Modern media, through television and films, has had at least one interesting effect on being a tourist. There are many places around the world now that for many are instantly recognisable, even for those who have never been there before. An obvious example is New York. Standing in Times Square for the first time in daylight did not feel like a new experience with the sights and sounds around me having been repeated many times before on film. The same is true for many of Palm Beach, a northern suburb of Sydney. If you are a fan of the television soap opera Home & Away, the beach will be quickly recognisable as that from the series. We visited Palm Beach a few weeks ago, and although I’m neither a fan nor frequent watcher of the programme myself, any doubt as to the fictional location was quickly put to rest by the continual singing of “You know that we belong together…” by my companions.
The area is actually a peninsular, with Broken Bay, as named by Captain Cook, to the north, with Whale Beach to the south and Pittwater to the West. The beach is accessed by Barrenjoey Road, with the lighthouse on the hill that appears in Home & Away being the Barrenjoey lighthouse. The name derives from Governor Phillip in the late eighteenth century, who named the area after a “little kangaroo”. Arthur Phillip was quite a remarkable man, who served in the Portuguese navy as well as the British before being sent by Lord Sydney to form a colony in New South Wales, as the first Governor. He moved the planned settlement from the initial plan of Botany Bay to Port Jackson, which he renamed.
The area was actually used for filming before Home & Away came along, with Barrenjoey Customs House being used for the 1978 Mel Gibson film, “Tim”. However, it is for Home & Away that the area is most famous.
There is a small building near the beach including a café, which I am told features in the series, and just behind that is another café where we stopped for lunch. The singing, however, continued.
Palm beach itself is a glorious stretch of sand, and we could see why it has been used for filming. Two days after we were there, the pop band One Direction appeared at the beach, and what had been a quiet area during our visit, with only a few other people on the beach, became somewhat more hectic.
One sobering thought whilst we were there was the risk of bushfire. October 2013 had been a particularly dry, warm and windy month and New South Wales was suffering badly from fires. As you can see from the pictures, the area around the lighthouse had already seen its plant life burnt by the fires, and as we drove back to central Sydney afterwards, we could smell the smoke from other fires.