Hawkesbury River and Pittwater Escapes

By Heather Hansen | Posted 24 November, 2021

Four spots you never knew existed this close to Sydney

Lockdowns gave us the perfect excuse to explore our local area - extensively! We’ve done all the walking tracks, exercised and had coffees with friends, picnicked in all the parks, and walked the dog more times than was really necessary. Now that things are opening up and summer is finally here, it really feels like the perfect time to explore somewhere new. 


But, seeing as we’ve explored Sydney inside out, where's left? 


Lucky for you the Hawkesbury River lies just a short drive from the city and happens to be one of Sydney's best kept day trip secrets.


Untouched waterways with secret bays and private waterfalls, the Hawkesbury River is a hidden paradise just waiting to be explored by boat. One day here, cruising along the many twists and turns of the stunning river, will leave you feeling like you’ve just had a week long holiday. 


There’s no road noises or city skyline to remind you of the ‘real world’,  just the sounds and sights of nature. Surrounded by National Park, the Hawkesbury River is lined with mangroves and bush covered hills that never seem to end.  


Hiring your own private boat is the only way to explore this hidden treasure. Whether you glide around under sail on a beautiful yacht or power along on a motor cruiser for the day, you will truly feel like you’ve left all your worries behind. 


Protected from most angles you’re promised gentle waters and shelter from the wind wherever you go. The Hawkesbury River is the perfect spot for sitting back and watching the world go by. 

Amazing spots to anchor and escape

Refuge Bay 

It’s hard to imagine having any bay to yourself this close to Sydney but Refuge Bay offers you your very own piece of paradise. Really want to get down with nature? Find the waterfall tucked away at the back of the beach, splashing down onto rocks all year round. Beautiful and refreshing on a hot summer's day getting under this natural wonder is a must, not to mention a great photo opportunity.

Smiths Creek 

If you really do want to get away from it all, head down to Smiths Creek. With very little phone reception, if any, it is just you and 360 degree nature for company - total zen. The peace and quiet of Smiths Creek is the perfect way to get those holiday vibes. This spot is also great for paddle boarding and swimming with clear calm water. Accessible only via boat, deep into National Park surrounds and well away from any noise pollution of the outside world, this is where you find true tranquility.  

The Basin 

With a beautifully secluded National Park campground on shore, The Basin is an amazing spot to pull into if you want to experience a bit of wildlife. With an abundance of wallabies, birdlife and goannas, the kids won’t be the only ones excited to see so much wildlife up close and personal. If you have paddleboards onboard, you can paddle through the water fence blocking boats from accessing the adjacent dead-calm and stunning lake, which is a magnificent place for wave-free paddling or swimming. Comfortably seated on the back deck of your private yacht in The Basin, you might find a new ultra relaxing pastime, watching the cute local ferry do it’s rounds - don’t forget to wave.

Mackerel Beach 

Accessible only by ferry from Palm Beach, Mackerel Beach on the western shores of Pittwater is a step back in time. The National Park surrounds, no cars or roads, a calm kid-friendly beach and only a handful of old school beach cottages, make for an idyllic escape and possibly Sydney’s best kept secret for a day trip. There are no facilities or amenities on Mackerel, so the best way to enjoy this amazing spot is from your own private yacht, anchored within swimming distance to the beach. The only disturbance to your waterfront peace might be the occasional yahoo of kids jetty jumping off the ferry wharf.