Since returning to my hometown, albeit briefly for 2.5 months, I have absolutely fallen back in love with Sydney and come to appreciate all this city has to offer tourists. Sydney-siders live for the outdoors and this is reflected in the many walks on offer throughout the world’s most stunning harbour. Participating in these hikes is a unique way to source panoramic views, secret swimming holes and overall appreciate Australia’s indigenous, colonial and maritime history. Naturally there are several more walks on offer according to taste and schedule but these are my absolute top five as I feel they cater to an array of fitness levels and holidaymaker demographics. In addition, the walks/hikes included below also happen to be some of Sydney’s best vantage points so travellers can really make the most of the experience.
Bondi to Coogee
This scenic walk on the perimeter of Sydney’s Eastern suburbs can be followed in either direction but given it crosses through five exquisite beaches give yourself plenty of time to take in the scenery. The design of this cliff top coastal walk appeals to a wide demographic as it is littered with rest stops and cafes for walkers to catch their breath or to simply soak in the seaside ambience. Several beaches, parks and play areas along the way appeal to the nature enthusiasts whilst giving children a chance to burn off extra energy. Lastly, fitness junkies will find the 6km not only a scenic form of exercise but numerous staircases and inclines will get those muscles working.
Should you find passing through Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and finally Coogee leaving you wanting more, walkers can extend their hike to neighbouring Maroubra. This should take an extra 70 minutes but keep in mind that despite Maroubra having a defined coastal walk it is currently not linked to the aforementioned paths. Therefore, you will need to pass through Maroubra’s suburban streets upon which you will be able to join the remainder of the coastal walk.
Time: 2 hours
Child Friendly: Yes
Transport: Buses 333, 380, 381, 382 depart regularly from Bondi Junction train station. If you are coming from Circular Quay buses 333, 380 depart from the city and will roughly take 45 minutes depending on traffic.
Chowder Bay to Balmoral Beach
As a lower North Shore resident, Balmoral is not only my favourite beach in Sydney but the trek from Chowder Bay is by far one of my favourite Sydney past times. Having completed this walk a few times now with both a dog and little niece I can honestly state that it is a cost effective and family friendly day out. The walk isn’t overly strenuous and with a clearly marked path you should complete this coastal hike in just over an hour. The views on offer are unparalleled, with sweeping views across Sydney Harbour and her myriad of bays, the city, Manly and out across the expansive Pacific Ocean.
Pack your swimmers as you can cool off in the blue waters of Balmoral post hike which offers a playground for the kiddies and beautiful shaded areas for a picnic lunch. If you are looking to make the walk more strenuous you can elect to start at Taronga Zoo which is serviced by ferries and buses alike however this will roughly take hikers 3 hours and isn’t as child friendly due to the time taken to complete this walk. For tourists deciding on which walk to do and on limited time, the Chowder Bay to Balmoral walk is the most historic as the trek will give you an insight into Australia colonial, war and maritime history. Equally important, the path which follows The Bungaree Walkway gives tourists an insight into Indigenous culture and history as the name itself is in honour of historic Indigenous leader Bungaree.
Time: 1 hour
Child Friendly: Yes
Transport: Unfortunately Chowder Bay is difficult to access with only bus 244 operating from Mosman. This will bring you to Chowder Bay Road and then require an extra walking time of 10 minutes. Chowder Bay is best accessed by car, fortunately Balmoral Beach is served by regular buses.
Manly to Spit Bridge
This walk is perfect for fitness enthusiasts or those wanting to find secret inlets for a sneaky dip away from the popular beaches. However, given the distance covered and time required to complete the walk this is not something I would recommend for those with children, have a sustained injury or struggle with extensive periods of cardio. This walk is very peaceful in terms of location but is filled with steep gradients and unlike other paths mentioned in this article is not as clearly defined as it’s predominantly unspoilt bushland. This is not to say walkers will get lost as clear signs pointing walkers in the right direction can regularly be found but your choice of footwear will need to be suitable because once you start this 10km endeavour it is very difficult to back out. This walk can be completed in reverse from Spit Bridge, but keep in mind if you are planning on arriving in Manly for lunch finding seating can be difficult as this little paradise is very busy on weekends.
Distance: 10 km
Time: 4 hours
Child Friendly: No
Transport: Ferries operate between Circular Quay and Manly. Buses can also be caught from the city to Spit Bridge in Mosman
The Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk -Kirribilli To The Rocks
Not to be confused with the Bridge Climb which sees brave adventurers scaling the arch of this Australian icon, the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk is free and follows the enclosed pedestrian walkaway. Best completed at dawn or dusk for photography enthusiasts, tourists and locals alike will fall in love with Sydney’s splendour from across the deck of the bridge.
I would recommend starting at Milsons Point as the stairs can easily be found adjacent to the station exit. Trains to Sydney’s North Shore leave from Central, Town Hall and Wynyard stations and Milsons Point is literally the first stop once you cross the bridge. You can either chose to then walk down to the harbour foreshore to explore Kirribilli, Luna Park and Lavender Bay before setting off across your panoramic walk. However, should you be ready to go from the moment you disembark follow the signs across the bridge and finish in the historic Rocks to explore Sydney’s colonial heritage. If you’re eager to make the most of your time plan your walk to coincide with the The Rocks Markets held weekends from 10.00am – 5.00pm or Fridays 9.00am – 3.00pm.
Time: 20 minutes
Child Friendly: Yes
Transport: Trains to Milsons Point operate from Wynyard, Town Hall and Central in the city. Ferries also operate to Luna Park/Milsons Point from Circular Quay
Watsons Bay To South Head
Just as the Chowder Bay to Balmoral Walk provides an insight into Australian history the South Head Coastal Walk commencing in picturesque Watsons Bay will also have the same effect on tourists. The paved path is close to 5km and given the coast line is quite flat is in no way strenuous. Commonly referred to as the gateway to Sydney Harbour the walk will lead you to secret beaches like Camp Cove and Lady Bay the latter of which is a nudist beach for the daring souls amongst us. For animal lovers, the venue is a perfect lookout to witness the whale migration during season.
What is particularly sacred about this walk is Camp Cove’s importance in Australian history. Belonging to the Indigenous Birrabirragal tribe this is where the British First Fleet carrying convicts bound for the new world spent their first night in Australia before continuing onto Sydney Cove in 1788. For me personally, it is a place of mixed emotions. I am of pure British lineage so this is the place where my family’s story began and our nationality completely redefined. I cannot imagine what those convicts, having been stripped from their homes and shipped to the other side of the world, had already endured and would endure in this harsh landscape. However, as an Australian there is huge element of sadness for the Indigenous people of this continent whose fate changed entirely that night after 40,000 years of isolation.
Time: 2 hours
Rating: Easy/Moderate depending on choice of length
Child Friendly: Yes
Transport: Ferries operate between Circular Quay and Watsons Bay. For a cheaper alternative catch Bus 324 from the city.
Sydney is truly remarkable and for such a small city offers so much for tourists to see and do. No matter what time of year your visit is scheduled include one of the above walks in your itinerary and gain a new perspective.