Every waterway has its own unique character. So it is with Pittwater, which is enjoyed by thousands of locals and visitors every year. With Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park along its entire western shore, a verdant backdrop adds to the aesthetic pleasure. Small beaches and bays beckon, as clean tidal water delivers abundant opportunities for those aboard a kaleidoscope of craft.
On Pittwater, commercial traffic is noticeable by its absence. A few fast ferries zip across Broken Bay, while the fetching ferry Myra tootles around the local wharves before returning to Palm Beach. You might see a barge ferrying furniture to Scotland Island, water police and other maritime authorities. But for most people, it's the playground of fellow pleasure boaters.
On the eastern shore, things are somewhat suburban. Jumbles of masts on crowded bays point to a favourite local pastime. Between the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, the Royal Motor Yacht Club and a host of smaller clubs, there's a yacht race every day of the week. Junior-sailing programs are just as popular.
By contrast, the sentinels of Barrenjoey and West Head - although a tad scorched after recent bushfires - have that signature Hawkesbury sandstone that glows yellow in the dawn light as you head out to fish. The stirring views from places like Palm Beach add millions to the real estate. Secure your boat on a club mooring at The Basin and catch Myra across to Palm Beach, or try Gonsalves Boatshed for a casual mooring.
At Barrenjoey Beach, you can pull your tender to shore and walk to the ocean side of Palmy for a bodysurf. There's a shallow ramp for launching trailer boats, jet skis and sail craft here, too. Out yonder, seaplanes land and take off. Overlooking all this is the Boathouse cafe doing terrific breakfasts.
The small boat ramp at Snapperman Beach is patronised by off-the-beach Hobie cat sailors. The beach itself is a pleasant destination during summer's north-easters.
There is gin-clear water lapping clean sand before the designer beachhouses bedecked with water toys and open back doors on ritzy Iluka Road.
Despite professional fishers setting huge gillnets and traps in Pittwater, there are still plenty of fish to go around.
If you choose to drift around Careel Bay with live nippers or worms, you'll land whiting. Blue swimmer crabs abound, too. Several operators cut a living from guiding and the wreck at Clareville is a favourite kingfish spot. Live local squid are the bait.
Pittwater's marinas can be destinations in their own right. The Royal Motor Yacht Club is a case in point, with members enjoying a string of events and cruises in company when not tucking in at the bistro, celebrating their yacht racing success at the bar.
There are plenty of family events leading up to Christmas and, next year, surfboat races and a stand-up paddleboard expo. The in-house game club hosts a big tournament in March and sometimes huge marlin are brought in.
In the headwaters, there's a multilane boat ramp at Bayview thronging on weekends and a nearby creek that flows from a small lagoon in the middle of a golf course. A prized tropical sportsfish called the giant herring has called this puddle home in years past. Around Church Point, you can find Australian bass and estuary perch if you know where to look.
Artists gravitate to boat-only accessible Lion Island, Elvina and Lovett bays, where much has been written about the saltwater community. From the days of Dorothea Mackellar to Susan Duncan, now living in her 1925 Lovett Bay home, Pittwater has been an inspiration. The annual dog race from Scotland Island to Church Point each Christmas Eve brings the locals together. But so, too, a sunny summer's day with a tinnie at a local beach.
Recreational boaters swing on their club moorings or anchor anywhere from Morning Bay to Portuguese Beach, en masse in Coaster's Retreat, at Mackerel and Resolute beaches depending on the wind. Long days of water play, lunch in the shade and happy kids are part of the heady mix. In a fortnight, dozens of Rivieras from around Sydney will arrive for Christmas celebrations in The Basin.
In Pittwater, everyone is anything and everything on boats.