Hike Taronga to Balmoral

Sydney is known for its spectacular coastal walks but this is one of the best. All the icons are there (bridge, harbour, Opera House), as well as heritage buildings and lovely coastal forest with wildflowers in season and the odd bit of wildlife.

This one is my personal fave – for me it is the perfect combo of views, easy access and, the clincher – mid walk coffee that do it for me. I also like that, depending on time and fitness levels, you can keep it short (6km) or have a longer walk by adding the Middle Head extension (approx 1km). Even if you do the shorter version, it is hands-down so scenic that between stopping for photos, coffee and perhaps even a dip, it can easily take all day.

The scene for the walk is set early with the scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo. From there the path skirts the harbour on a well-worn track with a delightful short detour to Athol Hall, with sensational gardens and a beautiful heritage function centre, which opens for coffee during the day. The path meanders gently through the bush (depending on the time of year there may be a few rather stunned water dragons on the track) and undulates downhill to Chowder Bay. This means coffee, hooray! There are several very cute eateries here, ranging from slot-in-the wall sandstone numbers to top-notch restaurants. Or, in the spirit of a bushwalk, if you have bought your own lunch, you can enjoy it in the ample picnic grounds by the beach, and if the weather’s hot, you can have a dip.

Rest for a while at Chowder Bay because after that comes the set piece big hill. It is a giant slog to the top but it’s worth it for the views of Sydney Harbour. You can get an eagle-eyed’s view of Manly, North Head, South Head and the glittering harbour in between. Ah….the serenity – it’s hard to believe you are in the middle of a metropolis. Then it’s a skirt downhill on a wide staircase, surrounded by ferns, to Balmoral Beach. Here after a meander on the foreshore and a coffee it’s time to catch the bus back to the ferry or train station.

It’s an excellent walk for most fitness levels and a good one to do on a hot day because you catch the sea breezes and can have a dip at the end.

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