The Northern Beaches of Sydney refers to a suburban district located in the north east of the city, as well as a stretch of famous beaches extending northwards from Sydney Harbour and North Head at Manly to Barrenjoey Point and Broken Bay, fronting the Pacific Ocean. In general, the suburbs that fall within the Manly, Warringah and Pittwater local government areas are considered the "Northern Beaches".
The Northern Beaches is surrounded on all sides by either water or forest areas, causing some locals to call the area "the Peninsula". The hilly areas and plateaus behind the beach suburbs is also known separately as the "Forest District", so named because of the large tracts of natural bush land which feature in this area.
Manly Beach is the most popular destination for visitors, with a range of attractions and activities aimed at the day tripper and holiday maker. In reality, there is so much more that the Northern Beaches has to offer than this tiny southern portion and lesser crowds make it more enjoyable.
Northern Beaches is a family-orientated area and topless bathing is not the norm; it still occurs in Manly, but is less common than at the beaches on the other side of the Harbour in Bondi and the Eastern Suburbs.
There are no rail services to any of the Northern Beaches.
Buses run from the city to Palm Beach, and from Manly to neighbouring suburbs. Suburbs in the Forest area are serviced by Forest Coachlines and run to the city and North Shore Line train stations. The Sydney Buses route L90 to/from Sydney CBD takes about 2 hours in bad traffic 1.5 in normal traffic.
From Central or Wynyard in the city, any bus with the numbers between 184 and 190 will pass through most of the Northern Beaches suburbs, the most frequent being the L90 from Palm Beach and the fastest in peak hour being the express buses such as the E86 (beginning at Church Point), E87 (Newport) or E88 (Avalon). The slow 155 bus goes to Manly via Warriewood, giving great views of Warriewood Beach along the way. The L60 in peak hour goes from Mona Vale to Chatswood.
Mona Vale is well served and is the main bus hub on the Northern Beaches; all limited stops (L) and express (E) buses to and from the city stop here.
The express buses might not stop at Narrabeen (those that don't should say 'First Stop Mona Vale' on them), though all limited stops buses should. The express buses won't stop at Collaroy, though most limited stops buses should, unless they say 'First Stop Narrabeen'. Ask the driver to be sure.
The 136 bus route which runs between Chatswood and Manly is the most reliable way to get to Dee Why Beach as it comes every half hour between the early morning and midnight. The 159 bus comes only once an hour and is a very unreliable service, it too goes to both Dee Why Main and Dee Why Beach.
There are only three ways to get to the Northern Beaches by car. The first route is the Spit Bridge from Mosman (Military Road/Spit Road). The second route is across the Roseville Bridge (Warringah Road), from Chatswood. The third route is via Mona Vale Road, which comes from Pymble/St Ives.
Running north to south along the beaches, the main road artery is Pittwater Road/Barrenjoey Road. Another major road, connecting the north and south through the Forest area, is Wakehurst Parkway, which offers a beautiful (but rushed) drive through natural bushland.
The Spit Bridge is a gridlock point for traffic. Many commuters try to use the T3 lanes, which are for carpooling.
A car can be a flexible and easy way to travel around the area. However, parking in Manly and the other beachside suburbs in the summer months can be both expensive and difficult. It you're travelling to the beach by car, consider the traffic and possibly plan an early or late arrival. All beachside suburbs charge for parking at the beach.
There are a couple of specialised local service ferries around the northern beaches.
Local Pittwater services operate between Palm Beach and Great Mackerel Beach. The Church Point Ferry company provides services on Pittwater between Church Point and Scotland Island.
The Northern Beaches is famous for its beaches, each with its own distinctive character. Northern Beaches buses ply the route between Manly and Palm Beach, passing all of the ocean beach suburbs along the route. Check Transport Info for more information .
From south to north
- Manly. Manly has a harbourside beach and a long ocean beach, connected by the Corso, with shops, cafes, restaurants, and has many other attractions.
- South Curl Curl. A larger beach. Has a 50m rock formed ocean swimming pool. Ocean currents in the beach can be strong, and especially important to swim between the flags. Public transport access by bus.
- North Curl Curl. A popular beach, with nice cappuccinos served right on the sand. Get there early on secure your space on the sand, and a parking spot on summer weekends. Nice cliffs providing more entertainment for children, with a small caves in the cliffs to play in. Parking difficult, but usually possible. Public transport access by bus.
- Dee Why. Pleasant beach that can get quite busy on weekends. The northern end is usually less busy but is unlikely to be patrolled. Dee Why Lagoon is a nature reserve and wetland that is home to many migratory bird species. It is probably best viewed from Long Reef beach.
- Narrabeen. Appears in the Beach Boys' song Surfin' USA and holds many professional surfing events here. There are really two sections to the beach. North Narrabeen, which is close to the Warriewood headland and which flows into a lagoon, is best for families as kids can play on the dunes near the lagoon and swim there if the surf is too strong. This part of the beach, reached via Old Pittwater Road, is very close to a camping ground. Further south along the same road is Narrabeen beach, which is popular with surfers and kite surfers. If you fancy an outing on the lagoon, you can hire kayaks and other water craft. Ask at the camping ground for further information.
- Collaroy. Much calmer and has perhaps the smallest waves on the Northern Beaches. For this reason, it's a good place for beginners to learn how to surf, and because of this there are a few 'surf schools' here. There are two places nearby where you can have excellent views. The first is Long Reef headland, just south of Collaroy, where there is also a spectacularly situated golf course. The second is Collaroy Plateau which rises behind Collaroy to the west and gives a grand view from a lookout point across the Northern Beaches.
- Warriewood. One of the most picturesque on the peninsula and is ideal for swimming. It is a relatively small beach and headlands on either side mean it is protected from the wind and the surf is usually calmer and less choppy than nearby Mona Vale beach. The beach itself is reached by walking down a trail from the top, or driving down to a small car park right next to the beach. On the southern headland of Warriewood beach there is a walking trail that affords lovely views of the Northern Beaches and leads to North Narrabeen beach. The headland between Warriewood and Mona Vale beaches is a popular spot for paragliders - but be warned, sudden unexpected winds can be a major problem for inexperienced 'jumpers'.
- Mona Vale. A long golden sandy beach with good surfing and swimming, with car parking near the beach. The surf can be rougher than at nearby Warriewood, which is more sheltered. The beach has flagged areas with lifesaver patrols through the summer. Cliffs at the southern end make access between Warriewood Beach and Mona Vale Beach difficult for the disabled and those with children. A 10-minute drive west of Mona Vale along Mona Vale Road takes you to the Bahá'í House of Worship, one of only seven such buildings in the world.
- Church Point.
- Whale Beach. A peaceful beach which also has a smaller rose-gold sand beach which lies between two faces of cliffs. Every January, Whale Beach hosts its own ocean swim called the The Big Swim, a competition that has been held yearly since 1974.
- Palm Beach is one of the longest of Sydney's beaches, being approximately 2-3 km long along the Pacific Ocean shore. The beachside suburb of Palm Beach backs on to Pittwater, a large southern inlet of Broken Bay, making the locality about as surrounded by water as is possible, without actually being an island. The peninsula is home to many of Sydney's wealthiest inhabitants, who appreciate the tranquil atmosphere and "convenient" isolation.
The popular Australian soap opera Home and Away (popular in Australia and the UK) is partially filmed at Palm Beach – fans of the show will easily recognise some of the local views. Palm Beach is a good 45 mins to 1 hour drive from central Sydney – more if traffic is bad closer to town. Traffic can be bad on the journey on hot "beach days" and in peak hour traffic closer to the city. Traffic can also be bad around Palm Beach, and parking can be very difficult during summer holidays.
- Pittwater, in the far north of the Northern Beaches, is a waterway with a number of attractive beaches and pleasant scenery.
A high point is Beacon Hill and a lookout offers views across large parts of the Northern Beaches and as far as the CBD of Sydney.
- Killarney Heights. A bushland suburb with gorgeous views of winding waterways in the upper areas of Middle Harbour. Originally a picnic area, it gets its name from a county town in the County Kerry region of Ireland.
- Manly has a range of beachfront and harbourfront activities and beaches, and is the premier tourist destination.
- Palm Beach and Barrenjoey lighthouse are worth visiting at the Northern tip of the area.
- Garigal National Park surrounds the area to the West, with many walks and picnic areas.
- Manly Dam
Walk up onto Barrenjoey Head and see the lighthouse, an opportunity to gaze across Broken Bay to Brisbane Water, Lion Island and the Central Coast.
There are cinemas in Manly, Brookvale, Collaroy, Warriewood and Avalon. There is an Art Deco twin cinema on Pittwater Road, its great big blue facade is a living piece of history that gives the ultimate cinema experience, a real family orientated cinema.
Long Reef Golf Course offers one of the most scenic (if windy!) courses in Sydney. Mona Vale Golf Club has fantastic views over the ocean at cheap prices.
- Rugby League. The major sporting team of the area is the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Manly plays 12 home games each season (March to September) at Brookvale Oval, which is on Pittwater Road near Warringah Mall. There is seating both in covered grandstands and on the grass in the area known as the hill.
- Cricket. Manly also has a grade cricket side which plays at an oval in Manly itself during the summer season. Grade cricket is essentially a feeder competition for the Pura Cup competition (still regularly referred to as the Sheffield Shield), and top Australian players rarely play at grade level.
- Rugby Union. The Northern Beaches boast two main rugby union sides: Manly, based in Manly itself, and Warringah (affectionately known as 'the Rats'), based in Narrabeen.
- Home and Away Tour. The Australia soap, Home and Away has many sights around Palm Beach that would be identified by avid watchers of the show.
Most Northern Beaches suburbs have small shopping villages oriented towards locals and their needs.
- Warringah Mall, located at Brookvale, and one of Sydney's largest shopping monstrosities, with most of the major retail outlets. It is also unique in Sydney as an "indoor/outdoor" shopping centre, reflecting the outdoors lifestyle of the Northern Beaches.
- Warriewood Square, located in the Warriewood Valley (much more dull and tacky).
- Dee Why has a major strip of shops, while Manly caters mainly for tourist and leisure shoppers. Harbord (Freshwater) has some quiet, but an interesting group of shops where you can buy localised souvenirs such as stickers and beach gear.
Collaroy is home to the iconic retailer Larry Adler Ski & Outdoor. Make sure you drop in and watch out for Santa climbing in the window at Xmas time.
- Forestway Shopping Centre. Offers a popular suburban shopping amenity.
There are many restaurants on the Northern Beaches, generally taking advantage of the beachside surrounds. Manly has many restaurants of all types and price ranges, reflecting the tourist nature of the area.
- Dee Why has a number of good restaurants, particularly along the beachfront. The major shopping areas in most of the beachside suburbs offer a good range of cuisines and quality.
- Many of the beaches have kiosks operated by the surf clubs but they are limited to sausage rolls, meat pies, chiko rolls, coffees and cold drinks.
- Fish and chip shops are everywhere here and an enjoyable evening can be had eating them on the benches in the parks and beaches watching over the ocean.
Mona Vale has the best chicken burgers and chips in the area at the Aces shop, next to St. George, on Bungan Street.
- 1 Clareville Kiosk, 27 Delecta Ave (Clareville, Avalon), ☏ . Fine dining restaurant serving contemporary Australian cuisine.
- 2 The Herring Room, 94 Pittwater Rd (Manly), ☏ . Seafood restaurant in a 1920s setting.
- 3 Pilu At Freshwater, Moore Rd (Freshwater), ☏ . Sardininan fine dining with a great seaside view!
- 4 Sunset Sabi, 26/28 Pittwater Rd (Manly), ☏ . A Japanese-Australian restaurant.
There are many public hotels on the Northern Beaches. Manly has a selection of pubs and nightclubs around the Corso and beach. Many of the forest and beachside suburbs have a pub with its own character - old or newly renovated - quaint or beer barn.
- The Arms hotel in Newport.
- The Collaroy Services Beach Club is located overlooking the beach at Collaroy. The Surf Rock Hotel is big with locals on a Friday night, with live bands and a line out the door.
- Mona Vale Hotel.
If you're roughing it, there is a large and popular camping ground close to the beach near Warriewood headland. There are both camping and caravan facilities there.
- Hotel Sands, 1260 Pittwater Rd, Narrabeen NSW 2101, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Sydney Beachouse YHA, 4 Collaroy Street, Collaroy, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. Dorm beds $20-$26 per night; double or twin rooms $64 per night; $84 with ensuite.
- Mona Vale Motel Clean, friendly & affordable.
- Checkers Resort & Conference Centre, 331 Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills, NSW 2084 Australia, ☏ , fax: . Nestled in the bushland surrounds of Terrey Hills, Checkers Resort and Conference Centre offers a stunning location. Best rates on official website start at $99.