When you picture Sydney, chances are you see the opera house, or Harbour Bridge, or even gorgeous beaches.
Not too many first time visitors are drawn to the city for its hiking trails.
Sydneysiders will tell you otherwise though- there are dozens of walking and hiking trails in Sydney, and the area around the city.
And, many of the city’s beautiful hikes are easy to get to- often just a short ferry ride or bus from the CBD away.
The hardest part?
Choosing which ones you want to explore. With Sydney coming at the end of our Australia trip, this decision was pretty easy for us.
The only criteria?
Must offer coastal or water views.
During our time in Sydney, both of us were working. As such, we only had time for the below hikes (we got unlucky with the weather a few days, and a pretty gnarly sinus infection one week).
We loved these trails so much though, we’d do them again if back in this sunny Australian city.
3 Can’t Miss Coastal Walks in Sydney
Bondi to Coogee
The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is one of the most iconic walks you can do in Sydney. Over the course of it, you’ll follow rough cliffs along the ocean with stunning views all around.
Most people, myself included started in Bondi.
When we did the walk, it took us about 3 hours to get from Bondi to Coogee, but we stopped often for photos, and to relax and take in the view.
Along the way, you’ll pass Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Beach and Gordons Bay.
The walk is easy, but not wheelchair accessible. Along the way, there are a few gentle inclines and sets of steps, but nothing too difficult.
To do the walk, I’d recommend taking a bus to Bondi Beach, and then taking a bus back to wherever you’re staying from Coogee. In our case, we caught transfer buses from/to the CBD.
Second to the CBD, Bondi is the most visited area in Sydney, thanks to its infamous beach.
The beach is like a destination all of its own with some of the most Aussie sights imaginable- buff gym junkies flexing, people tanning and chilling, and a world-class lifeguard crew (with their own reality show, of course).
And of course, there’s fantastic street art.
While you’re here, you can’t miss ogling Bondi Icebergs. This famous swimming pool offers great views of Bondi Beach, and watching the waves crash into the pool is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Bondi -> Tamarama
The starting place for your walk begins just past Bondi Icebergs, along Notts Avenue.
In the beginning of the walk, one of the first great views you’ll come across is MacKenzie’s Point, where you can see out to sea for miles.
Soon enough, you’ll reach Tamarama beach, popular with the surf crowd.
We took a seat on the rocks overlooking the beach for a while, to watch the swells and surfers.
Continuing onward, you’ll reach Bronte soon enough, a smaller, sister beach to Bondi.
Don’t miss seeing the Bronte Baths, there’s a beautiful staircase down to them.
Follow the pathway beside the pool, and climb up the rocks for a unique view over Bronte.
This would be a great part of Sydney to stay in- the beach is great, and there are plenty of local restaurants right in the town.
Next up, Clovelly Beach- a narrow, but long stretch of sand.
Here, in the trees, you’ll likely be able to hear rainbow lorikeets and cockatoos.
Clovelly Beach is narrow, but it attracts a good crowd in the summer. Sunbathers enjoy lying on its concrete platforms, and with a swim pool that’s much longer than others, it’s perfect for laps or training.
Leading up to Gordons Bay, you’ll encounter the steepest steps of the entire walk. But, as always, the view is worth it.
Once you reach the walkway that overlooks the bay, you’ll be stunned- electric blue water awaits.
The afternoon we visited, we were treated to a view of kayakers navigating the rocks, weaving in and out of the sparkling blue water.
There isn’t much of a beach here, but the overlook view more than makes up for a lack of sand.
Seen by locals as the hipster alternative to Bondi, Coogee Beach is a huge stretch of sand.
Surrounded by grassy, green hills, there’s no shortage of activities to do at Coogee- from sunbathing to swimming, or a pick-up came of volleyball.
If you fancy a refreshment post walk, head to Coogee Pavilion. It’s a beautifully decorated, nautical bar with great food and loads of local draft options.
Here, I tried a local cider and loved it so much, I ended up indulging a few pints in the sun, while watching the waves break.
Talk about the perfect end to a wonderful seaside walk.
Spit to Manly
When we visited Manly, we loved lounging on the beach lined with pine trees, and exploring the adjacent coastline so much, we decided not to walk to Spit.
However, I’ve heard Spit to Manly is one of the best bush walks in Sydney. It’s got a bit of everything- dramatic cliff views, harbour views and secluded beaches.
You can do the hike in either direction, but most people recommend doing it Spit to Manly so you can chill in Manly afterwards.
Although we may not have done the hike, we did ferry to Manly from the CBD and absolutely loved our day out there.
The vibe is totally different to Sydney. In some ways, it’s like being away for a weekend without actually leaving the city.
If you take a ferry, as we did, you’ll dock right in the centre of town.
From the ferry terminal, the beach is a short walk. Along the way, you’ll pass boutiques, bars, and restaurants with plenty of sidewalk seating.
The pine tree lined beaches of Manly reminded me of the Pacific Northwest, one of my favourite places in the world.
Don’t miss walking from the main beach to Shelly Beach– a sheltered inlet, with clear water perfect for snorkeling.
Along the way, you’ll pass saltwater pools, which quickly because a personal favourite of mine – even just for dipping my toes in water – while in NSW.
Wandering Manly, don’t miss strolling the Corso, where you’ll find buskers drawing crowds and plenty of dining options.
We enjoyed smoothie bowls at Bare Naked, lattes at Fika Swedish Kitchen, plus happy hours pints at Four Pines Brewing and wood fired pizza at Hugos.
If you’re taking a ferry back to the CBD, try to time it for sunset. We did, and were lucky to catch a truly spectacular show.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Hike
North of Sydney, we drove to Barrenjoey for this hike. However, I’ve heard you can also take a bus from the CBD.
If you drive, there’s a parking lot at the base of the hike- when we visited, there were other cars, but not so many we couldn’t find a spot.
The hike sits at the northernmost point of Sydney, on Barrenjoey Headland at Palm Beach.
In comparison to some of the other coastal walks, it’s much shorter.
Once you park, you’ll walk along the beach for a few minutes until you see a paved road.
At the road, you’ll have the option of continuing on the paved road to the top, or veering off to take steps that cut through the hinterland.
We decided to take the steps up- although steep, we heard it normally only takes 15-20 minutes to climb to the top.
On the way down, we walked the paved pathway, which took about 10-15 minutes, but also presented a fairly sharp incline. We didn’t mind walking down it, but it definitely wouldn’t necessarily be any easier climbing up vs. taking the steps.
Whichever way you decide to go, I’d recommend going one way up, and the other down for different views.
Once you’re at the top, take time to explore.
From one side, you’ll see signs for whale migration- if you’re lucky and there during the right time of the year, you may even see one.
You can walk around the lighthouse, and climb down some of the grassy hills and rocky surfaces at the top for different views.
And, if you’re driving and have the time, a few other spots that would be worth checking out while you’re north:
- Mona Vale Rocks
- Curl Curl beach (especially beautiful at sunrise)
- Diamond Bay Reserve: Beautiful old stairs and ruins built into the side of a massive cliff, by the ocean. Take the cliffside stairway down to the stone doorway
Rose Bay to Watson’s Head
We didn’t have time for this walk, but I’ve heard it’s the same level of natural beauty you’ll find up and down the New South Wales coast.
A friend whose done the walk recommends ferrying to Rose Bay, and then taking a bus back to the CBD from Watson’s Head.
Milsons Point to Blues Point and Balls Head Reserve
The walk from Milsons Point is great for anyone with limited time in Sydney, who wants to soak up the best views of the city’s major landmarks and harbour atmosphere.
I’ve heard this a great late afternoon hike, as sunset behind the bridge is gorgeous to watch.
Have you ever visited Sydney? What other coastal walks would you add to this list?