Nothern Beaches
Pittwater is a wide inlet to the south of Broken Bay and the entrance of the Hawkesbury River into it. Located some 30 kms north of Sydney, it is a boatowner's paradise. The suburbs built on its shores are all fashionable residential areas which benefit from expansive views towards Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park on its eastern shore and the inlet's calm waters. A former haunt for smugglers, Pittwater, the Hawkesbury River and nearby Broken Bay are today boating paradises dotted by isolated pristine beaches along their shores.

Pittwater has its origin from the confluence of McCarrs Creek, to the west of Church Point and a number of smaller estuaries, the largest of which is Cahill Creek, that joins the Pittwater north of Mona Vale. The Pittwater is an open body of water, often considered a bay or harbour, that flows north towards its mouth into Broken Bay, between West Head and Barrenjoey Head, less than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the Tasman Sea. The area is an important natural heritage area that comprises wetlands, bushland, lagoons, a waterway, rock platforms and beaches.
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    Church Point

    Church Point is a bushland residential area at the southern end of Pittwater. Scotland Island, which stands off Church Point, is accessed by ferrys from a marina on the point. McCarrs Creek enters Pittwater near Church Point.

    McCarrs Creek was surveyed by Capt. John Hunter in 1789 and by Surveyor W.R. Govett in 1829. From that time, weekend cottages began to dot the countryside around Coal and Candle Creek. Coal was discovered in the area in the 1830s but no attempts have been made to mine it commercially. Church Point's name is derived from a 19th century church built on the point.

    Scotland Island

    Located in Pittwater off Church Point, Scotland Island is a quiet, secluded paradise which is home to a few hundred people including a number of artists, musicians and film makers. The island was named by its first white owner, Andrew Thompson, a second fleet convict, after his birthplace. Thompson was appointed to Chief Constable at Green Hills (Windsor) by Gov. Hunter and played an active role in the development of the Windsor district.
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    Immediately north of Mona Vale, at the southern end of Pittwater is the blue-ribbon residential suburb of Bayview. Whoever named it couldn't have picked a more apt name - it perfectly identifies the major reason why anyone would want to live here. Climbing up the hillside to the high ground above the southern end of Pittwater, the views from most residences are quite spectacular - the view north is along the length of Pittwater towards Lion Island and Broken Bay in the distance.

    Early records show that one of the first settlers in Bayview was Patrick Bryan, who built a house in 1821 on the current site of the Bayview Golf Links. In the 1820s more white settlers came, with timber getting, shingle making and shell digging, followed by farmeing and orchards. Bayview became a holiday destination when the coach service from Manly extended there in the 1880s. It was also reached by boat from Sydney. Visitors stayed in guesthouses, and it was around that time that the name Bayview came into common use.

    Bayview's development as a suburban area came gradually after World War I. Bayview played a role in the NSW defence strategy during World War II. A number of tetrahedron tank traps can still be found off Pittwater Road on the water side in Bayview - a little-known remnant of Australia s defence along Sydney's Northern Beaches.

    West Head Beach

    Located almost directly below West Head Lookout, West Head Beach is the first beach on the west side of Pittwater when entering from Broken Bay/Hawkesbury River. A scattering of rocks along the beach make it not as picture-perfect as its neighbour, Resolute Beach, but that generally means you are more likely to have the place to yourself.

    Resolute Beach

    An isolated beach on the western shores of Pittwater, accessible only via walking track from Great Mackerel Beach or West Head, or by boat. With amazing views of Pittwater, Broken Bay and The Barrenjoey Headland, beautiful emerald green water and virtually no tourists around, this is a true hidden gem. Resolute Beach is a 60m long sandy beach, free of rocks, with calm water, making it very suitable for swimming. Lots of people visit Resolute Beach on weekends aboard their leisure boats from Palm Beach so visit on a weekday if you want to enjopy its peaceful serenity.

    The Resolute Track goes by different names, the correct one being the Resolute Loop Trail. It is a circuit track that not only leads to Resolute Beach, but also takes you to West Head Beach and West Head Lookout, where this is a lookout, toildets and a picnic ground. A point of interest on the Resolute track is a small site with well preserved Aboriginal engravings.

    Great Mackerel Beach

    A secluded spot, thanks to the fact that it is surrounded by private property. In fact, only that part of the beach below the high water mark is crown land, the rest is private property. For this reason it is a good place to pass through but not to stop. Access is only by boat (serviced by ferry from Palm Beach) or on foot via the many tracks which lead here.
    No facilities.

    Currawong Beach

    Another beach surrounded by private property, this time by the Labor Council of NSW, who look on the beach as their own. You can beat the problem by renting one of their holiday cabins for a few days and making it your base while you explore the area. Access is by ferry from Snapperman Beach on Barrenjoey Peninsular opposite or on foot via the many walking trails of West Head.

    Coasters Retreat

    Accessible is by ferry from Palm Beach, cycle or on foot only via Basin Track or Bairne Track. This is the most popular location on the western shores of Pittwater because of its facilities for campers, boatspeople and day trippers. The bay, known as Coasters Retreat, was the base from which colonial boats navigating the Hawkesbury would leave and enter. There are two swimming spots - The Basin (below), a lagoon protected by a shark net and an open beach on Pittwater. Both offer calm water, making them ideal for children. Aboriginal rock carvings are close by on the West Head Road. As it lies within Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, park entry fees apply. Facilities: camping, barbecues, picnic facilities, toilets, showers, public phone.

    Portuguese Beach

    Isolated beach between Coasters Retreat and Longnose Point across the water from Palm Beach. Access by walking track or boat only. You can stay overnight aboard a yacht here in settled weather - protection from Westerly winds is excellent. No facilities.

    The Basin

    The Basin is located in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, on the western shores of Pittwater, beside Coasters Retreat. The Basin caters for 400 campers on non powered sites as well as acres of unspoilt beauty in the National Park. The Basin has deep water anchorage and a sheltered and netted lagoon. Amenities include toilets and showers, laundry, electric BBQs and under cover tables. Activities include swimming, bush walking trails, fishing sites and native viewing wildlife including Kangaroos, Wallabies, Goannas, Koalas. Aboriginal rock carvings are close by on the West Head Road. Access via Palm Beach Ferries.

    The Basin Track is the only land access to The Basin, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park's only campsite. The walk follows mostly management trail and heads across the plateau away from West Head Rd, with a great side trip to Aboriginal rock engravings and The Basin Dam. This is a nice walk, heading through the heath of the plateau and down through the forest to the large campsite and facilities of The Basin. The Basin itself is a great place for a swim or overnight stay.
    Track notes, walkers map etc. >>

    The Basin to Mackerel scenic walk gives an excellent excuse for a ferry ride in Sydney's northern beaches region. The ferry leaves from Palm Beach Ferry Terminal, and crosses Pittwater to The Basin Wharf. The walk then heads around to Mackerel Beach and passes an optional side trip to some historic and interesting Aboriginal engravings. The scenic water views are complemented by the on-water views from a second ferry back to Palm Beach from Mackerel Wharf.
    Track notes, walkers map etc. >>

    Towlers Bay

    8km south of The Basin on foot via walking tracks, Towlers Bay has two beaches, the most accessible being at Morning Bay. This location has a jetty and youth hostel, limited facilities.

    To the south west are two smaller beaches, the most accessible one being at Lovett Bay at the mouth of Salvation Creek. The view south towards Scotland Island from the beach is stunning.

    Lovett Bay

    Lovett Bay and neighbouring Elvina Bay are popular holiday/retirement villages. There is a picturesque waterfall on the way to the Flat Rock and The lookout, a short walk from the Lovett Bay Wharf. Salvation Creek Falls is a picturesque waterfall on the way to The Flat Rock and The Lookout, a short walk from the Lovett Bay Wharf. Reserves include Cooper's Point Reserve, Floods Reserve, Elvina Park and Rocky Point. Theese are accessed from McCarrs Creek to the southern side of Lovett Bay on the western foreshores of Pittwater. The Reserves are dominated by bushland in largely undeveloped areas. Access via the Church Point Ferry Service.

    Lovett Bay is home to the stunning home built in 1925 for Dorethea Mackellar of 'I love a sunburnt country' fame, and is now in inhabited by Susan Duncan who wrote her award winning memoir of the area Salvation Creek. Chips Rafferty's famous home with the beer bottle wall is also in Lovett Bay, but unfortunately neither home is open to the public, although I have been on an organised tour of Dorethea's beautiful home, so look out for those as advertised. Tilly Devine, the infamous madam's waterfront retreat in the 1920's, is located just past Tennis Court Wharf.

    Lovett Pools Walk takes you to a small but picturesque waterhole above Lovett Bay. You start with a short walk along a management trail, with an optional side track to an Aboriginal engraving site. Then continuing along the wide trail a little further, you'll turn left and following a couple of fainter tracks through the heath to the sandstone platform and creek. At the pool, there are a series of small cascades and a view over Lovett Bay, a lovely place for lunch before retracing your steps back to the car.
    Track notes, walkers map etc. >>

    Elvina Bay

    Elvina Bay is within the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, on the western shores of Pittwater, beside Lovett Bay. Scotland Island, Church Point and Morning Bay. Clareville is on the opposite (eastern) Pittwater shore. An attractive location, it is often used for picnics and other family recreation.
    Access via the Church Point Ferry Service.

    Elvina Bay Walking Track: The Elvina Bay Circuit bushwalking track takes about 2 hrs 30 mins to walk and is 4.5 km long. This walk takes you down to an isolated waterside community, where you can amble along, looking at homes and a historic Grave Site. From Elvina Track Car Park, the vegetation changes from scrubby bush to she oak and large eucalyptus as you decend to the waters edge. The walking is mostly along a management trail, however the return trip follows a narrow track. Side trips include an aboriginal engraving site, a 25m waterfall and a few other view points. Please remember you are visiting a small community please respect the privacy of the local people.
    Track notes, walkers map etc. >>

    Elvina Bay Engravings Track: The Walk offers good examples of local aboriginal rock engravings on an attractive elevated rock platform, with views into the distance. From the car park, the walk travels through mostly flat, scrubby bush, before gently rising through heath onto a tessellated rock platform. Rock engravings are best observed in the early morning or late afternoon, or after rain. The track and trail are followed back to the car park.
    Track notes, walkers map etc. >>

    Salt Pan Cove

    A pretty little bay with a saltwater baths, a small beach, picnic and children's play facilities in Florence Park at the head of the bay.

    Long Beach, Clareville

    Located on the western shores of the Barrenjoey peninsula, Clareville Beach is very much a boat owner/user's paradise. A makeshift boat ramp is the launching point for a plethora of kayaks, rowboats, jet-skis, yachts and sailboards, many of which can be hired here if you don't bring your own. There are places to swim, but the major activity here is boating. The secluded beach is backed by a pleasant park.
    Facilities: boat launching ramp, kiosk/restaurant, toilets, changerooms, picnic and barbecue facilities, shops at cnr. Riverview Rd and Avalon Pde.

    Paradise Beach

    30 minutes walk from Avalon beach (the walk is advised as parking space is limited), it is a sensible alternative if you want a quiet dip away from the crowds. Being on Pittwater there is no surf, and the water is clean though a little murky until you have gone out a bit from the shore. The Paradise Beach swimming enclosure offers cleaner swimming and a place for a picnic at Old Wharf Reserve. The nearest shops are at cnr. Riverview Rd and Avalon Pde. No facilities.
    Paradise Beach, Hudson Parade, Avalon.

    Snapperman Beach

    The jetty here is the best starting point for a trip around Pittwater or up the Hawkesbury as it is from here that the ferry leaves for Patonga, Bobbin Head, Cottage Point, The Basin, Currawong and Mackerel Beach. Very few people swim here, mainly because the surf beaches are just around the corner, but it is a popular spot to have a light tea and watch the sun set over West Head after a trek up to the lighthouse. Seaplane flights up the Hawkesbury River operate from the Sand Point Jetty (Iluka Road).
    Facilities: toilets, boat ramp at Sandy Beach, shops, cafes and restaurant in Barrenjoey Rd.
    Location: Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach.

    Station Beach

    Located at the tip of the headland on the Pittwater side, the main attraction here is its boat launching facilities and offshore sports. Station Beach is the ideal place to take advantage of the tides and winds which make Pittwater a major drawcard for yachtsmen and windsurfers. On weekends there's not much room for swimmers but that's ok, North Palm Beach is less than 50 metres away on the otherside of Governor Phillip Park. Beach Road, Palm Beach.
    Facilities: toilets, changerooms, grassed areas, picnic facilities, boathouse and kiosk.
    Public Transport: bus No. 190, L90 from Town Hall, Sydney.

    Winnererremy Bay

    Known amongst locals as Winnererremy Bay Park, it is also known as Flying Fox Park because of the Flying Fox Cafe located near the playground. Facilities include electric BBQs, picnic shelters, toilets, walking track, enclosed playground with a dry creek bed/adventure trail that contains stone carvings of sea creatures, flying fox, space net, skate areas, snakes and ladders, spica poles and spring rockers. The play equipment is suitable for toddlers as well as older children. The southern inlet at the head of Pittwater, once known as is Pitt Inlet, is today known as Winji Jimmi , itself a corruption of the native name of Winnereremy.

    Pittwater Ferry

    Palm Beach on the Pittwater side is home to a number of ferry services which ply the waters of Pittwater. One ferry travels between Palm Beach on Sydney s Northern Beaches to Wagstaff and Ettalong Beach on the lower Central Coast peninsula. Departing roughly every hour the journey is one of the most picturesque in the world. It spans across 4 waterways from Pittwater, Broken Bay, the Entrance to the Hawkesbury River and Brisbane Waters. Passing between the heads of Barrenjoey Headland and Box Head ensures that no two journeys are never the same. One day there might be some swell and the next day a millpond. Enjoy the opportunity to see the wildlife from birds to fairy penguins, turtles to seals, and dolphins to whales. Once at these destinations there are lots of activities to keep you busy for as long as you want to stay.

    Another ferry departs hourly to Bennett Wharf and Bonnie Doon, The Basin, Currawong Beach and Mackerel Beach on the eastern shores of Pittwater. These wonderful isolated havens in the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park are small communities which offer limited accommodation for people who wish to stay a while, or services to those who come across the water for day trips. Paths from all of these stops lead up the hills behind them into Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. The park's numerous Aboriginal rock engraving sites can be accessed from the many pathways which wend their way through the bushland of the Park. West Head, at the north eastern corner of the Park, offers panoramic views to the Barrenjoey Peninsula and headland, across Broken Bay to the Central Coast, and along the waters of Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River. West Head has plenty of picnic facilities.

    The round trip on the ferry takes approximately 45 minutes. The ferry wharf is at 1151-1153 Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach.
    Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

    Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park forms a buffer of natural bushland between Sydney's northern suburbs and the Hawkesbury River. Its river shoreline is a tight cluster of secretive, winding creeks, sheltered beaches, hidden coves, mangroves on the tidal mudflats and wide expanses of deep blue water, backed by heathlands on the sandstone ridges and dense forests on the slopes. West Head Lookout is situated at the far north east corner of the park, and offers spectacular views across Broken Bay to the central coast and Pittwater to the Barrenjoey Peninsula. On the way in you pass some of the best and most accessible Aboriginal rock art sites in the Sydney region. The lookout has toilets, good picnic facilities and is the starting point for numerous delightful bushland walking tracks.

    Location: 7 km north of Pymble, 26 km north of Sydney. Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park Information Centre - Asquith and Bobbin Head. Phone (02) 9457 1049. General enquiries for West Head may be made to Garigal National Park on (02 94513479).

    Upper Gledhill Falls

    These falls on McCarrs Creek are located on one of the most picturesque drives in the Sydney metro area. McCarrs Creek Road commences in Terrey Hills off Mona Vale Road and winds its way through a series of forests and a rainforest gully before reaching the yachts and waterside homes of McCarrs Creek and Church Point.

    The falls are near Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park s southeastern entrance off McCarrs Creek Road below the first bridge across the creek when approached from Terrey Hills. The valley of the gorge in which the water cascades offers the best view of the falls and the pool, however there is no path down so great care must be taken if attempting a descent into the gorge. A walking path alongside McCarrs Creek which starts above the falls on the top side of the road leads to another smaller falls and a series of cascades further upstream.

    Koalas In The Wild

    A small remnant of the Koalas which once occupied the whole of the Barrenjoey Peninsula and northern beaches has been given special legal protection as part of a last ditch effort to see if it is possible to recover the population from what otherwise would be certain extinction. This is the first instance anywhere in Australia that a specific Koala population has been given special legal protection.

    The population occurs between Elanora Heights in the south and Palm Beach to the north, on the Barrenjoey Peninsula. In the thirty years between the 1940s and the 1970s, the population was estimated to be around 123 animals, the largest in the Sydney area, but in 1993 the number was estimated to have dwindled to as little as six.

    The primary reason for the decline is the same as for the whole Sydney region, that of habitat loss and fragmentation as the Peninsula has become increasingly urbanised. Only 125 ha of natural bushland remain from the 705 ha on the peninsula in 1946. This has been compounded by road kills and predation by domestic dogs. The building of a retirement village along Avalon Parade at a time when there were not specific planning laws to protect Koala habitat was a major blow to the Barrenjoey Koalas. Local residents have planted 2,000 tress to maintain a food source for the colony. Sighting Koalas is never guaranteed but the most likely places to see them are Attunga and Hewitt Parks, Bilgola.

    Koalas were once common in the bush of the Sydney region but extensive clearing of their habitat combined with hunting in Sydney's colonial years, road kills and predation by domestic dogs in more recent times has seen their numbers drastically reduced to the point where they have all but vanished. The Koala in NSW is therefore listed under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act as a species vulnerable to extinction.

    About Pittwater

    Pittwater is a large saltwarer bay which lies to the south of the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. Barrenjoey Peninsula is the narrow stip of land which separates Pittwater in Sydney's north, and the Pacific Ocean. The Barrenjoey headland commands the entrance to Broken Bay, the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater.

    During the nineteenth century most access to Pittwater was by ship and Barrenjoey became a focal point during this period. Ships travelling to or from Sydney could easily be pirated and goods smuggled. In 1807 The US ship Jenny landed 1200 gallons of spirits via Pittwater which were then taken overland to be illegally sold in Sydney. In 1843 to prevent smuggling and to control the port of Broken Bay a customs house was established at the base of the headland on the western (Pittwater) shore. Customs House had its own wharf and became a communication centre, with the establishment of a telegraph connection in 1869, Post Office in 1871 and a school a year later. In 1900 Customs House closed, the school had closed the previous year.

    For the safety of shipping a signal lamp was first displayed on top of Barrenjoey headland in 1855. Beacons were displayed on the two Stewart Towers in 1868. The stone lighthouse, which stands today, was designed by James Barnett, colonial architect and began operating on 1 August 1881. The light was tended by keeper until 13 August 1932 when it commenced operating automatically.

    The Barrenjoey isthmus was home to a few fishermen in the early part of the nineteenth century and probably the earliest recorded European settler in the area was Pat Flynn who was living here and growing vegetables in 1804. In the twentieth century Barrenjoey became a popular camping area until it was closed in the 1970s. In 1924 the Palm Beach Golf Club was established here. Wild goats roamed here in 1920s and 30s and were hunted for milk or meat.

    Palm Beach, Barrenjoey and most of Whale Beach (400acres) was granted to James Napper in 1816. During the nineteenth century a few European and Chinese lived at Snapperman Beach catching and drying fish. In 1900 all the land, except Barrenjoey Headland which had been purchased by the government in 1881, was divided into 18 large blocks, listed as good grazing land, and offered for sale. None sold. 1912 the land was offered again in smaller residential blocks, offering fishing, sailing, golf and rowing. All sold. Since World War II the area has become more residential but still remains a secluded peninsula at the northern point of Pittwater.

How to get there:
Public Transport: bus No. 190, L90 from Town Hall, Sydney.

The Name
Pittwater was named by Gov. Phillip in February 1788 in honour of William Pitt the Younger, then Prime Minister of England. Phillip's description of Pittwater as "The finest piece of water I ever saw ... it could contain the Navy of Great Britain" indicates he may have chosen it as the site for the colony of NSW, ahead of Sydney Cove, had he discovered it first.

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