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Sydney, the tourism capital of Australia, is a beautiful city, consistently rated among the best cities in the world.
Besides being incredibly tourism-friendly, it is abuzz with a cosmopolitan vibe and is packed with a long list of attractions ranging from marvelous sandstone-wrapped edifices, historical UNESCO heritage sites, delectable zoos, and above all splendid natural beauty, all quintessentially Australian.
Top Destination in Australia
Sydney is almost always the first stop for travelers to Australia and naturally so, given it is the country’s largest city and was also the base from which the first English settlement started in 1788.
Today, it is a cosmopolitan city with over 5 million residents, with over 2 million international visitors each year. Sydney is world-renowned for its twin totems of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, but these are just the very tip of an incredibly large and diverse iceberg.
Wherever you go, whatever your interests, you will not fail to notice that Sydney, like all other Australian cities, is well-balanced with its man-made and natural attractions.
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Sydney’s Natural Beauty
A large part of Sydney’s natural beauty is contributed by its gorgeous harbour often considered the deepest in the world.
Home to an amazing array of wildlife including dolphins (and humpback whales in whaling season), the harbour along with its innumerable beaches and rockpools forms the bedrock of Sydney’s littoral spirit.
Top Coastal Walks in Sydney
And the best way to absorb this is to go on at least one of its many harbourside coastal walks. There are many to choose from, starting from Palm Beach in the north to Cronulla in the south; nonetheless, here are the 10 best coastal walks to feel, absorb and immerse in Sydney’s amazing sea-side beauty:
1. Bondi to Coogee
Distance – 6km
This is the most iconic walk in Sydney and if you get even half a day, do squeeze this one in to tick off perhaps one of the most scenic hikes in the world. The walk traverses five of eastern Sydney’s most famous beaches, starting from Bondi to Tamarama, then to Bronte, Clovelly and finally ending at Coogee.
You can choose to walk any section instead but nothing beats the satisfaction of completing this walk, then rewarding oneself with a hearty brunch or snack at any of the many restaurants and cafes along the walk.
Other noteworthy attractions on the way include the Iceberg swimming pool at Bondi, the Waverley cemetery (Sydney’s response to Paris’ Pere Lachaise), with the graves of many notable Australians, the rock pool at Clovelly, and the many quintessentially Aussie surfers who add colors to the walk
2. Manly to Spit
Distance – 10km
Yet another stunner of a walk, the Manly to Spit is a prominent Sydney walk that passes through sandy beaches, Aboriginal art sites and fascinating lookouts all along some of the most picturesque suburbs of northern Sydney.
Do take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly (rated amongst the best ferry rides in the world) gazing at the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Fort Denison, South Head including Watson’s Bay and the Hornby Lighthouse before making your way to the Manly wharf to start the walk.
If, instead, you start from Spit, then you get to complete the walk at Manly Wharf but may choose to go beyond to the popular Manly beach for a scenic meal overlooking the gorgeous sea and sands.
This walk takes you through cliffside bushlands – do take your time to choose a secluded spot to gaze at awe-inspiring views of the Sydney Harbour and city.
3. Coogee to Maroubra
Distance – 6km
You can continue on the Bondi to Coogee walk to hike all over to Maroubra. The coastal sandstone-layered landscape remains the same though the crowds thin out a bit, giving you more space for yourself.
There are plenty of reserves, rockpools and cafes on the way with ample opportunities to refresh yourself. The boardwalk along the South Coogee Wetlands is a highlight with a lot of informational display boards and the opportunity to spot endangered and rare amphibian species.
4. Malabar Headlands Walk
Distance – 5km
Beyond Maroubra Beach lies the picturesque Malabar Headlands walk, which trails steep sandstone cliffs overlooking the frenzied waters of the Pacific. The scenery is very similar to the Bondi / Coogee or the Coogee / Maroubra walk.
However, it is completely within a National Park. Hence, there are no buildings on the side, nor are there a lot of passers-by. This makes it one of the best walks in the South Head area if you enjoy solitude in nature. Look out for the Peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest bird that nests on these cliffs and is a very common sight.
5. Around La Perouse
In a historically anglicized settlement, La Perouse celebrates one of the very few places in Sydney that has a French connection. It is named after the French explorer, Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, who landed at this very spot only a few days after Arthur Phillip landed in Sydney thereby claiming the land for the British crown.
This southern gem in Sydney still commemorates the French explorer’s visit to Australia and is a wonderful place for a day trip.
There is a museum dedicated to the journeys of Jean Francois besides a few antiquated buildings existing since the start of the 18th century when Sydney was a very young settlement.
You can walk to Bare Island (where a few scenes from Mission Impossible II was shot), indulge in a bit of snorkeling, or bushwalk all along the Congwong and Little Congwong beaches all the way to the (tiny) Henry Head Lighthouse or all the way to Cape Banks edge for stunning cliffside views.
6. Hermitage Foreshore Walk
Distance – 2km
The 2 km Hermitage Foreshore walk is a part of the longer 7km walk from Rose Bay to Watsons Bay. Both walks take you through some of Sydney’s most expensive suburbs while giving panoramic views. You’ll get a clear view of the Harbour Bridge and the harbor crisscrossed by innumerable ferries and yachts.
Shark Beach, Nielsen Park, the historic Greycliffe House and the heritage-listed Vaucluse House (home to pioneering Australian explorer, William Wentworth) are some of the many hidden gems in the shorter Hermitage Foreshore Walk.
The longer walk takes you all the way to Watson’s Bay via the incredible pretty Parsley Bay and its scenic suspension bridge over turquoise green waters.
7. Around Watson’s Bay and the Federation Cliff Walk
The 5 km long clifftop-based Federation walk takes you from Bondi to Watson’s Bay via the beautiful Macquarie Lighthouse, one of Australia’s oldest lighthouses.
Watsons Bay itself has a number of walks, including a steep climb to the Gap summit, besides a short but picturesque walk to the Hornby Lighthouse. At the end of your walk, do get your portion of fish and chips at Doyle’s, one of Sydney’s most famous and oldest restaurants.
8. Walk Over the Harbour Bridge to Milson’s Point
Sydney is incomplete without its Harbour Bridge and the best way to see the bridge itself is to walk over it. The walk itself from the city center is short, but you can choose to cross the bridge and keep walking onto Milson’s Point via Sydney’s iconic amusement Park – Luna Park, and then onto Lavender Bay to Wendy Whiteley’s secret garden.
At the start of the bridge lies the Pylon Point Museum on one of the four pylons (pillars) of the bridge – the museum lets you climb all the way to the top of the Pylon for gorgeous views of the Opera House and is perhaps one of Sydney’s best kept tourist secrets.
If the Bridge climb is over budget for you, then do go to the top of the Pylon for equally vertiginous views but at a fraction of the cost!
9. Freshwater to Curl-Curl
Beyond Manly to the north lies a string of beautiful beaches alongside glamorous suburbs, all connected by long walks on beaches, around lagoons (and around a few residential blocks). The walk from Freshwater Beach to Curl Curl Beach is one of the prettiest of these, complete with reserves, cafes, and some amazing vantage points.
You can extend your walk further by going around the Curl Curl Lagoon. Or you could go even further all the way to the Dee Why beach and lagoon. These are also excellent vantage points for whale-watching in the months from May to November.
This is when record numbers of humpback whales migrate from Antarctica along the eastern Australian coastline. They calve in the warm waters of the tropical north and return at the onset of spring
10. Taronga to Balmoral
A visit to Australia’s most famous zoo – Taronga is a must-do while in Sydney. Once at Taronga, you can also embark on the 7km walk from Taronga to Balmoral within the Sydney Harbour National Park.
It is more popularly known as the Chowder Bay Walk and trails along the harbor via Bradleys Head Lighthouse, Taylors Bay, Chowder Bay, the spectacular Georges Head (complete with the remains of guns installed during the Second World War in fear of attacks by the Japanese) finally ending at the Balmoral Beach.
Look out for the critically endangered bandicoots along with stylish yachts moored in these waters besides amazing views of the Sydney city and skyline.
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Start planning your extraordinary vacation to Sydney today. Get prepared insider tips on how to get around, hotel and VRBO accommodations, restaurant reviews and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
Author Bio: Ayan Adak is a consultant by profession and loves traveling, writing and photography. He has traveled to over 30 countries and has published multiple books on travel and poetry.