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Patonga is one of the few towns on the Central Coast that retains its ‘sleepy seaside atmosphere’ (a 1.5-hour drive from Sydney). With only a few main shops in town set amongst peaceful scenic surrounds – this is nature and a seaside village at its best!
If you’re looking for some outdoor fun, there are numerous activities to choose from at Patonga, including camping, kayaking, hiking, swimming, fishing and boating, or take a leisurely stroll to a boutique art gallery (where you can see artworks on display in the shopfront windows), and if you fancy a ferry ride catch the Palm Beach Ferry. With spectacular views of Brisbane Water National Park and it’s undulating mountain ranges, to Brisk Bay and a vast outlook across the water to the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay, it’s no surprise this area has become the perfect city escape!
Patonga is believed to be a Kuring-gai Aboriginal word, meaning ‘oyster’ more accurately pronounced ‘Batonga’. Prior to European settlement, the area around Patonga was inhabited by the Kuring-gai Aboriginal people. In 1789 Governor Phillip sent a party to explore Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River. They observed Lion Island, however, there were no recorded observations about the Patonga area. The first European settlement of the area is believed to be during the 1860s, land here was surveyed and granted to John Hatfield in 1839.
The land was then subdivided by a subsequent owner who died in the wreck of the Dunbar in 1857 (the ship was built in 1854 in Scotland, it was one of the many large ships that began trading to Australia as a result of the gold rush). In the 1930s during the Great Depression Patonga was a popular place to settle due to the prospects of sustainability – people were able to live off the land and catch an abundance of fish in the area. In 1937, a main road was built from Umina. Prior to that, the only access was by boat or bush track.
Where to Stay
There are two options; The Boathouse Hotel Patonga (also mentioned below in ‘Where to Eat’) and The Patonga Caravan and Camping Area. If you’re after hotel comforts and style, with picture-perfect water views, The Boathouse Hotel is for you. Offering amazing meals, with the beach and the bushland at your doorstep, this is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. But if you do feel like a little more action, catch the ferry to Palm Beach and explore this well-known area. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll certainly have quality and comforts if you stay at The Boathouse Hotel.
The Patonga Caravan and Camping Area is located in a secluded and scenic part of town – in between Patonga Creek and the waters of Broken Bay, it is also surrounded by Brisbane Water National Park. During non-school holiday time, the campground attracts a variety of campers, especially those who enjoy exploring the outdoors. Due to its idyllic surrounds this campground will help you to unwind, switch off from a fast-paced lifestyle and reconnect with nature.
During the summer school holidays, The Patonga Caravan and Camping Area is well known by families seeking a fun city escape – half of the site is surrounded by water, which means children can swim, utilise their inflatable kayaks, and explore – while mum and dad sit back and relax on the water’s edge and watch, or join in!
It’s not unusual during the summer months to see picnic chairs that line the banks of the river, where adults comfortably seated, supervise the little ones as they frolic in the water. The site includes modern amenities and sheltered BBQ facilities, a children’s playground, and they even have a tennis court – if you happen to be in a sporty mood!
To make a booking at this campground, view the Council website, bookings can be made via phone or email (being a smaller campground the response time may take a little longer compared to larger campgrounds).
Along the main drive of Patonga (Patonga Drive) you’ll see a road to the boat ramp as you approach the village, slightly hidden (on the left before you turn right into the village). If you’re thinking of boating this is usually a quiet area except during the summer months.
Opposite the Boathouse Hotel is a public wharf – popular by local fisherman, and children who enjoy swimming in the area and jumping off the wharf into the water. And close to the wharf and adjacent to the beach and Boathouse Hotel is a children’s playground, with swing sets. The wharf is also frequented by numerous tourists each year who enjoy a ferry ride from Palm Beach. This scenic 30-minute ferry ride and short bus journey to Sydney’s iconic Palm Beach is worth a trip! (To visit Palm Beach, see ferry and bus timetable, and there is also a live bus timetable.)
The calm waters at Patonga not only offer opportunities for swimming, fishing and boating, but canoeing too. Canoeing or kayaking on these calm waters is a great way to explore these vast waterways. And if you feel like having a wander and exploring by foot – not far from the beach, just around the corner from the Boathouse Hotel are a few quaint art galleries (to check opening hours for the Patonga Bakehouse Gallery, contact Jocelyn Maughan, see website).
Coincide your trip with the Patonga Blues Across the Bay Festival, held on the grounds of the Broken Bay Sports and Recreation Centre, it accessed by ferry, and is a 10-minute scenic ride across the waters to this fun destination and festival!
Or another festival worth seeing, although not in this area is the Five Lands Walk. With just a 15-minute drive to Ettalong, free public buses transport people to this event. This festival is held in June, and is it’s about connecting people to people and people to place, while enjoying a variety of cultural entertainment.
The Patonga to Peal Beach walking track is the best way to explore the area by foot, and is one of the most popular hikes in the area. However, you’ll need your walking shoes for this one! From the campground, it is a 15-minute walk to access this 4.3km (one-way) hiking track, which is at the opposite end of the beach from the campground – walking past the Boathouse Hotel, either along the sand (at low tide) or on the pathways to the beach. You’ll traverse a range of different areas from narrow dirt bushland trails, wooden and stone steps to a wide management trail. Feel the tranquillity of the bushland as you trace some of the Great North Walk.
One of the highlights of the area is Warrah Trig Lookout – a short distance from the main track. Enjoy spectacular views overlooking Hawkesbury River and the Pacific Ocean – out towards Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Barrenjoey Headland – Palm Beach, Sydney’s most northern point. The walk ends on the lovely streets of Pearl Beach – where you can enjoy a hard-earned relaxing cafe meal at Pearl Beach Cafe!
Opposite the beach and cafe, there is also a children’s playground here too. There is a limited bus service from Pearl Beach to Patonga, this is a 30-minute bus ride back to Patonga (see bus timetable). Well known by media personalities – Pearl Beach is a favourite getaway destination due to its secluded and quiet location. Similar to Patonga – Pearl Beach feels a world away!
Where to Eat
The main road of Patonga is lined on one side by Brisk Bay and spectacular water views, and on the opposite side is The Boathouse Hotel, this building stands boldly, with it’s classy white, blue and grey tones – it is beautifully set amongst nature. And that’s all you really need here. A 10-minute walk from the campground, the newly renovated Boathouse Hotel (which now offers accommodation) is one of eight venues of The Boathouse Group, which also include hotels in areas such as Shelly Beach, Balmoral and Palm Beach – the first established of the group.
Food and dishes range from grilled barramundi, beef carpaccio, Sydney rock oysters, crumbed dory burger, to rare yellowfin tuna pasta. While the restaurant provides an upmarket experience in a relaxed setting, their takeaway shop offers al-fresco opportunities for customers. It’s not unlikely to see a few tourists sitting on the sandy beach enjoying an al-fresco lunch, eating steaming hot fish and chips with an entourage of sea-gulls waiting for leftovers.
Menus from both the Boathouse Hotel’s restaurant and takeaway shop can be enjoyed in either of their settings; inside bar or al-fresco dining area – overlooking Brisk Bay! (For the latest updates see The Boathouse Hotel Patonga Facebook page.)
Apart from The Boathouse Hotel and a few boutique galleries, there really is nothing else here but nature and tranquillity, and that’s what makes Patonga what it is – a peaceful getaway.
If you like the outdoors and you’re looking for the perfect city escape, a place to unwind and relax – this is the holiday destination for you!
Looking for a great camping/Outdoors app, see 50+ Useful Camping Apps for Your Next Outdoor Adventure.Keep in touch!
Shelley has published a variety of online articles. With a master’s in special education, this has allowed her to write in the area of education, through platforms such as The Huffington Post. Being an outdoor enthusiast, she has written for The Weekender Travel and currently writes for Kombi Lifestyle. She is keen to share her knowledge and enjoys writing informative articles that help the discerning traveller prepare for road trip holidays in Australia. Shelley is the founder of Kombi Lifestyle.