By exploring Patonga (a Guringai word meaning oyster), I’m breaking two of my self-made rules. Patonga isn’t a suburb of Sydney, but being easily accessible by ferry from Pittwater, it’s a sleepy hollow worth visiting. And, instead of travelling by public transport, my hubby is taking me in our commuter boat.
Getting to Patonga
Unusually, the river is flat with only small ripples from the breeze patterning the water’s surface. The cool wind blows through my hair and as we round Juno Point the morning sunlight sparkles on the water.
The tinny rises and falls over smooth rollers rolling in from the sea. There, beyond Lion island is the ocean, and to my right the Barrenjoey Lighthouse cautions sailors entering the bay.
Recreational fishermen bob up and down in their small boats, lines dropped over the sides.
Arriving at Patonga Public Wharf
At the public wharf, I step awkwardly onto wooden stairs leading up to the jetty. Water gently washes over the bottom step, making a soft rushing sound as it swishes back and forth.
There’s hardly anyone around. A woman in red training shoes lies on a wooden bench, her face absorbing the sun’s warmth.
Listening in the Quiet
Listening, I hear the soothing motion of the water, birds twittering and singing, the occasional crow squawking. Rhythmic hammering at a nearby building site hardly disturbs the peace.
A barking dog draws my attention to a woman strolling along the beach, shoes in hand. She picks up a stick and throws it into the water. Her dog races into the water, only its head visible as it swims frantically to retrieve the stick.
Wearing a grey singlet, sporting tattoos down both arms and a long grey goatee beard, a man manoeuvres his old aluminium boat alongside the wharf. He eyes me suspiciously.
In answer to my questions, he mutters that he went fishing “earlier” and the catch was “OK”. A man of few words.
Logs, sticks, seaweed and shells cover the beach. A rope tied between a post and a huge log will hopefully prevent the log being washed back into the bay. There’s surprisingly little plastic.
A seagull waddles at the water’s edge eyeing me watchfully. Tiny little scratch marks in the sand mark an occasional crab hole.
‘Dog’ woman walks towards me now. She’s carrying a small plastic bag filled with little bits picked up from the beach. I suggest that she “must be the reason the beach is so clean”. She replies that last week she “picked up a huge bag of plastic on Pearl Beach”.
I watch a mixed flock of gulls and terns standing at the water’s edge nervous at my presence. Some glide in circles above my head, occasionally swooping down to the water and then landing with a flurry.
Today there’s no one around to heed the warning sign “Danger Strong Currents” at the mouth of Patonga Creek. Opposite the rock wall which leads to the caravan park, homes with only water access line the shore.
Walking the Streets
Caravans fill a large section of the park yet there are few people around. Perhaps the caravans are permanent weekenders. Patonga is a small sleepy village whose population rises and falls on weekends and during school holidays.
The stillness and silence hits me as I walk past large, architect designed holiday homes and simple original cottages.
Fluttering in the breeze, an Australian flag flies at half-mast outside the Patonga Hall. A woman walks up to the noticeboard to read the funeral notice of a well-known local woman.
When we chat, she mentions “Patonga isn’t like it used to be” adding that “permanent residents make up about a third of the homes in Patonga”.
A Gallery, A Memorial and A Schoolhouse
The Old Patonga Bakehouse Gallery only opens on Sundays, so I peer through the windows to eye off the works. The woodcuts look particularly appealing.
Clothed in white plastic and barricaded behind fencing and scaffolding, the War memorial is out of bounds. Opposite, pretty leadlight windows decorate the “Old Schoolhouse”. Houses nestle in the damp shadow of a cliff.
An old man wearing shorts and thongs but no shirt wobbles slowly by on a bicycle. He, like me is checking out the neighbourhood.
My route zig-zags through the tiny suburb, returning me to the creek where two women slowly row their kayaks back to shore. A lone pelican floats nearby waiting for offcuts from the yet to return fishermen.
Public land provides walking access to the area between the creek and row of houses which look through trees to the tidal waters. Here, out on their decks, locals relax. Chatter and the clatter of cutlery on plates reaches me from an upstairs outdoor area.
After meandering past the heritage fire-boatshed, small boats pulled up upside-down on the shore and a friendly cockatoo to whom I say “G’day”, I return to the street.
The Other Side of Patonga Wharf
The Eve Williams Memorial Oval is not much more than a field of unmown grass, but the pavilion with its lacey wooden trim provides pleasant shade and tables for picnickers.
Sitting near Patonga boat ramp I gaze out at the bay. Two fishing boats turn slowly at anchor, done for the day.
Now that it’s lunchtime, there are more people around. A man in his striped long pyjamas walks down the boat ramp, white cereal bowl in hand. He washes the bowl and returns to his campervan. Day trippers settle in for lunch at The Boathouse.
As I walk across the sand towards Dark Corner, I wonder if there’s something sinister behind the name. Actually, it’s pretty straight forward. Being on the shady side of a ridge, the corner is ‘always dark’.
A woman, keeping an eye out for her two little dogs, tells me that the row of simple heritage cottages at Dark Corner are under leasehold. Only accessible by foot at low tide, the cottages have a pleasing outlook across the bay.
Part of the Great North Walk, a walking track leads uphill from the other side of the ‘creek’. It is low tide. Rather than walking up to Warrah Lookout (a shortish walk of a couple of kilometres), I mosey past the cottages to a rocky outcrop where intricate sandstone weathering and broad views of the bay await.
End of a Pleasant Walk through Patonga
Instead of the hoped-for fish and chips at the Boathouse to end my Patonga Discovery, hubby needs to get home. I reluctantly climb in our tinny wondering what it would be like to retire to Patonga.
Enjoyed discovering Patonga? Then you will enjoy walking through Bundeena on Sydney’s South.
Next Stop: Double Bay
- Read more about Life’s an Adventure’s Light to Light walk here
- Read more about the Seahorse Inn here
- To eat in Merimbula, I can recommend dinner at Club Sapphire and breakfast at Mormors
- For clean and inexpensive motel accommodation in Merimbula (the rooms are spacious) try the Comfort Inn
Walking Map and Notes
- I used this map for my walk through Patonga. You can download it here (note the map includes the bushwalk from Dark Corner to Warrah Lookout which I did not do).
- Use the map together with these Patonga Day Notes. Please note that the time indicated on my map doesn’t allow for stopping and looking around.
Really enjoyed your little meander through Patonga …. seems like time has passed it by these days.
You write beautifully Joanne & I can always picture myself there when you describe what you’re seeing.
Haven’t had any Sydney walks for a while but they kick off next month with my walking group
Happy walks ?♀️
Thanks so much Chrissy. It’s taken me a while to get back into it this year, but I’ve got my motivation back.
Joanne, welcome back. I enjoy your post at Patonga. Your post give me ideas of where to explore. Sydney has much more than i know about.
Thanks Irene, you are not alone – I embarked on this project because of all the places I knew little about.
Hi Joanne, I always love ‘tagging along’ on your walks by way of your excellent turn of phrase and writing style.
Patonga has long been my very favourite place to visit, since childhood days and todays’ visit through your blog pleasantly refreshes my memory.
Thanks Russell for your lovely comment. I really get a buzz when my posts remind readers of places they knew from childhood days.
Thank you Joanne for sharing your stroll through Patonga, which I didn’t know existed, even though I spent my life growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and lived in the vicinity from North Curl Curl to Newport. Although in saying that I did go somewhere on a ferry with my grandmother and her Sunday school group once, as a child. This could possibly be the place 🙂
I love your writing style and photo’s.
Thank you, Kerrie. It’s amazing how many interesting places there are to discover in Sydney that we’ve not heard about.
What a gorgeous place, I love your photographs? Lucky permanent residence who live there but looks like a great place to visit for a day trip or weekend.
Thanks Bernadette. We do go there occasionally for lunch and have spent a couple of nights there in a tent too. A quiet peaceful part of the Central Coast.
Patonga was a sleepy hollow , but is now a car park for the Boathouse resturant with a bar . The local residents have to put up with congested streets to the point that inconsiderate tourists block people’s driveways and force the local bus to divert from its normal route. Tourism is spoiling Patonga because of a commercial business. I have lived here 59 years and its disgusting to see what Patonga has become.
Hello Roger and thank you for your local perspective. After this long weekend I know what you mean about congested streets and tourists. Here, we didn’t dare move our car from Brooklyn car park as we would not find a place to park when we returned. Hopefully this will reduce as people find other places to visit.