North Curl Curl has numerous photographic opportunities making it a popular choice with Sydney photographers. The highlights include some great rock formations, rock shelves, a rock pool (with a massive rock in the middle of it), then the beach and headland. The headland has a very unique memorial obelisk, the subject of many a photograph.
Special Photographic Features or Notes
The rock pool is the main draw card and can be photographed at both low and high tide depending on the image you are after. With a big swell at high tide you get massive waves crashing into the rock shelf then flowing over the rock pool and down the other side (as above). There are a couple of large rocks here that you can stand on to stay high and dry or alternatively use a longer lens and stand further back. As always best to watch the sets coming in for a while before picking the safest spot to shoot from. Anything that is wet should be avoided. At low tide the water flow tends to be out the back or to the right of the pool. Walk around the paved part of the rock pool to access the back area, going left and across the slimy rocks can be treacherous.
Rock Shelf & Inlet
The rock shelf is only accessible at low tide. Again be very careful when photographing here and make sure you know if the tide is coming in or going out. At low tide you can also access further North to the left of the rock pool. A short walk brings you to a great, raised inlet where water comes flying in and sprays up almost like a blow hole. Ensure you know which way the tide is going as you could find the access is cut off by the incoming tide. Access to this part at low tide is quite straight forward, there are a couple of rocks to climb but everything should be dry making it easier.
If the surf is too rough or you are just after something different head up the path starting at the far end of the car park (beside the Surf Club). When you get to the first corner, only a few meters up the path you will see an opening in the bush. Walk through here with caution and you will get to a clearing. There are a number of different compositions here with great views along the beach as well as over the rock pool. A good focal point is the near 100 year old memorial obelisk perched on the edge of the rocks a tribute to the fallen Australia soldiers in World War I.
At low tide it is possible to walk from Curl Curl beach along the shore and out to the rock pool. There are a number of compositions along the way and a great opportunity to shoot back towards the beach and Curl Curl. There is also a lagoon beside the Surf Club which when cut off from the sea can be completely still creating great reflections. Otherwise the flowing water from the lagoon cuts through the sand creating great sand banks that could be worth photographing.
As this rockpool is not light at night (no sodium lights) there is potential for some night time photography. There are a few close by houses however the majority of the light pollution (not much) will come from the surf club. The headland is a great place to shoot with a full moon as per the panorama above. Another night shot taken on the same night can be found here: Curl Curl
Other than the usual tripod, filters, camera etc. I would recommend cleats for your shoes if you want to walk on the far side of the rock pool (access to the inlet is ok). I don’t own a pair, preferring some surf booties instead, I just don’t walk near the slippery rocks.
Best Time of The Day
This location is great at both sunset and sunrise. Use an app like the Photographers Ephemeris to figure out where the sunrise is coming from if shooting in the morning. Depending on the time of year and where you are shooting the sun may come up from behind the rock face to the left of the rock pool. This is just a consideration for the type of shot you are after.
The back of the rockpool, the inlet, and the walk around from the beach can only be done at low tide. Be sure to check the tide before heading there taking note of its direction as you can get cut off. At high tide with a big swell you will get massive waves crashing into the rock shelf reaching heights of 40+ feet. This is great for photography however the surf might be so big you can only shoot it from the headland.
Curl Curl is on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, for directions on getting there please use Google Maps. Once there you can park (paid parking) beside the surf club, there is always plenty of spots available.