Beyond Bondi: Exploring Sydney’s northern coast

Sydney’s Northern beaches offer a cleaner, less crowded and more exclusive feel

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Think beaches and the first name that pops in most people’s head is Bondi. There is no doubt that a day can easily be spent there, just relaxing on the soft white sand and getting up every now and then to grab a nibble or two.

Beach.Indian Link

But thinking outside the (sand) box, we decided to visit the northern beaches of Sydney for a change. There are a fair few within the 18km strip, and all of them looked interesting. A fair bit of research on Google later, the plan was charted out – doing beach hopping through the northern coast of Sydney, covering the northern tip of North Sydney council over a couple of days. And what better time to do this than during summer?

There are eight major beaches on the northern coast – Narrabeen, Warriewood, Mona Vale, Newport, Bilgola, Avalon, Whale and the high-end Palm beach. All we needed to pack was some sunscreen, swimming gear, a picnic rug, and anything water-friendly. Food would be very well looked after by the restaurants and cafés by the bays, and we knew basic amenities were plenty.

Beach.Indian Link

Leaving home early from Western suburbs of Sydney on Day 1, the first destination was Narrabeen, the home to the lagoon where the lake meets the ocean. As we stood there basking in the glory of the beautiful sunrise, Martin, a regular visitor of the beach who was enjoying a bike ride on the multi-use trail beside the lagoon, shared some tips for us. “This is not your typical Sydney beach – it is Northern Beaches’ largest estuary system. The rockpool here is much adored by people of all ages. When the tide is low, the water flows seawards, leaving little islands which are covered in water otherwise. And of course, this place is very much coveted in winter too – the water is much warm here during winter.” Great point, noted!

Beach.Indian Link

After breakfast, onwards we went. Warriewood beach was the next destination in the map. Little in size but known for its rips, this beach offers a secluded getaway. Thanks to its tight access road and smallish cark park lots, this can serve as a rather private beach for the real beach enthusiasts. We decided to skip this and move on to the next in line which was Mona Vale beach. Mona Vale is known as a safe beach, but maybe not the best option for swimmers or surfers because of the strong water currents and sandbanks. A tip known to the locals in regard to swimming is to look out for surfers. “No surfers, no swimming. They are your best bets to see if the waters are rough,” Margaret, a true local by heart, told us. “And by the way, don’t miss the coffee here.” Being a travel enthusiast has taught me this – every little town has a café that serves as their pride and glory. Not wanting to disappoint her, we checked it out and were quite pleasantly surprised!

Beach.Indian Link

Newport beach was next which is a cosy little village on its own. This is quite a busy beach, but very popular with families with a robust playground. A great destination for a family day out or a picnic, as parking and food options are plentiful. And if you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of a humpback whale or a dolphin too!

Spoiled for choice, we had a late lunch at Newport amidst hundreds of beach-goers like us. A coastal walk will connect you to the Bilgola beach if you like. We decided to call it a day, soaking in the evening sun and devouring yummy Thai food for dinner.

Day 2, we resumed bright, fresh and well-rested. The next one on the map was Bilgola. This beach, we were told, is a non-commercial one, unlike Newport, with blue green waters, white sand and tropical leafy neighbourhood. Avalon, the one onwards, is quite popular with surfers.

Beach.Indian Link

But our destinations for the day were Whale beach and Palm beach – totally different in character. Whale beach is truly a beauty, far from the madding crowd. Cars could be parked right next to the beach, and the front wheels will almost be in the sand. A walk down the beach is a must, and the surf break called ‘The Wedge’ on the northern end of the beach is an interesting thing to look out for. Quite popular with the surfers and swimmers, this is also the perfect place you can relax with a book in hand.

From there, it was on to the Palm Beach. Catapulted to fame as the exterior setting for the successful Australian soap Home and Away, this beach is about 41km from the Sydney CBD. Living up to its name, the town was abuzz with boutique shops and gourmet food, and, of course, hundreds of people on the beach. The crowd exhibited an interesting cross section of the multicultural Australian society, something not as obvious in the other northern beaches. We picked up some fluffy beer-battered fish and chips from the café and drove to the beach. It had blue-green waters with perfect waves, spectacular views and amazing sand… We just had to set up a tent and relax under it. Palm beach is a must do, the food is pricey and the parking is a bit difficult, but it’s an unbeatable experience for sure! A short walk to Barrenjoey lighthouse provides a unique view of the peninsula as well.

Beach.Indian Link

Thus ended our outing for the time being, but I found it to be much of a rewarding experience to hop the Northern Sydney’s beaches; which are much cleaner, up-market and private than most of the other beaches. These are good to be explored one at a time, or there are guided tours covering Sydney’s Northern beaches from $295, which seems a reasonable option too.

Whatever you choose to do, these beaches are the perfect escape from the mundane. Go visit them before summer is out.

Photos: Geevarghese Kollannur