm Beach, check out the surf cam, with a live camera and detailed outlook for the day.
15. Play Golf at the Palm Beach Golf Club
The last entry in this list of things to do in Palm Beach is for the golf enthusiasts among us.
If you do enjoy the occasional golf session, a visit to the local Palm Beach Golf Club is a no-brainer, with a 9-hole golf course in a beautiful location.
But the Palm Beach Golf Club is so much more than just playing golf.
It’s also a great spot for a casual dining experience, and you can also hire a venue room for corporate events, birthday celebrations and weddings.
How to Get to Palm Beach
Now that we’ve got the exciting bits out of the way, let’s share some more practical information that will help you make the most out of your trip to Palm Beach.
Palm Beach certainly isn’t the easiest Sydney suburb to get to. But perhaps that’s also one of the reasons why Palm Beach has always remained to be such a desirable and relaxed destination.
Since there are no trains going into the Northern Beaches, the best way to get to Palm Beach is either by bus or by car. The advantage of travelling by car is that it’s much easier to get around, and do all these exciting activities in our list above.
It’s relatively straightforward to travel to Palm Beach by bus, but it does take quite a bit of time. The L90 bus from Wynyard in the Sydney CBD goes directly to Palm Beach, stopping at lots of places along the way.
Otherwise, the B1 bus with a switch-over in Mona Vale will also get you to Palm Beach. Check the helpful NSW trip planner to help plan your journey.
Whilst it might be quite the journey time-wise, traveling by air-conditioned bus is very comfortable. You may even be able to schedule in a short nap for good measure.
The drive to Palm Beach from Sydney is quite a scenic drive, but be mindful that the roads during weekends are busy. It takes about an hour to drive to Palm Beach, but on a warm and sunny Saturday or Sunday it can easily take 90 minutes.
Also note that most parking in and around Palm Beach is metered and time limited. And during those busy days, unless you arrive early, it can be quite the challenge to find a parking spot.
Barrenjoey Road, which starts in Mona Vale, feeds straight into Palm Beach and continues on past the ferry wharf, the golf club, Governor Phillip Park, and the main beach. Most parking is available in Governor Phillip Park.