The Best Coastal Walks in Sydney

My favourite thing to do in Sydney is to go on coastal walks. These are the 5 best coastal walks Sydney has to offer.

Girl looking at a view of the skyline on one of the best coastal walks in Sydney

Sydney has a web of uninterrupted coastal walks, around the city and beyond. They’re plentiful, they’re well maintained, and they’re absolutely gorgeous.

The ultimate adventure is Sydney’s Great Coastal Walk, which is the interconnected trail of all of Sydney’s best coastal walks. This walk takes 8 days. It stretches from Barrenjoey Lighthouse in the north, all the way down to Royal National Park in the south. Of course, most people do the walk in sections instead of committing 8 days to the journey. But this shows just how well connected Sydney’s coastal walks are! 

I’ve highlighted these 5 best coastal walks in Sydney because of their proximity to the city. They are all within an hour transit from the CBD.

The perfect way to escape the city is to visit one of Sydney’s best coastal walks. These walks have some of the best viewpoints in Sydney.

1) South Head Heritage Trail

South Head Heritage Trail is my favourite coastal walk in Sydney. It’s short and easy, but with an incredible view payoff. The walk starts with a stunning vantage point of the harbour, passes the red and white Hornby lighthouse, and ends with cliffside views of the open ocean. 

Red and white Hornby Lighthouse on the best coastal walk in Sydney. Lighthouse is on top of a cliff, with waves crashing beneath.
Cute little red and white Hornby Lighthouse
Girl sits on the cliff at South Head Heritage Trail in Sydney, Australia.
Watching ferries go by on the tip of South Head

This is one of the best coastal walks in Sydney for any history buffs out there. You’ll see the historic lighthouse, an old lighthouse keepers cottage and well preserved gun emplacements. The fact that the walk is so short (~1 hour) means that you can squeeze it in at any time of the day. I would recommend finishing with a drink at the nearby Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel after your stroll.

Girl overlooking view of Sydney Harbour on the best coastal walk in Sydney.
Just the casual view of the Harbour at the start of the walk
  • Time: ~ 1 hour loop
  • Difficulty: Easy. Most sections consist of paved/boardwalk pathways, but there are sections with stairs and uneven cobblestones
  • Things to know: 
    • There are a couple of bathrooms at the start of the trail
    • There are few food options (fish and chips and cafes) before the start of the trail, but no convenience or grocery stores. Make sure to bring essentials like water, sunscreen, and snacks

2) Hermitage Foreshore Track

The Hermitage Foreshore Track is a bit of a hidden gem. It’s a popular spot for locals, but hasn’t ended up in too many tourist guidebooks (yet!). The views are not as dramatic as the other coastal walks in Sydney, but it has a consistent beautiful view of the Harbour.

View of Sydney city skyline and Sydney Harbour bridge with a number of sailboats in the foreground.
Rich neighbourhoods = cute boats. It’s that simple.

On this Sydney coastal walk, you’ll pass by people walking their dogs, boat parties off the shore, and teens jumping off the small cliffs. There are a number of quiet local beaches dotted along the trail. Parts of the walk are lined with waterfront mansions. It’s a glimpse into the glamorous life of Sydney’s waterfront lifestyle.  

Waterfront houses in Vaucluse area on the best coastal walk in Sydney.
Just some casual multi-million dollar waterfront mansions in Sydney
Shark Beach in Sydney, Australia. Swimmers dot the beach and a man is bringing a kayak into the water.
Most people start this walk at Shark Beach, which is the perfect place to go for a swim (despite the name)

This walk is made for a leisurely stroll and a swim; pack a picnic, stop for pictures, take a dip at a quiet beach, and admire the mansions. 

  • Time: ~ 1 hour, one way 
  • Difficulty: Easy. Mostly boardwalk with a few stairs and bush paths.
  • Things to know:
    • There is a concession stand at Nielsen Park (Shark Beach) for snacks, but not much else along the rest of the walk
    • Bring water, sunscreen, and a towel – it is extremely tempting to take a dip along this walk! 

3) North Head Sanctuary Loop

North Head Sanctuary is a little bit off of the typical tourist track. It’s another Sydney coastal walk that has some history to it. It passes military fortifications and the historic site of an old quarantine station. There are tours to visit the WWII tunnels and gun emplacements, and even a ghost tour for the quarantine station. There are also information boards along the way, so you can do a self-guided tour. Just make sure to include some time to admire the view!

View of Sydney Harbour from North Head coastal walk. Green flora lines the blue waters.
Look at that lush harbour view!

North Head is an ecologically protected zone, and is home to a number of endangered species. It’s one of the best coastal walks in Sydney for whale watchers. Of course, it also has a gorgeous view of the harbour. 

Smiling girl at North Head Sanctuary lookout point, one of Sydney's best walks.
One of Sydney’s top whale watching spots
  • Time: ~2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy, mostly consists of flat boardwalk
  • Things to know: 
    • Bring binoculars if you are visiting during whale watching season – you might spot some whales off the shore! 
    • There are very limited food options, so bring your own snacks and water 
    • You can continue the walk to Manly Lagoon and Manly beach to get a full day experience in North Head

4) Bondi to Coogee

The list wouldn’t be complete without Sydney’s most famous coastal walk. And it’s famous for a good reason! The beach views are dramatic, and the walk just feels so quintessentially “Sydney”. My favourite time to do this Sydney coastal walk is when the sun is setting. The beaches and cliffs bask in the most perfect golden hour lighting. 

Sunset over Tamarama beach with surfers dotting the waves. Taken on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.
Unreal sunset at Tamarama beach, one of the stops on the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
Girl smiles on cliffs at Tamarama beach, overlooking surfers and an orange sunset.
All smiles watching the surfers at sunset

I recommend starting from Coogee beach and ending in Bondi. I like ending the walk in Bondi because there are so many options for food and shopping. And the view of Bondi coming from the south is also absolutely gorgeous.

Overlooking the ocean on the Bondi to Coogee walk, one of Sydney's best coastal walks.
  • Time: ~ 2 hours, one way
  • Difficulty: Relatively easy, with a few staircases here and there
  • Things to know: 
    • The Bondi to Coogee walk has the most amenities out of the walking tracks on this list. There are lifeguards at some beaches, water fountains, and cafes along the walk 
    • This walk can get very busy, especially on holidays
    • There is an annual art installation show along the coast called Sculpture by the Sea. The installations are stunning, but it also gets extra busy during this time of the year.

5) Spit to Manly

This is another one of Sydney’s famous coastal walks. It is also the longest on this list (~ 4 hours, one way). Most people walk from Spit Bridge to Manly Beach. I actually recommend skipping the first section (Spit Bridge), and starting at Castle Rock Beach. The section in between Spit Bridge and Castle Rock Beach is a little underwhelming, so I’d cut it out if you’re short on time. 

This is one of the best coastal walks in Sydney to see wildlife. This walk includes more bushwalking, as opposed to beach views like the other Sydney coastal walks on this list. I found this walk very quiet, and at some points, I felt like I was all alone in the bush. Whenever this happened I saw birds, small mammals, and so many lizards. Every 30 minutes, a lizard would come running out of the bush and scare the crap out of me. But that was a unique experience that I haven’t had on any of these other coastal walks in Sydney!

View of big cliffs and blue water at Dobroyd Head, along one of the best coastal walks in Sydney
Scenic view of the bush in Dobroyd Head.

This walk also has some awesome sites of Aboriginal stone carvings, ridiculously scenic lookout spots, and unique flora in the Dobroyd’s Head area. 

  • Time: 3 – 4 hours, one way
  • Difficulty: Moderate, with some steep sections of stairs and uneven steps
  • Things to know:
    • Make sure to bring water and snacks, there are very few shops along this long walk. Most of this walk runs along residential areas 
    • This is a long walk with very little shade, so good sun protection is crucial

These 5 best coastal walks in Sydney show the best of what the city has to offer ⛵

The coast around Sydney is so beautiful. It’s the reason behind why Sydney is my favourite city. These 5 best coastal walks in Sydney will bring you along dramatic cliffs, sandy inlets, and quiet beaches, and spoil you with a next-level view. 

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