Picture the perfect Sydney beach moment. Swimming with your children in the crystal clear water in the gentle surf on a glorious 27 degree mid-Autumn day during the school holidays. Let your mind stretch to also see a long stretch of golden beach with only a few other people around. And a caravan and camping holiday park which is not at full capacity during the Easter school holidays…
How far do you need to travel? Surely from Sydney a place like this must take many hours of driving to find that perfect place? You too could be caught up in the 21 km traffic jam of people leaving Sydney at the start of the 2014 Easter four day long weekend.
How surprised will you be to learn that this perfect place is a mere 27 km / 17 mile / 29 minute drive from central Sydney? Welcome to North Narrabeen, a genuine beachside village on Sydney’s doorstep.
About North Narrabeen
The North Narrabeen area was first settled by British colonists in the early 1800s, and first became a destination for camping from 1913 after the tramline was extended to service this area.
Today you can either camp or stay in a cabin at the Big 4 Lakeside Holiday Park which is on the north side of Narrabeen Lagoon.
Getting to North Narrabeen
The drive from Sydney to North Narrabeen is 27 km / 17 mile / 29 minutes.
If you want to use public transport check out the NSW Public Transport website which will help you to plan your trip. You can reach North Narrabeen with a single bus trip from Sydney then have a 10 minute walk to the Big 4 Lakeside Holiday Park.
Where to Stay in North Narrabeen
The Big 4 Lakeside Holiday Park is a destination in its own right. On site there is a water park which our children loved, and also some playgrounds. During school holidays they run a holiday program which includes a variety of activities, including movie nights, trivia games, sand sculpture etc.
Every other child has a bicycle or scooter and the roads around the park are a great option for relatively safe free wheeling.
For this trip we decided to stay in a Holiday Villa although we have previously camped there a few years ago. After loading up our car and roof pod we decided that it was just as well that we were staying in a villa this time as there was no chance that we could have fit all of our camping gear as well!
We found that staying in a villa meant that we interacted less with other families than when we camped but it was also nice to not have to do the trek to the toilet block during the middle of the night, or have to set up and pack up the campsite. The villa was well appointed and had everything we needed for a relaxing couple of days.
What to Do in North Narrabeen
North Narrabeen Beach
North Narrabeen Beach is a short 10 minute walk from the Holiday Park. If you cross the bridge to the southern side of the North Narrabeen River there is a lovely still shallow water area which is great for children to play and also for fishing. From there you can either walk along the beach on the southern side of the river before emerging onto the ocean side, or you can take the shorter walk over the sand dunes on the path to the North Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club.
North Narrabeen Beach has its own patrolled beach and surfing area. The patrolled swimming area is almost directly below the Surf Life Saving Club building. The swimming area is patrolled between the September and the April long weekends. Swim between the red and yellow flags to ensure your safety.
The North Narrabeen Beach can have very rough waves and undertow. For our three swims we had one lovely experience where the waves were gentle and we had a lovely swim. On our other two swims the force of the waves was quite rough and the undertow was strong. Make sure you closely supervise your children and look at the alternative still water options if the water is unpleasant.
The walk along the beach is very pleasant and if you would like a bigger trek you can walk all the way to Narrabeen Beach which is at the distant other end of the same beach and you should be able to catch the bus back again.
North Narrabeen Rockpool
At the head of the North Narrabeen River is the North Narrabeen Rockpool, which is a large 50m sea water swimming pool with a wooden boardwalk through the middle. These pools are cleaned weekly by emptying the water back into the ocean and then refilling when the tide comes in. The Rockpool is a great place to swim safely.
Beside the North Narrabeen Rockpool is the North Narrabeen Headland, which connects with Turimetta Beach. Beside the rockpool is a lovely area which is a shallow swimming area when the tides are right. Many people fish from the rocky outcrop but check the conditions first as in Australia people die every year as a result of being swept off the rocks in rough conditions.
The headland itself is a great place to explore when the tide is low. We enjoyed watching the ocean swell crash into the rocks and the resultant plumes of water.
The North Narrabeen Rockpool is also a favourite place for photographers and my husband and daughter also enjoyed taking photos at both sunrise and sunset which you can see below.
Turimetta Beach is also a short walk from the holiday park or over the hill from the North Narrabeen Rockpool and is a great place to explore. While the beach is not safe for swimming our children loved running along the beach and exploring the rock pools. Turimetta beach is also a well known photographer’s destination to catch the sunrise over the beach.
There was also floating pumice stone everywhere. The pumice stone has floated all the way from an underwater volcano near New Zealand! As the lava emerges from the volcano it hits the surrounding water and instantly hardens, trapping tiny pockets of air inside which is why it is so lightweight and can float.
There are some steep cliffs in the area so if you take children with you ensure you supervise them closely.
North Narrabeen River
The Big 4 Lakeside Holiday Park is situated directly beside the Narrabeen River, which connects the Narrabeen Lagoon with the ocean. The shallow clear flowing river is readily accessible and many families were fishing, swimming and playing in the water in the area. We saw many people using kayaks and other water craft to make the most of this lovely area. It is a tidal river so the strength of the current and river depth varies throughout the day.
The walk from the Big 4 Lakeside Holiday Park to the river mouth is lovely. After crossing over the bridge the walk along the northern side is along a man made wall which has a 3-4 metre drop off with no railing. It is a great location to look down into the water and see the plethora of fish life. We tried to go fishing in both the area closest to the holiday park and the area beside the wall. We were only successful in catching three baby puffer fish but unfortunately did not manage to get anything edible. Our children enjoyed the experience, and particularly where they could see how the fish reacted to the bait! Next time we go back we will plan to better check the tide times and what bait to use.
Narrabeen Lagoon is a short walk or bike ride from the Big 4 Lakeside Holiday Park. A great playground which is a better option for older children is located only a short distance away. In 2014 the 10km pathway around the lagoon should be completed to enable walking and cycling. Only one section remains to be completed so until then there is already 7.2km of completed pathways to explore!
Narabeen Lagoon is also suitable for a range of water activities including sailing, boating and wind surfing. There are multiple boat ramps around the lagoon.
Other North Narrabeen Facilities
Around the area are a good selection of cafes and restaurants. Our personal favourite is the Lifesaver Cafe which is just over the road from the Surf Lifesaving Club. It is a lovely spot to just sit back, relax and enjoy people watching and some lovely food. The food service was slightly slow but otherwise we had a lovely time.
We also bought the classic fish and chips from the Lakeside Fish Markets which required a short drive but was definitely worth it. They had a great selection of lovely looking fresh fish and our dinner was well received by the whole family. The staff were happy to show off their live mud crabs to my fascinated children!
Our short stay in North Narrabeen was definitely some time to relax and just enjoy the beachside lifestyle. Our children loved going on holiday and we are definitely planning to return on a more regular basis.
The fact that this gem is within a short drive from where we live in Sydney is a fantastic bonus and it makes you realise that you don’t have to drive multiple hours to have a great holiday! Or get caught in an infamous Sydney 21km traffic jam…
Are you also a fan of North Narrabeen? Or have I now convinced you to give it a try? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.