Over the past 17 months that I have been living in Sydney I have made it my mission to get out on as many of the hiking trails as I can. Sydney has an abundance of national parks as well a stunning coastline which makes it one of the best cities in the world for access to the great outdoors.
I had intended to write about all of the hikes I have been doing individually but I never got around to it. That’s probably a good thing as I think a run-down of a whole heap of juicy hiking trails in one post is more informative for you keen hikers out there, that way you can compare and decide which ones appeal to you the most, as most visitors to the city wouldn’t have time to do all of them.
So here it is folks, my ultimate Sydney hiking rundown!
Manly to Spit Bridge Hike
Distance: 10km one way
Best for: Harbour views and Native bush
Starting at Manly Wharf this walk will take you past beautiful beaches, pristine native bush, and incredible views. Look out for the small huts visible in the distance below when you reach the Crater Cove Lookout and a sea of white wild flowers in Spring along the Sydney National Park section of the trail. I’ve classed it as Intermediate because there are sections that are reasonably strenuous as the track rises to the top of the headland. To read about this hike in more detail, read my post about it here.
Coogee to Bondi Walk
Distance: 6km one way
Best for: Swimming at the most iconic beaches in Sydney
THE most famous walk in all of Sydney, it is very popular and best done on a week day in winter if you don’t want to share the trail with hundreds of tourists. But despite the crowds it is a corker of a walk with stunning views from the top of sheer cliffs, lots of picture perfect white sand beaches, rock pools to swim in and even a sprawling cemetery which has arguably the most beautiful setting of any cemetery in the world. It is popular for a reason and if you only have time for one hike in Sydney and don’t mind crowds too much, this is the hike to do.
Maroubra to Coogee Walk
Distance: 4.5km one way
Best for: Checking out the surfers at Maroubra Beach
Starting in Maroubra, which is home to some of the world’s best surfers, this stretch of coastline on Sydney’s Eastern Beaches is a lot less crowded than its famous counterpart, the Coogee to Bondi Walk. The trail doesn’t hug the coast the whole way as there is a ten minute section where you have to walk through the suburban streets. There is a section that takes you across the rocks and you can even swim in the super clear Ivor Rowe natural rock pool along the way. If you really feel like walking you could tack this on to the Coogee to Bondi Walk.
Narrabeen Lagoon Trail
Distance: 7.5km loop
Best for: Experiencing a different side of Sydney, away from the coast
Something a bit different than most of Sydney’s hikes as it doesn’t involve any time hiking the coastline, this lake loop hike is very easy and a great hike to spot birds. It is also the only place I have ever seen snake in Sydney. Depending on whether you like snakes this could be taken as a good or bad thing. I don’t like snakes but it was still kinda cool seeing one (at a distance).
Dee Why to Manly Coastal Walk
Distance: 7km one way
Best for: Discovering Sydney’s quieter Northern beaches
Another beautiful coastal hike, this one takes you past some of Sydney’s most beautiful but quieter beaches in the north. Starting at Dee Why it follows a path along the top of the cliff for a while before heading down to one of my favourite beaches in Sydney, North Curl Curl. I definitely recommend a swimming break at the beach there or in the rock pool before walking along the beach then over to another beauty, Freshwater, before reaching Manly. Grab a drink on the deck at Manly’s awesome Four Pines Brewery – they do a mean alcoholic ginger beer.
Manly North Head Loop Walk
Distance: 5.5km loop walk
Best for: Secluded coves and ocean views
A local walk for me and one I do quite regularly. Starting at Manly Beach take the gorgeous waterside path to sheltered Shelly Beach which is a good spot for snorkelling then follow the path up to the Fairy Bower Headland where you might be lucky enough to see whales migrating offshore in Winter. Continue on over North Head and down the road to the secluded Collins Flat beach which is surrounded by native bush and has a waterfall falling onto the sand from above. Follow the bush path around to lovely Little Manly Cove before finishing at the Harbour where you can grab an ice-cream or a drink. If you are in Manly from July till January, stay at the Wharf till sunset to see Manly’s Little Penguin population.
Rose Bay to Hornby Light Walk
Distance: 8km one way
Best for: Harbour beaches, upmarket suburbs and Sydney’s best lighthouse
A great way to explore the harbour beaches close to the city, this walk starts at upmarket Rose Bay where you will see many luxury boats in the harbour. Stop at the beautiful white sand Shark Beach for a swim then continue on along the coast to the village with an English vibe, Watson’s Bay. This walk then takes you past a nudist beach to the most beautiful lighthouse in Sydney, the candy-cane coloured Hornby Light. From the Lighthouse there are dramatic views of the waves crashing onto the rocks below at the entrance to Sydney harbour.
Bondi Beach to Watson’s Bay Walk
Best for: Stunning views of the city and coastline followed by fish and chips on the wharf at Doyle’s in Watson’s Bay
Iconic Bondi Beach is the starting point for this walk. Check out the Bondi Market in the School grounds by the beach if you are walking on a Sunday. Head north following the road for a bit before the path rejoins the coast along the top of huge limestone cliffs. This walk has views out to sea on one side as well as one of the best views of the opera house and harbour bridge on the other. The walk ends at lovely Watson’s Bay which is the home to Doyle’s where you can get Sydney’s most famous fish and chips. Catch a ferry to the city from there.
The Basin Trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Distance: 5.6km return
Best for: Spotting wild wallabies and aboriginal rock art
The only place in Sydney I have seen wallabies (and their tiny babies), the Basin hike involves walking along a dirt road and down into a river basin on the Pittwater, a large estuary. Near the beginning of the hike there is some aboriginal rock art on large flat rocks including the outline of fishes, people and other animals. The Basin itself is a camping area as well as a day area and has an amenity block, a small swimming beach and barbecues. We reached the basin a couple of hours before sunset and there were wallabies everywhere. Quite an amazing sight. You can also take a ferry to the basin from Palm Beach but it is much more fulfilling if you hike there.
Balmoral to Cremorne Point Wharf Walk
Best for: Native bush and sparkling harbour and city views
Balmoral Beach is a definite favourite of mine in Sydney with it’s powdery white sand and crystal clear water. After grabbing brunch at the fantastic Boathouse Cafe, take the trail through native bush to Chowder Head, across the beach and through more native bush all the way around Middle Head and Bradley’s Head to Little Sirius Cove. You will briefly leave the bush behind for suburban streets before re-emerging in it at Reid park. A path then follows the coastline along the side of Cremorne Point past beautiful gardens and water views to the wharf at Cremorne Point where you can catch a scenic ferry to the city. This hike is an absolute joy with a lot of time spent in pristine coastal bushland as well as one of Sydney’s most beautiful beaches. A fantastic introduction to the harbour.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Trail
Best for: Pittwater and Palm beach views and a sandstone lighthouse
Like Hornby Light, Barrenjoey Lighthouse is another of Sydney’s iconic lighthouses. A short but stunning hike will lead you from the Palm Beach Surf Club where the TV Show ‘Home and Away’ is filmed and over to the Pittwater before rising up the headland to the lighthouse. Along the way there are stunning views with the beach on one side and the Pittwater on the other. There is a small grave of a past Lighthouse Keeper near the lighthouse and you can walk further to the end of the headland for views back to the lighthouse. Short and sweet.
Centennial Park Loop Walk
Best for: A city parkland escape
There are many routes you can take through Centennial Park and I recommend doing a bit of a loop but rather than following the loop road, do some off-roading by winding your way past some of the beautiful ponds. There are always a lot of black swans, ducks and Canadian geese to be fed. Also a great park for a bike ride.
Download my Jauntful map with all of the hikes on it for ease of reference.
Which of these walks would you most like to do? Do you have any more amazing Sydney hikes to add to the list? I would love to hear from you!