Last updated: August 26, 2020
The West Head Lookout in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park offers breathtaking views across Pittwater, Broken Bay, Barrenjoey Headland, Palm Beach and the Central Coast.
Known as one of the best lookouts in Sydney, the panoramic views that you’ll witness here will leave a long-lasting impression.
While you’re at the lookout, why not go on a small adventure and do some of the bushwalking trails past beautiful secluded beaches and even more lookouts.
How to Get There
Once in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, follow West Head Road all the way to the West Head lookout. Parking is available either at the lookout or at the Resolute Picnic Area, just before the lookout.
From the picnic area, follow the short Red Hands Track to the lookout. Note that there is a $12 entrance fee to the park.
Best time to visit? All year, just make sure it’s a nice sunny day!
West Head Lookout
West Head is not just a beautiful lookout point, it also has a rich history.
The north-eastern tip of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park was the perfect location for the army to protect Sydney against foreign invasion via Broken Bay.
During the Second World War, West Head was home to 2 massive guns, an observation post and two searchlight posts (West Head Battery).
The guns were located at the bottom of the headland and the administrative area, including large sleeping areas, was located at the top. An inclined railway was built to transfer goods between these two locations.
At the time, West Head was a full scale military site. This was quite an impressive achievement, especially considering the fact that West Head was so hard to reach, let alone to build such an important and effective military fortress.
You can now visit this site by following the West Head Army Track (see further below).
In the 1960’s, the West Head Lookout was created, with a large sandstone viewing area and several informative signs. The views are so impressive that you’d want to sit on one of the benches all day and just absorb the beauty around you.
West Head is now considered to be one of the best lookouts in New South Wales, and rightly so.
West Head Army Track
The 450m long West Head Army Track was officially opened on May 14th 2016 and gives visitors the opportunity to experience what it must have been like to protect the country against potential invasion during WWII.
The track is short but quite hard with a grade 4. Part of the track is so steep that a ladder construction is required to help you descend all the way down to the old West Head army battery.
Once there, you can wander around and see the gun emplacements and battery observation posts from close by.
Please be mindful that the West Head Army Track is very steep and climbing back up can be quite a challenging little adventure.
Make sure you bring appropriate footwear and enough water. When using the ladder, make sure you use both arms and face the ladder at all times.
Bushwalking Trails and Beaches Nearby
When you visit West Head, make sure you take the opportunity to go bushwalking and visit some of Sydney’s finest secluded beaches.
We recommend doing the walking trail as described below. It starts at the Resolute Picnic ground, and takes you to West Head Lookout via the Red Hands Track, West Head Beach, Resolute Beach, Great Mackerel Beach and back to the Resolute Picnic area via the Resolute Loop Trail.
The whole track should take around 3-4 hours on a moderate pace. It’s a fairly easy hike but there are some steep sections that need to be conquered.
Here is a map of this walking trail:
You can also start this trail at the West Head lookout – if you decide to park your car there – and then make your way south following the suggested trail.
If you choose to do it this way, you’ll simply leave the stretch between the picnic area and West Head lookout til the end.
- Distance: around 6 km
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Grade: easy to moderate
- Kid friendly: yes
- Good for running: no
- Dogs: not allowed
1. Red Hands Track
The Red Hands Track is a short trail (950 metres) from the Resolute Picnic area to the West Head Lookout.
It’s called Red Hands because of the Aboriginal rock art in the shape of two red hands you will see in a cave along this trail. The art work is estimated to be up to 2,000 years old and has been very well preserved.
After enjoying the views at the West Head Lookout, follow the 500m path that leads south to West Head Beach.
2. West Head Beach
From the walking trail, you can see some glimpses of the ocean and West Head Beach through the trees after around 20 minutes. To get onto the beach, take the steep stairs all the way down.
West Head Beach is very small and secluded, and with the amazing views and clear, emerald green water, it certainly does feel like you’ve ended up in a little piece of paradise.
There are several large rocks on the beach that create natural pools, which is perfect for little kids to swim and have fun. If it’s too cold to swim, a picnic right at the beach is a great idea.
3. Resolute Beach
To head further south to Resolute Beach, climb back up the stairs from West Head Beach and turn left to follow the main trail. On the way to the next beach, you’ll get to enjoy awesome views of Pittwater and the Barrenjoey Headland.
The trail leads to a small creek which you can cross. After crossing, keep the creek to your left and after a few hundred metres you will reach the beach.
Resolute Beach is also very quiet and secluded, but without the rocks that you find at West Head beach. It may get somewhat busy here in the summer weekends, but you should always be able to find a quiet spot to relax and go for a swim.
After visiting Resolute Beach, you can either venture further south to visit Great Mackerel Beach, or you can head back to the picnic area via the Resolute Track.
Go back up the stairs to leave the beach, and follow the trail until you get to the intersection where you need to make that decision.
Our choice? Go and visit Mackerel Beach!
4. Great Mackerel Beach
The 600m trail to Mackerel Beach is not hard, but you do need to watch your step because of the many rocks and tree roots. It’s a great hike though, which ends right at the beach.
You’ll notice straight away that Mackerel Beach is far more stretched out than the previous two beaches. There is also a ferry connection with Palm Beach and other beaches further south.
Great Mackerel Beach is actually a suburb, with a staggering population of just over 100, and has the look and feel of a remote holiday resort.
Go and have a look at all the fascinating real estate behind the beach, but watch out for the numerous golf carts and wheelbarrows which are used to carry luggage and other things around.
From Mackerel Beach, head back to the trail from where you entered the beach, all the way back to the intersection with the Resolute Track.
Some believe that it is possible to get to the North Mackerel Trail and the Resolute Track via Monash Avenue in Mackerel Beach, but this is not the case. We are not sure if this was ever possible in the past, but at the time of writing there was a big sign at the end of Monash Avenue which stated that there was no connection with the Resolute Loop trail from that point.
5. Back to the Picnic Ground via the Resolute Track
The Resolute Loop trail is an easy walk but it starts with a steep climb.
After 30 minutes or so, you get to an intersection where you can turn left into the North Mackerel Trail that leads to a lookout, or you can turn right to follow the Resolute Loop trail back to the picnic ground.
At the time of writing, the North Mackerel trail was closed and we are not sure if this is only temporary.
Heading back to the picnic area, you will walk past a small site with some very clear Aboriginal engravings. Have a look around and try to find all the engraved figures in the rocks.
From here it’s a only a short stroll back to the picnic site!
The West Head Lookout is arguably one of the best lookouts in Sydney. The breathtaking views around the area are simply amazing.
The lookout itself is reason enough to visit Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, but the nearby bushwalking trail and secluded beaches will make your adventure complete.
There are no cafe’s or restaurants in the area, so make sure you bring enough snacks and water with you, especially when you’re planning to do the full loop.
Map of West Head Lookout
Parking is available at the West Head Lookout and at the Resolute Picnic Ground.
Follow the walking trail past West Head Beach, Resolute Beach and Great Mackerel Beach. Return to the picnic ground via the Resolute Trail.