Barrenjoey Lighthouse, constructed in 1881 from locally quarried sandstone, stands 113m above sea level at Barrenjoey Head, Sydney’s most northern point at the tip of the Palm Beach Peninsula which is part of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Overseas visitors may recognize the lighthouse from the outdoor shooting locations of the hit TV series “Home and Away”.
Starting at the western (Pittwater) side of the Barrenjoey Head peninsula, rather than the Palm Beach side, at the far northern end of the Governor Phillip car park (past the Boathouse Palm Beach) a signed walking track to Barrenjoey Headland is well marked. Walking north for some 200 metres along the narrow stretch of beach then turning right at the next sign for 100 metres will lead to a sign that indicates a choice of two tracks leading up the hill to Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
There are two routes to the top, the more sedate Access Trail or the shorter, but steeper, Smugglers Track. The latter has the best views with a particularly good photo spot about half way up overlooking Palm Beach. Ascending by way of the Access Trail then returning via the Smugglers Track will turn the walk into a loop and makes for an easier ascent.
The Access Trail (Grade 2) at 800 metres is twice as long as the Smugglers Track but is much easier although the road is narrow and some sections are quite steep. The Smugglers Track, so named by customs officers who built the track to monitor smugglers bringing contraband into Broken Bay around 1850, is a shorter but steeper (400 metres, Grade 3) route to the lighthouse.
The Smugglers Track crosses bush land and includes many steps, some of which may be worn and hazardous. Sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are recommended for this short, but steep, climb, and it is a good idea to carry a supply of drinking water, especially on hot days. There are no toilets or drinking water at Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The nearest available public toilets are at Governor Phillip Park. NSW National Parks advise visitors to avoid visiting the lighthouse when weather conditions forecast strong winds, heavy rain or extreme heat.
There is no wheelchair access to Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Although it is fairly accessible and a pleasant stroll for the reasonably fit, do make sure to carry comfortable clothes, take a jacket, lenses, sunscreen, water and carry suitable clothes in colder weather because the breeze from the ocean in colder temperatures may not be so pleasant. On particularly hot days a bit of shade might help you avoid sunstroke also – make sure you’re getting plenty of fluids and reapplying sunscreen when you rest.
You can enjoy a Barrenjoey Lighthouse tour any Sunday between 11 am and 3 pm except Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and during extreme weather conditions. Meet at the top, at the Keepers Cottage. The tour takes 30 minutes and costs $5 per adult, $2 per child. The views of Broken Bay, Ku-ring-gay Chase National Park and the mighty Pacific are unforgettable.
Highlights of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk
One of the most breathtaking views in Sydney may be experienced from Barranjoey Lighthouse at the northern end of Palm Beach, well worth the walk up Barrenjoey Head to get there. Built in 1881 from sandstone on the site and beautifully restored, it now welcomes visitors from around the world every Sunday. Hear about its history, climb the winding stairs and imagine yourself as the 19th-century lighthouse keeper there. Sturdy shoes or hiking boots are recommended, and to bring weather protection and drinking water with you. Bring your camera too – you will want to revisit these beautiful views again and again.
Palm Beach car park to Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk Distance
The car park is on Beach Road, Palm Beach but the closest location for Google Maps purposes is “The Boat House, Palm Beach”. The car park s just past this point. Distance to Barrenjoey Lighthouse 3km return or 1.4 miles. Time – about 30 minutes up to the lighthouse. Allow the same time for return.
How Hard is the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk?
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk Difficulty and Track Conditions
The Access Trail up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse follows a narrow road to the top of the hill and is a considered a Grade 2 track and is suitable for pretty much all ages and fitness levels. It is an urban walk and the walkway is paved but has some steep sections. Once at the top there is plenty of space to walk around and enjoy the views.
The Smugglers Track, although shorter, is more challenging than the Access Trail, so you may consider using to descend on the return trip. It is a fairly steep Grade 3 track 400 metres straight up to the top of the hill. The track crosses bush land and has many steps including some uneven standstone ones. Carrying drinking water is recommended, especially on a hot day, and suitable footwear (sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots) for this short but steep climb.
Please keep in mind that there are no disabled walking tracks on this route. Barrenjoey Lighthouse is not wheelchair accessible.
How to Get to Barrenjoey Lighthouse?
Palm Beach is Sydney’s northernmost beach town. The main parking area at Governor Phillip Park is located off Beach Road and can get very busy at weekends.Driving in from the south, turn into Barrenjoey Road from Pittwater Road and continue along into Beach Road past the Palm Beach Golf Club. The cost of parking is $12 per vehicle per day.
Public transportation to Palm Beach – The L90 bus from the bus interchange at Wynyard Station in the centre of the city is a long trip, up to 2 hours at busy periods, and more than 50 stops even on this “limited stops” service. Or take the B1 bus, also from Wynyard, to Mona Vale. Change buses at the Mona Vale terminus for the 199 bus to Palm Beach. Both the L90 and 199 buses now continue on past Palm Beach’s ferry wharf and stop directly outside Governor Phillip Park car park, near the start point of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk
The Palm Beach peninsula is one of the most famous beach suburbs in New South Wales, located 41 km north of Sydney. Its somewhat remote location and golden sands make it a favoured celebrity holiday spot, but although it is a reasonably quiet beach suburb compared to Bondi Beach or Manly Beach, the area becomes quite busy on warm sunny days, especially at weekends.
Check out more guides to excellent Australian walks.