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The Ten Best Coastal Walks in Sydney

It's time to get off of the couch and onto the coast.

You can walk to the shops. You can walk to work. But no walk will feed your soul like a walk by the water. And if you live in Sydney, your soul should be pizza-party-level full.

These ten coastal walks have it all — wild scrub, picturesque paths, yacht clubs and war ruins. Bar stops right where you need them. Parts of the Bondi to Coogee you can blitz in an hour, while the Bundeena to Otford track is an overnighter. Here's your next ten weekends' worth of active leisure.

Best Harbour Views: Bradley's Head to Chowder Bay Walk

For the yoga-posing enthusiast, this leisurely 5km walk begins at Taronga Zoo and extends to the deliciously charming Chowder Bay. The trail hugs the coast tightly and its proximity to Sydney Harbour allows for completely unobstructed views of the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and city skyline. Once you work up an appetite, plan to have a well-deserved lunch at one of the Bay's many seafood restaurants.

Best for yacht-watching: Chinamans Beach to Balmoral Beach

While this trek can be walked in either direction, the best course is down through the overgrown Parriwi Lighthouse Walking Track. The steep steps lead to sudden views of Middle Harbour, and the trek becomes an unexpectedly rocky adventure as the path to Chinamans Beach is only available at low tide. Once arriving at the tiny and peaceful Chinamans, the short 1km walk to Balmoral includes exquisite beachfront properties that line the shores and views of the yachts that often dock along the way.

Most challenging trek: Bundeena to Otford Coastal Track

If you're looking for more than a day trip, this 26km track around the Royal National Park boasts a combination of rugged bushwalks with Cliffs of Moher-type views across the Tasman Sea. For those who are not incredibly fit, it is best to spend a night camping at North Era campground , but make sure to wake up in time for the stunning sunrise over the ocean.

Best coastal bushwalk: North Head

While this historical, 9.5km walk does contain a driving path, the true beauty of this trail is seen through the dirt road bushwalk. Beginning at North Head Sanctuary, walk through the former North Head Army Barracks before heading out to the bush. Echidnas and bandicoots lurk in the burnt orange and yellow brush before the wild path opens suddenly to a mix of coastal views; the best are located at the Third Quarantine Station Cemetery, which looks across to Middle Head and Manly, and the Fairfax Walk, which looks far out over the Tasman Sea. From here, it is easy to end your afternoon at Manly Beach, stopping at the petite Collins and Little Manly Beaches along the way.

Best trek to the CBD: Anzac Bridge to Pyrmont Bridge

This seafood frenzy of a walk is the most scenic way to head into the CBD from the city’s inner west. Begin by crossing the austere-looking Anzac Bridge over to Blackwattle Bay, where you should settle in for a bayside lunch from the Sydney Fish Market. Continue on through Darling Harbour and cross into the CBD over the Pyrmont Bridge, which offers the best views of Cockle Bay. This 4km bridge hike merits a nice cocktail one on of the Bristol Arms' expansive rooftop terraces.

Not just for tourists: Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walk

This 10km walk, combined with the ferry ride to Manly Beach, is often recommended to tourists but rarely endeavored by locals. Still, it is one of the best and most easily accessible treks in Sydney, and comes so highly endorsed for a reason. This varying coastal walk of bush and ocean views makes the entire trip compelling and a true Sydney experience that shouldn't by missed by even the most seasoned veterans.

Best panoramic views: Middle Head

While the multiple WWII batteries located at Middle Head certainly set this walk apart, it is the expansive views of the eastern suburbs, Middle Harbour and Manly that really make this trek worthwhile.  Still, climbing through underground tunnels and gun pits on the edge of the coast is a big part of the thrill. Don’t miss the Vietnamese 'Tiger Cages', where trained military men simulated prisoner of war conditions. You’ll find these ruins throughout the Middle Head Fortifications, but the surrounding sheer cliffs are what give the remnants their eerie and significant effect.

Best historic sights: Cockatoo Island

A UNESCO world heritage site, Cockatoo Island has an illustrious history.  Once a convict colony and industrial island, it has 360-degree views of the Parramatta River and is truly at the heart of Sydney.  Tours, events and daily talks focus on environmental and historical issues related to the island, and there's also the maritime museum, film/photography exhibitions, and even a yoga festival to come. Cockatoo can easily be turned into a weekend getaway at home with campgrounds and holiday houses available.

Best for picnicking: Balls Head Reserve

The reserve affords exceptional views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the north, and is a great place to have a short walk and picnic on the rocks overlooking the CBD.  The bushwalk tracks open up to a secluded park with barbeques stand at the ready. Once you finish grilling up your sausages, head back over to the rocky area to have your picnic while watching the harbour boats mosey by.  This is a proper lazy man’s trek and should be enjoyed at a slow pace.

Most quintessentially Sydney: Bondi to Coogee

No list is complete without including this 6km trail, which gives tourists and locals alike a true sense of Sydney's coastal beauty. The trek's steep gradients are well spaced between the city's most loved beaches, making this trip part workout, part beach bum afternoon. While the walk could be completed in as little as a two hours, it is best enjoyed with long breaks by the ocean. From October 23, parts of the trail become extra majestic (and extra crowded) for iconic art event Sculpture by the Sea.

Images: Marissa Ciampi and Grant Bates.

Published on October 01, 2014 by

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