From the beaches to the bush, the city and its surrounds are just waiting to be explored – and the best way to do that is by foot. Today, we’re focusing on day hikes, the trails that’ll blow you away with their beauty and have you back home in a few hours. So, pack some snacks and water, and decide whether you want to hug the coast or head inland. These are the best day hikes in and around Sydney.
Working your way through Sydney’s most iconic sights. This walk shows off the city, and is a solid workout. It starts at the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf, which has views stretching across the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and winds its way through Chowder Bay, Georges Heights Lookout, and Middle Head. It’s quite steep in some parts, so take your time. Wanting to soak up more of this beautiful part of Sydney? Keep going to Spit Bridge for the most scenic walk to Manly.
Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
In the Blue Mountains National Park, this trail is challenging and spectacularly beautiful. Starting from Evans Lookout (near Blackheath), the track is lined with lush greenery, flowing waterfalls, creeks and sandstone cliffs. As you descend down to the canyon floor, you’ll see native ferns, wattle, and even a sandy beach. The trail is pretty wet, so you’ll want to wear proper hiking boots!
Time: 3-4 hours
To soak up the scenery north side of the Bridge, set off on this 10km walk. It follows the coastline of Middle Harbour and North Harbour, and takes in the tranquil waters of Clontarf Reserve and Reef Bay before cutting into the rugged bushland of Sydney National Park. When you reach Spit Bridge, hop on the ferry back to Manly. Extend the walk by continuing towards Balmoral or Taronga Zoo via Chinamans Beach.
Time: 3-4 hours
Bushwalkers, you’ll love this five-hour trek in Katoomba. It begins at the Golden Stairway, and goes deep down into the Jamison Valley until it reaches the rainforest. There, you’ll spot wildlife and old miners cottages. Then, you can climb the Ruined Castle – a rock formation – and be treated to stunning views stretching as far as Wentworth Falls.
Time: 4-5 hours
Another part of the Great North Walk, this trail explores the ridges and valleys around Berowra Waters. There are a few steep climbs along the way, but the views are stunning – be sure to stop at the Naa Badu Lookout. When you reach the halfway point (Berowra Waters), you can keep going or detour by taking a ferry across the river for lunch or ice-cream.
Time: 6 hours
This picturesque track begins at the Rose Bay Ferry Wharf, and follows the foreshore, taking in Sydney sights such as Strickland House, Nielsen Park, and Hornby Lighthouse. As you approach Watsons Bay, you can divert to the bush (you’ll be rewarded with a waterfall), or continue walking to Gap Park. Feeling energetic? Keep going til Camp Cove, where Governor Phillip first landed in 1788.
Time: 4 hours
Road trip! Hop in the car and drive to Bouddi National Park in the Central Coast. Running from Putty Beach to Macmasters Beach, this rugged, eight-kilometre trail is known for its beaches, boardwalks and birdlife. Pack a picnic lunch, and enjoy it at Maitland Bay or Gerrin Point Lookout, where you might be joined by migrating whales.
Time: 3.5-4.5 hours
Ideal for all fitness levels, this loop is as scenic as it gets, passing wildlife, cascading waterfalls, and bushland. There are a few starting points to choose from, but we like Jamieson Park and Berry Reserve for one reason: the ample parking! If you’re not planning to power walk, grab a coffee at one of the three cafes dotted around the lake, and sip as you stroll.
Time: 2-3 hours
Top tip: Keen for a lengthier hike in the Northern Beaches? Tackle part of the epic, 25-km Bicentennial Coastal Walk. The Narrabeen Lakes to Manly Lagoon portion is our pick. The 10km trail works its way through Collaroy, Long Reef, Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff and Manly.
This loop hints at Aboriginal and Australian history, and is beautiful to boot. Starting at North Head Sanctuary, it passes the former North Head Army Barracks and makes its way into bushland, where you’ll spot native plants aplenty, as well as birds and echidnas. For the best photo opp, stop when you get to Fairfax Walk, and then finish with a dip at Manly Beach. Want to really make a day of it, combine the Manly to Spit Bridge walk with this loop.
Time: 2-3 hours