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Sydney Coastal Walking

Not every walk has to be tough or off the beaten trail to be enjoyed.

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A spectacular view from the walk
Rose Bay Sydney Walk Beautiful Harbour Scenic
Rose Bay
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The view of Sydey's CBD from Rose Bay

It was still summer in Sydney, although La Niña was playing her tricks on the weather system and making it rainy and horrible most of the time. Normally January and February are hot and dry in Sydney, with long days at the beach and barbeques enjoyed by the city’s residents and tourists alike. This year though, it was windy, cold, and rainy. So when the opportunity to head out and do some walking came around, it was hard to say no. There are plenty of coastal walks to do around the city, one of the most famous ones is the Bondi to Coogee walk, as well as the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. Today, however, we wouldn’t be doing either of those (they will come later!), but instead decided to do the very beautiful but slightly less popular walk from Rose Bay to Watson’s Bay. The walk is 8kms and takes approximately 4.5 hours, depending on snack breaks or photo opportunities (of which there are plenty!), and although that’s a one-way trip, there are buses and ferries to get you back to your starting point. We were living in Surrey Hills at the time, so we grabbed a quick train from Town Hall to Edgecliff, picked up a friend on the way, took a short bus ride down the hill through Double Bay, and then back up another hill and over to Rose Bay. This history of this waterside suburb goes way back, including being the training spot for soldiers during WWI, but most notably is was used at the site of Sydney’s very first international airport. From 1938 seaplanes started operations to and from London, and the site was even used to repatriate Australian prisoners of war from Japan during WWII. This is where our walk would start.

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My favourite harbour beach
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Redleaf Pool
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Soaking up the sun like a Sydney local
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You'd easily forget this was a harbour!
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Secret views

Before getting into the walk, I must mention the area a little more. All around Double Bay, and back towards the city , are beautiful hidden bays and tiny beaches. Living in Surrey Hills at the time, while working part-time and studying full-time, afforded me the time to get to know the area. I would walk from Oxford Street, down through Darlinghurst, through the famous nightclub centre of King’s Cross, and then along the bays – Rushcutters', Double, and Rose. Apart from the walk, my main goal most of the time was Redleaf pool, a special and secluded strip of harbour beach. I would walk here while everyone else was at work or school during the weekday, soak up the sun lying on the pontoons, swim in the netted harbour pool, and just enjoy time doing nothing. It was also Covid, so this was also within my 10km radius. I feel very lucky to have this harbour and this city sometimes. So this walk starts at Rose Bay, just around the corner from my favourite harbour swimming spot. Rose Bay is a beautiful part of the city, with boats moored on the jetty, seaplanes coming and going (although they are now the small variety), and plenty of trees, parks, dogs, and people to make it a happy and peaceful place for everyone. Within minutes of starting the walk, you start heading uphill along Old South Head Road, which is the start of the famous Heartbreak Hill of the City to Surf race, a 2km steep climb to Vaucluse that hits you half-way into a 14km run. Luckily for us, we turned off pretty quickly, passing the architectural beauty of Kincoppal-Rose Bay School, and headed down to the Hermitage Foreshore path. The first little beach you find along here is Hermit Beach, which is perfectly named as it is secluded and well-suited to just sitting on a beach by yourself. You could easily forget that you’re still in a big city, but then you look up and see the city over the harbour rising up, and it makes you smile even more.

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Always love catching a glimpse of those sails
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Dream house on the harbour
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Secluded bays and stunning views
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Parsley Bay bridge
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Just one of the locals at Camp Cove

The walk is easy, with only a few inclines, and even those are fine as the path has handholds and steps that are well-maintained. We continued along to Milk Beach, a little, well-tucked away patch of sand with amazing views of the city. This place is one of those that makes you think ‘I could just stop here, pitch a tent, and be happy.’ Or is that just me? A short stop for water and a snack while enjoying the view, then we moved on, walking past the grand 1856 Strickland House, once a convalescence hospital, now public house and gardens, and onto Shark Beach. I know what you’re thinking – a beach in Australia with the word ‘shark’ in it doesn’t sound very inviting. You would be dead wrong then – this beach is a picture postcard of what a city beach should be; it has beautiful, clean sand, glorious blue water, sublime views of the harbour, shady areas with grass, as well as free electric barbeques. What else could you want? There are also full shark nets to protect swimmers, although I have no idea if there is a history of sharks, or the reason for the naming of the beach. We didn’t swim, but not because of this. We’ll come back another day for that, but for now it was onwards to Watson’s Bay! The next part of the walk takes suburban roads for a about a kilometre, but the views weren’t disappointing. Although I could never afford to live around here, looking at how the 1% live is interesting. Huge houses made of sandstone, architecturally designed houses that overlook the harbour, and garages that are bigger than most Sydney flats. We were enjoying the street views, dreaming of how these houses must be inside and how much they’re worth, and then it was time to get back to the trail. It still amazes me that this walk sometimes makes you feel like you’re in a rainforest! Before we knew it, the ‘rainforest’ opened up to a cable suspension bridge, crossing stunning blue-green water that makes up Parsley Bay – beach to the right, harbour to the left, and jungle either side of the bridge. It took us a while to cross, as it’s an Instagrammer hotspot, but nobody was in a hurry - we took our own photos as well.

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Fishing on the harbour
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Camp Cove - a true gem of Sydney
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Camp Cove's beach hut
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Beautiful Watson's Bay
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Watson's Bay cottages

We weren’t far away from our main goal of Watson’s Bay, and the walk had been lovely. Walking around that last bay and seeing the beach at Watson’s Bay is amazing; a lovely strip of sand, trees hanging over the beach, the brightly painted wharf sticking out into the harbour, and the best view of all – the pub! This is the best place to stop for a beer and have some fish and chips while you wait for the ferry back to the city. We couldn’t stop there however, because there was a little way to go to Sydney’s South Head, the opening of Sydney Harbour. Also, if we stopped for a beer now, we’d never get back up again! We ducked into the streets again, wandering past some lovely old cottages, and then through to a stunning gem of a beach in Sydney that everyone falls in love with when they see it – Camp Cove. A small eclipse-shaped beach, where the sand is golden and the water turquoise. There is a small shop selling food and drinks, as well as some rocks to perch on and sunbathe. There is also a small hut on the end of a wooden boardwalk that is very photogenic, with the beach to the left and the city skyline right in front of you. This beach is a must-see in Sydney, and if you live here and have never been, you should be ashamed! Right around the corner is Lady Bay Beach, which we didn't stop at, as its a well-known nudist beach, and we were too overdressed for that today. We continued around the point, where the path opens up and you can see the mouth of the harbour. Right at the end, at the highest point and overlooking the head, is Hornby Lighthouse. This red-and-white stripped signal station was built in 1858 to guide the ships into Sydney, it is now a heritage listed building and a tourist attraction. It was automated in 1933, and so nobody lives there anymore, but it still sends it signal out 15 nautical miles, or almost 30kms, out to sea. This point is a magical place; come and watch the sunset, feel the fresh ocean breeze, and see where the harbour meets the Pacific. You can see all the way to the CBD, over to Manly, and then North Head before the ocean takes over the horizon. If you ever want to clear your head, this is the place to do it.

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Hornby Lighthouse on South Head
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I love this view... looking out through the heads to the Pacific Ocean
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Defensive installations on South Head
The ferry back to the CBD

After our beer at the pub back in Watson’s Bay, it was time to head home. We grabbed an ice-cream and waited for the bus that would take us back to the city. The bus stop sits right at the steps that lead to the path that continues on to Bondi Beach and beyond, and commands a wonderful view from the high cliffs. These cliffs are known as The Gap, and are famous for people jumping off into the surf below. You will notice here that there are signs with a phone number on them to call if you’re not ok. People also patrol this area to ensure nobody jumps. I was tempted to walk a bit further, as there is a monument to the Dunbar shipwreck that promoted the building of the Hornby Lighthouse, but it was time to go; the Watson’s Bay to Bondi walk would have to wait for another day. It was so easy to just keep walking though! This was a great day, sunny, easy and enjoyable, pretty much anyone could do it as well – not every walk has to be tough or off the beaten trail to be enjoyed.

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Soaking up the view
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The Gap

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MyUncleTravellingMatt. February 2022.

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