Forresters Beach

Forresters Beach by Matt Lauder

Seascape photography is one of my passions…. I’ve photographed almost every beach on Sydney’s Northern and Eastern coast line… From Palm Beach down to La Perouse and I can honestly say that Forresters beach is better than anything that Sydney can offer.  There are a number of things that make it spectacular a location for landscape photographers

  • The rocks and beach are remote and unspoiled
  • The textures in the rocks are absolutely incredible, they have to be seen to be believed
  • The unique shapes of the rocks are incredible, there are some real rock features
  • The lovely rock slabs create gorgeous water movements when the tides are right
  • The colours of the rocks are also incredible… almost like painted porcelain
  • There are lots of different places and views to shoot at Forresters, so you can get a few photographers there and not feel crowded.

I have done studies of Forresters where I have gone to the same location 4 or 5 times in a row and each time I have been rewarded with new perspective and different shots.  I hope you enjoy Forresters and fall in love with the location as I have.

Video Guide Experiment

Duration 2:30

Hi Folks, this is a bit of an experiment, I would appreciate some feedback on whether you think this video guide ads any value or not.  The model in this video is my old man…. we are lucky enough to enjoy photography together and occasionally I can get him out of bed at 4am to join me on a sunrise shoot.

Video Guide to Forrester Rocks

Special Photographic Features or Notes

There are a number of quite different things to shoot at Forresters Beach, the map below will give you a rough idea of the different locations and what you can find in them.  To get to the rocks, just walk to the Southern most point of the beach and you will come onto the rock shelf.  The names and locations I have highlighted on the map below are not official… they are my names for the various photo locations on this glorious rock shelf.

As you walk onto the main rock shelf, you will pass a bunch of rocks in the water that lead out to the reef that is a main feature of Forresters beach… keep heading South to get to the main rock shelf.  As you approach the shelf (assuming there is some light around), your eye will probably be taken with the gorgeous sheer edges of the slab face on the North Eastern side of the rocks.

The Slab Face

The slab face is an absolutely stunning piece of rock that almost looks like somebody has run a circular saw through the rock shelf.  It is at perfect rightangles horizontally and vertically.  When the rising sun hits this cliff, it radiates the most gorgeous golden light.

There are some lovely rocks in the foreground that give you a wonderful view onto this slab face.  Be warned however,  these rocks are shaped in a very strange way  to tempt the photographer close to the edge to get that “perfect” angle…. you can watch the waves for 5 min and feel that everything is under control, and then a wave will hit the rocks at just the right angle and it will shoot up water all over your camera gear.  I’ve been caught twice by this little trap.

Textured Rocks

Assuming you haven’t walked into the water by staring at the slab rock face, as you walk along the North Eastern side of the rock ledge, you can’t help but admire the gorgeous rock textures on the rocks on the water side of the main shelf.

These rocks have an incredibly intricate texture in them and are absolutely beautiful.  If you visit this part of the rockshelf when the tide is just right (see below), you can get a bunch of little waterfalls running off the rock shelf around these textured rocks.

The Water Basin

This area of the rocks is like a giant flat pool with a couple of quite striking rocks sitting in the middle of them.

The rocks in the foreground are gorgeous in terms of colours, textures, shapes,  and these two monolithic rocks sit in the middle of the water basin and allow you to get some great shots from all different angles.  If the tide is low then you get goreous still reflections in the basin of water.  If the tide is around 1m, then you get interesting swirls across the basin with bigger waves.

But beware if the tide is high and/or the surf is big, then the waves crash over the rock shelf big time.  The photograph below was a shot I took of my old man who was photographing in the water basin area during an incoming tide… one moment he was composing a shot, and the next moment a big wave broke over the rock shelf and it was time to lift the tripod high!

Zig Zag Rock

I would say that zig zag rock is probably the jewel in Forrester’s crown.

I have shot this one feature several times at different tides, skies etc. and got quite different photos each time.  If you want to get a classic shot of the water falling over this rock feature then you must pay attention to the tides (see below).  The colours and textures in the rocks above are real.  The rocks look as though they are made from a green porcelain and have the texture of alligator skin.

Night Photography

Forresters is a fantastic place for night photography.  There is no stray light falling on the rock shelf and you are away from most of the light pollution of Sydney.

Special Equipment

There are a few bits of special equipment I would recommend for Forresters.

  • Rock hopping sandals with an enclosed toe.  Because of the water flowing over the rock shelf, YOU WILL GET WET FEET…It’s pretty much unavoidable,  so I always wear my rock-hopping sandals here so I’m not worried about water flowing over my ankles etc.
  • Knee pads. (optional)  Because of the gorgeous rock textures, I often find myself setting my tripod low to feature the textures etc.  There are quite a few little barnacles and things around, so I find it really handy to wear a set of knee pads so that the little shells don’t hurt my knees (perhaps I’m just becoming an old sook…)
  • Headlamp.  If you are hiking down the beach to the rock shelf before sunrise, I would advise taking a headlamp as the rock shelf will be in pitch blackness.
  • Grad ND filters.  The rock shelf faces due East, so if you are shooting sunrise, bring your normal kit of grad NDs.
  • Extra lens cleaning cloths – Salt spray can be problem on your lens element

Best Time of The Day

Pre-dawn and sunrise of course.  However sunset and night is also lovely.

Tidal Information

OK… This is one location where you absolutely want to check tides carefully.  You can shoot Forresters in any tide, but depending what you want to shoot.. you need to check out the tides to see if it is suitable.  The surf conditions also play a critical role.

I strongly feel the best tide to shoot Forresters is when the tide is around 1m – 1.2m  and ideally a small swell.

  • If you want to shoot zig-zag rock the best conditions are a high tide with a low swell.
  • If the swell is big, then you want a lower tide if you want to be out on the shelf.
  • If you want to shoot the slab face, then a lower tide is better because it exposes more rock,  however it needs to be high enough that there are waves crashing over causing water cascades.
  • If you want to shoot the water basin with still water, then < 1m tide is the way to go
  • If you want to shoot the water basin with rushing water then > 1m tide is best
  • If you want the waterfalls off the side of the rock shelf, then high tide with reasonable swells will create the water falls you see in the top image.

Watch out for big seas.. they are not dangerous per-se, but you may not be able to get out onto the rock shelf itself.

As you can see from above, this is one location that is very sensitive to tide and seas… that means you can go back in different conditions and get radically different shots.  Thats what I love about Forresters.

Low tide is OK to shoot Forresters, however you won’t be getting waterfalls over zig zag.  However you will get lovely calm water on the water basin and it will be easier to shoot the slab cliff face.

Be very very cautious of large swells,  not because I think you risk getting washed out to sea (most of the shooting you do is well away from the edge), however your risk to equipment damage goes up signficantly.

Wind Information

Forresters is pretty exposed to the North and East. There is some protection from Southerlys and it is very protected from Westerly winds.  If there is a strong NE wind blowing, better take plenty of lens cleaning cloths, because the salt

Getting there

Click Here to see the location marked on Google Maps

Forresters Beach is approximately 45min North of Hornsby.  Take the F3 and go to Gosford and then follow the signs to the Engrance.  After you have passed the turnoffs to Terrigal and gone past Take the Ken Duncan gallery,  look for signs saying either Crystal St or Forresters Beach (at a roundabout),  Turn right onto Crystal St from The Entrance Rd and follow it right to the end.  You will see the track down to the beach immediately in front of you.  Park your car here and walk down to the beach.   Once you get to the beach, turn South and follow the beach for about 10min and you will come to the rocks.

Author Bio

Brent Pearson


  1. Tony Anastasi November 5, 2008

    fantastic concept — Thank you for your writeup – I think this location guides idea is a winner.
    When your in Melbourne next – drinks are on me!

  2. David de Groot November 30, 2008

    Great guide — Very well written Guide Brent.

    Might see if I can convince Johnno to take me up there over Christmas.

  3. Rob Hudson December 1, 2008

    Fantastic! — I think the video really adds something here! Gives it more depth and accessibility. Plus I get to hear what you sound like!

  4. Garry Schlatter December 2, 2008

    Incredible — 10 out of 10 Brent, a fantastically written guide and the footage really adds a the other dimension and bring the location so much closer to the viewer. Great work!

  5. David Haworth February 22, 2009

    thumbs up — very comprehensive guide Brent
    Knee pads huh.sook!

  6. cameron baillie February 23, 2009

    Very Informative — The video definitely helps with getting a feel for the area, what do you generally use in those setups?
    I would usually snoop in exif data to get an idea but cant see any and what would your normal Grad ND be for the sunrise there in summer? (eg. hard ND 4 or soft ND8 etc)

    • Brent Pearson February 23, 2009

      Hey cameron, sorry for the delayed reply.

      Regarding filter choices… when I first arrive at Forresters, I typically shoot with a 3 stop GND… then as it lightens up I’ll add another 3 stop ND.

      Hope this helps

  7. Anonymous April 13, 2009

    Great location and guide — This looks like a great location to shoot.

    Given the distance, it’d take a bit of planning, as the tide needs to be right, and there’s no telling what the sky will do.

    Zig Zag Rock looks great, and the appearance of the boulders floating on the water works well.

    Dave and I didn’t make it up there last Christmas, but a hopefully we’ll do that the next time he’s in town.

  8. Rasmi Ranjan Nayak July 28, 2011

    Excellent — The Photos are Excellent and the explanation is just sensuous.

  9. Glen FLower December 31, 2011

    Great guide — Just came across this fantastic guide. Looks like a brilliant location – thanks for the writeup.

Leave a reply

Found our guides useful? Return the favour and submit one of your own.