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Published January 21st 2016
The Best of Sydney Harbour on an easy stroll
If you love the ferry ride to Taronga Zoo, this 8-kilometre round-trip walk from the Zoo's menagerie along Sydney Harbour is the perfect way to fill 3 hours. The roaring lions, plodding turtles and slithering snakes can't leave their 100-year-old enclosures but you can head north for a seafood lunch.
Sumatran Tiger at Taronga Zoo (by Tursiae at Wikipedia)
Take the F2 ferry from Wharf 2 at Circular Quay, enjoying the 15-minute ride across the harbour with families sailing to their animal encounter. Leave the ferry wharf at Taronga, the Aboriginal word for beautiful view, turning right onto Athol Wharf Rd. The bay waters will always be ebbing against your right shoulder, preventing any wrong turns. You'll quickly leave the road, beginning the Angophora Walk. This is an easy 500-metre introduction to a forest of ancient myrtles, resembling an apple tree, slowing reaching to the sun.
Sandstone steps lead to a clearing which hosted Athol Hall, an estate with over a century of history. Formerly a hotel, it was demolished long before guests could enjoy views of the Harbour Bridge or New Years Eve fireworks. Now it's a cafe brewing coffee you can sip on brisk autumn mornings before continuing southward.
After another 500 metres you'll reach the tip of Bradleys Head. Across the bay, amongst the fleet of ferries sailing between Sydney, Manly and Watsons Bay, you'll see Point Piper, bordered by Shark and Clark Islands. A proud Australian flag flies next to the HMAS Sydney I Memorial Mast. This naval monument, erected in 1934, is dedicated to the sacrifices of Australian sailors during World War 1. Even though this original ship survived that war, the memorial is more poignant for the subsequent loss of HMAS Sydney II in 1941 during World War 2. The ship sank after an encounter with the German cruiser, Kormoran. The mystery of HMAS Sydney II, returning from escort duty in the Indian Ocean, lingered for over 50 years. It was only when the shipwrecks were recently discovered that grieving relatives and descendants found a level of closure. This monument is in the centre of Rifle Wall, a concrete fortification built by convicts and equipped with cannons used to repel invading warships.
Overhead, white-bellied sea eagles, known for their lifelong relationships, glide over ancient red gums and the broad branches of Port Jackson figs, competing with ospreys and brahminy kites for fish. On the ground, water dragons leave tiny webbed claw marks in the sand as they slink into the forest to evade flying predators.
White-bellied sea eagle (by Mdk572 at Wikipedia)
Between April and December, humpback whales leap and sing in bays along our eastern coastline. These 15-metre-long giants migrate north to warmer waters to mate and give birth before slowly returning to their home waters in Antarctica. Visit Wild about Whales for details of sightings from other whale watchers.
Humpback whale (by NOAA at Wikipedia)
Stop at Bradleys Head Amphitheatre to marvel at a broad panoramic view of Sydney Harbour, from Watsons Bay to Cremone Point, crowned by the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. You'll share the jutting concrete pier with photographers snapping shots of the bridge and fishers dipping lines into the bay to catch bream or trevally. You may have already seen the view at the cinema, where it featured in the film Mission Impossible 2, adorned with a temporary waterfront apartment.
Bradleys Head Amphitheatre (by Saberwyn at Wikipedia)
Continue on northward to Chowder Head Walk, moving into Taylors Bay. You'll veer east to push through the bay, before turning north to finish your journey. Along the way, you'll see the sign marking the site of the Japanese submarine I-22, one of 3 midget submarines, which entered the harbour in 1941 during World War 2. All three vessels sank in the harbour, with the two-man crews dying at sea. The I-22 was trapped in this bay by Allied depth charges. In the 1960s, the mother of I-22's commander visited the site to scatter cherry blossoms.
Japanese midget submarine I-22 (at Aust. War Memorial)
Forge onward to reach Chowder Bay, the former Naval base named after the seafood stews cooked by colonial fishers. You can swim or snorkel at the calm beach or netted enclosure of Clifton Gardens, picnic or barbecue on the grass, grab a gelato at Bacino (a kiosk tucked into a former ammunition store) or read beneath the shady palm trees. You can retrace your steps to return home or stay for a barramundi dinner at Ripples, catching the 244 bus to Wynyard train station.