New to Sydney? New to bushwalking? Don’t worry — Honi has you covered. This is your basic guide to the region’s bushwalks, keeping it fairly beginner-friendly and relatively accessible by public transport.
If you’re really new to bushwalking, it’s worth going through some safety advice and basic resources:
- If your walk is in a National Park, search it up on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website. You can find information on how long it is, the difficulty of the walk, any warnings, and sights to look out for.
- What to bring: carry a backpack (I promise a tote bag will not be comfortable after an hour or so!); sunscreen; plenty of water; sufficient food (brings snacks like nuts or chocolate); and a first aid kit with a snake bite bandage. Fully charge your phone and save a map of the area in case you lose reception. Wear proper walking shoes, a hat and a collared shirt – you do not want a sunburnt neck.
- Safety first: give yourself plenty of daylight hours to complete your walk and never go walking without letting someone know where you’re going. Bring a friend or two for company, and keep your eyes out for snakes if it’s a warm day. Don’t stray off the track, and it should go without saying to be careful around cliff edges and high tides!
- Etiquette is important! Obviously, don’t litter, feed wild animals, and never remove plants or shells from National Parks. Remember that you’re bushwalking on unceded First Nations land and be proactive about finding out about the Indigenous history of the area that you’re walking in.
Walks to explore
Head south for:
Karloo Pools: catch the train to Heathcote for this popular walking track. You’ll find the beginning of the track near the Heathcote Fire Station, and will head through heath and rainforest before reaching the pools. They’re very pleasant to swim in, making this a fun summer walk, and a great picnic spot. It should take around 50 minutes to get to the pools.
Otford to Burning Palms: for a longer day trip, catch the South Coast train to Otford and walk up to Lady Wakehurst Drive, from which you can walk along the coast towards Burning Palms beach. As much of the walk is clifftop, you can see spectacular ocean views — particularly great during whale migration months. Keep an eye out for delicious (in my opinion) leptomeria acida (Acid Drops) — tiny sour berries you can eat.
Wodi Wodi Walking Track: if you’re a little more experienced, catch the train to Austinmer and climb the popular Sublime Point track, which gives you panoramic views of the Illawarra coastline. From there you can walk along the Illawarra escarpment, which, naturally, provides excellent views. A strength of this walk is the flora — watch for tiny, intricate orchids along the track. You’ll be able to look over the disused Coalcliff Colliery and walk down a precipitous bullock track. You can finish by walking to Coalcliff Station, or if you want a navigational challenge, continue on to Stanwell Park.
Head north for:
The Basin Track: Drive to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney’s north for this scenic track, featuring swimming spots and important Aboriginal art, which details scientifically-significant observations about pre-colonisation astronomy.
Fairfax Walk, North Head: Head to Manly for a beginner-friendly walk which offers spectacular views of Sydney Harbour. June-July and August-October are great times to visit, as you’ll have a solid chance of spotting whales as they migrate up and down the East Coast.
Head inland for:
The Wolgan Valley Circuit: while the Blue Mountains is host to many, many great bushwalks, this one is my personal favourite. The walk includes the fascinating pagoda rock formations of the Newnes Plateau: distinctive conical rock formations created by weathering of the local sandstone. You can also pass through the Glow Worm Tunnel near Lithgow, a former railway tunnel which now is replete with glow worms.
Carrington Falls: in the Southern Highlands, these impressive falls offer great opportunities for swimming. You can walk down into the rainforest gully below the waterfall for a different point of view, and keep a look out for lyrebirds or swamp wallabies scratching in the undergrowth.