Where Home and Away is filmed: The real-life Summer Bay is just one hour from central Sydney

With Neighbours airing its final episodes this week after nearly 37 years, it's time to say farewell to Melbourne's fictional Ramsay Street.

Soapie fans can rejoice, however, that Summer Bay lives on. And the good news is that Home and Away's setting isn't quite as fictional, with filming location Palm Beach one of Sydney's overlooked yet most beautiful corners.

Palm Beach sits where Sydney finally falls into the ocean 44 kilometres by road north of the city centre. Beyond is Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River, which separates Greater Sydney from the NSW Central Coast. To the east is the Pacific Ocean, to the west Pittwater inlet.

In short, Palm Beach is almost surrounded by water: the perfect location for a beachside TV series that showcases the Aussie lifestyle. Its main beach is a 2.3-kilometre boomerang of golden sand sloshed with waves. The surfing is great at its northern end, swimming best at the southern end, where you'll find a rock pool, changing facilities and shady pine trees.

Home and Away debuted in 1988 and most of its exteriors are filmed around Palm Beach, as well as Fishermans Beach in Collaroy. Despite its plotline of murder and mayhem, the TV series projects a sunny, idealised Aussie lifestyle into the homes of some 80 countries. Fans will easily recognise the headland, beach and rock pool.

Celeb Time runs official Home and Away tours that present shooting locations and tell you about the show's production and filming. On some tours, you can meet one of the actors. But even if you've never watched the soapie, you have every reason to explore Palm Beach.

The Pittwater side of the peninsula has beaches better suited to small children. The calm waters make for easy paddles by kayak to secluded spits of sand lapped by water clear as Bombay gin. Get out on a Pittwater Kayak Tour and you'll see some of its most scenic spots. Alternatively, board a skippered yacht with Taylor Made Escapes for an overnight stay afloat, and a glorious Pittwater sunrise.

The budget-friendly way to see it is by taking the ferry that calls in at several points around Pittwater and provides access to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park's bush tracks and Aboriginal art sites. One of these stops, The Basin, has the only campground in the national park.

Palm Beach's top activity is the one-kilometre, lung-busting walk up to the lighthouse on Barrenjoey Head, where the peninsula comes to an abrupt but spectacular end. The sandstone lighthouse and keepers' cottages were built in 1881. Between May and August, this is a great spot from which to squint at whales huffing past.

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The peninsula is studded with small reserves and parks. Governor Phillip Park has ample green space, playgrounds and barbecue areas, though it can get busy on weekends. Many people overlook the Bible Garden, which showcases plants mentioned in the Bible and has sumptuous views across the full sweep of Palm Beach towards the lighthouse.

Palm Beach Wine Co is a good place to grab yourself some posh picnic nosh. Otherwise, the classic dining spot is heritage-listed, upmarket Barrenjoey House overlooking Pittwater. The menu is big on seafood dishes such as oysters, kingfish crudo, lobster risotto and tuna linguine. Well-known alternative Boathouse Palm Beach is currently closed for renovations but should reopen in early 2023.

Backdrop apart, Palm Beach isn't exactly like television's Summer Bay. Sydney's wealthy have come here for beach retreats ever since the 1920s, and fancy multi-million-dollar houses dot the hillsides. Don't expect to see Summer Bay Caravan Park or, for that matter, the bait or auto-repair shop. You will however find a Summer Bay SLSC sign outside the real North Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club.

The good thing is that despite the suburb's wealth and television fame, Palm Beach has been little developed and remains a modest beachside suburb almost from another time. It's far enough from the centre of Sydney to resist the crowds except on summer weekends. Scrabble in rock pools, throw chips to the seagulls, and walk along the lovely shoreline. Proof that sometimes, life is better than fiction.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/new-south-wales

sydney.com

GETTING THERE

From the city centre, Palm Beach is an hour's drive or 90 minutes on a combination of the B1 and 199 buses. See transportnsw.info

STAY

Luxe Jonah's Boutique Hotel has a notable fine-dining restaurant. Barrenjoey House is in the middle of the action. Holiday rentals include the scenically situated Rockridge and the five-bedroom Crane Lodge.

The writer travelled at his own expense.