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Cape Baily Walking Track and Light House
Photograph: Creative Commons

The best secret coastal walks in Sydney

Take these paths less travelled to the most secluded strolls along Sydney's beautiful seafront

By Maxim Boon
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If there’s something Sydney has in abundance, it's shoreline. Whether along the edge of our beautiful harbour or looking out to the wide-open Pacific, the places where the ocean waters meet the land hold a very special reverence for the people of this city. Beaches are, of course,  a big deal around these parts, and we’re also more than partial to a refreshing sundowner at a waterfront bar. But taking a stroll along a coastal path has to be one of the truly quintessential Sydney pastimes.

The well-worn and enduringly popular Bondi to Coogee path ranks as Sydney’s most famous seaside trail, closely followed by the utterly gorgeous Hermitage Foreshore. However, there are also plenty of coastal tracks that aren’t so well known. If you’re in search of a stroll with a little more seclusion, this list of secret coastal walks may well have what you’re looking for.

Shhh, it's a secret...

Jibbon Loop Track
Jibbon Loop Track
Photograph: Samantha Ohlsen/Alamy

Jibbon Loop Track

Attractions Royal National Park

Distance: 5.1km return (circuit)

Strictly speaking, this track is part of the Royal National Park’s mighty coastal path, but the loop around Jibbon Head, which takes in several charming and unspoiled beaches, is often overlooked and actually makes for a lovely and very manageable day hike all on its own. Beginning in the heart of the only Sydney suburb actually within the Royal National Park’s boundaries, Bundeena, the first half of the walk takes you along the golden sands of Jibbon Beach, before heading into denser bushland. The ocean views from Jibbon Head Lookout are something special, and if you want to draw out your trip a little longer, Shelley Beach is a great spot to lay down a towel for a picnic before taking the return leg of the loop track.

The Gap Bluff Walking Track
The Gap Bluff Walking Track
Photograph: Creative Commons

The Gap Bluff and Green Loop Walking Track

Attractions Watsons Bay

Distance: 1km return

As the crow flies, it might first appear that this walk on Sydney’s South Head peninsula is a trek and a half to reach, but it’s actually surprisingly accessible from the city, thanks to the nearby Watsons Bay ferry wharf. Once you arrive, it's just a short walk through Robertson Park, crossing this slender finger of land until you reach the distinctive rock formation known as the Gap. Tracing the sea-facing cliffs from the ocean lookout, expect dramatic breakers and salty spray in the air as you follow this short track north towards Camp Cove and Green Point. And since such a bracing walk is bound to be thirsty work, you can round off your arvo with a drink or two at the Watsons Bay Hotel, as you enjoy the stunning views of the city skyline in the distance.

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Bare Island
Bare Island
Photograph: Taras Vyshnya/Alamy

Bare Island to Little Bay

Distance: 9km

The fort at Bare Island is one of the most intriguing places in Sydney, and it's surprising that it's not more of a tourist magnet. This exposed rocky outcrop was equipped with a military fortification in the 1880s, which fans of the Mission Impossible movie franchise might recognise from the first sequel, where it offered one of the movie's principal backdrops. Once you've had an explore of this little slice of Sydney history, the coastal path north along Cape Banks offers both lovely ocean views and encounters with other military relics, including a World War II bunker. It's a fairly lengthy amble to Little Bay, which is one of Sydney's most underrated beaches, so be sure to spend a little time enjoying the waters here once you arrive.

Cape Baily Walking Track and Light House
Cape Baily Walking Track and Light House
Photograph: Creative Commons

Cape Baily Walking Track

Attractions Kurnell

Distance: 7.4km return

Despite its historical significance as the original landing site of Captain Cook and the First Fleet, the sprawling oil refinery and desalination plant that dominates this little peninsula off Botany Bay might make you think twice about spending a significant amount of time here. However, this ambitious walk along the southeastern edge of Kamay Botany Bay National Park, out of sight of the industrial complexes nearby, is a hike you can really make a day of. It's largely exposed so expect to be looking more than a little windswept by the end of your walk, but this truly is one of Sydney's most underrated corners. As well as coastal cliffs, you can also explore thick heaths and sandy dunes, and be sure to take a breather at the Cape Baily Lighthouse, which takes in spectacular ocean views and a stunning vantage point on Botany Bay.

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Malabar Headlands National Park walk
Malabar Headlands National Park walk
Photograph: Nick Clark/Alamy

Malabar Headland Walks

Attractions Malabar

Distance: 4.7km one way

There are, in fact, two great walks within the Malabar Headland National Park, and since both are relatively short, we recommend bolting them together for a double dose of coastal beauty in one hit. The Western Escarpment Walking Track is further inland, exploring the native heathlands, but it still has stunning ocean panoramas. The Boora Point Walking Track offers some more challenging terrain closer to the sea cliffs, and during the season, this 3.7km track is a fabulous place for a spot of whale watching. While there are sections of boardwalk on this stretch, much of this walk is pretty exposed, and therefore best tackled during fairer weather.

Please note, some areas of the Malabar Headland National Park are currently closed for maintenance.

More Sydney secrets

Wattamolla Beach from above
Wattamolla Beach from above
Photograph: National Parks NSW

The best secret beaches in Sydney

Attractions Beaches

Not feeling the crowds at Sydney’s most popular beaches? Try seeking out these hidden stretches for a more private paddle in the sunshine.

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