Visiting Palm Beach? Then no doubt you’ll be heading to Palm Beach Lighthouse!
The Palm Beach Lighthouse Walk, officially known as the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk, is a must-visit trail on Sydney’s Barrenjoey Headland. It’s a short hike, but the panoramic views of Pittwater and Station Beach are unparalleled.
There are two main walking tracks leading to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, each offering its own unique vantage points. Both tracks culminate in expansive views over Palm Beach.
And while the main attraction is the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, the walk offers additional highlights. You can spot whales from the cliff edges during migration season and explore a lesser-known secret cave.
I will share everything you need to know about the Palm Beach Lighthouse walk including how to get there, lesser-known photo spots, facilities available and things to do afterwards.
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Quick Start Guide
The walk from Palm Beach to Barrenjoey Lighthouse is short but gets steep as you approach the top. You have two main track options: the Smugglers Track with its steep stairs and the wider, paved Access Trail. For those with small children or mobility issues, the Access Trail is your best bet.
Most people can handle this walk by taking it easy and pausing for breaks—ideal moments to soak in the views and snap some photos. However, the path isn’t suitable for wheelchairs or strollers. I saw someone try it with a wheelchair and assistance, but they had to turn back due to the steep gradient.
To enhance your experience, check out the map below that shows not only the two main routes but also two secret side trails to make your trek even more memorable.
How to get to Palm Beach Lighthouse
Getting to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk involves heading to Sydney’s northernmost suburb, Palm Beach.
Unlike the busy vibes of Bondi and Manly, Palm Beach offers a tranquil setting with lush, serene landscapes.
If you’re driving from Sydney’s CBD, it’s a bit of a trek. Best to hit the road early and plan to spend the day exploring Palm Beach’s other attractions while you’re at it.
We parked at Governor Philip Car Park but there is also another area near the Boathouse to park, but be prepared because both are expensive! Luckily there are quite a few parking spaces however, I imagine these fill up quick in the summer months!
Rates are $10 per hour during peak season and $8 off-peak. Luckily, the charges cap after the first four hours, even if you park for the full 12. So the maximum you will pay is $40.
If those prices give you sticker shock, as they did for us, consider a 10-minute walk to Waratah Road or Beach Road. These streets are outside the fee zone, so you might snag free parking. Find the exact location here.
Palm Beach by Public Transport
Travelling to Palm Beach from Sydney CBD is a bit of a haul by public transport, clocking in at roughly 1.5-2 hours. We opted to go by car, which drastically cuts the travel time.
Start by walking to Wynyard Station and catch the B1 Mona Vale bus from Carrington Street (Stand B). After a 35-minute ride, you’ll hop off at Dee Why B-Line on Pittwater Road.
Switch to the 199 bus bound for Palm Beach, and prepare for a 50-minute journey. You’ll be dropped off at Barrenjoey Road, right outside Governor Philip Park, which is a short walk away from Station Beach.
You can’t buy tickets on the buses or trains, so make sure to have your Opal card topped-up with enough money.
Starting the Walk
The starting point for the Palm Beach Lighthouse Walk is Station Beach. If you’ve parked at Governor Philip Park, you’ll need to walk toward the Boathouse at Palm Beach.
Follow the car park, walk parallel to North Palm Beach, and past the Summer Bay kiosk. When you hit a turn in the road, keep following it down; it will lead you to the Boathouse on Station Beach.
❗️ Don’t make our mistake!
When we came to the turn in the road, the signage for the Lighthouse Walk was lacking. So we ended up on the deep sandy path. After a 15-minute detour, we finally found a sign pointing left to Station Beach, only to realize we had neither taken the easiest nor the most scenic route.
As you walk along Station Beach for about 200 meters, keep an eye out for an exit to your right. Take the exit and follow for 50 meters until you get to a junction.
Here, you’ll see a sign offering two routes to Barrenjoey Lighthouse: the Access Trail and the Smugglers Track.
Many opt for a loop, ascending via the Access Trail and descending on the Smugglers Track—myself included.
The Access Trail
As you pass the junction to begin your climb on the Access Trail, you’ll walk by the steep stairs that lead to the alternative route—the Smugglers Track. This is a steeper, grade 3 trail but offers a quicker ascent.
The Access Trail, while longer, provides a gentler climb with wide paths and numerous photo spots to pause and enjoy the view.
This longer trail features gorgeous bushland on either side and offers stunning views over Pittwater with Palm Beach on the far right.
This is also where you’ll find rocky ledges perfect for photo ops and picnics. These scenic spots are usually just 20 seconds off the main track, making them easily accessible.
While you’ll need to exercise caution near the edges, these areas are generally wide and not intimidating so you’ll be able to take a moment to relax on them.
📍 Secret Spot 1 – Detour to The Cave
If you like a bit of adventure on your walk, Barrenjoey’s hidden cave is our favourite spot to watch the sun go down.
Located just off the main path on the Access trail, the cave is a hidden gem – find the exact location here.
Follow the main track up, and about 200-300m before the summit, take a left where the path is worn – this leads to the cave. Prepare for a bit of a scramble through the bush, and watch out for scratchy vegetation.
You’ll find the cave at a large rock formation on the ridge’s north side, just before the terrain drops sharply.
No need to scale any cliffs; the cave is accessible from the rock platform.
In about 20 to 30 minutes, you’ll find yourself at the top of Barrenjoey Head with the lighthouse just 100 meters ahead. This marks the end of your uphill journey.
Just off the junction, you’ll spot the steps that signal the beginning of the Smugglers Track.
Smugglers Track, though shorter, is the more challenging of the two routes. This steep, 400-meter-long trail takes you directly to the summit in about 10 minutes.
Due to its challenging nature, most people prefer taking this route for their descent. Whilst challenging, you will be rewarded with some incredible views.
The trail is narrow with dense bushland on either side and consists mainly of steep steps. Bring suitable footwear and water—it’s a workout. This route isn’t recommended for small children or those with mobility issues due to its steepness, whether you’re ascending or descending.
❗️Though completing the loop via Smugglers Track on the descent is popular, it may not be the best option for those with young kids. We scoped out the Smugglers Track descent and decided it wasn’t suitable for our 4-year-old.
So, while my partner and daughter safely descended via the Access Trail, I took the Smugglers Track alone to check out the different views.
At the top of Barrenjoey Lighthouse
From the summit, you’re treated to panoramic views over Broken Bay, Ku-ring-gai National Park, and the Central Coast. Right in front of you is Barrenjoey Lighthouse, a Sydney heritage gem built in 1881, situated next to the lightkeeper’s cottage.
The grave of Barrenjoey Lighthouse’s first keeper – George Mulhall – is on the headland. He was struck by lightning four years into the job, but don’t let this worry you if you climb on a grey day!
Tours inside the lighthouse are only available on Sundays—$10 for adults and $5 for kids.
We visited on a Saturday, missing the tour, but if you’ve taken it, let us know in the comments if it is worthwhile!
Make time to explore the area around the lighthouse. There’s an extended walking track on the opposite side, offering even more stunning views.
📍The Ledge Lookout: Secret Spot 2
Leave the lighthouse, head down the steps, and stick to the main path. You’ll see a grave along the way; it’s for the first lighthouse keeper.
Keep walking straight. Look for narrow, worn paths leading toward Palm Beach. When you see a big flat rock, walk down to it.
It should take you no more than a 5-minute walk from the lighthouse.
Between May and October, concrete seats on the left provide a prime spot for whale-watching, we went in late September and were lucky enough to see some in the distance which made the trip so special!
Near the Smugglers Track descent point, you’ll find 2 toilets and a tap for a water refill.
These are relatively new facilities, according to one of the locals who I met at the top.
There’s also a metal frame designed to capture “the perfect shot” of Palm Beach, the result was actually pretty good!
Spend roughly 30 minutes exploring the summit; unless you’re picnicking, that should be plenty of time before heading back down.
Whether you choose to descend on the smuggler track or the access trail, you’ll end up finishing back at the exact same junction off Station Beach.
Things To Do After Your Walk to Barrenjoey Lighthouse
Now that you’ve spent an hour and a half exploring Barrenjoey Lighthouse, I highly recommend checking out what else Palm Beach has to offer – it is a real hidden gem of Sydney. Unless you are a local it is not a suburb you’ll venture to every day, so here are some things to add to the itinerary:
Relax at the Beach
After the trek up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse, a refreshing ocean dip is the perfect cooldown. Station Beach is good for paddling, but a bit murky to get in the water. If you’re after a proper swim, I recommend heading to Palm Beach on the opposite side.
Stretching over 2km, Palm Beach ranks among Sydney’s best. At its southern end, you’ll find a rock pool, while the northern end is more untamed.
A stone step area next to the rock pool offers a sand-free zone for sunbathing.
To reach the beach post-hike, retrace your steps toward the parking area and take the first exit—this will lead you straight to Palm Beach.
Explore the set of Home and Away
If Palm Beach looks like a scene straight from your TV, that’s because it is—it doubles as Summer Bay in the Aussie soap “Home and Away.” The Diner from the show is the real-life Boathouse Palm Beach, worth braving the long queues for its stellar menu. Alf’s Bait Shop is also real; you can buy ice cream, drinks, and fishing gear there.
The iconic Summer Bay Surf Club is another must-see. Located near Governor Philip Park, it’s hard to miss on your way to the lighthouse. Although the sign is a permanent fixture, the beach is only patrolled by volunteer lifesavers from late September to late April.
The adjacent Summer Bay kiosk is open year-round and serves hot food and drinks, along with “Home and Away” merchandise. The staff might not share your enthusiasm for the soap—likely due to the Alf sightings they get asked about all day.
If you’re a die-hard fan, don’t miss the official Home and Away Tour for more iconic locations.
Hot Tip: The tour picks up in Sydney – so if you are struggling for transport this is way easier than taking public transport!
or simply scan this QR code to check availability and book the Home and Away Tour:
Governor Phillip Children’s Play Park
If you’re hunting for things to do in Palm Beach with kids, don’t miss Governor Phillip Park. This versatile spot on the east side of the peninsula offers a playground, park, and beach combo. With a large boat-shaped play structure decked out in swings, seesaws, and spinners, it will keep the kids entertained whilst you enjoy a coffee.
The area is decently shaded and comes equipped with picnic and BBQ spots. Unfortunately, the playground is not enclosed, and quite close to the road so you need to keep an eye out.
Palm Beach Golf Club
If you’re starving after your adventure up the Palm Beach Lighthouse, make a beeline for Palm Beach Golf Club. Weekends usually see full bookings, so we felt like we hit the jackpot when we scored the last table!
The restaurant offers views of both the golf course and distant Palm Beach, with both indoor and outdoor seating options.
The food here is incredible, I can see why it is often fully booked! We opted for the pork belly and the Moreton Bay bug tacos, and let me just say, that they rank among the best tacos I’ve ever had.
Every bite was so delicious and fresh, especially the Moreton Bay bug. We ordered a side of chips which was big enough for all three of us.
Trust me, these tacos alone are worth a trip back to Palm Beach.
Grab a Coffee at Dunnes Kiosk
If you anything like us, you’ll want to check this out and grab a coffee before you start the lighthouse walk.
The Dunes Kiosk serves great coffee, and the almond croissant converted Kev to become a fan. They have shaded tables to sit at or you can opt for takeout.
The kiosk forms part of a bigger restaurant which looks like a great place for large group get-togethers! They also have toilets inside the larger restaurant which customers of the kiosk are allowed to use.
Where to stay near Palm Beach Lighthouse
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk: FAQS
Can you take dogs on the Palm Beach Lighthouse Walk?
Dogs are not permitted on the Palm Beach to Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk. This is because the walk is within a national park area, where pets are generally not allowed to protect the native wildlife and habitat
How long does it take to walk Barrenjoey Lighthouse?
Can you drive up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse?
Why is it called Barrenjoey Lighthouse?
The Barrenjoey Lighthouse is named after the headland on which it stands. The name “Barrenjoey” is derived from the Aboriginal word “Barrenjuee,” which Governor Arthur Phillip originally used in 1788 to name the headland, meaning little kangaroo or wallaby. Over time, the spelling evolved, and “Barrenjoey” has been the accepted name since 1966.