“You know we belong together. You and I forever and ever. I’m walking on air…”
Over and over, in my head, all day long. That’s what happens when you take a soap opera tour, you sing the theme tune all day long. Sometimes out loud. Sometimes on camera.
An obsession with Home and Away is about 60%* of the reason I decided to relocate to Sydney and I’ve been looking forward to visiting Palm Beach, where Summer Bay is set, since we arrived. To make sure I could get up to speed with the show goss and have the inside track on all the filming locations in North Sydney I booked a daytrip with Home and Away Tours. They only run the tours on Monday-Wednesday as these are the days when the crew film but they can’t guarantee they will be filming on the day of your visit. Our guide, Ross, picked up our group of 11 (a surprisingly large number for this time of year, I thought) from outside McDonalds on Circular Quay and we began our drive to the Northern Beaches with fingers crossed for a cast sighting.
Spoiler Alert: This next paragraph contains details of upcoming H&A storylines. If you’d rather not know skip to the next bit where we get to Palm Beach!
It’s a long ride out to Palm Beach from Sydney CBD so Ross keeps us entertained with snippets of Sydney info and juicy H&A gossip. He dives straight in with a reveal about an upcoming storyline involving the Braxton brothers, who shall be a trio no more – Casey gets shot and Heath and Bianca leave the Bay (be still my beating heart – hopefully some new heartthrobs will be on their way soon.) The reason for Brax’s recent imprisonment was because he was filming Hercules in Hollywood – the film comes out this weekend if you are in need of a Braxton eye candy fix! What else? John and Marilyn are going to get married, Maddy is pregnant and, despite threatening to leave, Alf has be signed up for another 5 years after being handed a blank cheque by the show bosses. (Would love to know the figure on that.) Quite a decent haul of goss isn’t it!
The Home & Away Tour offers a great glimpse of some of north Sydney’s best beaches. Between Manly and Palm Beach we pass at least 13 perfect bays, stopping for coffee at the surf club in Warringah (not the one from the show but very similar.) We also pass Freshwater Beach where surfing was first introduced to Australia by a Hawaiian named Duke in 1915 – Ross tells the story well.
The houses get bigger and more elaborate as we approach the upmarket suburb of Avalon. Eventually we arrive at the finger of land known as Palm Beach and the scenery starts to look excitedly familiar. Ross tells us to look out for the big white crew vans, a giveaway that filming is taking place, but alas there are none. He does a loop of the beach and bay, pointing out different locations seen in the soap, and then leaves us to wander alone and take selfies as he prepares the picnic lunch.
The Surf Club at Palm Beach is signposted, much to our delight, as the Summer Bay Surf Club under the stewardship of Alf. We spy some surf buggies inside which also bear the Summer Bay stamp. (Ross says that these were paid for by the show so the Palm Beach peeps don’t seem to mind the false name.)
Palm Beach is a glorious golden crescent; I can only imagine how gorgeous it must look in summer. It does, however, look just like it does in the programme – lighthouse in the background and everything.
On the flip side of the finger is the bay side. This is where the Diner and Alf’s bait shop are set and these look just as I expect – except the Diner is actually an upmarket restaurant called the Boathouse. Inside are groups of Sydney ladies enjoying lunch, who look at us curiously as we take snapshots on the pier.
Lunch is a cooked chicken served with salad and rolls and whilst we eat I grill Ross a bit more about doing this tour for a living. He never watched the show before joining the company 4 years ago but he swots up now. He speaks warmly about the cast and crew and says the actress who plays Ricky is his favourite due to her friendliness and down to earth attitude.
On the way back to Manly, where we are dropped to hop on the ferry back to the CBD, Ross takes us past the houses that used as the homes for the Braxton’s and John Palmer. They are down an inconspicuous cul-de-sac which you would never find on your own. Palm Beach, however, I will definitely be coming back to on my own. For lunch, sun bathing and (hopefully) a peek of at least one of those River Boys before they leave the show.
The Home & Away Tour costs $105 AUD per person and includes transport, coffee and lunch. Pick up is at 9am at Circular Quay and you are dropped off at Manly approx. 2.30pm. The tour runs on Mon, Tues and Wed only as this is when the show films but they cannot guarantee filming on the day of your visit. Although you could opt to drive to Palm Beach on your own I would recommend the tour for people who want behind-the-scenes goss and an orientation of the Northern Beaches. Ross threw in an extra stop at North Point on our tour too.