Places to go on Pittwater
Royal Motor Yacht Club
The Royal Motor Yacht Club, Broken Bay, with its beautiful setting on Sydney’s magnificent Pittwater is widely recognised as one of Australia’s premier yacht clubs. Since its inception back in the 1920’s, the club has undergone many changes. With the passage of time, there has been the inevitable transition from a small, semi-rural establishment for a tight-knit group of dedicated “boaties”, to the current modern facility catering for a diverse community of cruising, sailing, racing, fishing and social members that is the Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken Bay today.
Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club
The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club is situated on Green Point on the pristine body of water called Pittwater, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The Club offers members and their guests one of the finest facilities in Australia; with a state-of-the-art floating marina, a modern boatyard and 50-tonne travel lift, two hardstand areas, on-site marine services, 24 hour fuel, tender service, gymnasium, multi-level secure parking, fine dining restaurant, casual waterfront bistro and first-class function facilities that have made it an international talking point.
The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club takes has an ongoing commitment to providing the best facilities and conditions for its members and their guests and, a warm and friendly welcome to National and International visitors.
What most people seem to refer to as Pittwater is only a fraction of some expansive and breathtaking waterways, which also include the Hawkesbury River and Brisbane Waters. These three arms lead into Broken Bay which comprises the broad entrance from the Tasman Sea, marked by Box Head to the north and Barrenjoey Heads to the south.
Geographically, Broken Bay is a tide-dominated, drowned valley which flows openly into the Tasman Sea. Sailing up the approximately 16 nautical miles from Sydney Heads, one of the first sights you glimpse of Broken Bay is Lion island: an eight-hectare nature reserve only accessible to a colony of fairy penguins. From some viewpoints it resembles a Sphinx, thus the name.
North of it you can see Pearl Beach’s lush, but swelly shores and Umina’s shallow sandbanks, which could easily trap the unfamiliar sailor at night.
To the north, Broken Bay is framed by the beautiful Bouddi National Park, including its only deep anchorage, Iron Ladder Beach, right between Box Head and Little Box Head. We tucked in here a few times for some snorkelling and lunch while waiting for the high tide to go back through the Ettalong Channel. However, safe and comfortable overnighting here would need calmer conditions than what we have ever experienced.
To the south, Broken Bay is framed by the prominent Barrenjoey Lighthouse, 91 metres above water levels. Sydney’s most northern point also marks the entrance to Pittwater.
There is great protection for all but south easterlies and strong south westerlies. Amongst the 100 club moorings in winter there are always plenty available. But here comes the ‘but’: in summer it is one crammed armada of yachts as many sailing visitors understand this is just the tip of the iceberg of numerous stunning bays in the area.
Between Towlers Bay and Coasters Retreat there is a quaint, not commonly visited beach. There are no moorings, but good anchoring for up to five boats on a sandy bottom. Great in winter months, Portuguese Beach offers protection from westerlies and sunshine the minute the hot sphere emerges on the horizon.
Most of the Towlers Bay is relatively deep but it drops off suddenly towards the beach, which greeted us welcomingly in the morning: sparkling sand, plenty of rock platforms, water trees with improvised rope-swings and a lagoon and grass lands to keep the kids’ entertained for hours.
Beyond Morning Bay
The south western arm of this haven, Morning Bay, has plenty of room for anchoring too but stay equally alert of the depth as it shallows rapidly towards the head.
A small creek enters here. Exploring it on your dinghy at high tide, you might be surprised how far you can venture into the dense rainforest. Coming from the north, this is Pittwater’s last protected anchorages not filled with permanently moored vessels.
The whole east shore of Pittwater is also fitted with permanent moorings, houses, some beaches and the occasional ferry wharfs. As a basic rule here, consider that if the water was deep enough, there would be permanent moorings.
Overall, Pittwater has ample 4G mobile coverage, plus convenient marinas, fuel, water and pump-out facilities, such as at the Royal Motor Yacht Club where members can also enjoy the heated pool, a 100-ton slipway and a variety of marine trade services on site.
The Hawkesbury River and its associated main tributary the Nepean River, virtually encircle the metropolitan region of Sydney, travelling for almost 120 kilometres to its mouth at Broken Bay, about 15 kilometres from the Tasman Sea.
The first two beaches to the south are affected by Tasman Sea swell, but beautiful day-time stops. The large sandy beach at Flint and Steel invites a picnic lunch, or the steep 40 minutes track to West Head, where daring fitness enthusiasts are rewarded with 360 degree views.
Hungry Beach, a little further west, features dramatic cliffs. In numerous caves middens of discarded shellfish mounds tell stories of a time when the indigenous people took shelter here.
Just west, Little Pittwater is a rugged bay with difficult access to the shore due to a rocky shoreline. However, it is more protected for a potential overnight stay. A great spot to watch the world go by, its size limits it to more or less two boats. In all three beaches, a bottom of mud and sand allows good anchoring.
Patonga and Little Patonga Beach
While you pass the above-mentioned, to your north you will notice the sleepy little fishing village of Patonga. Usually this large beachy bay is prone to sea swell and strong tidal movements. Stay out of the ferries’ way and off the north east, which shoals to a constant shallow depth from a surprisingly long way out.
Just west lies Little Patonga, a slightly more protected bay, especially when tucked up under the eastern headland. There is a NSW Sport and Recreation camp on the ground, which can be somewhat protective of the beach. It gets busy here with fickle winds, strong tides, ferry traffic and an elaborate buoyage system outside of which it gets very shallow.
Your main reason to explore is most likely the Hawkesbury River Marina at Brooklyn with cafes and a pub within arm’s reach. It is also a convenient spot for tacking on fuel and picking up guests.
America’s and Refuge Bay
Jumping back south, most people chuck a left once the large, popular and protected Refuge and America’s Bay appear on their port side. Always-present crowds are all there is not to like about these two connected bays, scattered with close to a hundred private, club and courtesy moorings.
Refuge Bay features a small beach with a fresh waterfall, which tops any luxury outdoor shower. Like all surrounding bays, they can only be accessed via boat or serious bush-hiking; paradise-factor integral.
Less busy and just a few minutes further, still on your port side, you will notice Hallett and Little Hallett’s Beach. The former has a handful of public moorings and a nice, medium-sized beach.
In all but strong NE it gives reasonable protection. In fact, most nights we spent here were so still that the main noise interrupting the night was the mooring buoy banging against our hull. Little Hallett has a smaller beach and a waterfall.
Right opposite you will find three little bays, with a few scattered public moorings each. With a rainforest rock backdrop towards the west, they can get shady quite early in the afternoon but are the spot to be for a sunny breakfast and early morning swim.
Jerusalem Bay and surroundings
Sailing on with the sun you will see another handful of small, secluded beaches on either side, most offering a few courtesy moorings. If they are busy, there is no more space for anchoring.
To the north, you start heading into Jerusalem Bay, unless you pick up a mooring at the tiny, protected inlet of Little Jerusalem Bay. One fine winter day we picked up the last of the three moorings in Jerusalem’s well-protected Pinto Bay, which ends in a marshland surrounded by pristine, quiet bushland, like most places in these plentiful, lush, sheltered creeks.
In summer it is close to impossible to get a mooring here as most are permanently busy with not one, but up to six motorboats rafting up. Even on days featuring several metres of swell near the heads, you will barely see a ripple here. Older kids and fun-loving adults swing of a rope hung off a tree, younger kids explore the safe bay in dinghies and kayaks.
If you were to get stuck in this inlet’s safety and serenity until you run out of provisions, Cottage Point is just a few bays away.
Spend your time deep into the creek and it will feel like in the Jungle Book itself: caves, waterholes, lyrebirds, pristine forests and skinny dips included.
Conveniently located opposite Cottage Point, Looking Glass Bay offers protected deepwater anchoring space for up to four boats within arm’s reach to the amenities of Cottage Point, including water, fuel and pump-out facilities. In addition to the kiosk there is also the Cottage Point Inn.
The white tablecloth restaurant also has a couple of pontoon spots available for customers. These are great if you do not mind being part of the other guests’ visual entertainment, amongst the busy stream of planes, ferries and private water-taxies.
After our Cottage Point lunch, we landed at dusk in Waratah Bay in Cowan’s Creek. There are between one and four moorings in each of the small, secluded bays along the rocky shoreline. They tend to be empty most of the time.
Between Arwen, Smiths and Cowan Creek, there are too many bays to count. To go into each of them would take up most of this magazine, plus take away the fun of discovering some secrets yourself. In a nutshell: peaceful, beautiful glassy bays surrounded by bush describes the general feel.
A few moorings are sprinkled in most of them. The average depth is at least ten metres and sandy beaches are rare, yet other little gems are spread all over the national park and coastline. Just to set you off on a little treasure hunt, here is some key attractions for some of our favourite creek spots, from east to west.
Castle Lagoon in Cowan’s Creek features a hidden waterfall at the north eastern side of the bay.
At the head of Yeoman’s Bay is a big, shallow sandy area that leads into a long meandering creek easily navigable in your dinghy. If you are into a bit of a bush bash you can follow this creek line up to a beautiful cascading waterfall and swimming hole.
The floating dock at Akuna Bay at the head of Coal and Candle Creek has water and pump-out facilities for marina clients and berths for restaurant visitors.
Smith’s Creek’s seeming remoteness is what makes it most special; as well as the ruin of an old cottage, which rewards the adventurous bush-basher heading east up the cliffs at the entrance of the last bay. The creek at the head of this bay meanders forever and in your dinghy you will feel like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Juxtaposing the serene tranquillity of our night in Waratah Bay, the next morning a dinghy ride to Bobbin Head took us right into a busy, bustling Sunday with plenty of kids on the playground. The marina, which includes fuel and maintenance facilities, was in full gear and a steaming, fresh coffee accompanied the enjoyable people-watching moments.
Sourced from Dini Martinez, from www.mysailing.com.au