Over the past twenty years most of the New South Wales Central Coast has become a vast suburbia with people either commuting south to Sydney or working in the ever-growing local towns. Pearl Beach seems a delightful exception to this prevailing ambience. It is attractive, very expensive (famous playwrights, TV personalities and advertising executives have holiday homes here) and understated.
To reach Pearl Beach the visitor travels north from Sydney on the Sydney-Newcastle freeway, leaves the Freeway at the signs to Gosford and either takes the turnoff to Woy Woy at Kariong or West Gosford. From Woy Woy continue south through Ettalong and Umina. By either route it is approximately 93 km from the Sydney CBD.
Pearl Beach is true to its name. It is the best part of the western shoreline. Here the residences blend more effectively with the vegetation which has been left more fully intact and which is noticeable greener and lusher than elsewhere on the western shoreline. They are less obtrusive and in a finer balance with the environment so that the whole appears as bushland with houses rather than houses with a bit of bush. The fishing is said to be good off the rocks for jewfish and tailor.
Things to see
Ocean Beach and Umina
South of Ettalong (see entry on Woy Woy)
is the residential area known as Umina, said to mean 'repose'. Umina was established as a holiday resort town in 1917 with the sale of a thousand allotments. A motor service connected it to Woy Woy train station (at the time a 15-minute trip for sixpence).
Immediately south of Ettalong Beach is Ocean Beach. At the end of The Esplanade is a play and picnic area. Turn right into Norman St and follow it to its terminus then turn left into West St. At its end the road bends to the left as Sydney Ave. After a short distance you will come to a signposted left into the remainder of Sydney Ave. At its end are Umina Beach and a caravan park. To the right a large recreation area.
Mt Ettalong Lookout
If instead of taking that left you follow the road around to the right (as it becomes Hobart Ave) you will soon find yourself winding your way up Mt Ettalong. 2.2 km from the Sydney Ave/Hobart Ave intersection is a hairpin bend where you will find Umina Lookout just off the road. There are views north up along Ocean Beach to Ettalong and Wagstaff and over Brisbane Water generally.
800 m beyond this bend, there is a signposted turnoff to the left which will take you to the Mt Ettalong lookouts, which are the finest on the entire western shore of Brisbane Water. At the end of the dirt track park your car.
Probably the best view is to be had is by just walking immediately east of the road's end, straight over to the cliff face. Immediately below is beautiful Pearl Beach. Beyond that it is easy to see Green Point at its southern end, then a desultory strip of beach. South of that the land ends at the estuary of the Hawkesbury which lies at the western end of Broken Bay. The views over the bay, usually dotted with white sails, are excellent. Lion Island lies in the middle. The land to the far left with the lighthouse is Barrenjoey Head. Around the corner facing out to the ocean is Palm Beach, the most northerly of Sydney's northern beaches. Just to the right of Barrenjoey is a large inlet which recedes southwards known as Pittwater. To the right of that is West Head on the north-eastern corner of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park which follows the southern shore of the Hawkesbury River as it disappears around the corner to the far right. Looking straight across Brisbane Water is Box Head at the southern tip of the western shore.
Note the unusual honeycombed weathering of the sandstone at the lookout, caused largely by wind-blown sand particles.
The official lookouts lie to the north of the carpark. Just follow the signs. It is a very short distance. The northernmost lookout faces northwards up Ocean Beach to Ettalong and Wagstaff. From here the shallowness of Brisbane Water is apparent from the shoals and sandbars over which the waves break offshore. To the east is Brisbane Water National Park. A directional plate indicates various locations in the distance and how far away they are.
Return to the main road (Patonga Drive) and turn left. It is only about 200 m to the turnoff into Pearl Beach Rd on the left. This winds its way down the mountainside. Turn right into Diamond Rd just before the road's end. Any of the next three lefts will take you to Pearl Parade by the waterfront where there is a reserve, a picnic and barbecue area, a children's playground and tidal baths.
People visit Pearl Beach primarily to get away from it all. The beach is pleasant, relatively quiet and good for swimming. The nearby restaurants offer good food often with great views across the water.
Crommelin Native Arboretum
At the end of Diamond Rd turn right into Crystal Ave. Along this road, to the right, is the parking area for Crommelin Native Arboretum, a truly lovely 4.5-ha flora sanctuary with grassed areas, wetlands, patches of temperate rainforest and open forest crisscrossed by very easy walking trails. This is one of the more pleasant attractions of the area.
Return along Crystal Ave and proceed past Diamond Rd out to Green Point where you will find Paul Landa Reserve, another pleasant spot for a stroll down to a rock ledge over the point.
Return to the top of Pearl Beach Rd and take the sharp left into Patonga Drive. About 2.3 km from the Mt Ettalong Lookout a branch road to the left which will take you 1.2 km along a dirt road to Warrah Trig. The enjoyable Tony Doyle Walking Trail leads to a lookout directly out over Broken Bay 200 m below. There are some colourful wildflowers from July to October and Christmas bells. Just near the lookout the Doyle Track crosses over a dirt road. For the enthusiastic walker a left will take you back to Pearl Beach and a right to Patonga.