It may be called the ‘Manly to Spit’ walk, but (especially if you don’t live North Side) you’re better off doing this ten-kilometre trek backwards. Start at the Spit Bridge (the M30 or 143 will get you there from Central) in Mosman, then cling to Middle Harbour’s coastline passing Clontarf Reserve and Clontarf Point. Your first opportunity for a really great swim will come early in the piece, at Castle Rock. After a steep descent you’ll find water that’s calm, clear and gorgeous. Though salubrious houses sit up just above the bushland, you can’t tell from the beach, and can barely tell from the walk. From there, you’ll be taking in big clifftop views and lots of scraggy, hardy bushland in the Sydney Harbour National Park.
When Time Out has visitors in town this is the hands-down first thing that we recommend they do. It’s a six-kilometre stretch of coastline so most walk from Bondi to Bronte and call it a day, but beyond that is where the walk gets really interesting. You’ll walk by Waverley Cemetery, where it can get windy through the suspended walkway, past Clovelly bowls club, the secluded nook that is Gordon’s Bay, and on to Coogee where you can reward your efforts with a cold one from Coogee Pavilion’s rooftop bar. It’s an easy-to-moderate stroll between Bondi and Bronte, which gets hillier and slightly more strenuous. No matter what distance you choose, activewear is always welcome.
This easy, breezy 1.8km walk rewards visitors with stunning views of the harbour blue for not a lot of effort. Most set out from Nielsen Park but we recommend going the other way, starting at Bayview Hill Road and finishing up with a leisurely picnic (or a box of fish and chips from the kiosk) at the park. Along the way you’ll catch views of the Harbour Bridge and Shark Island, as well as historic Strickland House, a heritage-listed Victorian Italianate mansion built in the 1850s. You’d also be wise to pack swimmers and sunscreen, as you’ll pass by a number of idyllic small harbour beaches so well secreted away from main roads that you feel like you’ve discovered something special.
While Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a bit off the beaten path in comparison to the heads of Sydney Harbour National Park, it’s worth the trek if you want spectacular views over the ocean for ample whale watching opportunities. Barrenjoey Lighthouse is open for guided tours every Sunday and is accessible daily. And here’s a fact to note for your next pub trivia night: the lighthouse sits at Sydney’s most northerly point, Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach.
The full Royal coastal walk is 26 kilometres and takes two days – but you can explore portions of it to get a taste of each part. Starting at Bundeena and walking to Little Marley Beach is a great option for first time National Park adventurers. It's easy enough for inexperienced bushwalkers, but still offers beautiful vantage points, a mixed bag of terrains and plenty of happy snap ops. The route navigates winds along the coastline, taking you over sandy red soil, through scrubby bushland and along the sandstone cliffs. Make sure you take plenty of water. We'd highly recommend packing your own picnic too.
Make a day of it
What could be more romantic than a picnic packed for two and sweeping harbour views? Where else could you organise a long, lazy lunch for a big group of friends? Or, an impromptu dinner date alfresco? Cancel your restaurant booking and head to one of these top places to enjoy a picnic. We’ve called ahead to find out if there’s parking, toilets and barbecues too. You can thank us later.