Around Sydney

Federal Pass & Prince Henry Cliff Walk Circuit, Blue Mountains NP

Introduction to Bushwalking Around Sydney

Sydney is a cosmopolitan metropolis of almost 5 million people, the largest in Australia, yet is surrounded by national parks, wilderness areas and sandy beaches on all sides. It’s convenient to split the walks into three regions: south, west and north, and these regions are described below. Most of the walking is through eucalyptus forest, but there’s also heath and rainforest vegetation. There’s plenty of water in the north and south (to look at, not to drink), and deep sheer-sided valleys and cliffs in the Blue Mountains to the west. Read on for more info, or go straight to a list of the walks.

South of Sydney, including the Royal National Park

Garie Beach from Garie Head, Royal National Park, Sydney
Garie Beach from Garie Head, Royal National Park, Sydney

South of Sydney offers excellent coastal scenery, and a number of walks further inland. One of the world’s oldest national parks-the Royal National Park-sits conveniently on Sydney’s southern border, and is a highlight of the region. Environments in the RNP are varied, ranging from rainforest to coastal heath. The classic long walk in the park is the 27-30 km one way Coast Track; considered a two day walk, it actually makes an excellent long day walk for the moderately fit.

Eagle Rock, Royal National Park, Sydney
Eagle Rock, Royal National Park, Sydney

 

Marley Beach, Royal National Park, Sydney
Marley Beach, Royal National Park, Sydney

Other areas for walking include nearby Heathcote National Park, which is west of the RNP and sits within Sydney’s southern boundary; the Illawarra Escarpment, which starts at the southern border of the RNP and stretches south past the coastal city of Wollongong (where I went to high school); and the more distant NSW Southern Highlands region, south-west of Sydney.

Sophia next to giant Gymea Lilies, Heathcote National Park
Sophia next to giant Gymea Lilies, Heathcote National Park, Sydney

West of Sydney, including the Blue Mountains

Wentworth Falls via National Pass
Sophia standing in front of Wentworth Falls, in what I like to think of as a North Korean propaganda style photo. Compare this with the individualistic selfie, which is usually taken from above 🙂 . On seeing this photo she said “I’m a giant!”; she’s actually quite short.

The Blue Mountains is an extensive area bordering the western edge of Sydney, where the land gradually rises to over a thousand meters above sea level. There’s walks galore, many of them easily accessible off the Great Western Highway,  and quite a few of these are also accessible from train stations (usually with extra walking required to pass through the suburbs). There’s also walks in the southern and northern sections of the park that are further away from Sydney, and generally a bit more remote.

Lockleys Pylon / Du Faur Head, Blue Mountains
Looking down the Grose Valley towards Mt Hay.

The central section of the park is divided into the Lower and Upper Blue Mountains. Walks in the Upper Blue Mountains often start on high ground and may drop up to 600 m into deep valleys lined with shear sandstone cliffs, or else they’ll keep to the edge of these cliffs. Either way these walks represent Greater Sydney’s most spectacular hiking, and areas around the major town of Katoomba (1017 m elevation) are major tourist attractions (for example Echo Point and the Three Sisters).

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains National Park
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains National Park

 

Devils Hole Track, Katoomba, Blue Mountains
The Devils Hole in Katoomba.

 

Leura Cascades, Blue Mountains National Park
Leura Cascades, Blue Mountains National Park

The Lower Blue Mounains are less spectacular, but the walks are nevertheless atmospheric, and have the advantage of being around 20-40 minutes closer to Sydney. Most walking in the Blue Mountains is through eucalypt forest, with some areas of rainforest and heathland.

North of Sydney

Cockle Creek, on the Gibberagong Track near Bobbin Head, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Cockle Creek, on the Gibberagong Track near Bobbin Head, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney

Much of the walking north of Sydney is amongst the various tributaries and side arms of the Hawkesbury River, where it runs east towards the sea. There are also coastal walks to be had. Consequently there are lots of water views, and I would describe the scenery as pretty without being spectacular. Most of the walks pass through eucalypt forest.

A Waratah, the NSW state flower, on the Sphinx Track, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney
A Waratah, the NSW state flower, on the Sphinx Track, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney

 

Cowan Creek, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney NSW
Cowan Creek, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sydney NSW

 

Bobbin Head Marina, Sydney
Bobbin Head Marina, Sydney

Finding Track Notes

We’ve used the guide book A Day in the Bush (by Les Higgins and Tony Rodd) for most of our Sydney walks, but there are many other options as it is a well documented area. Amongst various internet guides is the national site Trail Hiking Australia, but Wildwalks is pretty comprehensive in the area. The Royal National Park has good maps at places like Audley at the northern end, and at intervals along the Coast Track. (There’s a cafe, gift shop and BBQ facilities at Audley, and you can hire peddle boats and row boats to frolic on the weir). 

Royal National Park sky
Royal National Park sky

Sydney’s Weather

Sydney’s weather is pretty good, ranging from average daytime maximums of 28 degrees C in summer, to 18 degrees C in winter. The coastal regions escape the worst of the summer heat, but you may well be exposed to the sun for long periods, so a hat and sunscreen is highly recommended. There’s about a 2 degree C drop in average temperature with every 300 m change in elevation, so the Upper Blue Mountains have milder summers and colder winters than Sydney. It occasionally snows in the Upper Mountains, but it’s not that common and I’ve never experienced it. So the winters are chilly but definitely not alpine. Sydney’s weather gets more extreme (hot days and cold nights) the further west you go, and the Lower Mountains are subject to some of this weather; certainly warmer than the upper sections. The Southern Highlands are at about 600-700m elevation, so they can be pretty cool in winter.

Bush fires are a risk throughout the region during the warmer months, and on rare occasions homes are destroyed and people die. Just check the conditions before you go: they’re not that common.  On a hot summer’s day you will get pretty sweaty regardless of where you walk around Sydney, so we don’t walk a great deal from December to February. Take lots of water if you do venture out. Or you might get into the surf instead.

And finally, it actually rains quite a lot in Sydney, but most of it comes in heavy downpours, so we have plenty of dry sunny days as well. Australia’s eastern seaboard is subject to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather patterns, and so in an El Niño episode you can expect it to be dry and hot, and in a La Niña episode it will be cool and wet: watch out for leeches!

Sophia dwarfed by an extremely tall tree fern, Ruined Castle/ Mt Solitary Track, Blue Mountains National Park
Sophia dwarfed by an extremely tall tree fern, Ruined Castle/ Mt Solitary Track, Blue Mountains National Park

The Walks Around Sydney

You can browse through a list of the walks around Sydney that I’ve posted on so far, limited to those roughly within a 2 hour drive from the city (give or take) :

Blue Mountains

Rodriguez Pass Circuit, Blue Mountains NSW

Explore some of Sydney’s most dramatic scenery on twelve of my favourite bushwalks in the spectacular Blue Mountains.

Asgard Swamp & Thor Head Track, Blue Mountains

A lesser known but nevertheless spectacular walk in the Upper Blue Mountains near Mt Victoria. There are cliffs galore, views up and down the deep Grose Valley, and other features such as patches of treeless grasslands.

Butterbox Point Track, Blue Mountains

Butterbox Point is a short but attractive walk from the end of Mt Hay Road, and views of the Grose Valley are fantastic. You can easily climb nearby Mt Hay in the same day for even more views.

Castle Head and Narrow Neck Plateau, Blue Mountains

Two mostly flat walks that visit a number of vantage points on Narrow Neck Plateau for views over the Jamison Valley in the Blue Mountains near Katoomba.

Devils Hole Track, Katoomba, Blue Mountains

This lesser known short walk in the Blue Mountains passes through a very atmospheric canyon, and can be extended along the bottom of cliffs used by rock climbers.

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Royal National Park

Bundeena Drive to Marley Beach Circuit, Royal National Park

This walk is an alternative way to take in part of the Royal National Park Coast Track south of Marley Beach, starting inland and passing by Deer Pool on the way. Expect eucalypt forest, heath, beaches, bays, rocks and cliffs.

Bundeena to Marley Head Circuit, Royal National Park

A great section of the classic Royal National Park Coast Track, and you can make a circuit of it by heading inland on the way back (and avoid the crowds in doing so).

Burning Palms Circuit, Royal National Park, Sydney

One of my favourite Sydney walks that I’ve done multiple times, the Burning Palms Circuit from Otford takes in excellent coastal scenery in the Royal National Park, and passes through a unique and atmospheric palm jungle. Definitely one of my recommended walks in the area.

Curra Moors Circuit, Royal National Park

This is a nice walk through heathland in the Royal National Park, with views of the famous Eagle Rock at halfway, and with a little bit of exploring, views of two waterfalls that enter the sea. 

Garrawarra to N. Garie Head Royal NP

Great coastal views for almost the whole length of this walk, taking in a section of the famous Coast Track, in the Royal National Park south of Sydney.

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Southern Highlands

Box Vale Circuit, Southern Highlands near Mittagong

This walk follows an old railway cutting at first, then descends steeply into relative wilderness, and passes a nice waterfall on the way back up to the cutting. You’re unlikely to meet other walkers on the middle half of the walk.

Bundanoon Gorge Lookouts, Southern Highlands NSW

This easygoing walk along forestry management roads takes in three viewpoints over Bundanoon Gorge and nearby valleys. 

Green & White Tracks, Bungonia National Park

Spectacular gorge and canyon scenery on this relatively easygoing circuit walk in Bungonia National Park, in the NSW Southern Highlands near Goulburn.

Gerringong Falls Circuit, Budderoo NP

Take in views of the impressive Gerringong Falls on this walk in Budderoo National Park.

Mermaids Pool & Tahmoor Canyon, Southern Highlands NSW

An excellent walk that passes through the atmospheric Tahmoor Canyon, and also visits the particularly scenic Mermaids Pool.

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Illawarra 

Kangaroo Ridge Trail, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

A long but flat walk in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve through heath and forest, with good views over the NSW South Coast from a couple of vantage points.

Kiama Coast Walk, NSW

The southern section of the Kiama Coast Walk, starting at Loves Bay, is an undulating track through ex-farmland, with open and breezy vistas of cliffs, rock platforms and boulder-strewn beaches for its whole length.

Macquarie Rivulet & Cascades Walks, Macquarie Pass NP

Two short walks through rainforest in Macquarie Pass National Park. You visit a small waterfall and walk up a scenic creek to a swimmable pool.

Sublime Point Track and Forest Walk, Illawarra

A walk from Austinmer to Coal Cliff along the Illawarra Escarpment, with excellent coastal views and a variety of attractive forest types.

Wodi Wodi Track, Stanwell Park NSW

The Wodi Wodi Track is a short but sometimes steep walk in the northern Illawarra. It passes through forest, and visits a number of viewpoints over the coast on optional, (but worthwhile), side trips.

North of Sydney

11km Walking Track, Dharug NP

Attractive forest scenery on this walk in Dharug National Park near Wisemans Ferry.

Cowan to Brooklyn, Ku-ring-gai Chase NP

This walk in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP takes in a section of the Great North Walk. The views of Jerusalem Bay are very pretty, and later on in the walk there are really great views over the Hawkesbury River.

Gibberagong Sphinx Warrimoo Tracks, Ku-rin-gai Chase NP, Sydney

A very picturesque circuit walk starting at Bobbin Head in Sydney’s north. Much of the walk is along two salt water creeks with high forested banks, which makes for a calming experience. There are two cafes at Bobbin Head for afterwards.

Mt Kuring-gai to Berowra, Sydney

A very picturesque and varied walk in Sydney’s north. There’s a variety of attractive forest, water views, and other environments like salt marsh.

Patonga to Warrah Trig, Central Coast NSW

A short walk from Patonga on the NSW Central Coast up to view points over the scenic Hawkesbury River just north of Sydney.

Suburban Sydney

A shortish walk around Lake Parramatta in the geographical heart of Sydney.

Oatley Park Circuit, Oatley, Sydney

Oatley Park is a lovely section of bushland in suburban Sydney, specifically the suburb of Oatley on the Georges River. A roughly hour long circuit takes in wetlands, mangroves, bushland and water views.