There’s a look you might get from family and friends when you say you are visiting Summer Bay. I suppose I can understand. I live less than half an hour from Neighbour’s Ramsay Street, but I’ve never been there.
But our family watches Home and Away. Miss 11 is the biggest fan and she always makes sure the TV is on Channel Seven as 7pm comes around.
Many of the location shoots from Home and Away are filmed at Palm Beach on Sydney’s northern beaches. It is a stunning location, less than an hour’s drive from the centre of Sydney.
Visitors can do an “official” Home and Away tour, but as this starts in Sydney and we were staying close to Palm Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, we decided to do it ourselves.
The best resource I found is a website called Back to the Bay which has some great information and we definitely found it useful in tracking down Home and Away locations.
The two sites that feature most prominently in the series are the diner and surf club and both can be found at Palm Beach.
It is easy to see why this is such a perfect location for filming – with surf breaks, the calm waters of the Pittwater, beachside suburbia and national park within minutes from each other.
Unfortunately, there was no filming when we visited on a Monday morning. In retrospect I should have noticed that the Official Home and Away Tour to Summer Bay leaves Sydney just after 1pm, returning to Manly around 5pm!
However, we did have a very quick brush with Home and Away fame the previous day when we walked past Alec Snow, who plays Matt, on a coastal track between Bronte and Bondi – and poor Miss 11 didn’t even notice.
But filming aside, and even if you are not a Home and Away fan, this area is well worth a visit when staying in Sydney as it is truly spectacular.
This location actually incorporates 3 sets in one – the Summer Bay diner, Alf’s Bait Ship and an apartment currently home to Roo and Matt and previously home to Charlotte.
Easily recognisable, with its pretty light-lined jetty, this is actually a lovely spot to just sit and enjoy a drink and meal. In real life, known as The Boathouse Palm Beach, the interior has a nautical theme and dare I say, has a more charming interior than the Diner.
Little touches, such as the anchor-shaped chocolate sprinkled onto our cappuccino, not the mention blankets for outside diners, enhanced the experience.
Alf’s Bait Shop (Barrenjoey Boating Services in real life) offers kayak and boat hire. You might even get to see Nate running or kayaking along the adjoining calm water beach (known on screen as Flat Beach).
So often, a Home and Away beach panoramic scene pans towards the Barrenjoey Headland and lighthouse. You can’t come here without going for a walk. There are two options to the top – a steeper, shorter track (known as the Smugglers track) or the 1km more gently sloping track.
Access to both tracks is along the beach on the Pittwater side of the peninsula.
We did a round trip, via Smugglers Track on the way up. This is quite a steep path, but if you need a break, taking in views are a perfect excuse to stop for a while.
Luckily for us, we were also visiting during whale migration season and spied some whale action out to sea.
Summer Bay Surf Club
It’s the heart of the town and so iconic that the North Palm Beach Surf Lifesaving Club has a permanent Summer Bay Surf Club sign facing the ocean is the surf club. This location will also ring a bell for visitors with the adjoining Norfolk Pines often featuring in scenes.
As so many characters have done over the years, this is a place where you can just sit and stare out to sea contemplating life (which is hopefully not as dramatic as it is for those who live in Summer Bay).
The surf lifesaving club also operates the Summer Bay Kiosk, where you can stop and have a bite to eat while enjoy the scenery.
Palm Beach Rock Pool
I could not find it documented, but looking at the pictures we are pretty sure this is where Charlotte was shot. In reality, this stunning sea pool is at the southern end of Palm Beach. A quiet day, with gentle waves when we visited, this is also a good place to dream about where you could live if money was no object.
As my children said, it is creepy to look at someone’s home. I am sure home owners know what they are in for when they become an outside location on Home and Away. A quick snap of the Braxton and Palmer homes for research purposes and we moved on.
Stockton Sand Dunes
This is a bit further afield – about 2 hours’ drive north between Newcastle and Port Stephens. The Stockton Bight Sand Dunes are awe-inspiring. Come over the crest just past Birubi Point Surf Lifesaving Club and it’s like you have come to the edge of the desert. It’s another world.
It’s here that this year’s plan crash scenes were filmed. While no remnants remain, the scenery will be familiar to those who watched the drama unfold.
One of the best ways to get close to the location is to book a sandboarding trip. From the carpark, you will go in a 4WD mini bus into the dunes, where a pile of sandboards await you to use for as long or as little as you wish (the number of runs will depend on your fitness because I can tell you, getting to the top is not easy. Let’s just say 2 runs was enough for me!)
Stay: We stayed for 3 nights in a waterfront spa room (offering stunning views across the Pittwater) at the Metro Mirage Newport. Accommodation was a Queen bed, plus sofa bed. The hotel also offers 2 bedroom family suites. A highlight for me was the outside hot spa with water views. Check out more family friendly accommodation in Sydney here.
Dine: Directly across the road from the Mirage is the Newport Hotel. Apparently recently renovated, this pub is one of the most family friendly I have ever encountered. Walk through the traditional bar to a dining wonderland, with food zones, stunning garden setting and a family area with wall scrabble and 5 table tennis tables. Game on!
Tips: Just like so many areas in Sydney, you will have to pay for parking using Pay and Display meters ($4 per hour) but you can use credit card. Also, don’t look for the Palm Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. It is North Palm Beach club that doubles as Summer Bay. The surf club, and the diner, are found at the far end of Palm Beach, off Beach Road (turn into one of two entrances, both marked as Governor Phillip Park).