UPDATED OCT 30, 2019
We all know Sydney is beautiful. And while there are plenty of urban walks and running spots for you to explore, if it’s a heftier dose of nature you’re after, there are also some amazing hiking trails in the city's general vicinity. So, pack a day bag and some sturdy walking shoes; these are our top picks!
This world-renowned bay hike, also known as the Manly Scenic Walkway, has earned a reputation as one of Sydney’s most beautiful outdoor hikes. A moderately hilly 10km from the iconic Spit Bridge all the way to the heart of Manly, the rocky trail will lead you past blue lagoons and secluded private beaches, with some stunning views of the North Shore along the way. If you’re hiking in the summer months, pack your bathers so you can enjoy a much-needed dip along the trail. Or, save yourself for Manly Beach at the end and celebrate your hiking accomplishment with an ocean swim and a feast at one of the many gorgeous local restaurants. Fitt Tip: expect crowds on weekends and around holiday time, so if you can, try to nip out there Monday–Friday.
At the northernmost point of Palm Beach you’ll stumble on the stunning Barrenjoey Headland trail, where you can follow the winding path up to the base of the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse. The trek is only a couple of kilometres, and pretty easy going, so you’ll have all the time and energy you need to check out the stunning surroundings. Expect friendly local critters, beautiful bird life, and even the occasional pod of whales migrating to the north of the trail (stop by between May and November to increase your odds).
Even lifetime residents of Sydney might not know about all the city’s extensive—and accessible—national parks. When it comes to an off-the-grid experience, Ku-ring-gai Chase, a picturesque park sprawling across hectares of the beautiful North Coast, has to take the proverbial cake. An absolute paradise for bushwalkers and hikers, take a day trip over the bridge and park up at Bobbin Head, where you can start the 6km loop track to Resolute Beach, stopping for a snack at the picnic ground which marks the midpoint. If you’ve got a little longer, tackle the full 11km, point-to-point Great North track stretching from Cowan Station to Brooklyn, and be sure to check in at Jerusalem Bay for a dip en route! Fitt Tip: pack a day bag with healthy snacks and drinking water, get through the gates as early as you can, and spend an entire day discovering new routes that are clearly outlined by regular signposts and information centres.
A rare natural phenomenon of bleached sandstone, Wedding Cake Rock is easily reached from Bundeena, town on the outskirts Royal National Park to Sydney’s south. From the car park, the three-kilometre hike up to the rock will take around an hour—and there’s some challenging terrain in the mix—but breathtaking ocean views will distract you from the muscle burn. Take on this walk by itself or include it in a full day’s exploring the Royal National Park Coast Track; either way, it’s sure to be a highlight of any hiking excursion!
While there are some exceptional hikes to be had a stone’s throw from Sydney’s CBD, there’s something pretty magical about shaking the city off with a few hours’ drive towards the Blue Mountains. And Katoomba Falls in Blue Mountains Tourist Park is largely responsible for all that magic. Our favourite walk, a portion of the 7km Prince Henry Cliff walk starts from the front of the park and leads all the way up to Echo Point — just 25 minutes or so, and you can be at the site of the spectacular Three Sisters rock formation that you’ll recognise from countless Instagram pics and tourist brochures. The park is about 90 minutes from Sydney by car, so it’s easily achievable as a day trip. However, if you’re keen to see all the Blue Mountains have to offer, we recommend sorting out an Airbnb (or for something really special, book an on-site cabin deep in the heart of Katoomba Falls), so you can walk from sunup to sundown.
If you’re looking for a shorter, more urban hike to while away a weekend morning or impress friends from out of town, look no further than the coastal track leading from Dover Heights across to Watsons Bay. With five kilometres of sheer cliff views and Pacific coastal breezes, it’s hard to believe you’re only 25 minutes from the CBD! We recommend starting at the top of the trail, making sure you take in the dramatic landscape of The Gap and iconic Macquarie Lighthouse along the track. And since you’ll surely work up an appetite, you can take solace in knowing that a world-famous seafood lunch at Doyles awaits.
Lesser known but every bit as beautiful as the other northern trails, the Berowra Waters portion of the Great North Walk is worth the trip for anyone in need of some outdoor therapy. Whether you’re a casual rambler or a serious hiker with a penchant for challenge, the well-maintained 5.7km hike (one way) is certain to deliver. You’ll love the varied track and terrain — from scrambling up rocky peaks, through cool forests and gullies, and even traversing a couple of freshwater creeks, it’s a true taste of Aussie wilderness within an hour’s drive of the bustling city.
In the backyard of trendy Manly lies Sydney’s best-kept bushwalking secret: North Head Sanctuary. There are more than 10km worth of walking tracks to keep you occupied, but to cut the hard work of finding the perfect trail, let us recommend the hike to North Fort. If you’re a history buff, the fort offers a guided tour explaining the historical significance of Sydney’s primary WWII defensive base. Though, if you’re more interested in the fitness and nature aspect of the outing, carry on to Memorial Walk, where your physical exertion will be rewarded by spectacular city views.
Tucked away in Northern Wollstonecraft, the Harry Howard Bushwalk is an area of semi rainforest with some pretty incredible forest regeneration going on... meaning you have to keep to designated trails. The full loop track takes about three hours and features plenty of steep ascents and gentle descents to keep things interesting. Just make sure you’re on the lookout for native wildlife—many an echidna, bandicoot, and sugar glider have been spotted en route—and a glimpse of the iconic Sydney skyline through the leafy foliage. There are a few bushwalking groups in the city that make regular outings to Harry Howard, so if you want to join a crew for more of a guided experience, we’d recommend the North Sydney Council’s local group!
Created back in 1907, this hiking spot has been a popular destination for years, and at just about an hour-and-a-half away from the city in Blue Mountains National Park, it makes for an easy day trip. There are a few different places you can start out, but we recommend beginning your at the Evans lookout. From there, it’ll take you around four-ish hours to complete the looped path, but throughout your trek, you’ll pass breathtaking sandstone walls, multiple waterfalls, scenic rock overhangs, and lots of native plants and animals. Don’t be fooled by the delightful description, though, this hike does include some challenging terrain, so plan accordingly.