The various nature walking trails offer breathtaking views and a chance to reunite with the great outdoors.
What is a nature walk?
As the name would suggest, a nature walk is a walk that involves spending time in the natural environment, primarily the bush. While some of Sydney’s better known walks, such as the Manly to Spit Bridge walk or the Coogee to Bondi walk offer beautiful waterside experiences, there’s plenty of places that you can commune one-on-one with nature. Generally speaking, nature walks tend to be shorter than bushwalks, and primarily focus on the fauna and flora of a particular area.
Rest assured, you don’t have to be a professional explorer to enjoy the wide variety of nature walks that the Sydney region has to offer. With excursions to suit all abilities, fitness levels and time constraints, your only problem will be trying to choose which nature walk to try first.
What should I bring on a nature walk?
Regardless of the time of year, it is important to understand that even in Sydney weather conditions can change rapidly. A southerly storm in summer could see heavy rain and a quick drop in temperature within minutes, while winter temperatures can get very cold once the sun goes down. In other words, it’s important to know the forecast, and plan accordingly.
Whatever the distance you’re planning on walking or the terrain, it is important to have sunscreen, a hat (preferably with a full brim), ample water, and sturdy shoes. If it’s longer than an hour or two, then a small day pack with some food (like muesli bars, sandwiches or fruit) is also advisable. Even if your nature walk is relatively flat, easy and accessible via multiple forms of transport, it is important to remember the basics.
What should I wear on a nature walk?
No matter what the season, a hat, sturdy enclosed shoes and sunscreen is essential for a nature walk. While a tshirt/singlet and shorts/dress is perfectly fine for most summer nature walks, don’t forget that UV levels can get extremely high, especially during the middle of the day. As the iconic 1980s song went, “Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat”.
Long sleeves and long pants (light in summer, thicker in winter) are also recommended if in the actual bush (and not on a guided path), as they will provide protection from the sun, insects and branches, as well as warmth in the cooler months.
If the nature walk is longer than 2 hours, a small pack to carry a raincoat, snacks and water is also suggested. Water should always be carried in summer, no matter how long the walk. Always look at the weather forecast before you leave, and pack accordingly.
Be aware that any fires or stoves are not to be lit or used during total fire bans. Be sure to contact the local police station, fire station or National Parks and Wildlife Service office or the latest information on fire bans before you set out on your hike. You can also download the National Parks and Wildlife Service app or visit the Rural Fire Service to get the latest information before you set out.
Popular nature walks
As one of the largest cities in the world in terms of geographical area, Sydney covers quite a distance. With the urban areas stretching approximately 54km from east (Bondi) to west (Penrith), and around 80km north (Berowra) to south (helensburgh), Sydney has three main river systems and topography that changes from flat plains to deep gorges. It can take years to discover all the nature walks available, so here are just a few to get you started.
Caleys Lookout Track
Situated to the south of Penrith, Caleys Lookout Track is perfect for those looking for a challenge. Beginning in the Bents Basin State Conservation Area, the lookout track takes you through bushland from the Bents Basin picnic area up into the forested escarpment. Named after English explorer and botanist George Caley, the lookout itself is located in the Gulguer Nature Reserve.
Although quite short at 1.2 km return, the grade is quite steep and may be hard for small children or the elderly, though there are stone, metal and wooden steps along the way. Depending on fitness levels, the walk should take around 30 minutes on average, though the lookout is the perfect place to stop for lunch and enjoy the expansive views that stretch across the tall eucalypts and basin below to the rolling farmland in the distance.
For more information, please visit https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/caleys-lookout-track
About an hour and a half from the centre of the CBD, Thirlmere is a small town on the south western edge of Sydney. Perhaps best known for the NSW Rail Museum, which holds one of the world’s largest collections of steam trains and rolling stock, Thirlmere is also home to the World Heritage-listed Thirlmere Lakes National Park, some of the oldest freshwater lakes in the world.
Once part of a river system that changed orientation and left the lakes isolated about 15 million years ago, the lakes are of immense international significance due to the continuous accumulation of sediment that allows scientists to measure incremental environmental change.
Essentially a time capsule akin to the arctic ice sheets, these lakes are as important as they are beautiful. Unfortunately the lakes are at some of the lowest levels they have been in recorded memory, with some observers claiming that the nearby Tahmoor long-wall coal mine has affected the capacity of the underground aquifers to retain water.
A haven for birdwatchers, there are an estimated 140 species of waders, waterfowl and woodland birds that visit the area, including white-bellied sea eagles, musk ducks, Australasian grebes and pied cormorants. Flora lovers will also delight in the springtime showing of ground orchids.
A nature walk that stretches in a 6 km loop around the Gandangarra, Werri-Berri and Couridjah lakes, you can expect the walk to take between 1.5 and 2.5 hours. Although mostly flat, the walk is rough with no directional signage.
An ideal day outing for the family with ample space for a picnic, the walk is best undertaken in either spring or autumn.
An easy walk in Kamay Botany Bay National Park at Kurnell on the southern edge of Botany Bay, this nature walk is perfect for lovers of Australia’s unique flora.
Only .7 km in length with an estimated completion time of 15-30 minutes, the area is where many of the plants were first collected and catalogued by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, botanists on Captain Cook’s 1770 expedition. Those wishing for a longer excursion can continue on the adjoining Yena Trail.
For more information, please visit https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/banks-solander-track
Bungoona lookout and path
Just under 1 km as a round trip and both wheelchair and pram accessible, this is by far one of Sydney’s easiest and nicest nature walks. Situated at Audley at the northern end of the Royal National Park, the path will take just an estimated 30 minutes to complete.
Winding to the ridgetop along a concrete path, the scenic lookout offers a stunning panorama of the Port Hacking River and surrounding park. Once finished, enjoy a picnic on the riverfront at the Reids Flat picnic area, or hire at boat at Audley Weir. Keen birdwatchers should keep their binoculars primed for lorikeets and yellow-tailed cockatoos
Types of animals you see on a nature walk
World-famous for many things, Australia is perhaps best known for its unique wildlife. From kangaroos and koalas to quokkas and quolls, many nature walks provide the perfect chance to see some of these iconic creatures up close and personal. While there is no guarantee of seeing native animals on your nature walk, especially given some animals (like wombats and possums) are nocturnal, be sure to have the camera ready just in case.
In the Sydney region kookaburras, cockatoos, lorikeets and rosellas are all quite common. Kangaroos and wallabies are often present in the areas furthest from the city centre, as are goannas, blue tongue lizards and echidnas. Some native animals have discovered that picnic grounds are a great place to get free food, so be careful not to feed them despite how insistent they may be, as it can greatly endanger their health.
In late spring and summer, it can be quite common to see snakes sunning themselves on pathways and rocks after a long winter hibernation. Although they may look scary, snakes as a rule won’t engage nature walkers unless they feel immediately threatened or cornered.
If you see a snake, back away slowly to a safe distance and give the snake a chance to escape. Note the direction it leaves in, and then wait a minute or two to ensure that it is far enough away before proceeding. If the snake hasn’t moved, then don’t engage it with sticks or rocks - not only are snakes a protected species, but they play an important part in our ecosystem.
If the snake remains, then turn back the way you came. Be mindful that snakes are very well camouflaged and may be obscured by shadows, so tread carefully and always watch where Did you know you can earn Qantas Points doing all kinds of activities. Simply download the app, keep your phone or wearable device on you - and get moving.
You can also earn points with your Qantas Health Insurance.
Why don't you get a quote today. you are going, especially if you are stepping over rocks, branches or tree roots.
In short, be respectful of our native wildlife and keep your distance where possible.