This is the ultimate guide of the best Sydney harbour walks

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Sydney Harbour Walks

Sharing is caring!

With such a geographical spread, it’s understandable that Sydney is such a great city for scenic walks. With the largest natural harbour in the world, there are some great Sydney walks. This is the ultimate guide to the best Sydney harbour walks according to a local!

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Sydney Harbour Walks

With harbours, dramatic cliff tops and its many nooks and crannies, Sydney Harbour can be seen from many different sides and angles. There are some great Sydney coastal walks but some of the best walks in Sydney are within the harbour. Whether you are looking for a casual urban stroll with pleasant views or a more challenging hike, there are walks in Sydney Harbour for you. It’s so easy to hop on a ferry in Sydney Harbour, walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge or explore a beautiful clifftop.

What to pack for a Sydney Harbour Walk

Most walks in Sydney are an easy to moderate grade but you still need to pack a few essentials in order to cope with the sun and wind. And don’t forget to pack a camera to capture the stunning views!

If you are looking for a special gift for a hiker, I have an even more comprehensive list!

Manly to Spit Coastal Walk

The Manly to Spit Walk is one of the most popular harbour walks in Sydney and for good reason. This 10-km moderate track is easy to get to on public transport and has access to stunning Sydney harbour views and secret beaches.

The Manly to Spit Coastal Walk is on the best Sydney harbour walks
Manly to Spit Coastal Walk

You can do it in either directions, and the Spit to Manly walk means you will finish the trail at Manly Beach and enjoy the relaxed vibe of the beach front cafés. I find that walking from Manly to Spit is a bit easier, with only one hard section in that direction: the steps after Forty Baskets Beach. After that, you have some beautiful views of South Head, Middle Head and Sydney Harbour. Either way, it’s high on my best Sydney walks list.

There are some great secret beaches to visit on the Manly to Spit walk
Manly to Spit: Castle Rock Beach

There are some secret swimming spots at Crater Cove and Castle Rock Beach. Grotto Point harbours a charming lighthouse and some Aboriginal carvings. At the end, Clontarf Beach is a nice spot with a local café for refreshments. There are buses to the city and Manly near Spit Bridge. Note that parking at Manly is expensive so it’s best to rely on public transport.

North Head Manly Walk

When I first arrived in Sydney, it took me a little while to work out that there was a Manly to North Head Walk, and that North Head itself was much more than just the Fairfax Lookouts…

On the North Head to Manly walk, don't miss the city views at the Fairfax lookout
North Head – Fairfax Lookout

Those are some of the best lookouts in Sydney but the North Head walk is beautiful too… This Manly coastal walk is an 8-km loop from Shelly Beach to North Head and back, with a visit to a hanging swamp, military barracks and a quarantine cemetery

The walk from Manly to North Head visits some swamps
Manly to North Head Walk

There is a bit of a climb at the beginning, but you can stop at the lookouts and admire the views over the Sydney coast and the Northern Beaches. And the views from the Fairfax Lookouts and the War Memorial, facing South Head and Sydney Harbour are absolutely stunning. If you are driving, I would recommend doing the loop from North Fort, as parking in Manly Beach is quite expensive.

South Head Heritage Trail 

South Head Sydney is the most spectacular of Sydney headlands and the one with the oldest colonial historic references. The walk from Watson’s Bay, originally a fishing village, to Dover Heights is a diverse and very pretty walk. Camp Cove is a stunning harbour beach and the South Head Heritage Trail still has original 1870’s cobblestones laid by convict labour. On this walk, you explore some of the earliest colonial landmarks, such as Hornby Lighthouse and its historic keeper’s cottage. 

The South Head Heritage Trail was built in 1870 by convict labour
South Head Heritage Trail

At the Gap, the coast is at its most dramatic with terrific views of North Head, Sydney Harbour and the CBD. I recommend walking all the way to Macquarie Lighthouse, one of the earliest in Sydney, and high on my list of the best lighthouses in Australia.

The telegraph station at South Head is one of the first European buildings in Sydney
South Head Telegraph Station

I first noticed this spectacular headland on my way from the Spit to Manly Walk. South Head really is one of the best Sydney coastal walks.

Middle Head

In the heart of Sydney Harbour, Middle Head is a quieter headland, dotted with military buildings and secret beaches… It’s a more discreet Sydney coast walks but a walk around Middle Head guarantees some beautiful views of Sydney Harbour.

Middle Head has some interesting military relics with views of Sydney Harbour
Middle Head Battery

Middle Head has a privileged location in the harbour, with views of North Head, South Head, Crater Cove and Manly Beach. I love watching the boats on Sydney Harbour cruise past…

You have some nice views of Balmoral Beach from Middle Head
Middle Head – Balmoral Beach

After exploring the headland and its military posts, I recommend enjoying the stunning views from Georges Heights, a perfect spot for a picnic. From there, you can either descend to Clifton Gardens or to Balmoral Beach for a swim.

Sydney Bay Run

The Sydney Bay Run is a 7-km loop around Iron Cove in Sydney’s Inner West. The concrete footpath is very popular with cyclists and joggers and it’s a peaceful spot if you don’t count some fairly busy thoroughfares nearby. 

Sydney Bay Run is an easy harbour walk in the Inner West
Sydney Bay Run

The best place to start the walk is at King George Park or Callan Park, where parking is available, leaving the crossing of the Iron Cove bridge last. I took this walk very early on a winter morning. The light was crisp and the sunrise offered some stunning colours

Cremorne Point Walk

3.5 km, 1 hour to Mosman Bay, easy

You’re likely to arrive at the Cremorne Point ferry but it’s worth starting the walk at Cremorne Point Reserve, so you may need to backtrack a little… One of the best Sydney secret walks, this is an easy 3,5km stroll on a concrete footpath.

Cremorne Point is one the easiest Sydney harbour walks
Cremorne Point Walk

With its manicured lawns and cheeky birdlife, the reserve offers some majestic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and CBD. At the tip of Cremorne Point, Robertsons Point Lighthouse is a romantic spot to rest and reflect while watching commercial vessels and Sydney ferries go by. 

Cremorne Point to Mosman Bay is a great Sydney harbour walk
Cremorne Point – Mosman Bay

As you enter Mosman Bay, the scent of gum trees is quite pronounced and the lines are blurred between public and private gardens. The charm of this walk is in the mix of stately homes and peaceful coves, with the occasional animal cry from the not-so-distant Taronga Zoo. After that, you can take the ferry out of Mosman Bay. Walks in Sydney Harbour don’t get any gentler than this!

Cockatoo Island

Nestled in the Inner West, Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO world heritage site and an interesting day trip within Sydney Harbour. Access is via ferry only and for a day, you can walk around the complex and historically diverse site. As many sites in Australia, Cockatoo Island history started with Aboriginal settlement and continued during colonial times… Many of the early constructions were built by convict labour and some have been restored today. 

The first buildings at Cockatoo Island were built by convict labour
Cockatoo Island – Convict Buildings

Later on, Cockatoo Island took on an industrial path by becoming a shipyard, with many of the buildings remaining today, in need of a refurbishment. A walk around Cockatoo Island will take you at least half a day, and will take you through the ages. Today, the island combines its Aboriginal identity with convict history and more recent ship building past. I strongly recommend taking a tour or audio tour to get your bearings and hear some of the fascinating stories. 

Cockatoo Island is an important industrial landmark in Sydney Harbour
Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour

Cockatoo Island has cafés and restaurants and there are many Cockatoo Island events throughout the year. You can camp at Cockatoo Island in order to enjoy a quietened down piece of history. Ferries to Cockatoo Island depart from Circular Quay.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk

Did you know that one of the simplest harbour walk in Sydney is actually on the bridge itself? Apart from climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this a free and easy way to discover this landmark. The Sydney Harbour Bridge walkway runs alongside the Cahill expressway. Rather than take a train (which also runs on the bridge) you can walk from one end to the other in 20 to 30 minutes.

You can easily walk the length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

There are actually plenty to things to see and do along the harbour bridge. The public walkway is enclosed by wire mesh and barbed wire for safety reasons but there is a gap above the railing so you can take photos. The views of the harbour and Sydney Opera House are absolutely beautiful and give a measure of how majestic Sydney Harbour is. This view will no doubt tempt you into trying the cruises on Sydney Harbour.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge walkway is a 20 minute walk
Sydney Harbour Bridge Walkway

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout is an old-fashioned attraction, with a small museum telling the fascinating history of Sydney Harbour Bridge and an incredible viewing platform. Be prepared for lots of stairs but this is one of the best views of Sydney Harbour. 

The Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout is the best place to view the bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

One entry is via the Milsons Point bridge stairs. On the CBD side, there are several points of access: the Cumberland bridge stairs is the first exit and is a great place to start a walking tour of the Rocks. If you have more time and want more views, you can continue on the Cahill Walk, which will take you above Circular Quay train station and all the way to the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens. 

You can continue to Cahill Walk from the Sydney Harbour Bridge walkway
Cahill Walk

It is worth exploring the Harbour Bridge under its many angles. From the walkway to the parks underneath its pillars, the Sydney bridge walk is a free way to discover this iconic landmark.

Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach Walk

A very popular attraction in Sydney is Taronga Zoo. It’s a quick trip on the ferry from Circular Quay and a great day out. But instead of returning to the city, you can do a very nice coastal walk to Balmoral Beach, Sydney. Going through the coastal bush, the boardwalk snakes around Bradleys Head and then on to Clifton Gardens. 

There are some great spots on the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach Walk
Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach Walk

With a stop at pretty Athol Bay, you get very intimate views of Sydney Harbour and may sometimes forget you are still in the suburbs. Clifton Gardens is a good place to stop for a light lunch or a coffee.

At the end of the walk, Balmoral Beach is perfect for a swim
Balmoral Beach

The Taronga to Balmoral walk gets quite steep just after Clifton Gardens, in order to get atop Middle Head. After that, it’s a coastal path to Georges Heights and stairs down to Balmoral. This beach is possibly the nicest reward you can have at the end of a long walk. The calm and sheltered waters are perfect for a quiet swim!

Walking in Sydney

Whether you walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge or attempt a more challenging Sydney hike, walking is the best way to discover the harbour. Do you have a favourite Sydney Harbour walk? Don’t forget to venture out of town and do some bushwalking in NSW. Tell me in the comments below!

North Head Manly Walk

South Head Walk

Middle Head Walk

Save these Sydney Harbour Walks on Pinterest!

This is the ultimate list of the best Sydney harbour walks
Sydney harbour has some beautiful walks
Take a walk around Sydney Harbour

LesterLost is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

22 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to the Best Sydney Harbour Walks”

  1. I would love to take the South Head Sydney walk. I love historic buildings and the look of decay. I also adore lighthouses, so an old one would be very cool to explore. Can you go up into it?

    1. The walk around South Head is really nice and the historic element is quite moving. I think access to the lighthouse is limited to NSW Maritime, the company that manage most lighthouses in Sydney.

  2. Linda (LD Holland)

    It was good to learn that there are so many options for walks around the Sydney harbour. I love the scenic walks along the shore. But it would be interesting to learn more on the South Head Heritage Trail. Discovering the secret beaches walking in Middle Head would be a great reason to try that route. So many great ways to get that iconic view back to the Sydney Harbour.

  3. Wow, all of these Harbour walks are really pretty but in unique ways. I really like the walks near Castlerock beach and the North Head to Fairfax Lookout looks really pretty. But I think we would really like the whole Cremorne Point Walk. Darcee would love the Robertson’s Point Lighthouse and those views of the Harbour Bridge are awesome

  4. I honestly had no idea that there are so many walks centred around Sydney Harbour. I guess, with it being such a major city, you don’t even think about taking hikes around the place. It’s good to see that there are literally walks for all levels of fitness and age groups. I’d love to check out Cockatoo Island.

  5. So many beautiful places to walk and experience the calming effects of nature. PS I have the Nikon camera you suggest for items to bring – excellent choice!

  6. I didn’t realized there were so many walks possible around Sydney harbor! I would love to see the Castle rock beach and the view from Sydney harbor bridge Pylon lookout is really cool! Thanks for sharing these great walk ideas Delphine!

  7. one of my favorite memories in australia is climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk
    – it’s so fun and adventurous!

  8. These all look incredible! I would have never guessed that there are so many options in the area! I think I’d be most drawn to the ones with views of the skyline and bridge, but all of these look great. What a great escape!

  9. I did the Coogee to Bondi Beach walk when I visited Sydney last year and I loved it! Such amazing views! Unfortunately, it was too cold for swimming, otherwise, a swim at the Rock Pools in Bondi would have been the perfect end to this hike. 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.