Sydney’s Hidden Coastal Trails

While walks such as the clifftop path from Bondi to Coogee are justifiably famous, there’s a handful of lesser-known coastal tracks in Sydney that are well worth the hike.

Resolute Track, Northern Beaches 

This 3.7km return track in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, a 45-minute drive north of the city centre on the Northern Beaches, may be short but it’s steep. Beginning at the Resolute Picnic Area, the Resolute Track takes in two important Aboriginal sites: Red Hands Cave (a slight detour off the track) and rock engravings. The ochre handprints at Red Hands Cave, made by the Garrigal people who lived at West Head, are of great historical and cultural significance. Further down the Resolute Track you’ll find ancient human and animal figures carved into the flat sandstone. The trail passes through heath, bushland and rainforest, with breathtaking coastal views, and ends at the beautiful, secluded Resolute Beach. There are also optional additional trails to West Head Beach and Lookout. 

Barrenjoey Lighthouse to Avalon Beach, Northern Beaches 

The northernmost point of Sydney’s coastline, about 90 minutes’ drive north of the city centre, is the starting point for this trail. You’ll begin with a steep hike up Barrenjoey Headland, with its historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse, built in 1881. Here you’re rewarded with spectacular views of Pittwater, Broken Bay and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. You’ll then make your way south along Palm Beach, over the headland and through the beautiful bushland of McKay Reserve to Whale Beach. The rugged Bangalley Head, just before Avalon Beach, is the highest point on the Northern Beaches coastline and yet another highlight of this 13km journey.  

Narrabeen Lagoon to Manly Lagoon, Northern Beaches 

This 12km Northern Beaches trail has it all: headlands, beaches, rock pools and four lagoons. Begin at the foreshore of Narrabeen Lagoon, (also known as Narrabeen Lake), in the beachside suburb of Narrabeen, then wind your way down across the adjoining Narrabeen and Collaroy surf beaches —the area’s largest stretch of sand — and up to Long Reef Headland. The trail then passes Dee Why, Curl Curl and Freshwater Beaches and lagoons. There are several options for additional loop trails along the way if you’re feeling more energetic — the track is especially lovely when the rugged headlands are blooming with spring flowers. If you want to cut it short, there are bus stops at various points along the trail.

Resolute Beach at Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. Views towards Barrenjoey Headland

Malabar Headland walks, Eastern Suburbs 

The two trails in Malabar Headland National Park, between Maroubra and Malabar Beaches, are surely the least known of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs coastal walks. The 1km Western Escarpment track winds through national park bushland, while the 3.7km Boora Point track in the east, which opened in 2017, has stunning coastal views and heritage structures from World War II. This track is closed on Saturdays, the third Sunday of each month and when the nearby ANZAC Rifle Range is in use, so check before visiting. This national park is also a great spot for watching humpback whales during their migration season (May to November).  

Botany Bay Coastal Walk, southern Sydney 

There are two separate sections of Kamay Botany Bay National Park: one section on the city side of the Botany Bay takes in La Perouse and the most southern of the Eastern Suburbs. The other, at Kurnell, an hour’s drive south of central Sydney, occupies the rugged headland across the mouth of the bay. Venture to the Kurnell side and you’ll find a 13km trail winding down along the coast to Cronulla, passing sand dunes, rock formations, heathland and hanging swamps. The beautiful Cape Solander lookout and Cape Baily track are also popular for whale watching during the migration season. (Watch your feet as well as the whales, as the cliffs here are unfenced.) The trail also passes through Boat Harbour Aquatic Reserve, which is great for snorkelling if you’ve come prepared. From Boat Harbour you can go all the way along the beach to Cronulla. (Note that four-wheel-drive vehicles can access Boat Harbour, so you may be sharing the first stretch of the beach with them.) 

Couple enjoying a scenic coastal hike on the Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk in Palm Beach, Sydney.

Cronulla Beach Walk, southern Sydney

An easy 4km one-way journey from Wanda Beach to Bass and Flinders Point, this trail along the Cronulla peninsula has plenty of options if you’d like to stop for a swim, with ocean pools and rocky shallows at secluded reserves (at Hungry Point, further along from Bass and Flinders Point, and Salmon Haul Reserve, overlooking Port Hacking River). There are also several playgrounds, picnic areas and barbecue facilities along the way, with lovely views of the Royal National Park, making it a great choice for a family outing. There are also cafés at South Cronulla Beach (most notably Zimzala) and across the road from the park at Shelly Beach if you don’t want to be weighed down with supplies. Doing the return route with energy to spare? When you get back to Wanda Beach you can continue about 4km along the beach to Boat Harbour.