Bursting at the seams when it comes to national parks and stunning coastline, Sydney’s scenery is second to none. Whether a remarkable rock carving in Ku-ring-gai National Park, an abundance of lakeside birdlife in Narrabeen or a rock shaped like a wedding cake in the Royal National Park, you’ll stumble on a worthwhile reward for that burn in your calf muscles.
We’ve distinguished these Sydney bush walks into three categories – easy, medium and hard. How challenging the walks will be for your tribe all depends on fitness level, experience and how short the littlest legs are.
No matter which walk you choose, remember to always pack plenty of water, snacks and sun protection. And be sure to read your route guide and check weather conditions before your intrepid band of explorers sets off.
Echo Point Three Sisters Walk – Blue Mountains
This low-grade wander shows off the pride and joy of the Blue Mountains – the Three Sisters. The three rock formations perched overlooking the Jamison Valley are entwined in Aboriginal story and history. Much of the short walk is accessible by wheelchair, until at least Oreades Lookout. Unfortunately, the Giant Stairway down to Honeymoon Bridge does contain steps and can get congested in peak times. If you’d prefer not to walk at all, the Three Sisters can be viewed from the Echo Point lookout, not far from parking.
Stats: 800 metres return. 25 to 40 minutes (depending on crowds and how many photos you take!)
Narrabeen Lagoon Track – Northern Beaches
Newly revamped in 2015, this Lagoon Track is now open to cyclists and walkers. Consisting of boardwalk and bridges, the continuous loop is accessible by wheelchair. Keep your eyes peeled for the abundance of bird life. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the playgrounds and barbecue areas along the way, such as Middle Creek or Bilarong Reserve.
Stats: 8.5 kilometres in total, but divided into 5 sections that can be tackled independently. There are car parks at most start points. Buses drive down Pittwater Road, right beside the Narrabeen Lake if you prefer public transport.
America Bay – Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Crammed full of waterholes and sandstone ridges, this track is perfect for a picnic! It travels from West Head Road down to America Bay, near the mouth of the Hawkesbury River. Take a worthwhile detour to see rock engravings and a natural lookout with views over the bay.
Stats: 2 kilometres. 1 to 2 hours.
Bundeena to Wedding Cake Rock – Royal National Park
Tread the rocky track through heathland and wildflowers to Insta-famous Wedding Cake Rock. Named for its astonishing white colour (caused by leaching iron) and soft, crumbly sandstone, it is one of the gems of the Royal National Park. Steer clear of unstable edges. If you’re looking for more, continue past Wedding Cake Rock for a swim at Marley Beach.
Stats: Part of the Coast Track (a 26-kilometre, 2-day adventure), this Bundeena stretch is 6.8 kilometres return and about 2 hours.
Aboriginal Heritage Walk – Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
There are several highlights along this route in Sydney’s north. The ochre outlines and rock engravings of the Red Hands Cave date back at least 2000 years. Be sure to show them the appropriate respect, and to acknowledge the thousands of years of history and culture embedded in the important site. Take the short detour to West Head lookout for views across to Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Pittwater. Bring your swimmers for a quick dip at Resolute Beach.
Stats: This 4.4 kilometre loop combines the Resolute and West Head walking tracks and takes about 2.5 to 3.5 hours. An alternative option is the easy 1 kilometre return walk to Red Hands Cave and the rock engravings – the start of the longer track.
Bouddi Coastal Walk – Bouddi National Park, Central Coast
Near Gosford, this seaside walk extends from Putty to MacMasters Beach. If you’re familiar with this location, you’re probably already on your way over – the rainforest and clifftop scenery is delightful. Split the walk into sections, including a quick whale-watch at Gerrin Point Lookout. Stop after 3 kilometres at Maitland Bay, for a swim and to explore the shipwrecked PS Maitland at the beach’s eastern end. Walk another 3.5 to Little Beach, which is less than 2 kilometres from the finish line. There is a campground here, so you can even turn your walk into an overnight hike.
Stats: This walk is 8 kilometres one-way, taking about 3.5 to 4.5 hours. To park in Putty Beach, it costs $8 per car, per day. Bring coins. There is a campground at Putty Beach as well, so why not make a weekend of it?
Sphinx Memorial to Bobbin Head Loop
Follow the Bobbin Head trail from the Sphinx Memorial to Bobbin Head. This is a great place to stop for lunch, as there are toilets, barbecues and a little café. If you leave a car waiting, you can even finish the walk here. Otherwise, continue on and join the Warrimoo Track past mangroves and centuries-old middens. Then climb up the Sphinx Track back to the carpark. The Sphinx Carpark closes at 5.30pm daily, so leave plenty of time.
Stats: Walking this 10-kilometre loop is fairly easy-going, with a bit of a climb at the end. It will take about 3.5 to 4.5 hours.
Grand Canyon Walk – Blue Mountains
Near the suburb of Blackheath, the Grand Canyon fulfils the promise in its name. Waterfalls, sandstone caves, rainforest and cliffside views complete the scenic picture. Park your car in Evan’s Lookout carpark. Upon finishing, you will have to walk along the road for a short while back to the car. If you don’t fancy the plunging staircases and breathless climbs (although they are well worth every second), opt instead for the Clifftop Walking Track. Fairly flat, this route takes you along the tree line from Evan’s Lookout to Govetts Leap.
Stats: Distances are deceptive in the Blue Mountains where, as you’d imagine, nothing is flat! While the Grand Canyon loop is only 6.3 kilometres, it will take 3 to 4 hours and is best for older primary-schoolers.
Curra Moors Loop Track – Royal National Park
In the eastern section of the Royal National Park, this walk combines bush with ocean views. You’ll pass waterfalls, towering sandstone cliffs, proud gum forests and heathland. Time your walk to coincide with the spring blooming of the wildflowers. Make time to stop in at Curracurrong Waterfall and to take the short detour to Eagle Rock.
Stats: This loop is about 10 kilometres in length.
Ruined Castle – Blue Mountains
This walk is one of my favourites, ideal for adventure-hungry teens. Much of the trail follows an historic mining route. Start at the Golden Stairs and head down into the Jamison Valley. Stop for lunch at the aptly named Ruined Castle rock formation, with breathtaking views as far as Wentworth Falls and Katoomba. Re-emerge via lush rainforest.
Stats: Again, the 6.6 kilometre distance (return) is deceptive. The loop will take you 4 to 5 hours, thanks to descents and climbs.
Berowra to Cowan
The Berowra to Cowan via Berowra Waters trip is just one of many lengths of the Great North Walk. The challenging climbs are probably best suited to experienced teenage walkers. Pass the picturesque Jerusalem Bay and spectacular Naa Badu Lookout. Tackle the route from either direction, and, if you’re concerned about distances, arrange a pick-up roughly half way at Berowra Waters.
Stats: All up, the route is approximately 14 kilometres. Unfortunately, it is not a loop. However, Berowra and Cowan both have train stations so jump aboard for your trip home.
For some more options, check out the Palm Jungle Loop Track and Karloo Walking Track. You’ll find both in the Royal National Park, which is crammed full of trails, swimming holes and beaches. Lake Parramatta offers up another great circuit, and Ku-ring-gai National Park’s awesome Kalkari Discovery Centre is found on the Birrawanna Walking Track.