the simple life…
The name Patonga means oyster, and oyster farming is still the main industry in this sleepy riverside community.
The primary reason to come to this picturesque fishing village is to get away from it all. Quite literally. Patonga can only be reached via a winding road that climbs for 4 km over the hills from Pearl Beach, itself a winding climb from Ocean Beach. It is also serviced by ferry from Palm Beach. As a consequence, Patonga is a relatively isolated yet located only 35 km from the centre of Sydney, arriving at Patonga it can feel like you’ve been dropped on an island that time has forgotten. This has definite advantages. The beach is pristine, quiet and great for swimming, especially for children, due to the lack of swell. There is a small playground near the beach and this, combined with the original, or sympathetically restored, holiday homes gives Patonga a distinct “time warp” feel. It is filled with 70s-era polaroid vistas. This sensation is heightened when, turning left at the iconic War Memorial in the centre of a roundabout, you come to the camping ground at the end of Bay Rd. It is a well equipped ground and a great place for the kids to splash about. This the southernmost tip of the Patonga peninsula, with Patonga Creek snaking inland. There are large stands of mangroves and esturine mudflats, and chances are you’ll meet some friendly local pelicans.
There are several great walking trails to explore. The Tony Doyle Walking Trail takes you to a stunning lookout directly over Broken Bay, and at this time of year you will see wild Christmas Bells flowering in the bush.
At the northern end of the beach is “Dark Corner” where half a dozen original houses are perched between Brisbane Waters National Park and The River. From here you can walk to Pearl Beach via a fire trail. This takes about two hours and is a lovely way to explore the southernmost areas of the Central Coast.
Once you are done exploring and feel like some company, and some food, head for the Patonga Hotel. This building seems like it’s been here forever, so it might surprise you to know that it was built only 3 years ago. It has been designed in a sympathetic, early-twentieth century style and fits perfectly into its surroundings It echoes the style of the fish and chip shop next door, reputed to have some of the best hand cut-chips around.
Patonga Hotel’s Sandbar has a good range of beer (fifteen at last count) and wine. An unexpected feature is the bar itself. Beautifully crafted from Mahogany and Jarrah, it was removed from the America’s Cup Bar at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel in 2000. The America’s Cup Bell sits on the wall behind the bar and is rung every night for last drinks. Many of the furnishings and fittings, including some striking etched glass doors that portray scenes from J-Class yacht racing, are also from that celebrated bar where many people watched Australia win the Cup in 1983.
Local fish and oysters feature on the menu but there are also plenty of other delicious options, including a variety of tempting desserts.
The Patonga Hotel is the social epicentre of the village, and many non-locals make the trip for its vibrant atmostphere and great live music.
If you fancy a short downstairs stroll at breakfast time, you can stay at the pub – its accomodation is among some of the best in Patonga. Two simply, but stylishly decorated, apartments feature wide, old fashioned balconies with stunning views across The River.
Also worth a visit is the Patonga Bakehouse Gallery, which is located in an old shop on the corner of Bay Street, facing the War Memorial. It features an admirable collection of works for sale, from artists such as Jocelyn Maughan and Robin Norling. Many of the works depict local scenes, showing why Patonga has long been a favourite for artists.