Sydney’s Best Coastal Walks

It’s becoming a pretty regular thing for me to explore my home town… here’s what I’ve found to be the best coastal walks that Sydney and the Northern Beaches have to offer.

? Taronga Zoo > Balmoral Beach (via Bradley’s Head and Chowder Bay)

6.6kms | 1.5hours (one way)
This walk I actually only just discovered. Usually when I’m making my way to the Zoo it’s to, you know, see animals? So getting the bus all the way there almost felt wrong when we walked straight past the entrance – but it was definitely worth it. The hike trails along the coastline, offering panoramic views of the inner-city and the surrounding harbours. There are also plenty of picture-perfect stops along the way, at Bradley’s Head Lighthouse and Taylors Bay.

The walk can really be as long as you want it to be, whether you want to stop for a swim of some food at Chowder Bay, or continue past Balmoral and combine the Spit to Manly walk…

  • Bathrooms are at Chowder Bay

? Bondi > Bronte or Coogee

2.6kms | 35mins (one way) OR  5.8kms | 1.20hrs to Coogee Beach (one way)
Rated the number 2 thing to do when visiting Sydney on TripAdvisor, the Bondi to Bronte walk is a 3 kilometre trail around Sydney’s eastern beaches, Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte. Starting at Sydney’s most iconic beach, Bondi’s white sandy shores will start you off, trailing up past the insta-famous Icebergs Pool and then towards Bronte Baths. Depending on the time of year you could even check out the annual Sculptures By The Sea installations that trail the walkway.

    • Bathrooms are at Bondi Beach, Tamarama Beach, and Bronte Beach
  • #visitbondibeach


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Baby in the summertime

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? Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk

Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park
1.2kms | 20mins (one way)
One of the shortest walks around, the Barrenjoey Hike is one of the most well-known walks in the Northern Beaches for its famous views of Palm Beach – home to, Home and Away, one of Australia’s famous soaps that’s aired around the world. The walk is short, but all uphill with no cover from the sun. There are two trails, the stairs and the ramp – I generally recommend walking the ramp up, and the stairs down – I find that not only is that more comfortable, but the traffic seems to move that way too (as the stairs are quite narrow).

    • Pack water, there are no facilities at the lighthouse
    • Bathrooms are by the carpark at the start of the trail

Watsons Bay > Hornby Lighthouse

2kms | 30mins (one way)
Despite being home to Hornby’s unique and colourful lighthouse, this walk is often missed by many just because of its location. As a Manly local, I opted for the ferry over to Watson’s Bay, but when heading there from the city it’s easier to get to by bus. This walk offers extended panoramic views over Sydney harbour, trailing around the windy head out to the Tasman Sea.

You can extend this walk by wandering around The Gap Lookout.

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? Spit Bridge > Manly

10km | 4hours (one way)
This walk can be done any direction you like, but I find Spit to Manly is much more rewarding as you can finish your 10kms with a nice view over the harbour and lunch around the corso. If you’re getting the bus to Spit Junction, the walk starts on the bridge, and then trails underneath it where it leads towards the bush. After passing through Clontarf Beach, everything from there is dense green bushland with the occasional pass by of a private beach and very fancy residences.

        • Bring water, it’s a long walk and there’s nowhere along the way to get any
        • Bathrooms are at Clontarf Beach and in Manly
      • #manlybeachaustralia #lovemanly
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? Figure 8 Pools Walk

Royal National Park
3kms | 2hours (one way)
Before I get into this one, I want to STRESS how important it is to plan ahead for this trip – research the best times and tides – the pools are not accessible when there are large waves. The trek is currently under a lot of scrutiny as the Insta-famous rock shelf has called for closure. Discussions are being made on whether it would be safer to close this hike to the public, as not enough people are realising the dangers posed by the coastline. The Royal National Park’s website shows a live feed of whether it is safe or not to visit the pools, but since its introduction there have still been too many injuries, and even deaths.

So please, use your head.

On a lighter note, given the right conditions it really is a picture perfect hike. To begin it’s a little strenuous, a lot of stairs downhill under cover of trees (meaning uphill on the way back!), and then it opens up to Burning Palms Beach. From there you follow the coastline around the headlands until you reach the pools.

        • I would recommend packing a lunch or snacks
        • The only available toilets are at the carpark where the hike begins
      • #royalnationalpark @royalnationalpark

? Wattamolla Beach > Marley Head

Royal National Park
5.7kms | 1.20hours (one way)
A great walk for anyone who loves getting distracted by big rocks and vast views. From the Wattamolla Beach carpark, it’s a short walk down the coastal track to the dam, and from there the trail cuts through the bushland, with above ground walkways, until you reach the coastline and you can walk along the sandstone cliffside. Along the trail there are various places to have a quick climb of the neighbouring rocks and take in the panoramic views above the canopy – it’s so vast that on a clear day you can even see the billowing smoke from Wollongong!

This is a great walk no matter how far you want to go – the coastal track leads all the way up to Wedding Cake rock and Bundeena, so you can really go as far as you’d like.

        • Pack water, there are no facilities along the way
        • Bathrooms are at the Visitors Centre and Wattamolla car park
      • #royalnationalpark @royalnationalpark
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? Bundeena > Wedding Cake Rock (via Balcony)

Royal National Park
4.1kms | 57mins (or 7.6kms | 1.40hrs via Jibbon Head) (one way)
Bundeena is a village on the northern outskirts of Royal National Park, and is the only access point towards the phenomena that is Wedding Cake Rock. The rock is continuously drawing in visitors due to its smooth shape and colour.

Contrary to belief, the actual cliff-face is now fenced off. Despite the many many photos people have sitting upon the edge, the NWPS have restricted access because it is severely fragile and close to falling. It’s a spectacle purely to be looked at, not walked over or taken advantage of for its good looks, ha! Previously people could go up as close to the edge as they’d like, but due to the erosion it’s become too dangerous to risk it – so please don’t be one of those people jumping the fence, it’s not worth it.

      • #royalnationalpark @royalnationalpark

? Manly Beach > Shelly Beach

1.2kms | 15mins (one way)
One of Sydney’s most iconic walks, I do this every other day and never get sick of it. As a Manly local, this is an easy walk to do with a friend with a coffee in hand or even to walk off a well deserved eggs benny. The walk can be as long or short as you like it depending on where you want to start – whether it Manly Beach, or Queenscliff Beach. Some of Manly’s most recognised Insta-spots are along this walk, including Manly Stepping Rocks ocean pool and Shelly Head Lookout – perfect for whale spotting!

        • Bubblers throughout the walk
        • Public BBQs at Shelly Beach
        • Public toilets at Manly Beach, midway through the walk and at Shelly Beach
      • #manlybeachaustralia #lovemanly
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? Long Reef Headland

1.2kms | 15mins (one way)
This walk is short, and definitely not in the same league as the Bondi to Bronte or Spit to Manly walks, but it’s still worth doing if you have the time and the weather on your side. My absolute recommendation would be to stop by the Upper Crust Pie shop on the main road, grab yourself a pie or two from the award winning bakery and take it along with you. From the pie shop it’s a short walk across the main road and then up to the top of the headland. The trail winds past the golf course, and up to the popular parasailing spot – also a perfect place to sit down for a picnic. At the right time of year it’s also a great spot for whale watching, and at the right time of day, you can follow the trail down the back of the headland and onto the beach (at high tide sometimes this is unaccessible).

? Dee Why Rockpool to Dee Why Headland

7kms | 1.5hrs (one way)
Something picturesque for the locals, this walk is something easy and picturesque to do on your days off work. This walk starts along Manly Beach towards Queenscliff, and then heads uphill by stairs over to Freshwater Beach and then North Curl Curl Headland towards the bush trail. 

? Manly Dam Waterfall Walk

2kms | 40mins from section 4 (one way) OR 4kms | 1hr from section 1 (one way)
Hidden in the suburbs, Manly Dam is a hidden gem of the Northern Beaches. This isn’t a coastal walk, but it should still be mentioned as one of the best walks in Sydney.  It plays hosts to many BBQs, board training and bushwalks all within its 4 sections. The Waterfall walk can be done either from its start at Section 4, or from Section 1 if you want to walk through the other sections to get there. This is the only walk I’ve mentioned that doesn’t offer coastal views, but instead a whole lot of Aussie bushland and natural waterfalls – great if you’re after a taste of rural Australia.

        • If it has been raining the waterfall may be larger, but the trail can also be very muddy
      • Bathrooms are located at Section 4 car park, section 3 car park and Section 1


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At some point you learn to stop hiding from the rain and start embracing it ?

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? Curl Curl Boardwalk

800m | 10mins (one way)
Another very short walk, this one is great for locals after a wander by the water. The unique boardwalk is built atop the cliff face and trails around from Freshwater Headland towards the South Curl Curl Beach.

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  • Reply
    Deborah Dickson-Smith
    11/03/2019 at 12:10 am

    A good list – especially like the handy hashtags! You should add the North Curl Curl to Dee Why Beach walk – love that cliff-top walk!

  • Reply
    Tips for Backpacking in Sydney | Plan a trip to Sydney
    20/03/2019 at 3:19 am

    […] you fancy walking off some of those drinks Holly has a great post on coastal walks that you should read. Also, check out her travels on Instagram – she takes a great […]

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