What is a coastal walk?
As the name would suggest, a coastal walk is a walk that follows the coastline. With a coastline of almost 26,000 km and an estimated 10,600 beaches, there’s really no better place in the world to enjoy a coastal walk than Australia. And there’s no better place to start than Sydney.
Known for its beautiful harbour and stunning coastal sights, Sydney has a wide variety of coastal walks to suit each and every type of walker. From multi-day walks to one hour sojurns, there is truly something for everyone in this sparkling city.
What should I bring on a coastal walk?
Whatever the distance you’re planning on hiking or the terrain, it is important to have sunscreen, a hat (preferably with a full brim), ample water, and sturdy shoes with good grip. If it’s longer than an hour or two, then a small day pack with some food (like muesli bars, sandwiches or fruit) and a raincoat is also advisable.
While sandals, a t-shirt/singlet and shorts/dress is perfectly fine for most summer city coastal or beach 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”.
What should I pack for a multi-day coastal walk?
Should you be looking to walk overnight or for a few days, then a tent, season-appropriate sleeping bag, wet weather gear and enough food for each meal is necessary. Matches, a torch, camping stove, maps, compass, space blanket and a first aid kit are also essential if you are planning on walking anywhere outside Sydney’s greater urban area.
Be aware, however, 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 for the latest information on fire bans before you set out on your hike. You can also download the National Parks and Wildlife Service app here or visit the Rural Fire Service online to get the latest information before you set out.
Coastline of Sydney
With a harbour and ocean foreshore that stretches for hundreds of kilometres (approximately 240 km in the harbour alone), Sydney’s coastal regions are impressive to say the least. With terrain that changes effortlessly from steep cliffs and natural bush to national park, secret beaches and vibrant urban centres, a Sydney coastal walk has something for everyone.
Types of coastal walks
Regardless of the time available, your personal fitness levels and your experience, there is definitely a Sydney coastal walk for you. From the world famous 6 km Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, the 2 day, 26 km Bundeena to Otford walk in the Royal National Park or the 2.8km South Head Heritage Trail, many of Sydney’s coastal walks combined beach and clifftop walking with sensational views across the city and Pacific Ocean.
As the traditional home of the 29 Indigenous clans that make up the Eora Nation and the location of Australia’s oldest European settlement, historic aboriginal and European sites abound throughout Sydney for those seeking a lesson in history.
When walking in summer, one of the great benefits of a Sydney coastal walk, cliff walk, or beach walk is the choice of sensational swimming spots. From secluded harbour beaches like Camp Cove and Obelisk Beach to the more famous surf spots of Bondi and Narrabeen, a dip in cooling waters is an essential part of the Sydney coastal experience.
Best coastal walks
Here’s some of our favourite coastal walks to get you out and about. So grab your sunscreen, hat and water bottle and start with these gems. Tip: If walking between May and November, a pair of binoculars is well worth taking to view the hundreds of whales that migrate along the coast.
Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay
Best started with a ferry ride to Taronga Zoo from Circular Quay, this harbour walk manages to combine beautiful bushland with sensational city skyline views, proving that, on this walk at least, you can have it all.
A combination of boardwalk and well travelled dirt path, the walk winds around Athol Bay to Bradleys Head. Enjoy one of the best views in the city from the amphitheatre, pause for reflection at the maritime war monument or explore the 19th century military fortifications. Pack your swimmers to enjoy a dip further on at either Taylors Bay or Clifton Gardens Reserve, and follow it up with a coffee at the Chowder Bay kiosk.
Approximately 4 km long with an estimated walking time of around 2 hours, be sure to take ample sunscreen and water, as there aren’t a lot of bubblers along the route. And don’t forget the camera, because there’s a perfect photo to be taken every step of the way.
The Coast Track, Royal National Park
The Coast Track is for the serious coastal walker who has time to kill and wants an experience like no other. Situated an hour south of Sydney’s CBD and stretching along the coast to the industrial city of Wollongong, The Royal National Park is the second oldest national park in the world after the US’s Yellowstone.
An impressive 2 day, 26km one-way hike, the path will take you along deserted beaches and iconic headlands. As many of the beaches in this park are unpatrolled and potentially dangerous in certain conditions, if you fancy a dip be careful to only swim when and where conditions are suitable.
Check out the NSW National Parks guide on The Coast Track
Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
One of the world’s most famous walks and understandably so, this 6 km, 2-3 hour walk takes in some of Sydney’s most spectacular scenery. Starting at South Bondi and moving southwards, the track is popular with joggers, day-trippers and tourists alike.
Fully paved and dog-friendly (providing they are on a leash at all times), the walk takes you past the surfing beaches of Tamarama and Bronte. Stop for a quick bite at Cafe Salina in Bronte, before continuing through the historic Waverley cemetery.
Take a dip at Clovelly and snorkel with a family of protected Blue Gropers, then finish at Coogee beach. Relax over coffee at Morning Glory cafe at the northern end, then turn around and do it in reverse if you’re feeling fit.
Check out the NSW government guide to the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk
The northernmost point of Sydney’s urban area, Barrenjoey Lighthouse sits at the northern end of Palm Beach and forms the southern headland to Broken Bay. Rising 91m above sea level, this impressive location sits within Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and forms the background to the popular Australian TV soap ‘Home and Away’.
There are a number of walks that can be taken up the hill to the lighthouse, one of Sydney’s most iconic buildings. Built in 1881 from sandstone quarried on site, the lighthouse and original keeper’s cottages are definitely worth a picture or two.
Starting at Governor Phillip Park and about 1 km in length, the picturesque Barrenjoey track requires a moderate fitness level and should take the average walker about 30 minutes to complete each way. You could also take the shorter yet more difficult Smuggler’s track, which was originally built in 1850 by customs officials monitoring - you guessed it - smugglers.
Be sure to take water with you, as there are no bubblers or amenities at the top. As it is an exposed site, be sure to check weather forecasts and avoid the walk in high winds or storms.
Check out the NSW National Parks guide on the Barrenjoey walking trail
Earn Qantas Points on your walks
If you’re hitting the trail, why not earn Qantas Points for your steps? The Qantas Wellbeing App lets you earn Qantas Points for your everyday activities, like walking, cycling, and even sleeping . Simply download the Qantas Wellbeing App (if you haven’t already), sync with your device and get started.
Be rewarded for your overall health
You might be considering health insurance as another part of your overall healthcare. Qantas Health Insurance offers a range of products to suit your needs, plus you’ll be rewarded with Qantas Points for joining and paying your premium . Click the button below to get a quote and see how rewarding health insurance could be.