With Summer approaching, the Northern Beaches are sure to be a hotspot for tourists having a swim and inner westie students crawling out from the shadows to enjoy some much-needed sun. While there are many ways you can travel across the great coat hanger in the harbour — by ferry, car, or bike — the most efficient and infamous is the B-Line. Introduced in 2017, the B-Line is effectively a train service, with frequent buses at regular times, running round the clock to dedicated stops and always remaining reliable at the earliest or latest of hours. The B-Line is the Beaches’ connective tissue to the rest of Sydney.
With 1276 people out of 38,653 attending Usyd, and only 7 receiving Honi Soit in the mail, I presume the majority of people reading are not familiar with The Beaches or its famous bus route. So allow me to provide you with this helpful guide, and show you all there is to see and do on the Northern Beaches B-Line. For brevity’s sake, I won’t discuss every stop, rather the ones with the most history and intrigue. Don’t forget to tap on!
Your journey begins at Wynyard, and when first boarding the B-Line there are a few basic rules of thumb to keep in mind as you clamber through the doors and rush to get a seat. These will be conveniently ordered as a series of DO’s and DON’Ts.
DON’T: Cut in line. There is usually a long queue for the B1, and while at any stop it is rude to cut in line, it carries a particular sting for the B1 as the wait for the next bus is (at most) 10 minutes. Just be patient and don’t be a dick.
DO: Sit on the top part of the bus. The difference between the top and bottom of the bus is night and day, and it is an unspoken rule that only plebs sit on the bottom. You may as well catch a regular bus if you are going to cuck yourself like this.
DO: Hold on to the railings walking up the stairs. Too many times has the bus started moving without my knowledge, causing me to fall over and incur many bodily injuries in the process. Only ignore if you’re a daredevil, or have a death wish.
DO: Sit at the front seat on the top. Objectively the most fun you could ever have.
DON’T: Plug your charger into the USB port without checking for gum. Always fondle the port in case of sticky ooey-gooey dangers.
Once the B-Line is in action you will careen across the Harbour Bridge, and it is here that your B1 journey starts proper.
Neutral Bay Junction
The North Shore carries with it many delights, and once you hit your first stop, Neutral Bay, you can go off exploring. The Neutral Bay B-Line stop features an array of Op-shops nearby, with fancy pieces of clothing priced expensively. Alight from this stop if you have some cash to splash, or would like to visit Luna Park.
Following this is Spit Junction. This stop gives you easy access to Taronga Zoo, and it’s soothing to peer out the windows at the area’s mansions and manors. You can also visit the small micronation, the Principality of Wy, forged out of council disputes over the owner wanting to extend his driveway. Spit Junction is named for its connection to the Spit Bridge, which acts as the split between the Northern Beaches and the North Shore. Once you’ve crossed that bridge, you enter a new phase of your journey.
Perhaps the most liminal stop on your journey, Manly Vale is a semi-industrial hellscape, with large buildings that stretch far and wide and distend down from the heavens. It is a purgatory-like space, a transitory stop between the ritz and glamour of the North Shore and the rundown surfy vibes of The Beaches. The wide streets and large architecture dwarfs the average visitor. On your visit, you can have a bite to eat at KFC, grab some drinks from Dan Murphy’s, or fill your home with the many furniture and homeware stores that litter the streets — from Freedom, Bing Lee, Harvey Norman, Salvos and Snooze. It’s amazing what a little bus trip can do. Besides that there is Manly Dam, which in keeping with the transitory nature of the suburb, is a place where adolescents enter into semi-adulthood. 15 year olds often host parties and taste their first sips of alcohol stolen from their parents’ liquor cabinet.
Next up is the Warringah Mall bus stop, its neon blue outline acting as the pearly gates to the eponymous mall itself. Inside are many delights — from the Camera House that often gives out a free roll of 35mm film, to the food court which has one of Sydney’s best Banh Mi restaurants. There’s even a nearby Hoyts which has a large Batman sculpture that always fascinated me as a kid. Its lack of direct references to any adaptations thus far you can only wonder what it once promoted.
Located at this stop is a large private medical centre that nobody uses, one built by the Liberals in order to win seats in the area, closing a few public hospitals in the process. At the same time, they built a massive bridge to cross the road, despite there already being a convenient crosswalk. Upon the initial unveiling of the bridge, nobody used it. It was a ghost town on the bridge, with trash quickly piling up inside. Frustrated by this, large metal gates were placed at the crosswalk, preventing pedestrians from using it, despite the lights still switching as if people were there. This stop serves as an example of the M.O. of the Liberal Party: build stuff we don’t need, in areas that don’t need it, inconveniencing everyone and spending a whole lot of money in the process.
This stop is an exciting convergence or vector point for all people on The Beaches — arriving and departing, to and fro from Manly, Chatswood and wherever else. Youths often use it as a meeting spot before converging somewhere else on a Friday or Saturday night. People of all sorts of backgrounds visit and mingle and live here, with the area boasting the highest Tibetan population in Australia of about 300 residents. There are many great local restaurants and friendly grocers to check out.
I can recall fights breaking out, robberies occurring on shop corners, high schoolers doing TikTok dances and eshays trying to act intimidating. Here you can find a gentrified shopping district with modern-looking shops, a glossy facade hiding the closed down businesses that line the streets. Drunken nights out often end at Guzman y Gomez or Kebab World located just up the road. I even recall one evening where I had to switch buses at Dee Why as a man was threatening people with a bomb, or even the time I was absconded by a man attempting to sell ice. In many ways, this is the capital of the Beaches, the furthest most people travel, and to be fair, there isn’t too much else to see.
The closest stop to the actual beach, the Collaroy stop is nothing special, lacking the usual flair that a B-Line stop carries with it. The most exciting thing to see here is the patch of discoloration on a stone window sill that formed when someone left a Bubblegum Bill there years before. For a good chunk of time, I believed the wooden stick was immovable, but it suddenly disappeared. Now, all that’s left is a permanent pink and brown stain adorning this shop.
Home to Narrabeen Lake and a host of camping grounds, Narrabeen is similar to Dee Why in that many cursed encounters have been had here, mostly by delinquent youths causing a ruckus. One such incident occurred earlier this year, where an older man and a group of kids were threatening each other, getting the bus driver involved and holding up the B1. There is a nice small coffee shop built into the old wooden bus shelter, and on rainy days the covering provides much-needed space to relax. Nearby is the tram shed, a deceptive cafe that from the street looks like a cafe where you sit in a trolley car. In actual fact, the building just owns a tram and it is parked next to a rather boring looking restaurant. One wonders what the point is.
POV: You’re sitting there nice and relaxed and you’ve reached this stop. You decided to get up out of your comfy, air-conditioned seat and get off. You step over the threshold and are greeted by… grass. And a toilet cubicle with graffiti on it. There’s a shopping centre nearby that gives off eerie vibes inside, with no windows and constantly lit by artificial light. The residents had a conflict with Westfield years ago, as they had bought this shopping centre but had wanted to change the name from Warriewood Square to just a generic Westfield. After much fighting, moaning and yelling, the name and exterior of the building stayed the same, with only the inside resembling a Westfield. One can imagine the building like a hollowed-out carcass that has been re-used by this corporate behemoth. Other than that, this area is home to the Warriewood Cinema, owned by the enigmatic Roy Mustaca, a high pitched Opera-singing Italian with fake gelled hair. The stories people have of Roy are in the hundreds, and he’s a mini-celebrity amongst residents of The Beaches.
This is the final stop on your journey, a small village-style area with lots of shops. You could spend a whole day here just going from business to business, exploring their wares. I used to work here, so I would always see the same residents walk around, and you get to know the familiar faces.
The B1 originally planned to go beyond this point, and head towards Newport, with the bus reaching a roundabout where it would make a 360 degree turn head back towards the city. However the plans were scrapped as the council wasn’t willing to extend the road to accommodate the large size of the B-Line. Stickers promoting the Newport stop “coming soon” adorned the inside B1 windows but were taken down after a year. No plans to extend the trip to Avalon or Palm Beach seemed to exist, most likely due to the winding roads that lead to these suburbs pointing to potential disaster considering the height and size of the B1.
And thus ends the B-Line journey, at a slightly unremarkable but friendly stop. Mona Vale is like the retirement home of The Beaches, with old people walking its pavements and op shops littering its street corners. To journey further and enter the more exciting finale of the Beaches like Palm Beach with its lighthouse walk, one must catch the 199: an annoying route that stops at EVERY SINGLE BUS STOP. So strap yourself in for a long ride.
The B-Line has become a staple of the Northern Beaches. Living on Collaroy Plateau, I am privileged enough to get some heightened views of The Beaches from above. The large yellow buses travelling up and down the road provide a nice bit of comfort and add some colour to the area. At the same time, the B1 is always reliable, whether it’s a night out or you’re running late for work. While the stops themselves are interesting, the bus trip to and fro is an attraction in of itself.