We're spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful running routes in this city. Lace up and conquer these lakeside, cliffside and parkside runs in Sydney. Head to any of these 13 recommendations and it’s guaranteed that the pounding of trainers on solid ground won’t be the only thing to get the blood pumping. While you're there, work on the lats with straight-arm pull-ups at these free outdoor gyms around Sydney or dig out the hiking boots and tackle one of these best walks in Sydney.
RECOMMENDED: Where to find the best parks in Sydney.
Sydney running routes
So much has changed on the west side of the CBD in recent years, and it’s well worth exploring on foot. Take the outer edge of Barangaroo Reserve for views of ferries buzzing in and out of the harbour plus the ultra-modern skyscrapers in the city. Then, pass the cafés of Walsh Bay (running up and down the jetties if you want those extra Ks) and head along Circular Quay towards Australia’s most famous landmark.
The routes from Manly to North Head and Spit Junction take the headlines, but there’s another route that’s just as special: start from the beautiful Shelly Beach and hug the shore, making your way along the world renowned Manly Beach. Climb the stairs at Queenscliff, dodge the waves on Freshwater Beach and navigate the subsequent boardwalk with the ocean waves crashing below. You finish at Curl Curl – one of Sydney’s most underappreciated beaches.
You know a run must be good when it forms the basis of an annual race, and that’s the case with the Iron Cove Bay loop – also known as the Bay Run. You’re never more than 20 metres from the water on this pleasingly flat route and almost the entire route is safely separated from road traffic. Give it a few practice laps and then test your mettle against the Inner West’s finest fun runners in the annual race every August.
If you live out west, you’ll know all about Parramatta Lakes, so why not mix it up a little by following the Parramatta River south-east towards Olympic Park? Starting at Parramatta Park, you’ll get to take in the views of Blaxland Riverside Park and Wentworth Common before arriving at the scene of some of Australia’s greatest international sporting triumphs, before a quick lap of Bicentennial Park sets you up for the jog back.
The south-west has its fair share of running routes but if it’s scenic views you’re after, Chipping Norton Lake is the place to go. Famous for the variety of aquatic birds in the vicinity, you get the privilege of circling 120 acres of pristine lake. You’ll want to keep an eye out, too; while you’re certain to spot our feathered friends, back in 2016 fishermen reported spotting a dolphin in the waters.
The Bondi to Coogee walk might be the Eastern Suburbs’ most famous trail, but head further south for a route that’s a lot quieter but no less spectacular. From the southern end of Maroubra Beach, there are a range of trails taking you to the edge of the headland at Boora Point where you can stop for an oceanview selfie before cruising down to Malabar Beach.
It might be challenging, but this 10km jaunt around the North Shore’s most famous national park is well worth the effort, even if the elevation is slightly daunting at times. Start at the Chatswood end where parking is plentiful, follow the river until you reach the A3, then double back before finishing at Fullers Bridge. The abundance of local wildlife will make you forget you’re not that far from the middle of the city.
It wasn’t until 2015 that the final bridge was installed, creating a loop around this gorgeous lagoon. If you’ve ever driven through Narabeen, you’ll have spotted paddle boarders and kayakers on the water, but there’s plenty to do on dry land too. In just over eight kilometres of track, you’ll pass through Bilarong Reserve, the bushland of Jamieson Park and across wooden boardwalks, all whilst never being too far from the water’s edge.
There can’t be many city centre beaches that give you the chance to watch planes taking off and landing. But once you head north towards Kyeemagh, there are footpaths and grassy areas all the way along Cooks River, giving you the perfect opportunity to explore. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could make it to Strathfield.
At the northern end of Rose Bay is the Hermitage Foreshore Walk. Its combination of stairs and uneven rock platforms means it’s not the easiest terrain (though still runnable) and it comes with a handful of hidden beaches and coastline views of Sydney CBD. Once you’ve completed the Foreshore Walk, sweep down into Vaucluse, where you can stickybeak at all those opulent houses before finishing up at Watson’s Bay.
This is a quick, mostly flat run that’s very social if you like to jog with your dog in tow. Though the ANZAC Bridge has a steady incline stretching for around a kilometre, the rest of the route, covering the Fish Markets and hugging the shores of Blackwattle and Rozelle Bays, is flat and well paved. It’s a 5km loop that has water and city skyline views the whole way round, and there are water bubblers and toilets within Glebe Foreshore Park.
When you want to show off the local landmarks to a visiting fitness friend, this is the gentle running route to take. Starting at the Art Gallery of NSW, there’s a track that swings by Andrew Boy Charlton Pool, around the historic looking point Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and around Farm Cove in the Botanic Gardens, finishing up at Sydney Opera House. It’s a 3km, slightly hilly track that is exposed to the elements, but it can’t be beat for impressive harbour views.
One of Sydney’s oldest and largest parks is a popular place to pound the pavement, open grasslands or dusty off-road tracks. For an easy loop, opt for the 3.5km circuit that runs inside the main road, Grand Drive, which is often busy with cyclists, roller skaters and cars. You’ll skip by three Victorian-era ponds – Busbys, Duck and Randwick – as well as horse riders, pram pushers and dog walkers, all taking in the air away from Sydney’s big smoke. The park’s open all times of day for pedestrians and from 6.15am for cars.