From mountains to waterfalls, see the best of Sydney's natural beauty.

10 best bushwalks in Sydney

Thomas Woodgate, CNNPublished 12th July 2017
(CNN) — One of Sydney's best aspects is the amount of parklands and bush around the harbor. On the city's perimeter to the north, south and west there are also ranges of national parks you can reach in less than an hour.
Trails and sign posts mean you don't need a guide or a compass to walk to the waterfalls, gum forests and limestone formations that make up the scenery.
Walks range from one-hour strolls to ultrachallenging three-day missions. The following 10 bushwalks are for varying capabilities and fitness levels.

1. Spit Bridge to Manly

Harbor views between the Spit Bridge and Manly peninsula.
Courtesy Graeme Churchard/Creative Commons/Flickr
Length and time: 9.1 kilometers -- 3.5-4 hours
Difficulty rating: Medium
Transport: Public transport at each end
The Spit to Manly walk is a classic bushwalk on Sydney's northern beaches. It's in every guide and on most to-do lists.
It's a trail that's well maintained and includes some of the best views over Middle Harbour. If time allows, the side trips down to Grotto Point and up to Arabanoo Lookout are definitely worth the effort.
There are also a few places along the way to get a coffee, have a bite to eat and a swim. It ends in cosmopolitan Manly, which also begs a ferry trip to the city to top the trip off.

2. Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach

Views from Chowder Bay are stunning.
Courtesy Herry Lawford/Creative Commons/Flickr
Length and time: 6.8 kilometers -- 2.5-3.5 hours.
Difficulty rating: Medium
Transport: Public transport at each end
Starting off with views of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge, this historic walk takes you along beautiful bays to take in the fortifications at Bradley's Head and Chowder Bay, where the great views continue.
There are a few places to get food along the way, and many great places to eat your own packed lunch.
Word to the wise: some sections of this walk are closed at night.

3. Hermitage Foreshore Track

Enjoy the panoramic views on Nielsen Bay.
Courtesy James Dennes/Creative Commons/Flickr
Length and time: 2.2 kilometers -- 45 minutes to one hour.
Difficulty rating: Easy
Transport: Buses near start and end of the walk
Starting from the egalitarian Nielsen Park in Vaucluse, this walk enables you to admire Sydney Harbour from the south shore.
You follow a narrow strip of bush that hugs the shoreline to visit many secluded harbor beaches -- you might find a favorite stretch of sand to avoid the overcrowded ones this summer. It also visits the historic Strickland House, which is now often used as a film set.
A great walk for exploring the history and natural beauty, while enjoying a new perspective of the city.

4. Berowra to Cowan via Berowra Waters

Check out the sights from the Naa Badu Lookout, part of the Great North Walk between Sydney and Newcastle.
Courtesy Andrew Harvey/Creative Commons/Flickr
Length and time: 12.9 kilometers -- 6 hours
Difficulty rating: Hard (there are some long, steep hills)
Transport: Train station at each end of the walk
Made up of many individual walks, the 260-kilometer Great North Walk from Sydney to Newcastle is a mammoth, 15-day trek for the determined.
Perhaps that's a bit of a stretch, but the 12.9-kilometer section from Berowra to Cowan explores the remote section of the Great North Walk. It follows the ridges and valleys around Berowra Waters and there are views aplenty along the way -- particularly from the Naa Badu Lookout (pictured here) -- and many creek vantage points.
Solid climbs are also dotted along the track, so allow enough time. At around the halfway point, at Berowra Waters, you can take a short and pleasant (and free) car-ferry ride across the river to a beautiful spot for lunch and an ice cream before returning on the ferry and continuing the walk.

5. Blue Gum Walk (Joe's Mountain Circuit), Hornsby

Joe's Mountain Circuit weaves through the Blue Mountains National Park.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Length and time: 4.2 kilometers -- 1.5-2 hours
Difficulty rating: Medium (mostly flat, but a few steep hills and a creek crossing)
Transport: You can drive there, or it's a one-kilometer walk along the Great North Walk from Hornsby train station.
One of the prettiest -- and surprisingly wild -- walks, this circuit goes down as one of Sydney's best-kept bush walk secrets.
Although you start in suburbia, you quickly feel a million miles away as you tackle the Blue Gum Forest. The walk leads through a variety of forest types and past some huge Angophora trees and large water holes. Along the way, you walk upstream past a series of small cascades to cross Waitara Creek.
Suburbia seems so far away after just a few kilometers.

6. Gibberagong Track, Wahroonga

Visitors to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park can look out across Pittwater to the Barrenjoey lighthouse.
Length and time: 6.5 kilometers --- 2-3 hours
Difficulty rating: Medium (a few steep climbs up and down, as well as a narrow track and creek crossings)
Transport: A bus will get you near the start of the walk, but you'll need to either organize a lift from Boobin Head, or keep walking along another great bush walk to Mount Ku-ring-gai train station.
Sydney's blessed with many national parks and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is another standout. This beautiful track starts in Wahroonga follows Cockle Creek down to Bobbin Head, passing beautiful waterfalls that add a wonderful element to the adventure.
There are sections that follow a canyon-like environment with steep cliffs and overhanging caves, while others take in mangroves packed with local wildlife.
This diverse walk ends at the popular Bobbin Head picnic area and kiosk -- a great place to relax at journey's end.

7. Royal National Park Coast Track

The raw coastline to Sydney's south.
Courtesy Brian Glesen/Creative commons/Flickr
Length and time: 27.4 kilometers -- either one full day or two days with overnight camping.
Difficulty rating: Hard
Transport: Public transport at each end
Exploring the coastline of the Royal National Park on Sydney's southern perimeter, this challenging walk takes in breathtaking views out to sea from along the cliffs.
Rolling along 27.4 kilometers from Bundeena to Otford, this trail is well managed, as there are plenty of signposts to make sure you don't end up involuntarily camping in the middle of the bush.
If you decide to take the two-day option, allow plenty of time for day two, as steep climbs make it longer than it appears. Fit and experienced walkers will probably knock this over in a day -- as long as they start early.
But whichever way you do it, the views are stunning and there's ample opportunity to stop for a dip along the way.

8. Lady Carrington Drive

Check out the depths of Palona Cave.
Courtesy aidan casey/creative commons/flickr
Length and time: 9.7 kilometers -- 3.5-4 hours
Difficulty rating: Easy/Medium (some of the lengthiest flat bush walks)
Transport: No public transport, so you'll need to organize a lift or allow enough time to walk back.
The former road has now been closed, so it provides the perfect guide for bush walkers and mountain bikers to explore The Drive, which runs alongside the Hacking River.
Taking in the sights of the Royal National Park, you'll encounter natural sandstone formations and many historic features. Check out Palona Cave (a large limestone overhang) near Palona Brook along the way.

9. Henry Head Circuit

Admire the native Banksia on the Henry Head Circuit.
Courtesy Dushan Hanuska/Creative Commons/Flickr
Length and time: 7.4 kilometers -- 3 hours
Difficulty rating: Medium
Transport: Bus near the start of the walk
The interesting thing about this walk is it's one where you get to explore the natural history of Sydney, as well as its botanical beauty.
As you meander through Botany Bay National Park, you pass the gun emplacements and lookout stations that were manned during both world wars.
There's also a section that contains the endangered, native Banksia -- named after Captain Cook's botanist Joseph Banks -- that used to be a much more prominent feature of the Sydney region.

10. National Pass: Overcliff and Den Fenella Circuit

Don't miss the beauty of Wentworth Falls.
Courtesy Pavel/Creative Commons/Flickr
Length and time: 5 kilometers --- 3-4 hours.
Difficulty rating: Hard
Transport: Bus or walk from Wentworth Falls station
Wentworth Falls is a stunning area to go for a trek and you'll find that out for yourself on this circuit that explores waterfalls, cliff edges and stunning lookouts.
It also includes many steps, so you'll need to be fit and comfortable with heights.
The historic National Pass has recently been renovated to enable hikers to explore The Falls, as well as other nearby water highlights.
There's an optional side trip to the Conservation Hut for lunch, before returning to the start via the Overcliff and Den Fenella walking tracks. A great way to explore the majestic views of the Blue Mountains.
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2011. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.
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