This article is a continuation of my previous piece 4 Uniques full-day routes, and here I’m going to focus on wonderful beaches, coastal walks and all that nonchalant atmosphere that made me fall in love with Sydney and Australia in general. This smell of freedom and relaxation has captured my soul from day one. Every time I get stressed, I go to one of the nearby beaches and feel so relieved almost instantly.
#1 route: Bondi – Tamarama – Bronte – Coogee
This route is completely relaxing and makes feel like a ‘getaway’. Depending on your pace and desire it could be half a day or a full-day experience and absolutely flexible. The full way is around six kilometres long and takes about 3 hours to complete comfortably, but why not break it up with fresh juice or relaxed coffee and then swim at Coogee Beach. It’s my favourite track when I am under stress or anxiety. The ocean is so powerful; it has the ability to take your stress away easily. After this walk, I usually feel so relaxed and calm that even ready for the next challenge.
I recommend starting from Bondi Beach. It is located in the west of Sydney in just 30 minutes from Town Hall Station by train and bus. Bondi is famous its fine sand, curling waves, and Aussie’s easy-going beach culture. The beach is surrounded by sandstone headlands and is popular for walking, golfing, and whale watching. Additionally, Australia’s most iconic swimming pool – Icebergs – is also located here.
If you are travelling in October or November, I recommend joining the crowds at the Sculpture by the Sea outdoor exhibition that stretches along the Bondi to Tamarama Beach section. It’s a 2 km coastal walk with artworks on your way. I attended this exhibition every year until 2020 and I must say that some of the artwork is quite controversial, but some are really enjoyable and look good in photographs.
Once you reach Bronte Beach, take a break and spend some time lying on the beach and listening to the waves crash. Some might say that Bronte is small and nothing special. Yes, it is quite modest in size, but it has special vibes though. The very fact of being there can make you feel so relaxed and peaceful.
On the walk from Bronte to Coogee, you will pass one of the world’s more panoramic operational cemeteries – the Waverly Cemetery. You can find the grave of the Australian write and bush poet Henry Lawson.
It takes 20 minutes or so to get to Coogee Beach from the cemetery. The name Coogee is originated from the Aboriginal word ‘koojah’ which means the ‘smell of seaweed drying’, referring to the drying out of seaweed or kelp. They sometimes still wash up the shores of the beach and leave a pungent smell. This area was declared a village in 1838 and grew considerably since that. For those who are interested, more historic dates related to the development of this area can be found here.
It is a very romantic and pleasant beach where you can swim and spend some time enjoying the view of the ocean and reflecting on your day. If you prefer to swim in the pool, the McIver Baths, built-in 1886, are located just south of the central part of the beach. However, since its inception, only women can swim in these baths.
For those who are hungry (I assume, at this point you all are) there are plenty of different restaurants and cafes for every teste from fast food to haute cuisine can save your empty stomach. Personally, I prefer to dine at the Coogee Pavilion because I love their menu and lively atmosphere.
#2 route: Taronga Zoo – Clifton Gardens – Balmoral Beach
This track is probably one of the most enjoyable Sydney Harbour walking. This almost 7 km way takes outstanding lookouts, historical sights, amazing secluded beaches and scenic coves. However, at the same time, it is quite hard too.
It starts from the Taronga Zoo that located on the shores of Sydney Harbour in the suburb of Mosman. Divided into eight zoogeographic regions, this zoo is home to over 4,000 animals of 350 species, making it the largest zoo in Australia. To get there, I suggest take a ferry at Circular Quay and just in 12 minutes, you will be here. More information can be found here.
However, I just want to add that if you’ve already visited some of Australia’s wild parks with native animals, I might suggest skipping this zoo, and as soon as you arrive at the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf, turn right and walk along the coast towards Clifton Gardens.
Soon, the path will lead to an observation deck with many benches and a wonderful view of the harbour. Along the way, you will pass some pretty interesting places such as Bradleys Head Amphitheatre, which is an extremely popular lookout among photographers who flock here to capture stunning views of the Sydney Opera House, Harbor Bridge, and Fort Denison. It is also a favourite picnic spot where you can relax a bit before moving on.
The walk between Bradleys Head Amphitheatre and Clifton Gardens is my favourite for its flora and fauna. Narrow paths with ferns hanging on both sides; gigantic trees that provide shadow for strangers and shelter for birds which, by the way, are so noisy here; the gurgling of streams hidden in the bushes, and the dance of sunbeams making their way through the dense foliage. All of these sometimes make me stick in the middle of nowhere and listen to the living sounds of nature.
The spectacular harbour views will drag on and on along the way, and I’m afraid you’ll get bored of it by the end of the route. To prevent this, I suggest rebooting at Clifton Garden, stopping for a bite to eat at one of the cafes, or if you’re passionate about French cuisine, you can ‘recharge’ yourself with delicious at L’Heritage.
Clifton Garden itself has a quite sad history. Developed in the late 1800s as a picnic area when the local hotelier built a wharf and a dance pavilion. In 1909, one company purchased the estate and developed the area further, including the construction of a large swimming pool. However, the entire structure burned down in 1956. Nowadays, Clifton Gardens is presented as ‘remnant bushland’ offering bird watching, a swimming pool with a net, changing rooms, and a fenced-in play area.
It is only about 35 minutes from Clifton Garden to Balmoral Beach. Along the way, you will pass by such interesting places as Chowder Bay, named after American whalers’ food “clam chowder”, which became a warehouse for submarine mining in 1889; George Heights, which was and remains a gun emplacement, Headland Park with picnic areas, and other places. To stay on track, always follow the sign to Balmoral Beach.
The Balmoral area has quite a story behind it. Before the newcomers from the European world, Aborigines occupied for at least 40 000 years. It is named after Balmoral Castle, a large estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland known as Royal Deeside and a favourite summer royal residence. If you want to know why take a look here.
Finally, before taking this route, I recommend checking out this website: Bushwalking and hiking in NSW. Here you will find all the features, such as the time and distance between control points and the difficulty level of each section on this track.
#3: Nielsen Park – Vaucluse Park – Watsons Bay
My last but not least enjoyable route starts with a Hermitage Foreshore Track which begins from Bayview Hill Road. To get there, you can take a bus from Town Hall and get off at New South Head near Vaucluse. All route takes about 3-4 hours to complete if don’t slow down along the way.
Along the way you will be able to see and, possibly swim so many wonderful beaches such as Queens Beach, Hermit Bay Beach, well-known Milk Beach and, of course, Shark Beach; enjoy the view from different lookouts such as Ralf Newboult, Steele Point and others; and inspect historic objects such as Strickland House, Steele Gun Emplacement, and Greycliffe House.
Once you arrive at Nielsen Park and get hungry, I recommend grabbing some sandwiches from the historic café of the same name. While eating sandwiches and admiring the view of the bay, beware of kookaburras. They are land forest kingfishers and are very brazen. Several times I saw how the kookaburra flew up to the observer with the speed of an arrow, grabbed his food and flew away with the same speed. I am not kidding. They are pretty dangerous.
The next stop is Vaucluse Park. I personally like this small park for its cosiness and charming garden in the centre. Every time I am here, I like to sit on a bench and read a book to the sounds of bees flying from one flower to another.
Don’t forget to check out Vaucluse House. It is a cultural heritage-listed mansion, colonial farm and country estate and is now a tourist attraction. It was built between 1803 and 1839 in the Gothic Revival style and belonged to William Charles Wentworth, one of the leading figures of early colonial NSW. A more detailed history of this place can be found here.
After Vaucluse Park, it is quite difficult to find your way to the next waypoint – Parsley Bay Reserve. Firstly, because no signages there and, secondly, you need to walk through some suburban streets winding left and right.
The best way to get to Parsley Bay is by following Wentworth Road and then Fitzwilliam Road. Before Fitzwilliam Rd curves to the right, just before the bus stop at the intersection of Fitzwilliam and Parsley roads, you will find a narrow path on the left side of the Fitzwilliam that leads directly to the Parsley Bay Bridge.
Parsley Bay reserve area is smaller than Nielsen Park and less crowded as a result. One of the features of this place is the suspension bridge, which offers beautiful views from both sides. I enjoy sitting on one of the benches on the other side of the bridge and watching the kids jumping into the water from Parsley Bay Wharf, screeching with delight. It’s adorable.
The next road, The Crescent, links Parsley Bay and Watsons Bay. Along the way, you can stop at Kutti Beach which is hidden behind the residential houses. However, it still can be reached via a small path at the end of Wharf Road, near the Sailing Club.
Turning twice to the left from the Crescent to Hopetoun Ave and then to Palmerston Street, you will find yourself on the Gibsons Beach and then just walk along the coastline till Watsons Bay Wharf. You get it.
If you are tired at this moment (well, you should) you can grab some lunch boxes from the waterfront café and rest up in Robertson Park. Otherwise, you can dine at one of the Mediterranean restaurants.
For those who feel like it was not enough and want more exploring and hiking, go ahead and try the Watsons Bay walk, which is not so long, about 2km, but after a long walk, it could be quite exhausting. It’s up to you.
Finally, to make it easier to organise your tour, here are some helpful links. The best and easiest way to find cheap flights to Sydney is with Aviasales.com. To book accommodation, personally, I prefer Booking.com or Hotellook.com. To book tours and day trips, I highly recommend Viator with free cancellation and payment options to satisfy any plan or budget.
Otherwise, you can always ask me personally by sending an email. As someone familiar with Sydney, I would be happy to share with you my thoughts on where to stay here.
PS. This post may contain affiliate links.