Who said you have to leave the city to find a good hike? Sydney is home to an abundance of waterside walks and national parks to play in. These are the best walks you can take within Sydney’s city limits.

Royal National Park

Traditional Country of the Dharawal People

The Royal National Park is actually the second oldest national park in the world and you’ll soon understand why. Situated directly south of the city, it divides Sydney from its seaside neighbour of Wollongong and is the perfect natural playground.

1. The Coast Track – Bundeena to Otford

Distance: 26km one way
Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced

This walk is the Queen of all the hikes in Sydney – if you don’t believe me, just check its location – the trail winds along the rugged coastal cliffs of the Royal National Park.

Traditionally the Coast Track is completed in two days, with a night camping at North Era Beach to break up the trek. But with a bit of prep and can-do attitude, this hike is totally doable in a single day

Plus both trailheads are accessible by public transport, which may just be the jewel in the crown.

 

2. Karloo Walking Track

Distance: 10km return
Difficulty: Intermediate 

Karloo walking track is another hike accessible by public transport, this track through native heathland begins at Heathcote train station, passing by Karloo pool and concluding at the tranquil Uloola Falls. Pack your cossies! 

There’s a campground close by the falls if you’re eager to stay the night. 

You can either trek back the way you came, or take a different route along Uloola walking track to end up at Waterfall train station instead.

 

3. Jibbon Track

Distance: 4km return
Difficulty: Beginner

Located at the northern tip of the Royal National Park, the Jibbon Track is a short but exciting hike that begins on Bundeena’s Jibbon Beach and loops its way around the point.

There are Aboriginal engravings and middens to find along the way and stunning coastal cliffs to gawk at. 

Take the Cronulla to Bundeena ferry to get there, bring your swimmers and picnic basket to make a day of it. 

 

Melissa Bowyer jibbons track beach drone

Photo by Melissa Bowyer

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park

Traditional Country of the Darramuragal People

Similar to its southern sister, the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park is Sydney’s green northern border, dividing the city from the Central Coast. The park wraps around the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay, meaning much of its greenery is trimmed with blue.

4. Mount Ku-Ring-Gai to Berowra

Distance: 10km one way
Difficulty: Intermediate

This station to station hike is perfect for a day trip minus the car. Taking off from Ku-ring-gai traino and trekking through dense woods, you’ll cross paths with an Aboriginal midden, before the path begins to follow along the banks of Cowan Creek.

A steep ascent back up the hill will land you at Berowra train station for your journey home.

5. America Bay

Distance: 1.8km return
Difficulty: Beginner

If you’re looking for a hike that gives you bang for buck, America Bay will have you rolling in it. This short but super sweet hike will have you spotting wildflowers, waterfalls and Aboriginal engravings as you wander your way to the lookout over the Hawkesbury River.

 

6. Barrenjoey Lighthouse via Smugglers Track

Distance: 3km return
Difficulty: Beginner (short but steep!)

Trek to the tippity top of Sydney! The sandstone walls of Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach are a beautiful addition to an already stunning view from the city’s northernmost point.

Trek up the hill to this heritage lighthouse, turn around and breathe in the sweeping views of Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, and the Pacific Ocean, of course.

 

7. Jerusalem Bay Hike

Distance: 11km one way
Difficulty: Intermediate

This challenging hike makes up a section of the Great North Walk (Sydney-Newcastle) and boy, is it a breath-taker!

The hike can be started from either end of the track – Cowan or Brooklyn train stations – but no matter which way you take it you’re gonna have to grind to get that heightened view. But it’s all worth it once you’re gazing over the magnificent Jerusalem Bay.

Lane Cove National Park

Traditional Country of the Guringai People

A small but superb national park in Sydney’s north-west, Lane Cove ripples its way between the burbs, bringing a spark of green wherever it goes.

8. Lane Cove Riverside Circuit

Distance: 10km loop
Difficulty: Beginner

Strolling along Lane Cove River is the perfect way to spend a day surrounded by frondy friends, without working up a serious sweat.

Start out on the south bank of the river by the weir near De Burghs Bridge and meander your way into the tranquil bush as the river tinkles and twinkles alongside you. To get back, simply hop, skip and jump your way across the river (at Lane Cove Weir) and return along the north bank. 

If you’re a twitcher (and even if not) there’s an abundance of native birds to spy.

Dharawal National Park

Traditional Country of the Dharawal People

The quietly impressive Dharawal National Park lies in the city’s south-west, on the outskirts of Campbelltown. Wildlife and waterfalls abound. 

9. Jingga walking track

Distance: 2.4km return
Difficulty: Intermediate

This is a mint summer hike – a short, steep trudge down to a massive waterhole, with plenty of places to perch up for a picnic. The small but strong Jingga Falls flow over the weir and calmly spread out across the open pool. Jump in from the cliff top or bush bash down to the water’s edge. Just make sure you bring a drink bottle! The hike back up is a slog!

 

10. Minerva Pool walking track

Distance: 2.4km return
Difficulty: Beginner

Traditionally for the local Dharawal People, Minerva Pool is a sacred place for women. Although men are allowed to hike the track, it’s requested that they don’t enter the water of the pools. So guys, if it’s a hot day, maybe leave this one for the chicks – you’ll just be teasing yourself otherwise.

 

Malabar Headland National Park

Traditional Country of the Bidjigal and Gadigal People

This tiny national park occupies two separate sections of bush on the headland between Malabar and Maroubra in the Eastern Suburbs. The eastern section of the park is often used as a rifle range, so check opening times before heading out!

11. Malabar Headland Circuit Hike

Distance: 7km
Difficulty: Intermediate

This hike connects the Boora Point walking track and Western Escarpment walking track to loop around the entire Malabar Headland. It rolls dramatic coastal cliffs and whale spotting, spring time wildflowers and native heathland into a sublime day circuit. 

The Boora Point circuit is closed every Saturday and the 3rd Sunday of every month, so this hike is perfect for a week day mission.

Heathcote National Park

Traditional Country of the Dharawal People

The Sutherland Shire’s personal playground, Heathcote National Park is full of classic Aussie scrub. The park runs adjacent to the Royal National Park on the western side of the Princes Highway.

12. Mooray and Bullawarring Walking Track Circuit

Distance: 5km loop
Difficulty: Intermediate

The Mooray track and Bullawarring track are two separate hikes that can be combined into a simple loop that begins and ends not far from Waterfall station.

Trekking through scrubby heathland, which erupts with wildflowers in spring, this hike has a few challenging ascents and a stack of native birds to spot. Stop in at Kingfisher Pool on the way for a picnic and a freshwater frolic.

There’s a campground close by the pool if you’re craving a weekend long nature fix.

Sydney Harbour National Park

Traditional Country of the Eora and Daruk Aboriginal Nations

Located in the beating heart of the city, Sydney Harbour National Park can be found in segregated snippets along the edges of the harbour, around headlands and even includes a few islands too.

13. Spit to Manly

Distance: 10km one way
Difficulty: Beginner 

One of Sydney’s most iconic hikes, the Spit Bridge to Manly coastal hike showcases the natural beauty of the city. Starting out on the north side of Mosman Spit Bridge, this hike follows the cliffs and coastline around Manly to conclude at Manly Wharf.

Take the plunge at beaches only accessible by foot, ogle at the harbour vistas and take a detour to Grotto Point to witness Aboriginal engravings. 

Added bonus: with a bit of organisation, the whole walk can be accessed by public transport! Howzat!

 

14. Hermitage Foreshore Walk

Distance: 1.8km one way
Difficulty: Beginner

The Hermitage Foreshore Walk is a short and easy hike that rambles along the coastline from Nielsen Park to Rose Bay, taking in a bunch of Sydney Harbour’s most iconic sights.

From Sydney Harbour Bridge to Shark Island, it’s a great way to get acquainted with the harbour city. It passes by no less than five beaches as well as a handful of great parks to picnic in!

Blue Mountains National Park

Traditional Country of the Dharug and Gundungurra Peoples

One of Australia’s most famous national parks, most of the Blue Mountains National Park stretches far beyond the city limits, but its eastern edges acts as Sydney’s western border. 

15. Glenbrook Gorge Track

Distance: 3km return
Difficulty: Intermediate

On the westernmost reaches of Sydney, Glenbrook Gorge juuust scrapes its way into the city. But boy, is it worth including.

This hike descends through bush down Glenbrook Gorge and rock-hops its way along the creek bed. You can either climb up out of the gorge at the end of the track, or retrace your steps and treat yo’self with a sweet splash in Jellybean Pool on the hike back.

 

Other Hikes Around Sydney

Sydney’s got a bunch of worthy hikes that are stunning and scenic, but just don’t fall into a national park.

16. The Bay Run

Distance: 7km
Difficulty: Beginner 

Perfect for those looking for a nature fix in Sydney’s Inner West, the Bay Run around Iron Cove is a flat and accessible loop track that hugs the harbour the entire way, meaning 100% water views 100% of the time.

There are access points within several Inner West suburbs, so jump on the path anywhere you can and just follow the people!

17. Lake Parramatta Circuit Track

Distance: 4.2km loop
Difficulty: Beginner

You might not realise it, but Parramatta houses a 75 hectare reserve with a sweet, snaking lake in the middle of it.

This track loops up and around the bends of Lake Parramatta and is a great hike for families or anyone in need of a leisurely bush stroll. You can even take your dog!

The walk meanders past she-oaks, banksias and the Parramatta Dam. The picnic area by the carpark has BBQ facilities and even a spot to swim.

18. Bondi to Coogee

Distance: 6km
Difficulty: Beginner

Have you even been to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs if you haven’t walked the Bondi to Coogee? Taking off from the city’s most well-known beach, this perfectly paved walk gloats sandstone cliffs, expansive ocean views and a multitude of unique swim spots.

Head over at the right time of year and you might just catch the installations of Sculpture by the Sea. This hike is kid and fur-kid friendly as well.

 

19. Federation Cliff Walk

Distance: 7km
Difficulty: Beginner

Starting from Bondi Beach but heading north this time, the Federation Cliff Walk is a simple but stunning trek from Sydney’s most famous stretch of sand to the gorgeous Watsons Bay.

A less crowded coastal hike, this walk passes historic lighthouses, hidden climbing crags and most importantly, dramatic 80m high sandstone cliffs.

 

20. Cronulla Foreshore Circuit

Distance: 6km
Difficulty: Beginner

If you’re down south in the Shire, the Cronulla Foreshore Circuit is the coastal walk for you. Traditionally this hike starts at North Cronulla Beach and follows the track clockwise, but if train is your transport of choice, it’s simpler to start at Gunnamatta Park and head anti-clockwise. 

The hike treks around the coastline of the entire Cronulla Peninsula, along the edges of Port Hacking down to Hungry Point and back up beside the Pacific Ocean. You’ll pass through multiple parks and reserves and cross some of the Shire’s best beaches.

21. Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach

Distance: 6.5km one way
Difficulty: Beginner

Getting to the start of this hike is an adventure in itself! Take the ferry from Circular Quay across Sydney Harbour to the epic waterside Taronga Zoo and start wandering your way along the paved path by Athol Road.

Along the way you’ll be treated with the classic Sydney Harbour vistas as well as perfect pockets of bush and secluded bays. There are historic military relics to spot, plenty of places to picnic and views of the city skyline too.

Best to head around a few headlands before taking a dip to avoid pollution from the harbour.

 

Feature photo by @tim_ashelford