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Published April 18th 2017
Walks To Remember
Postcard views of Sydney Harbour (by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)
The Sydney Harbour National Park is the centrepiece of our island paradise and a haven for outdoor activities, from walking and cycling to boating, fishing, rock climbing and swimming. The natural wonders, including hundreds of bird, plant and fish species and tourism landmarks, from the Opera House to Taronga Zoo, make our harbour a rich habitat for walkers.
Sydney Harbour is streaked with pathways for simple strolls and hectic hikes, leading to lookouts, picnic areas, beaches and bushland, with dozens of streets and walkways enticing you deeper into our most popular suburbs. Once you've seen the highlights, experiment with new tracks, knowing buses aren't far away if your legs tire. There are also endless refreshment stops with cool drinks, sweet coffee and sizzling seafood to keep you going. If you're excited to show the best side of Sydney to a first-time visitor, start with one of these top 5 hikes.
Views of the headland, unchanged for centuries (by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)
Whichever walk you choose, take your time to savor the seaside sensations, particularly the birdlife, enchanting panoramas and blossoming native wildflowers, but stay safe.
Prepare to enjoy yourself as you stock up with water, snacks, appropriate attire (hat, long-sleeve shirt, pullover, rainjacket, sunnies, firm, comfortable walking shoes with good tread, heel and arch support, smartphone with camera and a backpack. While you're unlikely to become lost or abandoned on these popular walks in the inner-city, watch for signposts and warning signs, avoid wandering onto slippery rocky ledges on the water's edge and let a friend know where you're going and when you'll finish.
Fairfax - 1km circuit. Grab the kids for this easy 30-minute stroll to watch whales during the winter and spring months as they migrate along our coastline.
This is also the perfect walk for first-time visitors to Sydney, avoiding the need to buy postcards when selfies with Sydney Harbour's gems can be snapped at three lookouts along the way. Visit NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for more info.
Hermitage Foreshore track - 2km one-way. Set off from Nielsen Park in the south or Steele Point Rd in the north, feeling the sand between your toes on secluded Milk Beach on this grassy track in the park's south-eastern section in Shark Point and Hermit Bay.
On this hour-long walk, keep looking west to marvel at the panoramic vista of Sydney Harbour, with Mosman, Port Jackson and Kirribilli in the north and Mrs Macquaries Chair, Clark Island and the Opera House shimmering in the south. Visit Weekend Notes for more info.
Whales showing off on the Fairfax Walk (by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)
Taronga Zoo to Chowder Bay - 4km one-way. Harbour views, native forest, history's relics and exotic animals all feature on this 2-hour northern jaunt. After feeding time in the lion's enclosure, set off from Taronga Zoo Wharf, winding along the coastline on Bradleys Head, reflecting on the fortifications hastily built by convicts after a surprise visit from American warships in the 1830s.
While the feared attack didn't come in their lifetimes (the Kardashians didn't invade for another 150 years), the complex's most poignant installation is the mast of HMAS Sydney, an Australian ship lost during World War One, with the shipwreck recently found, almost a century later, in 2008. After passing beneath towering red gum trees, relax at Chowder Bay, a delightful beach where seafood of all kinds makes a well-deserved lunch.
Harbour Bridge to The Spit Bridge - 16.5km one-way. Spend a day delving into Sydney Harbour's beauty on a 6-hour walk from the northern pylons of the Harbour Bridge along the coastline through Neutral Bay, Mosman Bay and Clifton Gardens before a quick swim and lunch at Balmoral Beach then a final surge to the Spit Bridge as it majestically opens to celebrate your arrival (and allow boats to sail west into the many coves and bays or east into the ocean).
While the path surface is rarely rugged, you'll encounter some steep climbs, enraging your calf muscles until you reach the summit of each hill to catch your breath with the sea air and blue sky over the Pacific Ocean, stretching beyond the horizon. On the bus ride back to the Harbour Bridge, ignore the glares from frustrated commuters, envious of your accomplishment. Visit NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for more info.
Manly's scenic walk (by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service)
Manly scenic walkway - 10km one-way. After you've hiked from the Harbour to the Spit Bridge, you're only 4 hours away from the northern tip of the Sydney Harbour National Park in Manly. Set off from the Spit, winding along the shores of Fisher Bay, Clontarf Beach and Castle Rock.
In Grotto Point, step back through history as you ascend the lighthouse built in the 1910s and view centuries-old Aboriginal rock art before getting your feet wet in Forty Baskets Beach, named for the catch of fish quarantined for "inspection" in the 1880s.
If the tale makes you hungry, a seafood feast awaits at the Corso beside Manly Beach.
Visit Weekend Notes for more info.
After you've left only footprints, which of these tracks in Sydney Harbour is your favourite?