Sydney’s Northen Beaches offer plenty of excuses for day trips in Sydney’s North. Gorgeous beaches, romantic lakes and lookouts, pristine national parks, and beautiful buildings… There is a lot to explore in the north of Sydney.
Accessing the Northern Beaches from Sydney CBD is easy. Just take the Manly ferry which travels from Circular Quay to Manly. From Manly, continue your journey by bus. Alternatively, you can go straight from the CBD by bus (the L90/190 routes travels all the way up north; Forest Busses will cover routes further inland).
This article will introduce you to my 10 most favourite Sydney Northern Beaches day trip destinations. For more day trip ideas in and around Sydney, make sure you also check out the blog post 15 day trips from Sydney by our friends at The Crazy Tourist.
Spectacular Views from Barrenjoey Lighthouse and “Summer Bay”
On Sydney Northern Beaches’ northernmost point you will find the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse which is on top of Barrenjoey Headland. It is located in the suburb of Palm Beach. Fans of the TV show “Home and Away” may also know Palm Beach as “Summer Bay”.
The popular Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk will afford you the most spectacular views of the area. You can see all the way from the narrow Palm Beach peninsula to Broken Bay and the Central Coast. During whale watching season you might be lucky and see a whale or two. On other days, you can just enjoy the views of the endless blue ocean and the gorgeous stretch of Sydney that is worldwide known as “Summer Bay”.
Check out also my blog post about the lighthouse here.
Amazing Sea Views from Narrabeen to Collaroy from McLeans Lookout
McLeans Lookout on the Northern Beaches is another great day trip destination. It is a bit of a hidden gem that hardly anyone knows about. You have to live really close by to actually know that it even exists, and I think that the locals like to keep it this way.
You will find McLeans Lookout in a suburb called Collaroy Plateau. From here, you see a beautiful middle part of the Northern Beaches from Narrabeen down to Collaroy Beach. On sunny days, it’s the most stunning experience and absolutely breathtaking. It’s so romantic and so beautiful, people even get married here.
Stunning Sydney Harbour Views From North Head Lookout
Another romantic lookout can be found in Manly. North Head is the headland framing the harbour entrance, and it’s protruding so far into the harbour that you can enjoy the most stunning views of the harbour itself as well as the Sydney skyline. North Head Lookout is the perfect place to watch the commuter ferries go by. If you are lucky, you might also spot some whales from Fairfax Lookout.
The lookouts on North Head are a little bit harder to get to since North Head is outside the centre of Manly. There are busses that you can catch from Manly Wharf if you don’t own a car, or you can rent a bike in Manly and get some exercise. This day trip idea is well worth the effort!
The Manly to Spit Walk
The Manly to Spit Walk is one of the most popular harbourside walks in Sydney. I love this Northern Beaches day trip so much because it’s such an easy walk with beautiful scenery and a variety of themes. You can even go for a swim if you fancy!
To start the Manly to Spit Walk, take a Manly ferry. From the wharf, turn left and follow the walkway towards Seaforth. This first stretch of the walk is serene and quite intimate as you will pass by many people who enjoy their local rockpools and beaches.
There are a number of really beautiful lookouts along the way, and even more exciting, some rare Aboriginal rock art.
Picnic and Native Wildlife at the Basin
To reach the Basin on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, take the bus all the way to Palm Beach. Start your day trip with a lunch at the Boathouse, then hop onto a Palm Beach ferry to get to The Basin.
The Basin is part of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, only accessible by boat. The ferry will take you to the other side of the bay where you can find idyllic picnic grounds (in case you skipped lunch) and enchanted bush trails to explore. A day at the Basin is the perfect family-friendly thing to do on the Northern Beaches. It is such an incredibly relaxing day trip because you are completely surrounded by pristine bushland.
You don’t have to be particularly lucky to see native wildlife like wallabies and goannas at the Basin. The area is also perfect for swimming. With a little bit of advance planning you can also book a powered or unpowered campsite but make sure you book well in advance as places fill up quickly.
Coastal Walk from Curl Curl to Freshwater
Compared to the Bondi to Coogee walk, the walk from Curl Curl to Freshwater on the Northern Beaches is a little known Sydney coastal walk. Yet, this stretch of the Sydney Northern Beaches does come with all the perks of a true coastal walk experience. What makes it even better is that it is not so overrun by joggers, dog walkers, school groups, tourists and whoever else wants to have a share of the pie.
The boardwalk from Curl Curl to Freshwater is well constructed and easy to master, particularly for families with small children. On this seven kilometre return walk you may also want to stop by at Pilu in Freshwater for an exquisite fine dining experience.
Bushwalks, Boating and Picnics at Manly Dam
A popular family gathering place for children’s birthday parties, Manly Dam is so much more than just a pretty lake. While the kids like to go swimming in the dam, you can also launch your own non-motorised boat or try some water-skiing!
The woods around Manly Dam have seen a long history of Aboriginal occupation. There are lots of birds and wildlife to discover. If you own a mountain bike check out the mountain bike trail which is rumoured to be the best in all of Sydney.
Parking can be an issue near Manly Dam, in particular on weekends when many people come here for their day trip. The easiest way to access the dam is probably by bus from the city to Manly Vale.
Hidden Gem on the Northern Beaches: The Bahai’i Temple
People who drive down Mona Vale Road on Sydney’s Northern Beaches very often have an expression of wonder and surprise on their faces. The exotic looking Bahai’i Temple is a very unexpected sight and so completely out of tune with its Australian bush surroundings that you need to blink twice to grasp the idea.
The Bahai’i faith is a religion that is fairly new, rather moderate and quite tolerant towards other religions. While they are not missionary, they are surely doing a good job a building beautiful temples all around the world to attract not just believers but also outsiders. It’s totally ok to visit the temple as part of your Sydney’s Northern Beaches day trip and have a closer look without fearing to be converted to the Bahai’i faith anytime soon.
Entry is free, and you can read a little bit more about the temple in Ingleside in an early blog post here.
Views of Palm Beach from West Head
Out of all possible destinations within the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, the lookout at West Head must be the best. A visit to West Head on Sydney’s Northern Beaches is easily done when you have a car, or maybe if you want to ride your bike. Combine the stunning views of the Palm Beach peninsula and Barrenjoey Lighthouse with a short bush walk. West Head is home to the fascinating Red Hand Cave.
The views are so beautiful from up here, they have also been used for a TV wedding on Home and Away. Go figure!
I have written about this spot earlier, check out my post about West Head here.
Cycling around Narrabeen Lagoon
The walking and cycling trail around Narrabeen Lagoon is one of the best day trip destinations for locals on the Northern Beaches. Kids love to ride their bikes around the lakes. Joggers appreciate the level trail. Others hang out along the lake’s foreshore and sip their hot coffees in the pretty cafes.
The bush experience is great on the Narrabeen Lagoon Trail. You will see a very different landscape to that of the coastal routes. There are also the ruins of a cement works, beautiful purple footbridges and a mahogany swamp. Narabeen Lakes is also great for paddle boarding, fishing, wind surfing and kayaking.
If you travel on public transport, catch the bus to Narrabeen and get off right in the town centre for easy access to the lake.
Conclusion: The Best Sydney Northern Beaches Day Trips
Sydney’s Northern Beaches have a number of exciting day trip destinations to offer. Many of these are easily accessible even on public transport. If you are after bush experiences, unspoilt beaches, and wilflife experience, or even want to visit “Summer Bay”, the Northern Beaches have some of the best day trips in Sydney.