About 40 kilometres from the CBD, the northern stretch of Sydney’s Northern Beaches is an easy drive, but why drive when you can fly? Book a transfer with Sydney Seaplanes and you’ll see the very best of the city — the beaches and headlands, the national parks and lighthouses — at its sexiest angles. And how nice it is to be airborne again! At about 30 minutes, it’s a short trip but a beautiful one. Planes depart from Rose Bay in Sydney’s east (T tip: arrive early to enjoy a martini at the Empire Lounge before your departure).
A courtesy vehicle will transfer you to Jonah’s (jonahs.com.au) at Whale Beach, a local institution that has long been considered the benchmark for luxury dining and accommodation in Australia. The contemporary, seasonal menu relies heavily on Italian influences and, with more than 1,600 choices, the wine list makes fascinating reading. Order pasta — any pasta — and be sure to leave room for the white chocolate semifreddo with figs and caramel pearls.
For something a little more laidback, consider The Boathouse at Palm Beach, Whale Beach Deli or Barrenjoey House. They’re run by The Boathouse Group (theboathousegroup.com.au), which has a monopoly on casual dining in these parts and can be counted on for warm service and enormous portions. The group recently launched guest house- style accommodation at Barrenjoey House in Palm Beach — a luxe, Hamptons-style affair.
But for a real splurge, book two nights at The Archer House, a Whale Beach getaway that has been home to its fair share of visiting international celebrities over the years. It’s easy to see why, with its secluded beach and jaw-dropping views. At once timeless and cutting-edge, the four-bedroom weekender is built into the hill and is a case study in waxed concrete, steel and glass.
You won’t want to leave so plan ahead and have Palmy Platters prepare one of its extravagant grazing boards. Piled with seasonal fruits, terrine, homemade dips, gourmet cheeses and home-baked fig, walnut and parmesan crackers, one of these picture-perfect platters will suffice for dinner. And while you’re planning ahead, book a massage with Purity Pacific (purity pacific.com). More than a mobile massage and spa service, Purity Pacific is run by a passionate local, Ellie King, and includes a thoughtful consultation and treatments using natural, toxin-free products.
As for seeing the sights, there are two great options: hiking and sailing. Taylor Made Escapes (taylormadeescapes.com.au) will help you find your sea legs with a luxurious Beneteau yacht — whether you take part in the sailing action or spend a few hours sipping champagne is entirely up to you. The company offers all kinds of trips, from scenic, skippered cruises around the Pittwater to overnight moored stays. Gourmet platters are available for an additional charge (and advice on how to pop the question at sunset is free).
For landlubbers, there’s a half-hour walk to the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Built in 1881, the lighthouse marks Sydney’s northernmost point and offers stunning views that are worth breaking a sweat for. The guided tours held on Sundays add to the experience, however, they’re currently on hold due to Covid-19 (keep an eye on the National Parks website for updates; nationalparks.nsw.gov.au).
To refuel, make your way to Bert’s at Newport. While neighbouring tables will order the crustaceans (and that’s not a bad choice), if the daily specials menu happens to list an Australian Bresse chicken, that’s the pick. Nobody does a roast chicken like Bert’s. Rich in heritage and flavour, this dish proves that slow-grown and free-range means tender, juicy meat (and the envy of fellow diners). Add to that a great wine list, a rum baba to rival all others and people-watching worthy of a reality TV show, and you’ve got the fixings of a long, lazy Sunday lunch.
The writer was a guest of Destination NSW, Sydney Seaplanes
and The Boathouse Group.