- The Pearl Beach to Patonga Beach walk is one of the best hikes in New South Wales Central Coast region just north of Sydney.
- The hike is 3km one way and offers stunning views.
- It will take about 1 hour to walk each way.
- The hike is moderate – steep in parts.
- Food options and swimming opportunities are available at both Patonga Beach and Pearl Beach.
The Pearl Beach to Patonga Beach walk is located at Brisbane Water National Park on the Central Coast in NSW. It makes up part of the Great North Walk – a 260km bush walk that runs from Sydney all the way up to Newcastle.
You can easily visit Pearl Beach and Patonga and do the walk on a day trip from Sydney. The hike should take you about an hour each way, so you’ll have plenty time on either end to relax on the beach and have some food before walking back.
Should I start the walk from Patonga Beach or Pearl Beach?
It doesn’t matter where you start the walk, you can complete it from either direction: Pearl Beach to Patonga or vice versa. It just depends what is easiest for you transport-wise (see options below) or if you are staying overnight at either Patonga or Pearl Beach. I went from Pearl Beach to Patonga as I stayed overnight at Pearl Beach, but if you are going in reverse just start the itinerary from the bottom and work your way up.
I would say walking from Patonga to Pearl Beach is a little bit more challenging as it goes uphill a lot steeper at the beginning, but either direction you will be ascending up the mountain.
What to bring on the Pearl Beach to Patonga walk:
- suitable shoes such as trainers. Especially if it has rained lately the path can be a bit muddy, especially on the path that leads to Patonga Beach.
- swimming costume and towel if you wish to swim in the sea.
- snacks and water.
- suncream and hat.
- bring a light jacket in the cooler months as you will be walking through some shaded parts.
How long will the Patonga to Pearl Beach walk take?
The hike takes about 1 hour each way to complete, but if you are doing a round trip I would allow 3 hours. This will give you time to sit and enjoy the views from the lookouts part way through the walk as well as spend some time on the beach.
Where to get food on the Pearl Beach to Patonga walk?
You can get food either at Pearl Beach or at Patonga Beach – both have a couple of restaurants and shops. There are no options along the walk for food, so make sure you have food before or bring some snacks, or alternatively enjoy a nice meal once you have done the hike.
Pearl Beach is a beautiful crescent shaped sandy beach with a rock pool on the southern end where the water is calmer, and an off leash dog beach on the northern end. Note the beach is unpatrolled so be careful when swimming here as the waves can sometimes be rough.
At Pearl Beach there are two great places for food right next to each other on Tourmaline Avenue: Pearls on the Beach, and Pearl Beach Cafe and General Store. Pearls on the Beach has great food and a great setting right on the beach. Pearls Beach Cafe and General Store also does very good hot food but at a more economical price with on street tables and chairs.
From Pearl Beach make your way to the start of the walk on Crystal Avenue: located on the southern end of Pearl Beach not far from Green Point Creek. Walk down Crystal Avenue and when the row of houses end you’ll see a path on your left: the Pearl Beach Patonga Firetrail.
The walk will take you gradually uphill through the National Park. Keep following the path up – you will see some caves on your left and then a lookout on your right overlooking Pearl Beach and Broken Bay.
Continue up until you come to a crossroads and on the left you’ll see a sign for Warrah Lookout – walk down to see the lookout.
Here at Warrah Lookout the views are amazing. You are on top of a cliff and so the panoramic views are very impressive – looking across to Palm Beach in one direction and Patonga Beach and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in the other direction. You really feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney.
The lookout is fenced for safety as the rocks go down quite steep here. Don’t worry though – if you want pictures of you on the rocks there are a couple more viewpoints along the walk that aren’t fenced. Just get back onto the main track (continue in the direction you were walking in) and within a few metres you’ll see another lookout on your left (not signposted).
After about another 200 metres you’ll see a path on the left with the sign ‘Patonga’ that will take you down to Patonga Beach. It is only about 800 metres to the beach from here, and along the way you’ll see another beautiful lookout on your left.
The path down is quite steep and narrow, mostly made of stone stairs that are a bit uneven so just watch your footing. The path takes you directly onto Patonga Beach.
Once you get to Patonga Beach make sure to have a relax and a bite to eat on the beach! You can either bring your own food or stop off at The Boat House located right next to the beach for great food. The Boat House has lots of outdoor seating on the verandah, with stunning beach views and is also a hotel if you fancy staying overnight!
Like Pearl Beach, Patonga Beach is unpatrolled, however the water is a bit calmer here. You’ll find some public toilets just behind the beach if you want to change into or out of your swimming costume.
Bear in mind if you are walking back to Pearl Beach the ascent from Patonga Beach up towards the lookout is quite steep!
How to get to Pearl Beach and Patonga:
There are three ways to get from Sydney to Pearl Beach and Patonga:
drive (quickest way),
bus and ferry (most scenic),
train and bus (slowest and most inconvenient way).
If driving you will need to go northbound on the M1 and turn off at Gosford. It will take well over an hour if you are driving from Sydney CBD to get here (usually around 1.5 hours). Pearl Beach is closer than Patonga so most people will park at Pearl Beach and start the walk from here.
You can park at the Crommelin Arboretum Carpark (click here to see the location on Google maps) which is located on Crystal Avenue just a few metres from the start of the Pearl Beach to Patonga track. If you have time have a wander around the arboretum – it is free and has a large range of trees and plants.
1. Get the bus to Palm Beach Wharf
Get the bus to Palm Beach (bus number 199 from CBD or 190 from Manly). Palm Beach is the northernmost of the Northern Beaches and the bus up to here will take at least an hour so be sure to set off early!
If you are based on the Northern Beaches then this journey is very convenient as the buses stop off at all the Northern Beaches towns along the way. Get off the bus at Palm Beach Wharf, which is just after Barrenjoey House and before you reach the beach.
2. Take the ferry
Ferry to Patonga:
Usually there is a ferry that goes straight from Palm Beach to Patonga and back several times a day during the weekends and only once a day during the week. Click here to see the timetable. It costs $10 for a single ride for adults.
At the time of writing it has been suspended indefinitely, so please click on the above link to see if there ferry is still running. This is the most convenient way as you can just get off the ferry and start the walk at Patonga straight away.
Ferry to Ettalong:
If the Palm Beach – Patonga ferry isn’t running you can take the ferry to Ettalong from Palm Beach Wharf although it is a little more time consuming. The views however are stunning as you go past Lion Island, Lobster Beach and Box Head. You’ll also be able to get great views of Pearl Beach and Umina Beach.
The ferry is 30 minutes and it goes via Wagstaffe first. Note that ferries run roughly ever hour/1.5 hours so plan your journey accordingly to ensure you don’t waste time waiting for a ferry. You can view the timetable here.
There is no need to buy a ticket before you get on the ferry – you just buy a ticket onboard. During the journey the ticket man will come around to you. The fare is $12.20 one way. Opal card is not accepted on the ferry so you’ll need to use cash or a debit card.
Dogs are allowed on the ferry.
From Ettalong Wharf it is a 10 minute drive (6.5km) to Pearl Beach. It is a nice walk along the beach if you have time, alternatively you can walk for 2.5km (30 minutes) along the beach and The Esplanade to West Street where you can take the number 54 bus. As this bus doesn’t run too frequently you may want to consider getting a taxi/Uber to Pearl Beach which should cost around $20 and will be the quickest way.
Here on the map below you will see the location of Ettalong Wharf (top right hand corner) in relation to the Pearl Beach to Patonga walk.
By Train and Bus:
Taking the train and bus combination is the most inconvenient way to get to Pearl Beach or Patonga from Sydney as the buses are very infrequent so you have to really plan your journey ahead to ensure you’re not waiting around for a long time. Therefore I would say this option should only be used as a last resort.
Take the train from Sydney’s Central Station to Woy Woy – you’ll need to get on the Central Coast & Newcastle line. Trains run roughly every 30 minutes. Most of the time all the trains stop at Woy Woy, but make sure to check the timetable beforehand to be sure as often the trains running in the evening don’t stop at Woy Woy. Click here for the train timetable to Woy Woy.
From Woy Woy you can take the number 54 bus directly to Pearl Beach and Patonga via Umina. The bus takes 30 minutes and you can use your Opal Card onboard. Make sure to check the timetable beforehand however as there are only a handful of buses that run. Click here to view the timetable.
When should I do the Pearl Beach to Patonga walk?
- Luckily the Pearl Beach to Patonga walk is never that busy, even at weekends if you travel in the off-peak season so you won’t need to get up early to avoid the crowds.
- If it is a hot sunny day you might want to do the walk early or late in the afternoon to avoid the midday sun.
- Whilst seeing sunrise or sunset from the lookout would be stunning, bear in mind you will need to walk up or down the mountain in the dark, so be prepared and bring a torch if you plan to do so. Personally if I am on my own I don’t want to hike in the dark so always calculate what time you will finish the walk.
Can I take my children or a dog on the Patonga to Pearl Beach walk?
The hike is short enough that children can do it.
As you will be walking through National Park you are unable to bring your dog on the walk.
Other nearby walks and lookouts:
Mount Ettalong Lookout
Mount Ettalong Lookout provides absolutely stunning views. However you will need a car to get here as there is no footpath for the majority of the way – you would have to walk along the winding road up the mountain which isn’t very safe as there isn’t much space for pedestrians.
Park at the old water tower on Patonga Drive and walk the 10 minutes or so up the path to the two lookouts here. You can look over Pearl Beach, Umina Beach, Lion Island and the ocean.
Umina to Pearl Beach Walk
Directly below Mount Ettalong Lookout there is a footpath where you can walk from Umina Beach to Pearl Beach. it is just a short and fairly easy walk around the headland but still offers nice aerial views of both Umina and Pearl Beach. You can reach it either from the footpath right at the northern part of Pearl Beach, or from the southern end of Umina Beach.
You can bring dogs on this walk but keep them on a lead as there are some steep drop offs. Dogs can be off leash both on the northern end of Pearl Beach as well as on Umina Beach so it is a perfect walk to take your dog on.
Box Head Walk
From Pearl Beach take the 10 minute drive to Ettalong Wharf and get the ferry across to Wagstaffe Wharf. From here you can hike to nearby Lobster Beach, as well as Tallows Beach and Box Head for stunning views across to Pearl Beach, Lion Island and Barrenjoey Headland.
Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach
If you are taking the ferry across from Palm Beach make sure to spend some time here before or after your trip. Palm Beach is a lovely beachside town and is the filming location of the popular TV series Home and Away! Walk up Barrenjoey Head to get a beautiful view over Palm Beach, Pittwater and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Click here to discover how to spend the best day in Palm Beach.
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