With Neighbors Airing its final episodes this week after nearly 37 years, it’s time to say goodbye to Melbourne’s fictional Ramsay Street.
Soapie fans can rejoice, however, that Summer Bay lives on. And the good news is that Home and Away’s setting isn’t quite as fictional, with the Palm Beach filming location being one of Sydney’s most overlooked and beautiful corners.
Palm Beach is where Sydney finally falls into the ocean 44 kilometers drive north of the city center. Beyond is Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River, which separates Greater Sydney from the central coast of New South Wales. To the east is the Pacific Ocean, to the west is the Pittwater Inlet.
In short, Palm Beach is almost surrounded by water: the perfect location for a seaside TV series that showcases the Aussie lifestyle. Its main beach is a 2.3 kilometer boomerang of wave-beaten golden sand. Surfing is great at its northern end, swimming is best at the southern end, where you’ll find a rock pool, changing rooms, and shady pines.
At home and away debuted in 1988 and most of its exteriors are filmed around Palm Beach, as well as Fishermans Beach in Collaroy. Despite its plot of murder and mayhem, the TV series projects a sunny and idealized Australian lifestyle into homes in some 80 countries. Fans will easily recognize the promontory, the beach and the rock pool.
Celeb Time is official At home and away visits that present the filming locations and tell you about the production and filming of the show. On some tours you can meet one of the actors. But even if you’ve never watched the soapie, you have every reason to explore Palm Beach.
The Pittwater side of the peninsula has beaches better suited to small children. Calm waters make it easy to paddle kayaks to secluded sandy coves lapped by clear water like Bombay gin. Take a kayak tour in Pittwater and you’ll discover some of its most scenic spots. Alternatively, board a skippered yacht with Taylor Made Escapes for a night afloat and a glorious sunrise over Pittwater.
The cheapest way to see it is by ferry, which stops at several locations around Pittwater and provides access to the bush tracks and Aboriginal art sites of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. One of these stops, The Basin, has the only campground in the national park.
Palm Beach’s main activity is the mile-long walk to Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse, where the peninsula abruptly but dramatically ends. The sandstone lighthouse and keepers’ cottages were built in 1881. Between May and August, this is a great place to watch passing whales.
The peninsula is dotted with small reserves and parks. Governor Phillip Park has plenty of green space, playgrounds, and barbecue areas, though it can get very crowded on weekends. Many people overlook the Bible Garden, which features plants mentioned in the Bible and offers a lavish view across the width of Palm Beach toward the lighthouse.
Palm Beach Wine Co is a great place to grab a fancy picnic. Otherwise, the classic dining spot is the upscale, heritage-listed Barrenjoey House overlooking Pittwater. The menu is rich in seafood dishes such as oysters, trevally crudo, lobster risotto and tuna linguini. The well-known Boathouse Palm Beach alternative is currently closed for renovations but is expected to reopen in early 2023.
Outside of the backdrop, Palm Beach isn’t exactly like Summer Bay on TV. Sydney’s wealthy have been coming here for beach retreats since the 1920s, and beautiful multimillion-dollar homes dot the hills. Don’t expect to see Summer Bay Caravan Park or, for that matter, the bait or auto repair shop. You will, however, find a Summer Bay SLSC sign outside the real North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club.
The good news is that despite the suburb’s wealth and TV fame, Palm Beach has been undeveloped and remains a modest seaside suburb almost from another time. It’s far enough from central Sydney to withstand the crowds except on summer weekends. Scrabble in rock pools, toss seagulls tokens and stroll along the pretty shoreline. Proof that sometimes life is better than fiction.
From downtown, Palm Beach is an hour’s drive or 90 minutes with a combination of the B1 and 199 buses. See transportnsw.info
The Luxe Jonah’s Boutique Hotel has a remarkable gourmet restaurant. Barrenjoey House is in the middle of the action. Vacation rentals include the scenically located Rockridge and the five-bedroom Crane Lodge.
The writer traveled at his own expense.