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Published February 6th 2016
See Sydney's best views and beaches on an easy stroll
Russia has the Hermitage Museum but Sydney Harbour has the Hermitage Foreshore, an easy hour of walking across a 1.5-kilometre stretch of our city's highlights. Along the way, you'll enjoy spectacular harbour views from the southern side, crowned by our bridge and dotted with parks, beaches and historic homes. You can tackle this walk from the northern or southern end but venturing north means you'll finish with a treat at the Nielsen Cafe (or you could head south then make the return hike for 2 ice creams instead).
Shark Beach (by Eddy Milfort at Wikipedia)
From Central Station, board the T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line train to Edgecliff, then the 324 or 325 bus to Bayview Hill Rd and begin at Queen Beach, fit for royalty, trying not to envy the students at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School, forced to study with the views of Sydney calling to them from open windows. As with most of the beaches you'll encounter, you can leave the surfboard at home – the bay's protective barrier makes any 'Kelly Slater' moments unlikely.
Forge on to hit the walk's namesake at Hermit Point. It's the almost 200-year-old home, the Hermitage. While you can't dine there, you can eat a snack at the picnic area or on the wooden wharf, jutting into the ocean, inviting you to dangle your legs over the side. A hermit needs his own beach and the home's original owner had Hermit Beach in Hermit Bay, nestled between sandstone rocks and soft sands, now surrounded by homes peering over the hermit's shoulder.
Ralph Newboult Lookout, one of the highest points on the walk, features a perfectly placed bench, likely selected by Ralph himself. Ralph was a dedicated hiker, working with the National Parks service to introduce others to special highlights of walking. After his death, the lookout was named in his honour, from all those visitors walking in his footsteps.
Formerly a convalescence home for women in the 20th century, Strickland House is open for both genders now. The heritage interiors are reserved for private functions but you can still re-enact scenes from Back to the Future on the gravel and grassed areas even though the home wasn't named after the film trilogy's school principal but to the former NSW Governor, Sir Gerald Strickland, instead.
Strickland House (by Sardaka at Wikipedia)
Next door, Milk Beach may be lacking a Mr Whippy van to serve milkshakes but it's still one of the nicest beaches in Sydney. The secluded spot, with inviting blue water and white sands, is tucked behind Strickland House, making it a local secret ideal for watching the passing yachts and seaplanes.
Rose Bay (by J Bar at Wikipedia)
Almost 150 years old and completed after fears of a Russian attack, Steele Point housed cannons to repel an invasion of battleships entering Sydney Harbour. One of a series of emplacements, it was covered with concrete and steel dome, ready to repel an attack which fortunately never eventuated. Explore the maze of concrete channels, now open to the sunlight, before returning to the peaceful walk.
Shark point battery (by Adam.J.W.C. at Wikipedia)
By the steps, pause for the view at the lookout beside the point's cottage, formerly a military barracks and now the best rental home in the area with a very accommodating landlord – the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
In preparation for the Vietnam War, Steele Point's Degaussing Range was completed to demagnetise naval ship hulls. This prevented the awkward attachment of watches, rings and cutlery to the outer hulls of our naval fleet and the more serious risk of enemy mines drawn by the magnetism of approaching ships. Instead of the more obvious 'Demagnetising Range', it's named after Carl Gauss, a mathematician who defined units of 'Gauss' as a measure of magnetism.
Once you've had any disk drives erased after venturing too close to the equipment, you can retreat for a well-earned drink and snack at Federation-styled Nielsen Park Cafe. The park's namesake, Niels Rasmus Wilson Nielsen, was a politician fiercely lobbying for much of Sydney's foreshore to remain either leased or owned by the government, including the foreshore you're standing on.
Nielsen Park kiosk (by Sardaka at Wikipedia)
You can relax in the waters of Shark Beach, safe inside the broad shark net. Once showered at the beach's facilities, walk through the car park and onto Greycliffe Ave to catch the 324 or 325 bus to Edgecliff Station then the T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line train to Central.