Making its debut in Episode 1 of Home and Away, Summer Bay High School has remained one of only two current buildings within the town to be seen on-screen from the very beginning.
Over the past three decades, there have been no less than six different filming locations that have been used for the exterior scenes of the school, with this particular one being the longest running and perhaps most recognisable to long-term fans of the show.
The real-life location is in fact not a school, but Macquarie Hospital—a specialist mental health residential facility in the NW Sydney suburb of North Ryde, around a 15 minute drive from the old studios in Epping.
From its debut on the show in 1988, the main area used for filming was the northern entrance to the buildings surrounding Tarban House off First Avenue (pinpointed ‘A‘ on the below map), which provided the distinctive bridged walkway that was usually seen as the main entrance of the school. The covered walkways in the buildings inner quadrangles were occasionally seen when teachers and students walked between lessons.
The building directly opposite this entrance, the Kyewong Building, also provided the location of Summer Bay Primary School in 1988, which Sally Fletcher attended.
From around 1991, most exterior scenes started to utilise the area around the Northern Sydney Education Centre (NSEC – pinpointed ‘B‘ on the map) and Lavender House buildings, just off The Drive in the NW corner of the complex. The former had in fact been occasionally used in the show as the school hall in 1988.
Whilst both these buildings and the Tarban House buildings were used interchangeably for a while, the distinctive narrow brick entrance and stairway of the NSEC soon became the main entrance for Summer Bay High. During this time, the adjacent buildings also became the exterior location for Northern Districts Hospital.
The complex continued to be used until 1996, when an on-screen earthquake destroyed the school in Episode 1975. When it was rebuilt over the following few weeks, the show moved exterior scenes to a more modern filming location at nearby Macquarie University, which we believe debuted in Episode 2001.
Despite this, the location didn’t disappear entirely. The original bridged entrance used for Summer Bay High would make a cameo appearance in Episode 2001—the same episode as the debut of the new school location—as the building where Chloe Richards visited her therapist.
Furthermore, the southern side of the Tarban House buildings (pinpointed ‘C‘ on the map) would later make a reappearance in the occasional stock shot in 2000/2001, and were even used for couple of scenes whilst the other location was still on-screen.
When a further Summer Bay High filming location—that had begun to be used in 2001—became marked for demolition, the show moved school exteriors back to the Macquarie Hospital complex in 2008, making its first reappearance in Episode 4592.
They chose to utilise the original Tarban House buildings, again filming them from the southern side off Second Avenue as they had in 2000. The covered walkways in the quadrangles once again made appearances, and viewers may remember such scenes as Martin Bartlett falling off his motorbike in the car park, Jai jumping around the roof, and Freya Duric kissing Nicole Franklin in front of the students.
The adjacent car park where Martin parked his motorbike belongs to the Parkview unit, which was in fact being used for the Northern Districts Hospital stock shots at the time—the canopy seen in the NDH stock shots is visible in the screenshot of Miles with Martin’s bike.
The school exteriors continued to be filmed here until mid-2009, when the show moved to an entirely new location.