The Backpackers Guide to the Best Walks in Sydney and Beyond!
Australia, the home of the great outdoors. Exploring places by walking and taking epic hikes has always been close to my heart. Growing up in the Yorkshire countryside, surrounded by hills for miles, Sunday walks were a family favourite. Since walking has always been something I loved to do, it’s no surprise that over the years I’ve discovered that the best way to explore is with your own two feet. Some of the Best Walks in Sydney I discovered by accident, just from walking around!
The scenery that captivates you during walks in Australia may be somewhat different to the UK but it’s just as special. Taking walks along beaches with nothing to see but the dancing ocean is magical. Combined with perfect weather most of the year Sydney is a fantastic place for walking along the coast. In this guide to the best walks in Sydney, I’m sharing some of the walks and hikes that you can’t miss when visiting Australia’s most vibrant city. I’ve also included some great walks beyond the city at the end of the post!
The Best Walks in Sydney: The City
The city centre in Sydney is where most travellers make their first stop. A trip to Sydney wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Opera House, The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens. Though Sydney is a big city and it can take a little navigating to find your way around the best way to do so is to walk! There are numerous walks you can enjoy around the city to capture all of the sights and inner city beauty.
Harbour Bridge to Mrs Macqauries Chair
To capture all of the tourist sights in Sydney why not talk a walk from the Harbour Bridge, past The Sydney Opera House and finish in the Botanical Gardens. This walk is really nice to enjoy in the hour before sunset so that you can finish at Mrs Macqauries Chair ready to watch the spectacular sun disappearing for the day.
Start: Overseas Passenger Terminal
Finish: Mrs Macqauries Chair
Distance: 1.7 miles or 2.7 km
Start this city walk at the Overseas Passenger Terminal (where the cruise ships dock) at Circular Quay. This gives some gorgeous views of the Harbour Bridge where you’ll get some fantastic photographs. If you’re lucky enough for a cruise ship not to be docked then the views of the Opera House are also perfect. To get a little closer to the Harbour Bridge follow the walkway to the left and just follow it around adding about 20 minutes onto the total walk. From the overseas passenger terminal follow the crowds around the harbour passing the ferry terminals as you go. Circular Quay is lined with shops, restaurants and cafes for travellers to enjoy on the way if they wish.
As you follow the pavement around take in the beauty of circular quay. Filled with travellers mesmerised with the views, locals enjoying their lunch break or rushing to the ferry docks eager to get home and out of the city (a great place for people watching!). It’ll only take a mere 10 minutes depending on your walking pace to reach the world-famous Opera House.
From the Opera House, you’ll clearly see the Botanical Gardens to your right. Follow the walkway around the edge of the water and keep going until you reach Mrs Macqauries Chair – which is signposted throughout the gardens.
Get that Postcard Shot!
Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is where you’ll find the famous ‘postcard shot’ of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge! This short walk is wheelchair accessible and good for any level of fitness, with no hills just flat ground that’s paved the whole way. In total it will take around an hour once you’ve accounted for how many times you’ll be stopping to enjoy along the way. I think this is one of the best walks in Sydney to capture all of the main city sights.
Best Walks in Sydney: Milsons Point to Lavender Bay
Milsons Point to Lavender bay is another, like Bondi-Coogee, famous walk in Sydney but it’s definitely worth exploring to enjoy scenic city views!
Transport to Milsons Point
Milsons Point is located in North Sydney and easily accessible by public transport or by taking a walk over the Harbour Bridge. If you’re travelling from Circular Quay then the train will be the quickest way of getting across the water. There is a ferry that goes from Circular Quay to Milsons Point but it’s expensive. The journey lasts only 5 minutes and will cost a whopping $6! The train will only cost a couple of bucks if that so the train is 100% more budget friendly. To enjoy amazing views from the ferry then save it for visiting Manly which is the same price for a journey that’s 40 minutes rather than 5.
Milsons Point to Lavender Bay: The Circuit
Starts: Milsons Point
Finishes: Lavender Bay
Distance: 1 km or 0.6 miles
The walk from Milsons Point to Lavender Bay doesn’t take long at all. In fact, if you don’t stop on the way you could easily do it in 10 or 15 minutes!
The trail is paved the whole way so accessible for everyone. Start at Bradfield Park and walk under the Harbour Bridge enjoying views of the Opera House from a different angle! The view of the Opera House from the back is actually my favourite angle! I love how the glass panes reflect on the water and the architecture is so phenomenal. Continue under the bridge and past Sydney’s Olympic pool wandering onto the Luna Park. Fun for everyone the Luna Park is great to explore. Entry is free just for a nosey around or enjoy the fairground rides if you fancy! As you follow the path around the Luna Park you’ll find yourself in Lavender Bay. A small bay where boats are bobbing on the water and the views of the city remain sublime.
The Best Walks in Sydney: Coastal Walks!
Sydney is renowned for its picture-perfect coastal walks. If you’re planning a short trip to Sydney then I recommend doing at least one coastal walk but I have no idea how you’ll choose one! Bondi-Coogee is glorious but it can be pretty touristy especially in the summer. I love that walk but I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite. I think that title goes to the Hermitage Foreshore Walk over in Rose Bay, imagine weaving in and out of secluded beaches with views of the harbour in the distance. One thing is for certain if you tackle any of these coastal walks that I’ll be mentioning – pack your swimmers!
Coast Walks in Sydney: Hermitage Foreshore Walk – Rose Bay
Starts: Bayview Hill Road
Finish: Neilsen Park
Distance: 1.6 km or 1 mile
Starting at just outside of Rose Bay on Bayview Hill Road the Hermitage Foreshore Walk is a tranquil trail that weaves along the edges of the Sydney Harbour National Park. You’ll find an array of beauty on this walk from tiny beaches, still waters perfect for swimming and panoramic views of Sydney. Pack a picnic and your swimmers because the beaches you’ll pass will be screaming your name. The beaches are carved like bays so the ocean is still which is my favourite kind of ocean! Crashing waves are fun but I love when you can just relax and bob up and down on the water.
My favourite beach on this walk is Milk Beach but there’s so many to choose from. The beaches before you reach Milk Beach will be the quietest. Shark beach which is just before Neilsen Park will be a little busier with tourists and locals alike but still a far cry from anything like Bondi, Bronte or Coogee Beach.
Transport to Rose Bay
Getting to the start of the Hermitage Foreshore Walk is quite straight forward if you’re coming from the city. Simply catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Rosey Bay and follow Google Maps for Bayview Hill Road. The walk to the start of this walk from the ferry terminal is about 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can catch the 325 bus from Town Hall all the way to Bayview Hill itself.
Coastal Walks in Sydney: Bondi to Coogee
Starts: Bondi Beach
Ends: Coogee Beach
Distance: 6 km or 3 miles
Tip: Route includes some steep steps and hills. Not accessible for wheels or prams.
The Bondi-Coogee walk in Sydney is a popular activity for both travellers and locals. It’s one of the favourites for runners with its gorgeous views and many beaches to stop at along the way. If you only have a short time in Sydney then most people do this walk because it’s central and you’re probably going to Bondi Beach anyway. This walk can be split up into sections, Bondi-Tamarama, Tamarama-Bronte, Bronte-Clovelly and Clovelly-Coogee racking up 6 km or 3.7 miles. The walk can take anything from one hour to three depending on your ability but I urge you to spend as much time on this walk as possible.
The walk winds around the coastline stopping at five of Sydney’s best beaches along the way. You’ll find a separate ocean pool at each beach too so if you have little ones who would love a swim then they can so safely. The awesome thing about the Bondi to Coogee walk is that it can be split up. You don’t have to do it all if you wish. Simply conquer the part of the walk you want to see, but it is beautiful the whole way around.
Best Coastal Walks in Sydney: Watsons Bay
Starts: Camp Cove Watsons Bay
Ends: Hornby Lighthouse
Distance: 1.6 km or 1 mile
Tip: Route includes some stairs
This short walk may only take around 20 minutes but its definitely worth exploring if you’re in Watsons Bay. Watsons Bay is one of the cutest coastal towns in Sydney. It oozes character, relaxation and beauty. The beaches are small and locals friendly. As you hop off the ferry at Watsons Bay you can explore the esplanade filled with restaurants and bars. The walk to Camp Cover is only short taking about 10 minutes.
Arriving at Camp Cove, a pristine beach complete with a smoothie shack, makes you feel like you’ve transported to a tropical island. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we stumbled upon it late on during our time in Sydney. From Camp Cove, you can follow the broad walk all the way to Hornby Lighthouse. Be warned that there is a nudist beach on the way around – it’s hidden away very discreetly so it gave us a little surprise when we saw people down on the beach! What baffled me was the viewing platform that looks directly onto Lady Bay Beach – weird!
Transport to Watsons Bay
The Ferry from Circular Quay is the easiest way to reach Watsons Bay from the city. Keep on an eye on the ferry times at this website because they are less frequent to Watsons Bay than to other areas of the city.
My Final Coastal Walk in Sydney: Fairfax Track North Head
Starts: North Head
Ends: Fair Fax Lookout
Distance: 1 km or 1 hour (see alternative walk in the description)
Another short walk in Sydney offering some incredible views of the city. The Fair Fax track itself is perfect for families or people who don’t enjoy walking. Pull up in the car park and walk the easy 1 km to Fair Fax lookout offering ocean views with the city skyline in the distance. Unfortunately, we did get rubbish weather and the city was all hazy but on a clear day, this view will be stunning.
There is also another option for this walk. Park or get off the bus at the bus stop and walk all through the bushland. You can also walk the Australian Memorial Walk dedicated to those who fought in the wars. We added this onto our walk during our time at North Head and It was worth it taking the walking time to 1 hour.
Transport to North Head
North head is located in Manly north of the city. You can get the 135 bus from stand B at the bus stops directly outside from the Ferry Terminal. To get to Manly from Sydney catch the Ferry from circular quay. The slow passenger ferry is the cheapest and takes 40 minutes but there is also a fast ferry option. Fast Ferry takes 20 minutes and costs around $11 opposed to $6 so it depends on your time and budget.
Walks Beyond the City: Walks Around Sydney
If walking is your thing then as you can tell there are plenty in Sydney to choose from. These few are my favourites but there are hundreds of walks around Sydney. The great thing about Sydney is its prime location on the coast. Just a few hours west of Sydney you’ve got the Blue Mountains and a couple of hours north is Palm Beach. Both the Blue Mountains and Palm Beach are well worth visiting during a trip to Sydney or New South Wales if your itinerary allows it. To finish this post I’m sharing two more walks, one from the Blue Mountains and one from Palm Beach.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk Palm Beach
Starts: Pittwater Beach
Ends: Barrenjoey Lighthouse
Distance: Access Track 800 metres or Smugglers Track 400 metres
Tip: Steep slopes or lots of steps! The Access Track is steep slopes up to the top or Smugglers Track consists of steep steps direct to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
Palm Beach aka Summer Bay! If you’re a soap fan then you might know what I’m talking about! If not then you’ve probably got better things to do with your time than the rest of us! Home and Away is an Aussie soap set in Palm Beach. After seeing the famous peninsula so many times on the TV it’s quite awesome to be there in person! During a visit to Palm Beach, a hike up to Barrenjoey lighthouse is a must so that you get that epic view. The walk up to the lighthouse is short but steep. The walk gives you two options as outlined above, the Access Track is easier than the stairs it’s still steep. We walked up to the Access Track and back down Smugglers Track.
Walks in the Blue Mountains
The Wentworth Pass adjoining to Overcliff Undercliff Track
Starts: Wentworth Falls
Ends: Wentworth Falls carpark/picnic area
The Blue Mountains is inundated with glorious walks for all abilities. We spent two days in the Blue Mountains and I’ll admit I wish we’d had more time! We did tackle a few walks over our two-day visit but the Wentworth Pass was one I enjoyed the most. This track is hard with a large distance to cover with some steep hills. The views are incredible and totally worth any sweat along the way! I’d share some of the epic views with you but my old laptop died last year and of course, I hadn’t backed up properly (you live and learn) so we pretty much lost ALL of our Blue Mountains photographs! But take my word for it you want to do this hike! The National Pass hike, also located at Wentworth Falls, also looks stunning but the track was closed during our visit.
Whether you’re staying in the city or venturing up into the mountains, there are plenty of walks to keep you busy. These are definitely not all of the walks you take on in Sydney but just some of the best ones!
Which is your favourite Sydney walk? Let me know in the comments below!
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Wishing You Happy and Healthy Adventures!