Tracks & Trails

Mackerel Beach
Tracks & Trails | beach | bushwalking | hiking | Kuringai | Pittwater | Sydney North | New South Wales

Mackerel Beach

Idyllic Isolation

by Susie Baber  |  2 November 2021

Kuringai National Park | 7km return | Moderate

As so often happens, todays walk didn’t go to plan. It was such a beautiful day we had thought we would walk to the Basin, catch the ferry to Mackerel Beach and then walk back up to the car from there. I am a big fan of walking loop tracks or circuits rather than retracing your steps with an out and back walk. Today however that was no to be. After parking at The Basin carpark on West Head Road we found that the track to the basin was closed. A little disappointed we decide to make the most of what was available and to head down to Mackerel beach with our picnic lunch anyway.

The track from West Head Road is a wide level maintenance trail and only a few hundred meters along are the Basin Track Aboriginal Engravings. A short detour follows a wooden edging over the rock platform where engravings of men, fish and wallabies can be found. There are information signs explaining the meanings and origins of the engravings, and the track soon loops back to meet the management trail again.

Shortly after the engraving site the trail splits. The right fork heads down to the Basin (closed) and the left fork signposted ‘Mackerel Service Trail” is the one we take.

Heading towards the sea the track meanders down a wide spur for approximately 1km with occasional glimpses of the ocean, then along a narrower area of the spur and into a saddle. The track undulates downhill until we reach a clearing with views over Mackerel Beach and Pittwater Bay. The track winds down the ridge, past some water tanks until we reach a lookout on a large boulder. The view over Pittwater to Barrenjoey Headland at Palm Beach is fantastic as well as the view down to Mackerel Beach. We stand and soak in the vistas as the ferry pulls into Mackerel and then head further down the hillside towards some houses.

Just above the houses the path forks. The path to the right heads down to Currawong Beach and the track to the left leads to a gate between houses. From the gate the track winds between and under the houses which feels a little strange. There are signs warning us that this is private property, and we are beginning to doubt whether we should go on when we meet another pair of walkers who assure us that it is a public right of way, much to the disappointment of the locals. It does feel like you are walking through the front yards of the homes but soon we come a gate and stairs leading down to the beach.

Mackerel Beach

Mackerel was originally a dairy farm and was subdivided in 1920, since then over 100 houses have been built. Originally most of the houses were fibro shacks built as fishermen’s cottages and weekenders. However, over the years many have been replaced, so the area now sports a variety of homes ranging from the original shacks to some quite impressive large homes and a local population of just 40 full-time residents.

Great Mackerel Beach has no road access and no vehicles other than a few golf carts. The only way to get in is on the Palm Beach Ferry ‘Myra’, a water taxi, or private boat. Or like we did, walk. There are no shops, cafes or public facilities, so you will need to plan your day and pack everything you need. 

After walking the length of the beach and enjoying our picnic lunch we head back up through the gates and between the houses. When we get back to the fork in the track we decide to do a side trip to Currawong Beach. The track on this side of the headland is very pretty, lined by ferns and grass trees, we even see a wallaby watching us carefully. After scrambling down some small rock slopes and continuing down the hill side for approximately 200m we land on the northern end of Currawong Beach. This curve of sand was originally known as Little Mackerel Beach but is now known as Currawong Beach, named after the group cottages sitting on the grass behind the beach. This collection of small cottages are available to rent for those wanting a simple holiday, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city – no shops, cars or televisions.

Apparently, you can walk along the shore from Currawong Beach to The Basin as long as you do it at low tide, but we will save that adventure for another day and head back up the hill the way we came.

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