West Head | Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
The outlook from West Head Lookout has to be one of the best views anywhere in Australia. North Head is spectacular, but I’m lost for words when it comes to describing West Head.
With sweeping views north to the Central Coast and Lion Island, east to Barrenjoey Head, and west to the Hawkesbury River, it really is a visual feast that will keep you coming back again and again.
West Head Lookout is found at the very end of a long stretch of road in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Park entry will cost you $12 for vehicles. I know I say I write about things you can do in Sydney that are free, but twelve bucks isn’t a lot to pay and is no doubt cheaper than parking fees you’ll fork out at other destinations.
Take a hike
Four bushwalks start from West Head Lookout down to the water. When I say down, I really mean down. West Head is at least 150m above sea level. The good news is, the track to West Head Beach and the beaches beyond have steps – making the hike a whole lot easier on the knees.
West Head Beach
The walk to West Head Beach is only 500m and well worth the effort. Facing Barrenjoey Head, better known as Palm Beach and the home of Home and Away, every step of the way offers water glimpses and dazzling scenery.
The track winds through gorgeous bushland with towering gums and quirky grass trees, and ends at the emerald and aquamarine waters of West Head Beach.
When we visited the steps onto the beach had been washed away (no doubt due to the east coast low that destroyed many a coastline in Sydney during the winter of 2016) and not yet replaced. However, plenty of families with young children didn’t find this an obstacle to get onto the beach (it will be more difficult for less mobile people).
The beach isn’t huge, but really pretty. Both sand and sea are dotted with rocks that are interesting to look at and fun for kids to clamber over. They also make good seats to sit on and daydream while looking across to Barrenjoey Head.
Resolute Beach and Great Mackeral Beach
For those who want a longer walk and larger beach, then keep to the track ahead instead of turning off to West Head Beach. Resolute Beach is 1km from the start of the walk and Great Mackeral 1.6.
For history buffs and the foolhardy, there is a more challenging walk – the West Head Army Track. Starting near the road, the track winds down the headland and is so steep in parts you will be scaling ladders
According to the Ku-ring-gai Chase NP website: “Much of the original wartime track work still exists…Perched above the shoreline, the army battery once hosted two 4.7-inch ex-naval guns supported on 800kg pedestals, an observation post, ammunition storage and 2 searchlights. Today, the silent structures are a reminder of the days when heavy equipment was transported down the track via a purpose-built railway.”
Another track starting from West Head leads to Red Hands Cave. The walk is just shy of 1km and takes you to ancient Aboriginal ochre rock art.
There are many more bushwalks leading east and west off the main road to West Head Lookout. Some tracks take you down to the water (so bring swimmers), such as The Basin Track where you can also see wallabies at dusk, and Flint and Steel Track. Others however take you to a lookout, so check the board before starting your walk with swimmers and towel. What they all have in common though is they have a steep walk down – which means a steep walk back up. Don’t let that deter you however, just be prepared.
If you’re looking for a toilet, drive to the Resolute picnic grounds, about 1km back along the road from West Head.
Really, there is only one way to get to West Head, and that is to drive. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is about 35km from the Sydney CBD, so pack some lunch and make a day of it.
If you’re coming from the south side of the harbour, drive north via Chatswood or the Pacific Highway to Mona Vale Rd. Travel along this road until Terrey Hills, and just near the Baha’i temple, there is a turn off to McCarrs Creek Rd. Follow this until you reach the park.
If you’re coming from the Northern Beaches, follow Pittwater Rd all the way around until it turns into McCarrs Creek Rd. Follow this until you reach the park.