Beach Palm Beach is 2.3 km long east-facing beach that curves in a gentle arc between the prominent 100 m high, lighthouse capped, Barrenjoey Head to the sandstone rocks of Little Head in the south, beach linking Barrenjoey to the mainland. North Palm Beach (NSW 300a) extends 1.4 km south from Barrenjoey, with the northern 600 m backed by a 200 m wide densely vegetated foredune. The North Palm Beach SLSC (founded in 1945) is located 1 km south of the head in the centre of a large beachfront park and car park, with the Palm Beach golf course behind on the Pittwater side. The northern beach is well exposed to southerly waves, which average 1.5 m and maintain a rip-dominated surf zone with up to 15 rips along the entire beach. Includes a strong permanent rip against Barrenjoey (Fig. 4.192).The southern Palm Beach section (NSW 300b) includes the southern 600 m of beach, which curves to the southeast in the southern Kiddies Corner. It receives increasing protection from Little Head with waves decreasing in height down the beach. Rips usually extend all the way to the head, though usually smaller in size, with a weak permanent rip against the southern rocks (Fig.4.193). The southern end has a long history of usage with the Palm Beach SLSC founded in 1921, following a tragic drowning in 1920. During moderate to high swell all rips intensify and produce hazardous swimming conditions.
Swimming North Palm Beach is one of Sydney's more hazardous swimming spots owing to the persistent and often strong rips, which result in an average of 148 rescues each year. Only swim in the patrolled area and between the flags. Be very careful if swimming up the beach as you are a long way from the patrol area. Stay on the bar if attached, and avoid the rip holes and side currents. Palm Beach usually has lower waves and weaker rips particularly in the patrol area, the southern corner and the rock pool. This more popular end of the beach has half the number of rescues (78) of the northern half, attesting to its better swimming conditions. The southern rips do however intensify during northeast waves and winds and higher swell.
Surfing A very popular spot year round. In the lee of Barrenjoey, northeast swell produces a good left, while offering a little protection from northerly winds, however you have to walk up the beach. Most popular are the many beach breaks, best in the north and centre during summer, and usually better to the south in the larger winter swells and southerly winds. During bigger southeast swell a reasonable right runs off the southern point out over the sand bars. The southern kiddies corner is where the novices try their luck at mastering the art of surfing.
Fishing There are extensive rock platforms around the base of Barrenjoey and Little Head, together with the persistent rip gutters along North Palm Beach. Gutters are less frequent down the beach, however the easily accessed southern rocks tend to be more protected and popular.
General Palm Beach derives its name from the cabbage tree palms that grow in the southern corner of the beach, a location officially known as Cabbage Tree Boat Harbour. It was visited by Captain Phillip during his expedition to Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury in 1788. From the early days of European settlement it was occupied by fishermen who worked out of the Broken Bay area.