With bush and trails aplenty, it comes as no surprise that exploring on foot is one of Australia’s most iconic activities. Whether it be the draw for tourists from afar, or the usual day out for locals, the options are vast and varied; from challenging hilltop treks to flatland coastal walks, forest trails to waterside wanders, these top 7 hiking trails near Sydney are listed by Australian Walking Track Grading System (Grade 1: lowest – Grade 5: highest level of intensity).
Located in the Blue Mountains National Park about 2 hours west of Sydney, Fairfax Heritage Track Circuit is a 2.4km circuit (approx. 1 hour duration) trail suitable for all levels of fitness. Set in the parameters of the Blue Mountains, this path wanders the forest with scenic views of the Grose Valley from George Phillips lookout. Stop into the Blackheath Heritage Centre to speak with local guides who can shed some light on local history, flora and fauna. This track is equipped with many benches for visitors to rest and lap up the views.
Also located in the iconic Blue Mountains National Park, this walk in Katoomba takes visitors on winding paths with impressive viewpoints and the best view of the Three Sisters, an iconic and unusual rock formation. Known as Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918 m), and Gunnedoo (906 m), the Three Sisters are one of the most visited sights in the park, and bare cultural significance as a sacred place to the aboriginal people. The 1km (approx. 30 min) walk is easy in intensity and family-friendly.
Set in the scenic surroundings of Sydney Harbour National Park, the Hermitage Foreshore Track is a Grade 3, 1.8km (one-way), approximately 45-minute excursion. Start from either Bayview Hill Road or Nielsen Park and lap up the coastline with stunning views of the harbour and Sydney’s many close-by island escapes such as Shark Island. Although the gradient of this trek is gentle, there are many steps so this trail may not be suitable for less-able visitors.
Another Grade 3 trek, Burrawang walk is located in the Kurnell area in Kamay Botany Bay National Park, about 40-minutes drive from Sydney’s Central Business District. This medium intensity walk is a 1.2km loop which takes approximately 30-minutes. The park, and in turn the walk, has much historical and cultural significance, and paints the story of the first meeting of European and Indigenous communities. The trail features interactive elements including a soundscape, and sights of significance such as Banks’ Memorial and Captain Cook’s Landing Place.
The Ruined Castle walking track in the Blue Mountains is a popular choice for seasoned adventurers wishing to tackle the bush. This 6.6km return trip takes anywhere between 4 and 5 hours and is a Grade 5 track. Due to the nature of this trail, hikers are advised to plan properly in advance and take necessary safety precautions to ensure an enjoyable and safe trip. The path which leads visitors through valleys and rainforests, large boulders, steep ascents and descents, ruined cottages, sprawling vistas and impressive landscapes is an adventurer’s delight.
Set in the lush surrounding of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, less than 40-minutes outside Sydney city by car, this park is the perfect getaway destination when longing for that much-needed fill of nature, not to mention some culture and historical significance. The Aboriginal Heritage walk, is a 4.4km loop and Grade 4 hike, taking approximately 2-4 hours depending on speed. Revel in the wonder of Aboriginal art and engravings of the Guringai people, marvel at their cave shelters and pay homage to a community now gone with a moment of silence.
Located in one of Sydney’s most beautiful natural landmarks: the remarkable Royal National Park, is the Coast Track, a grade 5 trek set along rugged coastlines and stunning seaside vistas. Less than an hour’s drive from the city, this stretch offers some of Sydney’s most breath-taking natural displays of beauty. This track is not for the fainthearted, the excursion which should take approximately two days (one day for a very experienced adventurer), and spans beaches, uphill climbs, forest and rock formations. Tip: go during the months of May – October to experience the beauty of migrating whales from the shoreline.