A rugged coastline, picturesque waterfalls, lush rainforests and jaw-dropping views at every turn, it’s easy to see why Sydney’s Northern Beaches is a favourite hiking destination for Sydneysiders. Whether you’re a hiking fanatic, nature novice or weekend wanderer, there’s a suitable walking trail just waiting to be explored.
Beach views and plenty of people watching, the Queenscliff to Shelly Beach walk maybe a short relaxing stroll, but the views are spectacular and the Eco-Sculpture Walk is a nod to the Cabbage Tree Bay’s unique marine life. Starting at Queenscliff Beach, make your way along the beachside promenade past Manly Beach and Manly Surf Club and onto Shelly Beach at Cabbage Tree Bay. There are plenty of places to take a dip along the way, but we strongly recommend lingering for a while at the Boathouse Shelly Beach.
Where: Queenscliff to Shelly Beach
Time: 30 minutes
A scenic 8.6-kilometre looped track, the Narrabeen Lagoon Trail winds around stunning Narrabeen Lagoon and is the perfect outdoor jaunt for all fitness levels. Elevated walkways take you past wildlife, running waterfalls and under bushland canopies, allowing you to soak up the magnificence of one of Pittwater’s most striking ecosystems. Jamieson Park and Berry Reserve are the preferred starting points with ample parking available. In need of refreshments? Stop off for a coffee at one of three cafes dotted along the eastern side of the lake.
Where: Narrabeen Lagoon
Time: 2 to 3 hours
The highest point on Sydney’s northern coastline, Bangalley Headland is the gathering spot for native bird and plant life. Nestled between Avalon Beach and Whale Beach, the Bangalley Head lookout is the eventual destination of the rugged climb, which takes around 1.5 hours and is a three-kilometre loop. Your ascent starts on Marine Parade in Avalon, you’ll come across a profusion of birds and sweet florals as you make your way up the trail. Spectacular views north to Broken Bay and the Central Coast await you at the top of the track.
Where: Avalon and Whale Beach
Time: 1.5 hour loop
This is one of the most popular walking trails on the Northern Beaches and for a good reason. The iconic lighthouse track is located in Palm Beach and rewards walkers with some of the most spectacular views the coastline has to offer. Starting at the Boathouse Palm Beach, don your most comfortable walking shoes and get ready to climb 1.5 kilometres up to the historic lighthouse on either the Smugglers Track or Access Path. Both trails lead to sweeping views across Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Broken Bay, the Hawkesbury River, and Pittwater.
Where: Palm Beach
Time: 1 hour loop
Combining all of the best walking tracks along the Northern Beaches, the 25-kilometre Bicentennial Coastal Walk is more than just a mid-morning stroll. The Narrabeen Lakes to Manly Lagoon 10-kilometre walk is one section of the three-day trail and is a visual feast for the eyes and a workout for the legs. Starting at Narrabeen Lakes, the scenic trail takes you across beaches, headlands, lookouts, lagoons, rock pools and boardwalks as you make your way through Collaroy, Long Reef, Dee Why, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff and Manly.
Where: Narrabeen to Manly
Time: 8 hour loop
Take in a bit of Sydney Harbour and Northern Beaches in one hit, the Manly to Spit Bridge track can be walked either way, beginning with a ferry ride to Manly or bus to the Spit Bridge. This 10km track will take you through beautiful Sydney Harbour National Park with breathtaking views of Manly, Watson’s Bay and the heads. Whether you end up at Manly or the Spit Bridge you will easily find a cold drink and a warm patch of sand to stretch out on while you enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Where: Seaforth to Manly (via Balgowlah)
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Curl Curl to Freshwater
This two-kilometre track hugs the beach and rugged coastline between North Curl Curl Beach and Freshwater Beach, traversing nature reserves, beach boardwalks and rock pools. Starting at North Curl Curl Beach, make your way through the dog-friendly nature reserve adjacent to Carrington Street and past the South Curl Curl Lifesaving Club. From here, you can enjoy the best views out to sea as you make your way across the elevated boardwalk and onto breathtaking McKillop Park lookout. Gusto on the Beach at South Curl Curl is the perfect rest stop.
Where: North Curl Curl Beach to Freshwater Beach
Time: 1 hour loop