There was that familiar sweet salt air. I pulled my boots off once I settled and the rough marine carpet scuffed the souls of my feet. As the ferry set out everything began to slow down.
Forty minutes later, passing Coasters Retreat, Bonny Doon and The Basin, we had reached Great Mackerel Beach. I walked from the ferry onto a worn wooden wharf, then eventually down to the sandy beach lapped gently by fresh incoming seas bound for Pittwater.
Located directly across the water from the illustrious Palm Beach, Mackerel is a small residential community on the northern edge of Pittwater. Less than an hour’s drive from the heart of Sydney – yet at the same time worlds away – Great Mackerel Beach makes for a perfect day trip, or even an extended stay in one of the holiday rentals.
Surrounded by Pittwater on one side and Ku-ring-gai National Park on the other Mackerel is uniquely car-free. Wheelbarrows and bicycles gently thunder down its quaint grass-roads. A wander slightly inland, down Monash Avenue (the main grass-highway here), sets my heart on fire with quirky dreams of creative domesticity. Each house, all uniquely designed and cared for, seems to reflect the character of its inhabitants and their history.
The northern end of Mackerel Beach nestles into the base of some beautiful climbing bushland that is never with out a few feathered friends. Palm Beach Ferries have an hourly service operating daily to Mackerel, but for those a little more adventurous there are some fantastic bush walks that begin from West Head. Wonderfully detailed directions and maps, which point out places of Indigenous cultural significance, are available online and free at www.wildwalks.com.
There are no shops (or public toilet facilities) at Mackerel, so like the locals visitors also need to be relatively self-sufficient. However across the water near Palm Beach Wharf there is a local general store, a scrumptious fish and chip shop and the more up market Barrenjoey House – which offers casual dining day and night and boutique style accommodation if you have the extra time.
Great Mackerel Beach is a magic place, that remains a hidden gem on the outskirts of Sydney. Well worth a day trip or even a lifetime’s extended stay.