1. The Classic Sydney Walk: Bondi to Coogee
The clifftop Bondi to Coogee walk is a quintessential Sydney experience. Starting at the white-sand dusted Bondi Beach, the trail traces the Sydney Harbour coastline for six kilometres, delivering stunning oceanfront scenes, ancient aboriginal rock carvings and plenty of pit stops along the way.
You can walk it in a couple of hours – but why not make a day of it: bathe in the Bondi Icebergs Club sea pools and test your aim at the Clovelly Bowling Club. Beach-hop around Sydney’s numerous sandy coves to top up your tan, catch some breaks on a surfboard or snorkel along underwater nature trails. Cafes along the way offer classic Aussie brunch feeds and flat whites to rest and refuel.
If you’ve got some energy left in the tank, why not tack on an extra three kilometres to the beachside suburb of Maroubra for more golden sands, pounding waves and seaside restaurants.
Top tip: The annual Sculpture by the Sea jazzes up the coastal route from Bondi to Tamarama with more than 100 outdoor art sculptures every spring (October-November). In winter (June-July), keep an eye out for migrating humpback whales
Distance/Time: 6 kilometres (2.5 hours)
Difficulty: 2/5 (mainly gentle paths, with some steep sections and stairs)
Getting there: Buses from central Sydney to Bondi Beach take around 30 minutes, or catch a train to Bondi Junction then grab a cab for the final 10 minute drive
2. The Gentle Sydney Walk: Glebe Foreshore Walk
This gentle stroll through a series of parks overlooking Rozelle Bay and Blackwattle Bay is a lovely way to pass an afternoon. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the manicured lawns in Bicentennial Park while drinking in skyline views and landmarks like the Anzac Bridge. Watch skateboarders and hockey games at Federal Park, or find AFL and cricket matches in full swing over in Jubilee Park – kids will also enjoy exploring three large play areas dotted throughout. End your classic Sydney walk at the Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont and treat yourself to a classic Sydney feed of fish and chips.
Top tip: A detour into Glebe itself rewards adventurers with Victorian-era architecture, buzzy cafes and quirky, fun boutiques
Distance/Time: 2 kilometres (30 minutes)
Difficulty: 1/5 (a short walk with flat, gentle paths)
Getting there: You can get to Bicentennial Park via train, bus, metro or light rail
3. The Challenging Sydney Walk: Manly to Spit Bridge
Don’t fancy the 80-kilometre Manly to Bondi Beach walk? Don’t blame you. But definitely consider the first 10-kilometere section from Manly to Spit Bridge. Pack plenty of suncream and water for the hike, which starts in the beachside suburb of Manly. The scenic route weaves its way up and down rough sandstone staircases, giving access to remote beaches and vantage points over Sydney Harbour. Admire ancient aboriginal rock engravings at Grotto Point as well as the historic lighthouse, swim in the crystal-clear waters around Castle Rock and hunt for shellfish in the tidal pools at Fairlight. End up by the historic Spit Bridge, rebuilt in the 1950s, that raises and lowers to let ships pass.
Top tip: Do the hike in reverse if you’d prefer to finish by exploring Manly’s popular surf beach and lively promenade with restaurants, cafes and bars
Distance/Time: 10 kilometres (4 hours)
Difficulty: 3.5/5 (rocky paths, a steep ascent and fairly length trail make this hike more of a challenge. Not ideal for small children)
Getting there: Hop on the Manly Ferry for a 30-minute sail from Circular Quay
4. The Lakeside Sydney Walk: Lake Parramatta
The three walking trails weave around the reservoir and lake in west Sydney offer an escape from the city. The full Lake Circuit is just over four kilometres of shaded paths through a glorious bushland of red gum trees, banksias and wildflowers. It may be peaceful, but don’t expect quiet: resident rosellas, cockatoos and kookaburras are as noisy as they are photogenic. Keep an eye out for quieter natives like frogs and rather large lizards, too, as well as the 19th-century Parramatta Dam. You can also rent a pedal boat or kayak or enjoy a dip in the designated swimming area. Bring some burgers to chuck on the on-site barbecue pits to refuel – or just head to the lakeside cafe.
Top tip: Lifeguards are on duty from late October to early April, but water shoes are recommended for swimming in the lake
Distance/Time: 4.2 kilometres (1.5-2 hours)
Difficulty: 2/5 (fine for all levels of fitness, with a few mild inclines and uneven surfaces)
Get there: Take Hillsbus Route #609 (nearest stop on Bourke Street); or hop in a taxi
5. The Historic Sydney Walk: South Head Heritage Trail
Combine harbour views with a dive into Australia’s military history on this walk in the Sydney Harbour National Park. The leafy trail starts at Watsons Bay ferry terminal, where you can enjoy a pre-drink at the hotel bar or upmarket cafe, and ends at the historic candy-striped Hornby Lighthouse. On the way you’ll pass old military cannons, gun emplacements and lightkeeper cottages. You’ll also be treated to stellar views of Sydney Harbour and various outcrops like Middle Head, plus a good chance of whale spotting during the winter months. Do bring your swimmers: Camp Cove Beach is perfect for a dip. But no worries if you forget – you can always join other clothes-free sunbathers at the popular nudist Lady Bay Beach.
Top tip: For a deeper dive into Sydney’s military past, join a guided tour of underground tunnels carved out of sandstone beneath South Head (AU$25/HK$150 per person)
Distance/Time: 4.5 kilometres (2 hours)
Difficulty: 1/5 (a few steps to navigate, otherwise very accessible)
Get there: Ferries from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay take around 20 minutes
6. The Bougie Sydney Walk: Hermitage Foreshore Walk
This gentle Sydney walk, also part of the Sydney Harbour National Park, comes with dazzling views of Shark Island and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You’ll also enjoy seeing how the other half live: this coastal trail skirts around Vaucluse, one of the city’s most affluent residential areas. Sites to check out include the original Vaucluse House, a colonial farm and residence built in the early 19th century, and heritage-listed Strickland House. You’ll also have a choice of golden shores to take a break, and you’ll end up at Nielsen Park and Shark Beach, a favourite weekend hangout for Sydneysiders.
Top tip: Try smaller Queens Beach and Hermit Bay Beach if you’re looking to avoid the crowds
Distance/Time: 2 kilometres (1 hour)
Difficulty: 1/5 (fairly flat and easy coastal path)
Get there: The start of the track is accessible from several bus routes from the city or Bondi Junction