UPDATED OCT 25, 2019
You don't need a premium gym membership to get in a great workout in Sydney. And for a city that has NO winter, there’s not much of an excuse to not get out and running! Here’s our pick of Sydney’s top trails and running routes.
Centennial Park is an actual treasure trove of beautiful walking paths and challenging running routes in the inner city. Puff your way past swan-filled lakes, picturesque picnic spots, and rolling green hills as far as the eye can see; whether you want to speed through the park with the contingent of serious athletes or dawdle alongside the easy-going nature-lovers, you can choose a distance which suits your fitness and timeframe. The circular loop of the inner park runs at 5.6 kilometres, but add in the various hills and connecting through roads to meander your way around for well over 10 kilometres. Fitt Tip: head in on a weekend morning and enjoy the spectacle of dressage and showjumping in the South Side horse enclosure, or try an early-morning Saturday parkrun at McKay Sports Ground.
Not for the faint of heart, this 28-kilometre route will see you cross seven of Sydney’s most iconic bridges — think Milsons Point, through Pyrmont and Rozelle, all the way to iconic Wollstonecraft and Lane Cove. Though the route is most known for the annual charity fundraiser walk for Cancer Council Australia, the course exists year-round and all paths are open to the public, rain or shine. It’s an ambitious distance, but it can certainly be split into chunks — make it a month-long project and tackle the whole thing!
This Eastern Beaches lesser traversed running trail winds right along the gorgeous Maroubra Beach coastline. The section of path between Maroubra and Malabar is newly resurfaced, so it offers easier trekking than parts of the route that are further south. While the track itself is only a couple of kilometres, it’ll take you right into Malabar Headlands National Park, where you’ll find plenty of open space for further walking, running, or outdoor exercise. And with Maroubra’s vibrant cafe scene right at your fingertips, there’s no shortage of tasty pastries and super-strong, hot coffee to help replenish those burned calories.
Easily accessible from multiple public transport hubs (bordered on each side by St Peters, Erskineville, and Green Square stations, respectively), Sydney Park is the Inner West’s best-kept secret. Multiple picnic areas, off-leash space for dogs, and—you guessed it—a ton of challenging running tracks await. Do hill sprints to the crest of the Pavilion, or meander your way through the south end’s wetlands and forest. And if you’re looking for a little extra motivation, you can join your fellow running enthusiasts every Saturday at 8am for the free Sydney Park run, a five-kilometre timed effort around the park’s exterior!
No list of Sydney running routes would be complete without this 10-kilometre wonder! While it features a number of rocky patches and a few steep inclines, the whole route is fairly runner-friendly and not nearly as packed as its Eastern Suburbs equivalent. The whole route is beautiful, scenic, and historical. Depending on your pace, you might even notice the plentiful ancient Aboriginal rock art along the way. Park your car at the Spit end and take the trail all the way to Manly, where there is plentiful public transport to bring you back in the other direction if you’re legs are spent. If you’re really brave, though, take on the entire loop and earn yourself a very large breakfast in one of Manly’s awesome brekkie spots.
If you’re looking for a lunchtime fitness spot to escape the corporate office; look no further than Barangaroo Reserve! Best known for its cafe culture and fabulous outdoor bars, this waterfront park tucked just around the corner from the area’s high-rise offices is one of the CBD’s best running spots. A gravelled track winds around the coastline, with beautiful sea views out toward Pyrmont and the North Shore. Just make sure you save your strength — the centre of the route features a steep incline. The best part is that there are plenty of trails to choose from, with some leading down to the Walsh Bay or up to Observatory Hill. And with bubblers, bathrooms, and outdoor fitness equipment dotted throughout, there’s plenty to see and do at Barangaroo.
Following the trail through the CBD and over the Pyrmont Bridge will take you into the heart of historic running territory. The bridge itself is a nice little 500-metre interval, but the real beauty starts just to the right of Pyrmont Bridge Hotel, where you’ll find Pyrmont Point Park. Wind your way past the Maritime Museum, away from vibrant Darling Harbour, and all the way down to Jones Bay and its waterfront park. It’s the perfect gateway to a longer run across Anzac Bridge but also a great standalone route if you’re stretched for time or only just starting to build up kilometres. Fitt Tip: run it during Vivid Sydney (May/June) for the added intrigue of a light show and outdoor sculptures along the way!
There are no shortage of bay runs in Sydney’s East, but this one truly takes the cake. Start at the Rose Bay Beach to pet some doggos and prepare to crack into the serious kilometres. This popular route forms part of the City2Surf every year, so why not give Heartbreak Hill a couple of practice runs in preparation? And once you reach the top of the notorious mountain, it’s smooth sailing all the way down to Watsons Bay and its much-loved Boutique Hotel (make sure you do clock up enough kilometres to earn yourself some soft shell crab sliders — the perfect recovery food!).
Nothing screams “Sydney” like an early-morning run in the full sunshine up the steps of the city’s iconic Opera House. Start this trek from the Northern Tip of popular Rushcutters Bay Park, where you can expect to cross paths with dog walkers, yogis, outdoor fitness fanatics, and more than one kids party. From the park, it’s over the hill through Kings Cross’s lively main streets, past the naval base, and along Cowper Wharf Rd. See if you can spot Russell Crowe’s luxury apartment as you head up the hill to Australia’s most famous building — the Opera House. Or you can reverse it, start at the steps of the architectural beauty and finish up in the Cross for a lazy, long lunch. Whichever direction you choose to run, allow yourself to get lost in the depths of the gardens and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the year-round blooms.
The Iron Cove loop, also known as the Bay Run, is seven kilometres of smooth sailing — a paved path that closely follows the shoreline of the cove. It’s flat, it’s fast, and it’s even host to a namesake, very official race every August. Best in the early morning, you’ll see beaches, mangroves, and usually a few cyclists sharing the road with you.
Starting from Chowder Bay in Sydney’s affluent North Shore, this 1.5-kilometre stretch is the perfect way to stay close to the coast and see part of the North’s most picturesque beachfronts. If you’re after a short jaunt, run past Headland Park to Georges Head. If it’s a longer stretch you’re after, you’ll find a trail which extends down to Clifton Gardens — or all the way up through Balmoral Beach to Cobblers Beach. As with most of Sydney’s top running spots, the pace and distance of this one is very much up to you — just be sure not to miss the scenic Old Fort Rd and its historic barracks.
The East’s most underrated beach spot, Little Bay is a haven for both regular runners and occasional athletes. Unlike some of the city’s tracks, Little Bay to La Perouse is all off-road — no traffic, no danger, just clear routes and uninterrupted, natural bliss. There’s the regular beach crowd, but they tend to stay away from the park’s interior, so you’re likely to have most of the trails to yourself! We love the route that starts from St Michael’s Golf Club, takes you along the Cemetery Firetrail, and ends up all the way at Bare Island Fort. At three kilometres each direction (or up to eight kilometres if you take the long route), it’s far more than a pretty place; it’s a challenging and energising setting for your next outdoor session.