Despite the size of Sydney and the blistering pace of life in the city, it’s not hard to remove yourself from the hubbub and connect with a gentler environment.
With its stunning coastal and harbourside setting, Sydney offers quick and easy access to any number of superb walking tracks that encompass sweeping water vistas, genteel suburban settings and captivating bushland.
Here are five of the best Sydney self-guided walks to do during your visit.
The six-kilometre coastal walkway from Bondi Beach to Coogee is one of Sydney’s top experiences. It shows off the city’s spectacular natural setting perfectly. The walk can be broken into sections, with options to stop for a swim or a coffee at Tamarama, Bronte or Clovelly Beach. Soak up the sunny coastal vibe, enjoy the ocean-meets-rocky coast aesthetic, and pause at Marks Park in Tamarama to see ancient Aboriginal rock carvings. Most people start the walk at iconic Bondi Beach (catch a #333, #380 or #389 bus from Circular Quay or Bondi Junction station), but you can also join the path at Bronte (#440 bus from Museum station).
There’s an extra buzz (and larger crowds) when the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition turns the walk into an outdoor art gallery.
Another of our top Sydney self-guided walks is the Harbour Bridge crossing. Access the pedestrian walkway via stairs next to Milsons Point station in the north or Cumberland Street in the south. The walk is lovely at any time of day, but you’ll capture the best photos at sunrise. It only takes about 15 minutes to cross the Bridge itself, but you can extend your walk at either end. On the south side, come down to ground level for easy walking access to The Rocks, or stay on the elevated path to reach the Royal Botanic Garden. On the north side, you’ll enjoy wonderful Opera House views and heritage streetscapes in the chic harbourside suburb of Kirribilli.
The Hermitage Foreshore Track in Sydney’s eastern suburbs takes in secluded beaches, historic homes and city views, and provides a relaxed perspective on this sometimes brash city. From the north end of Rose Bay it’s a short stroll to the beginning of the track, which passes seemingly secret coves and heritage-listed Strickland House before reaching the calm swimming waters and lovely vintage café at Neilsen Park. Although this marks the official end of the Foreshore Track, you can continue your walk all the way to Watson’s Bay, passing the imposing Vaucluse House and tranquil Parsley Bay along the way.
On the other side of the Harbour there’s an equally enticing self-guided walk on offer. Catch the ferry from Circular Quay to South Mosman Wharf to begin the easy and incredibly scenic waterside walk to Taronga Zoo. You can make this your destination or continue on to pretty Chowder Bay. Perfect views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House remind you that you’re in the heart of a great city, but the forest-like environment, rich birdsong and glimpses of deserted beaches will make you feel like you’re a million miles from a major urban centre.
Among Sydney’s greatest public assets are its many pockets of preserved harbourside bushland. One of the most extensive and untouched of these is the North Head Sanctuary. To walk the 1.5 to 2-hour Sanctuary Loop, catch the #135 bus from Manly Wharf to the Sanctuary Visitor Centre at North Fort and head off them there. As you walk through this almost wilderness setting, you’ll enjoy great views towards the distant city, and across the harbour and ocean. The flora and fauna are rich and diverse, and you’ll pass pristine patches of unusual swamp and heathland. The walk also takes in some interesting historic sites associated with Sydney’s immigration and military history.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of five of the best Sydney self-guided walks? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed Roslyn to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.