11 Best Walks in Sydney
Exploring Sydney's 11 best walks
Sydney is a walker's paradise, the perfect city to explore on foot with lots of walking tracks around the Harbour and beaches. The walks I have highlighted here show the best of our city.
These walks offer amazing views - lots of those picture postcard type you imagine when you think of Sydney. Each walk can be reached by public transport and offers something unique... best of all they are free!
Along with suggestions I have included links to walking maps, top photo spots and transport information.
All the images below were taken by either myself or my friends who have given me permission to use them here. Please contact me if you would like to use any of them.
1. Hyde Park to the Opera House
A beautiful harbour walk through the Botanic Gardens
This is my favourite welcome to Sydney walk. It allows you to approach the Opera House and Harbour via the Royal Botanic Gardens and is a really breathtaking way to get your first glimpse of theses icons. To do this route justice you could take a whole day and explore all the attractions on the way but if time is tight you could do it in an hour or two.
I like to begin this walk at Hyde Park where you can see the famous Archibald Fountain and St Mary's Cathedral before heading down Art Gallery Road past the Art Gallery of NSW to Mrs Macquarie's Point. Hyde Park is named after Hyde Park in London and was the home of Australia's first racecourse. At the southern end of the park is the War Memorial.
The Art Gallery is free and has a great collection of Australian Art - Check out Brett Whitley's painting "Balcony" and John Olsen's "5 Bells" my 2 personal favourites. There is also a very good collection of Aboriginal works.
Continue down Art Gallery road along the edge of the garden - but do not enter. On your right is the Boy Charlton Pool, a beautiful swimming pool that has recently been refurbished and is a great place for a swim in the city.
At the end of the road is Mrs Macquarie's point and the place where the image above was taken. There is a rock ledge in the shape of a chair here (look right on the point) which is actually where the wife of Governor Macquarie sat watching the ocean waiting for boats to arrive from England. It's about a 15 min walk from the gallery to the point.
After you have take lots of photos head into the gardens and follow the sea wall around to the Opera House. If you have time to explore the gardens - the Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters garden is worth a visit. See my Aboriginal Sydney page for more information about the First encounters garden and the Aboriginal art at the NSW Gallery.
2. Bondi Clifftop Walk
Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach Walk - The perfect way to spend a sunny Sydney day
This is an easy 2 hour walk covering about 6km in total. If that sounds like too much you can choose to break the walk earlier at Bronte Beach which is about 1.5km or 45 minutes along the track. Bronte is a great place for a BBQ with coin operated BBQs and little huts to dine in.
Begin the walk in either Bondi or Coogee. If you finish in Coogee you can visit one of the many restaurants on Coogee Bay Road or have a picnic in the park at the beach. If you do the walk in reverse you can finish with a drink at the swanky Bondi Icebergs Club or take a swim on Australia's most iconic beach.
Bondi and Coogee are both easily reached by public transport. Buses 333, 380, 381 (to Bondi) leave from the City or Bondi Junction train station. You can find more information about these buses by visiting Transport Infoline website or phoning 131500
The walk begins from the southern end of the beach near the Bondi Icebergs Club and the track follows the coastline past Tamarama (known locally as Glamarama because of the beautiful sunbathers that frequent the beach) to Bronte Beach.
If you are too tired or too hot to continue Bronte offers some great cafes and gas BBQs in the park behind the beach. Buses leave from here back to Bondi Junction and to the city.
After a rest, and perhaps a quick swim (make sure you follow the rules and swim between the flags as this beach can have very strong rips) continue from the southern end of the beach to Coogee. You can read more about the sights along the walk on this Bondi Coastal Walk
3. Federation Cliff Walk
Dover Heights to Watson's Bay - Fish and chips and a beer with a view of Sydney Harbour
This walk takes you along the cliff tops facing the Pacific Ocean to Watson's Bay. There is the 3km official Federation Cliff walk and then another 2kms to finish up at Watson's Bay. From here you can take a ferry back across the harbour.
Before you do you might want to have a beer in the Watsons Bay Hotel or try some fresh seafood at Doyles. The Doyle family have been selling seafood from this location since 1845. They have 2 outlets... the restaurant overlooking the beach and a takeaway and cafe on the wharf.
The pub also offers bbq food and burgers and has a great beer garden overlooking the harbour. If funds are tight there is a lovely shaded park by the beach where you can have a picnic.
Take a 380 bus from the City or Bondi Junction train station
Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay and do the walk in reverse
Once you get to Watsons Bay you can continue round to South Head and the lighthouse. There is also a nude beach - Lady Bay - and the tiny little Camp Cove Beach which is great for small kids.
4. Circular Quay to Observatory Hill
Exploring The Rocks and the Harbour's Edge - Step back in time and explore "old" Sydney
This walk takes an average of 3 hours but really it depends on the time you have available and your interest in history.
Begin at Circular Quay; if you take the train to Circular Quay make sure you check out the view from the platform. I am sure this has to be the best train station with a view in the world.
Ok now it's on to "The Rocks"... The Rocks is historic Sydney at its best. It's home to our oldest building, some great food like Sailor's Thai or Rockpool and plenty of places for a drink with a view.
You can download a free map or call in at the Sydney visitors centre
Corner of Argyle and Playfair streets Sydney
Open daily: 9.30am - 5.30pm
Must sees for me are:
Susannah Place - a historic trust property featuring 4 homes in an original terrace each as it was in a different decade.
The Rocks Discovery Museum - Free- small but interesting history of the Rocks
Glenmore Hotel - rooftop bar
The Puppet shop - if you are travelling with kids this is a must see
The Argyle Bar - The place to be seen in the Rocks... beautifully restored old warehouse
The view from Observatory Hill
There are lots of tours available in the area including a Ghost tour, a pub tour and one I have done and really enjoyed the Sydney Photography Tour
If you want more continue under the Bridge to Walsh bay and explore this old harbour wharves. Buses 431 and 433 head back to the city from the George St near Lower Fort St
5. The Sydney Harbour Bridge
Over the Top or Across the Harbour Bridge - Two ways to walk the "Coat hanger"
The Sydney Harbour Bridge, sometimes referred to as the coat-hanger, is one of the most iconic Sydney images and a walk over the bridge is a must for visitors.
There are 2 ways to walk over our most famous bridge
1. Scale the top with Bridge climb - expensive yes but worth every cent
2. Take the budget or acrophobic's way - a walk up the Harbour Bridge southern pylon lookout and then a stroll across the pedestrian footpath.
Either way the view is great!
Image used with permission - Tourism Australia
If you can afford a Bridgeclimb and are not afraid of heights I recommend a sunrise climb. You need to book in advance so think about this before you arrive if you are only visiting Sydney for a short time.
For the rest of us you can get a sky high view from the south east pylon... for under $10 you can climb the 200 stairs to the top of the pylon for an amazing view and 3 levels of information about the bridge and it's history. From The Rocks, look for the stairs located near Gloucester St and Cumberland St.
The walk across the bridge takes approx 15 mins - a Bridgeclimb about 3 hours and costs between $200 and $400 depending on the time of day you choose.
You can combine this with the Lavender Bay and Secret Garden walk that starts at the northern side of the bridge.
Apologies for the quality of this photo - It was taken on my i-phone.
6. Spit Bridge to Manly Walk
A Natural Bush land track along Sydney Harbour - Big walk but well worth the effort for breathtaking Sydney views
This walk is 9km long with sections ranging from an easy stroll to a medium grade walk. There are very few shops along the track so make sure you take along drinking water. A hat and sunscreen are also recommended. The complete walk takes approx 4 hours.
You can begin at either end - beginning at Manly is easier to follow but if you have already printed out the map (linked below) then beginning at the Spit Bridge means you finish up at Manly with it's cafes, restaurants and bars. You can also head back across the Harbour via the Manly ferry, a perfect way to end the day.
Buses for the Spit Bridge leave from Railway Square (near Central Station) or Wynyard Station. Buses to most of the Northern Beaches stop at the bridge - be sure to ask the driver before boarding. Any bus that lists Palm Beach, Manly or Dee Why as the destination usually stop at the Spit Bridge.
Must see points include:Fairfax lookoutGrotto Point - Aboriginal engravingsReef or Forty Baskets beach - for a swim
This Sydney Harbour National Parks brochure has lots more detail
7. Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach
Walk from Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach - Millions dollar views and homes
This walk is about 6km long and if you do it at an average pace will take you about 2 hours. You can also choose to finish the walk at the 4km point at Chowder Bay and backtrack to the wharf to return home.
While the usual place to begin this walk is from the wharf at Taronga Zoo If you have a little more energy or want to make it a full day walk you can begin at Cremorne Point wharf.
Highlights here are the views over Taylors Bay, Clifton Gardens and Chowder Bay. In summer Chowder Bay is a great beach to sunbathe or have a picnic and game of Frisbee. There is also a nice restaurant Ripples at Chowder Bay you might like to visit.
If you want to continue to Balmoral it's about another 2km or 40 mins walk. Balmoral is one of the nicest harbour beaches and is home to the highly respected Bathers Pavilion Restaurant and the slightly cheaper Bathers Pavilion Cafe.
From Balmoral Beach you can catch the 238 bus back from Raglan St back to Taronga Wharf or a bus directly to the city.
8. Darling Harbour and Pyrmont
Walk Darling Harbour and the Fish Markets - Wildlife, Maritime History, Chinese Gardens and the Sydney Fish Market!
Begin this walk at the Entertainment Centre monorail or the Paddy's Market light rail stop. Resist Chinatown for another time and follow the signs to Darling Harbour... First stop is the Chinese Gardens (entry $6) once inside it's hard to believe you are in the middle of a busy city. The garden has a cafe for tea or you might like to dress in traditional costume and have your photo taken. You can download the free self guided audio tour of the Chinese Gardens from the Darling Harbour website.
After exploring the garden continue to Cockle Bay and walk over the Pyrmont Bridge. If you wish you could visit the Sydney Aquarium and Australian Wildlife World (not free). On the other side of the bridge is the Australian Maritime Museum (free entry but charges for some exhibits).
From here it is just a 750 metre walk down Union St & Miller St to the Sydney Fish Market. Once at the market you can have lunch in one of the seafood cafes or grab some fresh seafood for a picnic in one of the nearby parks.
If the markets is not your thing you might like The Star Casino - which has a buffet full of prawns and plenty of activities to part you with your money!
After lunch catch the light rail back to Central Station or a bus to the centre of the city.
9. Milson's Point to Lavender Bay
Along the Harbour's Northern foreshore - Luna Park, the pool with a view and Wendy's Secret Garden
The feature of this walk is the secret little garden at Lavender Bay. To get to the starting point take the train to Milson's Point Station or a ferry from Circular Quay to the Milson's Point Wharf.
Once you arrive the decisions begin, you could:
Visit the North Sydney Olympic Pool for a swim with a view.
Try out the rides at Luna Park- entry is free - you just pay for the rides you choose or follow the harbour edge round the Lavender Bay walk to Clark Park and the secret garden. The secret Garden is a beautiful place for a picnic. There are nooks and crannies to find your own little piece of shade. We are indebted to Wendy for building and maintaining the amazing garden. It is such a serene spot to take some time out.
This side of the Bridge is also a good place to take a nice photo with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House in the same shot. You can catch a ferry back to Circular Quay or better still Darling Harbour from Luna Park Whaft or walk back to Milson's Point Station for a train across the bridge.
10. Berry Island
Berry Island Reserve - Aboriginal engravings and weekend jazz right in Sydney Harbour
The highlight here is the Gadyan Bush Track, a peaceful and picturesque 20 min walk that includes informative signs detailing the local Aboriginal history. There are examples of rock art and also Aboriginal middens. It's an easy train ride from the city and only a 10 minute walk down from the station making it a perfect bushwalk for visitors to Sydney.
11. Palm Beach
Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Lighthouse - The "home" of Home and Away
This is a pretty big day out and best saved for a nice sunny weekend. If you do not have a car take the L90 bus from Wynyard Station - it's a 41km trip but this is a limited stops bus and a really scenic journey. Palm Beach is the setting for outdoor filming for the Australian soap opera Home and Away.
It's also home to some beautiful beach hideaways and the Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The lighthouse can be toured on Sundays. The walk to the lighthouse is about 2.5km long and takes a little over an hour and a half. After walking along the beach you have a bit of a climb for about 0.5 km. This walk is not suitable for the disabled or the elderly. Make sure you leave time to return before sunset because it can be quite challenging finding your way back in the dark!
If you are not keen to walk to the lighthouse head off to the south around the rocks to see some great carvings and a nice rock pool for swimming.
One must see is the Bible Garden - It's a Christian garden built to allow quiet contemplations with free entry. It's the only place to get that amazing view in the photo above. The walk to the garden is about 1km from the bus stop. The street address is 6a Mitchell Road, Palm Beach.
Two other attractions you might like to explore are the ferries that leave from Palm Beach area. There is the Palm Beach ferry to the Basin or the Hawkesbury river cruise to Patonga
Find maps and more information online
- Walking Coastal Sydney
On this website you will find maps for all the coastal walks from Palm Beach to Cronulla.
- Walking Sydney Harbour
Download detailed maps of all the walks round Sydney Harbour including the full Habour Circle Walk
- Sydney Harbour Trust
Details of walking tracks on Cockatoo Island, North Head and other harbour locations
- Sydney Harbour National Park
How to visit areas of the park along with details of guided tours and downloads.
- Sydney City Library
Visit the free public library for internet access and to browse the bookshelves for guides of Sydney
- Sydney City Councils Historical Sydney Walks
Download one of the PDF guides and MP3 commentaries for these walks produced by Sydney City Council. You can also pick up these brochures at tourism offices and the Sydney city library
Helpful items for walking Sydney
If you are only in Sydney for a few days this guide covers all the attractions you will have time to see without weighing down your bag.
My favourite Sydney guide.. up to date and features all the good and affordable things to do. Money well spent as it will save you lots.
Want more ideas for your visit to Sydney? My Sydney Expert Blog is full of great ideas for your Sydney itinerary
What's your favourite Sydney walk?
What is your favourite Sydney walk?
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