SYD­NEY'S TEN BEST BUSH­WALKS

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - MATT McCLEL­LAND

Lo­cal walk­ing ex­pert Matt re­veals his ten favourite walks around our bush-fringed city - and why they’re on his list of top ten

Syd­ney is in­cred­i­bly blessed with the most stun­ning back­yard - if you draw a cir­cle around our city, half of ev­ery­thing in­side is bush­land. The flip side to this is that it cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties for unique walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ences el­e­vat­ing your av­er­age walk to some­thing en­tirely mem­o­rable. That means bush­walks with cafes, pub­lic trans­port, play­grounds, wa­ter views, city views, beaches, caves, re­mote ar­eas, in­dige­nous art­works - and even overnight walks stay­ing in a lodge.

Septem­ber is a great time of year be­fore it gets too hot to start that bush­walk­ing habit - so let's get out there and ex­plore the truly wild side of Syd­ney and its sur­rounds.

Na­tional Pass, Over­cliff and Den Fenella Cir­cuit - the Blue Moun­tains’ most spec­tac­u­lar walk http://wild.tl/npoadfc 4 hrs, 5 km cir­cuit

Walk­ing level: Hard and very hilly track Fea­tures: Bus, cafe, wa­ter­falls, cliffs, hills This grand tour of the Went­worth Falls area ex­plores many wa­ter­falls, look­outs and cliff edges. The walk has a lot of steps and runs be­side fenced cliff edges, so you will need to be fit and com­fort­able with heights. You will ex­plore the his­toric 100 year-old Na­tional Pass, Went­worth Falls, the Val­ley of the Wa­ters and many other high­lights. There’s an op­tional side trip to the Con­ser­va­tion Hut for lunch - re­ally a must-do in my view, be­fore re­turn­ing to the start via the Over­cliff Walk and Den Fenella tracks. Start from the Went­worth Falls Pic­nic Area on Sir H Bur­rell Drive, Went­worth Falls. Plenty of car park­ing. The 685 bus from Leura Sta­tion gets within 500m walk of the start. Al­ter­na­tively check out nearby walks on www.wild­walks.com for ver­sions that start at Went­worth Falls sta­tion.

Berowra to Cowan via Berowra Wa­ters - feels like you’re in the mid­dle of nowhere http://wild.tl/bbwc 6 hrs, 13 km one way walk.

Walk­ing level: Hard and hilly track Fea­tures: Train, cafe, wa­ter views, hills With a train sta­tion at each end, this walk ex­plores the ridges and val­leys around Berowra Wa­ters. There are plenty of ex­cel­lent views, es­pe­cially at Naa Badu Look­out and the many creek and wa­ter views along the way. There are some solid climbs on this walk so be sure to al­low enough time. Berowra Wa­ters, in the mid­dle of the walk, is a great place for lunch or an ice cream, by tak­ing the op­tional side trip across the river on the free car-ferry, a pleas­ant ride in it­self. This walk is sur­pris­ingly re­mote - soon af­ter leav­ing the Berowra you feel in the mid­dle of nowhere. You’re then greeted with crea­ture com­forts in the mid­dle, then back into a an even more wild and re­mote land­scape as you walk up to Cowan. An amaz­ing day out for peo­ple who are used to longer day walks. There are also cafes at Berowra and a cor­ner store at Cowan for munchies on the re­turn trip. If you want even more, check out the walk Mt Kur­ing-gai to Cowan ver­sion on wild­walks.com to add in the lovely Calna Creek to the day.

This walks starts from Berowra Sta­tion and ends at Cowan Sta­tion, so the train is a great way to go. There is also plenty of on-street park­ing at each end.

Grand Canyon, Blue Moun­tains - an an­cient land­scape re­vealed http://wild.tl/gcw 3 hrs 30 mins. 5.4 km cir­cuit walk

Walk­ing level: Hard track but suit­able for most fit peo­ple Fea­tures: Wa­ter­falls, views This clas­sic walk first es­tab­lished in 1907, takes you along a clear path through the deep and nar­row canyon. In places, the track fol­lows a path cut half­way up the cliff, giv­ing you a unique per­spec­tive of the walls canyon. You get to walk through a small cave, be­hind a water­fall and see some stun­ning views of the Grose Val­ley. The creek does flood af­ter heavy rain, so check weather fore­casts be­fore head­ing off. The cool tem­per­a­tures in the canyon make this walk par­tic­u­larly spe­cial on warmer days. Bring a packed lunch and take your time ex­plor­ing this most an­cient land­scape and spe­cial place the the Blue Moun­tains. The walks starts from the Neates Glen car park 2.9km along Evans Look­out Rd, Black­heath. There is a 698 Bus from Ka­toomba that gets you within 1.3km of the walk, other­wise a 4km walk from Black­heath Sta­tion.

Jerusalem Bay Track (Cowan to Brook­lyn) - with swims and great flo­ral diver­sity http://wild.tl/ctbs 5 hrs 30 mins. 13.4 km one way

Walk­ing level: Hard and hilly track Fea­tures: Fore­shores, look­outs, ridges This Cowan to Brook­lyn Sta­tion walk is a pop­u­lar sec­tion of the Great North Walk, with scenery rang­ing from fore­shore to ridge top look­outs. You will fol­low the Great North Walk from Cowan Sta­tion (from the end of walk 2, Berowra to Cowan) down to the pic­turesque Jerusalem Bay, then climb up over a se­ries of ridges be­fore de­scend­ing into Brook­lyn. Jerusalem Bay is a very spe­cial place where you can sit and soak up the wild­ness of the area, go for a swim or just un­wind. Af­ter Jerusalem Bay there are a se­ries of hills to test your fit­ness. This walk is a great one-way trip from sta­tion to sta­tion with a va­ri­ety of wa­ter views, in­clud­ing a cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion of Brook­lyn Dam whilst en­joy­ing a won­der­ful diver­sity of flora along the way. In Brook­lyn there’s a pub, cafes and fish and chip op­tions to re­fuel be­fore the train home.

This walks starts lit­er­ally from the sta­tion (the leav­ing from a spe­cial gap on Plat­form 1 sign­posted as the Great North Walk). The walk ends at Hawkes­bury train sta­tion so it’s easy to get back home or to Cowan. Plenty of park­ing at Cowan. On sunny week­ends park­ing at Brook­lyn is pos­si­ble can be harder to find.

The Royal Coast Track - the only word is breath­tak­ing http://wild.tl/tctto 1 big day or 2 Days. 27.4 km one way Walk­ing level: Hard track with hilly sec­tions Fea­tures: Huge sea views, whales and camp­sites Head­ing south of Syd­ney, this walk cov­ers the coast­line of the Royal Na­tional Park and can truly only be de­scribed as amaz­ing. With breath­tak­ing coastal views from Bun­deena to Ot­ford, you’ll fol­low the cliffs along a well man­aged and sign­posted track. You can soak up the the truly fan­tas­tic views out to sea and along the cliffs, and at the right time of year see whales play­ing off the shore. If you’re a very fit and ex­pe­ri­enced walker then an early start means you can com­plete this in a day. This walk also makes for a good first overnight hike - you can book the camp­site at North Era. Catch the train to Cronulla then ferry to Bun­deena, where the walk starts. The walk fin­ishes at Ot­ford sta­tion. There is also plenty of free on-street park­ing at each end of the walk if you pre­fer. Bun­deena has a num­ber of great cafes to en­joy be­fore the walk.

Hornsby Blue Gum Walk - a pretty, lo­cal loop with an an­cient vol­canic dyke and lyre­birds http://wild.tl/hbgw 3hrs 6.7km cir­cuit Walk­ing level: Hard walk due to hills and creek cross­ing, drive to Rose­mead Rd track­head to cut out the big­gest hill. Fea­tures: Train, cafe, wa­ter­falls This de­light­ful loop is one of the pret­ti­est and most pop­u­lar walks in the Hornsby area with wide phys­i­cal vari­a­tions, go­ing from an en­vi­ron­ment of ferns and clear bush­land to dry sand­stone and bush near Berowra Creek. From Hornsby sta­tion, walk down the De­pres­sion era built sand­stone steps into another world as you walk down the side of an an­cient vol­canic dyke into the Blue Gum For­est. As the walk loops around the back of Joe’s Moun­tain you fol­low sec­tion of the the Great North Walk along the lovely Berowra and Waitara Creeks. Make sure you take the ex­tra few min­utes and duck down the side trip to the cross­ing at Fish­ponds. You will en­joy a se­ries of small cas­cades, sand­stone caves and wild­flow­ers. Keep an eye out for lyre­birds and wa­ter drag­ons. This walks starts and ends at main en­trance of Hornsby sta­tion. There are again plenty of cafes to en­joy be­fore head­ing into the bush. If you pre­fer to drive you can cut out the main hill and park at the end of Rose­mead Rd.

Taronga Zoo to Bal­moral Beach - great for tourists, vis­i­tors & those want­ing a fix of Syd­ney’s icons http://wild.tl/tztbb 3 hrs 6.8 km one way Walk­ing level: Medium to hard track, and great for rea­son­ably fit be­gin­ners and kids Fea­tures: Fa­mous icons, ferry, swim­ming, cafe, play­ground, bays and bush­land This walk ex­plores a his­toric, beau­ti­ful and scenic sec­tion of the spec­tac­u­lar Syd­ney Har­bour. Start walk­ing from the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf with views of the Opera House and the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge. The views con­tinue as you ex­plore bush­land and bays along the way. The walk also ex­plores a his­toric sec­tion of the har­bour, in­clud­ing the for­ti­fi­ca­tions at Bradley’s Head and Chow­der Bay. There are toi­lets about 1.2 km into the walk then again about half way at Chow­der Bay, where you’ll also find a play­ground, cafes and net­ted swim­ming area at the beach. Soon af­ter leav­ing Chow­der Bay, head up a steep hill to very re­ward­ing views at Bradley’s Head and some in­ter­est­ing sand­stone gun em­place­ments. Fin­ish with fish’n’chips on Bal­moral Beach. A great day out for the whole fam­ily. Al­though there is some park­ing near the start of the walk, make a day of it and catch the ferry to Taronga Zoo wharf from Cir­cu­lar Quay. At the end you can catch the bus back to the city or Chatswood. Park­ing is pos­si­ble at both ends, though likely to be dif­fi­cult un­less you ar­rive early.

Spit Bridge to Manly - of­fers gen­tle ex­er­cise with world-class views http://wild.tl/sbtm 3 hrs 45 mins, 9.1 km one way Walk­ing level: Mod­er­ate track - suit­able for any­one who has done some bush­walk­ing and can walk the dis­tance Fea­tures: Cafe, swim­ming, views The Spit to Manly walk is one of those clas­sic bush­walks that ap­pears on most lists. The walk fol­lows a well-main­tained track and pro­vides beau­ti­ful views over Mid­dle Har­bour. This walk is great for those look­ing for ex­er­cise or just a stroll along the shore­line of Syd­ney Har­bour. It has be­come very pop­u­lar, so you do fre­quently feel your­self step­ping aside to let run­ners pass. If you have time, the side trips down to Grotto Point and up to Ara­banoo Look­out are def­i­nitely worth the ef­fort. There are plenty of short side trips to small se­cluded beaches that al­low you to just en­joy get­ting the toes wet and soak­ing up the views. There are cafes, play­grounds and toi­lets scat­tered along the walk, so you can do this one for fit­ness, or as a casual lazy day out with friends. There is paid park­ing just at the start of the walk, or free road park­ing on Bat­tle Bvd. For a has­sle free day out, catch the 144 or 143 bus to Bat­tle Bvd at Manly Rd. From Manly, there are plenty of ferry and bus op­tions. Again park­ing in Manly is a has­sle so get out your Opal card.

Her­mitage Fore­shore Track - nat­u­ral beauty, city views and his­tory all in one http://wild.tl/hfw 1 hr, 2.2 km one way Walk­ing level: Easy to mod­er­ate track Fea­tures: Cafe, swim­ming The Her­mitage Fore­shore Walk is a won­der­ful way to ex­plore Syd­ney Har­bour from the per­spec­tive of South Head. This walk starts from Nielsen Park, Vau­cluse and fol­lows a well-main­tained track along the nar­row strip of har­bour­side bush­land to Bayview Hill Rd. Along the way, you will visit some se­cluded beaches and visit the his­toric Strick­land House. A great walk ex­plor­ing the his­tory and nat­u­ral beauty while en­joy­ing a new per­spec­tive of the city. A great walk for kids, so bring your swim­mers and towel on a warm day. And you guessed it, there’s a cafe at Niel­son Park, mak­ing it a great way to start the walk. Catch the 325 bus from Town Hall, for easy ac­cess to the start and end of the walk. There is free street park­ing in the area. If you are driv­ing plan to walk back to your car ei­ther via the roads or back along the way you came.

Gib­ber­agong Track - a great fam­ily ad­ven­ture http://wild.tl/gt 2 hrs 30 mins, 6.5 km one way Walk­ing level: Medium to hard track - great for a fam­ily who has done some bush­walk­ing. Fea­tures: Wa­ter views, man­grove wildlife, play­ground and kiosk Not such a well known walk, but a great ex­am­ple of the sur­prises that Syd­ney has to of­fer. Start­ing in suburban Wahroonga, this track leads you down along Cockle Creek to Bob­bin Head in the Ku-ring-gai Chase Na­tional Park. There are a num­ber of great wa­ter views, and two short side trips to add to this ven­ture. The lower sec­tion of the walk fol­lows a board­walk, get­ting up close to the man­grove wildlife. The walk ends at the pop­u­lar Bob­bin Head pic­nic area, play­ground and kiosk, giv­ing you the chance to re­lax and re­flect on the jour­ney. Catch the 576T or 575 bus or drive to the end of Grosvenor Rd, Wahroonga. From Bob­bin Head you will need some­one to pick you up, or maybe re­turn the way you came af­ter lunch or walk out to Mt Kur­ing-gai (5.3 km http://wild.tl/bhtmk­vatb). A pick up if walk­ing with kids or if you haven’t done longer walks be­fore is ad­vised.

Matt McClel­land has been a keen bush­walker since he was a Scout. Now liv­ing in Hornsby with a wife and two kids, he still loves to bush­walk. Matt has been a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor of great walks in the area to the Monthly Chron­i­cle for over two years, has pub­lished four bush­walk­ing books, pro­duces ‘Bush­walk Aus­tralia’ dig­i­tal mag­a­zine and con­sults to gov­ern­ment on bush­walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ence im­prove­ments as well as meth­ods to im­prove ac­cess for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. He also man­ages the Na­tional Parks As­so­ci­a­tions of NSW bush­walk­ing pro­gram, whilst also run­ning bush­walk.com and wild­walks.com.

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