29 JUNE & 01 JULY 2015:
Being a child of the 80s in the UK, it’s no big surprise that I grew up watching Home and Away. I loved it so much that I never grew out of it and still watch it 5 nights a week, so I couldn’t go to Sydney and not do this tour! In fact I did it twice during my five days in Sydney.
The meeting point was in Circular Quay, where the ferries are located. The driver/tour guide was called Ross and he drove us from there to Palm Beach in a minibus. The group on my first trip was small; just myself and a family of three. Palm Beach is about an hour away from Circular Quay but we made a pit stop at a cafe at Thomas Stephens Reserve. This place gets packed out at weekends and it’s no surprise! It’s a very cute harbour spot by the coast and is not just a cafe but also a convenience store that also sells gifts and souvenirs. The iced coffee there is a must! It was very cold, and creamy….absolutely delicious! There seemed to have a post office section inside the building as well.
The next stop was the famous Palm Beach aka Summer Bay. The tour providers make it very clear that they are not affiliated with channel 7 who produces the show so they couldn’t guarantee we would see any filming take place. Ross informed us that Home and Away film all the indoor scenes at their private studio which allows no access to the public. The outdoor scenes are filmed in 200 different locations around Sydney so Palm Beach is simply one of many. However, it is the only one where the public can watch filming if they are lucky enough to be on the set at the right time. Most of the outdoor scenes are filmed in Palm Beach as that’s where Summer Bay is fictitiously located, therefore there was a reasonable chance we would see filming! …Unfortunately we weren’t lucky that day. Although it didn’t spoil the tour by any means. We were still able to see some of the iconic parts of the beach and many of the buildings e.g. Surf Club, Bait Shop etc so there were still lots of Home and Away photo opportunities.
As no filming was taking place, we were able to go on a 45 minute ferry ride around the bay which was included in the tour price. It was a little chilly that day but the views were lovely. Afterwards we headed to a picnic area in between the beachside and the bayside where Ross served us warm chicken, bread and salad – can’t go wrong with that!
Afterwards we were taken to a residential area to see the outside of the Braxton house and John Palmer’s house which is next door. The show pays the home owners a large amount of money to be able to use the exterior of their houses for filming purposes. As only the outside is used, it doesn’t cause the owners too much disruption, and they get paid a bucket full of money for it plus it probably increases their property’s value. The road gets closed when filming takes place so the public cannot see filming here.
On the route back, Ross showed us some of the Northern beaches while we headed back to the drop off point in Manly where you can get the ferry back to Circular Quay. Even for non Home and Away fans, Palm Beach is worth the trip as the views are stunning. You have the bayside and beachside areas so during the week (when it’s a little quieter than weekends) it’s the perfect spot to place to sunbathe, read a book, relax etc.
As I was unable to see filming that day I decided I would go back to Palm Beach again before leaving Sydney to give myself another chance to catch them filming. Ross was very helpful and advised me that as we didn’t get to see any filming on my first trip I could attend the tour again for free (subject to availability). Bingo! Saves me the cost of an expensive cab fare to go back there. I spoke to their head office and they had no problem with me doing the tour again a couple of days later free of charge.
The second time I did the tour there were more people, probably around 8 of us in total. I picked a good day to go as they were in fact filming! You can get surprising close them while they’re filming, probably because it’s a public beach. It’s interesting to see how the process works and what really goes on behind the scenes. I was told that it takes 160 hours of filming to produce 2 x twenty minute episodes. After what I saw that day I can believe that! One short scene was done again and again and again. I don’t think I ever appreciated how long and tiring it must be for the actors. There were only a few actors from the show that I saw (Nate, Ricky and Chris) and I didn’t do the whole “I’m a huge fan of the show, can I have a picture!” thing, as that’s not generally my style. However I was nearly tempted to with Ray Meagher aka Alf Stewart as he is pretty iconic, having been on the show since day 1. However I only saw him very briefly and he was running to his car to hide in there with a coffee so it seemed like he didn’t want to be hassled.
I would definitely recommend this tour for anyone who enjoys the show or anyone who just wants to see Palm Beach and the surrounding areas. The cost is very reasonable, especially for me as I did it twice! Ross, the tour guide is very informative and has lots of knowledge of the area. Whether you get to see filming or not, it’s a great day out. Well worth the price! When I get to Melbourne I can see how the Neighbours tour compares!
Another tick off the bucket list!
The tour lasted around 5 hours in total and cost $105 AUD (approx £55) and included:
– Coffee at Thomas Stephens Reserve
– Ferry around the Bay (if you’re unable to see filming)
– All transport to/from Circular Quay (includes ferry ride from Manly)
I have since found out that the scenes I saw being filmed on the 1st July were from episode 6336 which was aired in Australia on 30th November, so it seems as though they film approx 5 months in advance.