The best way to explore a new city is by foot. It’s also the best way to explore an old and well-loved city, a city you’ve known your whole life. Uncovering the rhythm of the streets, the psycho-geography of place, the layered histories evident everywhere – these are discoveries for the walker, the flâneur, and the dedicated urban adventurer who undertakes a good, old-fashioned dérive.
Sydney is such an incredibly beautiful and vibrant city that I never tire of walking around it. Some things change, some remain. That perpetual flux and the never-ending cycle of loss and discovery continually feeds my love and keeps me on my toes. There are no shortage of walks and resources – the City of Sydney has its own culture walks app, and there are also sculpture walks, food, fashion and design walks, Aboriginal Heritage Walks, and blogs written by dedicated Sydney walkers such as Vanessa Berry, Alan Waddell and Carolyn Ryan. Here are 10 walks for any visitor or resident of Sydney to start with. They range from galleries to cafes to beaches and bush, and showcase some of the best this city has to offer. My advice is: get lost, walk the streets, be open-hearted and open-minded, make your own list. See you out there!
Redfern to Chippendale
Start out on a Saturday morning at the gourmet farmers’ market, Eveleigh Markets held at Carriageworks, a rejuvenated industrial site primarily for showing visual art and performance. Check out the art, grab a coffee at the markets and then meander through the beautiful streets of Redfern to Sheffer Gallery, a small but perfectly proportioned gallery situated at 38 Lander Street, Darlington. Head up to City Road and visit Sydney University’s Verge and Tin Sheds Galleries, before weaving your way back through the streets of Chippendale, via Mop and Wellington Street Projects to the renowned White Rabbit Gallery, one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Chinese art. Rejuvenate with tea and dumplings at the gallery’s tea house.
If you are a committed and experienced hiker, take the train to Cronulla, the picturesque little ferry to Bundeena and head out along the 27km Coast Track, camping at North Era on your way south. This walk is best done over two days, and you can do it in either direction, but be sure to take enough water and food. There are also numerous day walks, waterfalls, rockpools, deserted beaches, temperate rainforests and fire trails throughout the Royal National Park. If you happen to be hiking in the park between June and September, you will probably to see humpback whales migrating along the coast.
Little Bay to La Perouse
One of the most perfect beaches in Sydney – Little Bay, is only a bus ride from Central Station. Bring your snorkel mask, a snack and some sunscreen, and start your day with a bit of undersea exploration. You’ll see some of the soft corals, anemones, schooling fish and black urchins that make snorkelling in Sydney such a joy. In 1969, Little Bay became the site of one of the world’s most important early environmental art works, when artists Christo and Jean-Claude wrapped 2.4km of this part of the coastline, in a work descriptively titled Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia. Heading south to La Perouse via the La Perouse walk, around 7km, will take you past some significant Indigenous and European historical sites including remnant shell middens, the Coast Hospital Cemetery and Henry Head Battery. The First Hand Aboriginal workshops and markets take place on nearby Bare Island on the first Sunday of every month.
This is more a gentle wander than a walk. There are fewer better ways to spend a morning than unhurriedly perusing the shelves at Better Read Than Dead, one of Newtown’s oldest bookshops, followed by coffee at Brewtown Newtown. As you may have heard, Sydney takes its coffee very seriously. Brewtown roast in-house and will make your coffee exactly the way you like it. Nearby is the beautiful, overgrown and secluded Camperdown Cemetery, the perfect place to stretch out with book purchases or the weekend paper and one of Brewtown’s famous cronuts. Later you could wander down King Street to Sydney Park for lunch at the park café, or head down to Erskineville for a leisurely beer at the Erko or cocktail at the Hive Bar. Life is sweet.
Bradley’s Head to Chowder Bay
If you are accompanied by children, you might need a shorter walk that finishes at a quiet beach with no waves and better facilities. If this is the case, head from Taronga Zoo to Clifton Gardens Reserve at Mosman. Either make your way through the zoo through the streets to Clifton Gardens, or head from the Taronga Zoo ferry stop along the Bradley’s Head to Chowder Bay track, which is an easy 5km walk. Clifton Gardens Reserve is an idyllic place for the whole family. It has a huge playground for children, along with a netted beach and a pier. Adults can grab a coffee from the Bacino Café at the end of the beach, enjoy the shade under the palm trees, gaze at the yachts and make use of the free barbecue facilities.
The Bondi to Coogee Walk
On the hills above the northern end of Bondi Beach is a site that many locals do not know is there. Here are the remains of some ancient Eora Aboriginal rock carvings, depicting marine life and human figures. Sadly, this site is within a public golf course and next to a sewage treatment facility, and the atmosphere and signage leave a lot to be desired. The carvings were ‘re-grooved’ by the local council in the 1960s as part of a somewhat misguided conservation strategy. For more of Sydney’s Indigenous history, check out the Sydney Barani website. From Bondi, take the stunning coast walk southwards to Coogee, passing by some of the best city beaches in the world and the marvellous Waverley Cemetery.
Kings Cross to Town Hall
This is another art walk. Get your walking shoes on and check out the Cross Art Projects and Alaska Projects in Kings Cross. Heading down William Street, you’ll pass the William Street Creative Hub, home to many creative and project spaces. Sydney’s oldest artist-run initiative, Firstdraft, is housed nearby in Woolloomooloo. Yes, Woolloomooloo. Only Sydneysiders can spell it. Stop by Artspace at the Gunnery, one of Sydney’s most distinguished contemporary art organizations, before ending your tour at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and through the Domain or Hyde Park to Town Hall. A good way to find out what is going on at any given moment in Sydney’s thriving art scene is to check Art Guide.
Balmain to Birchgrove
Start at Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie at 296 Darling Street, Balmain, grab a delectable concoction and head down to the water. The walk from Mort Bay Park to Ballast Point Park and on to Birchgrove and Yurulbin Park shows off some of Sydney Harbour’s most beautiful views, and some amazing reimagined and revitalised industrial sites along the way. Pitch up on Yurulbin Park Wharf and eat your pastry. It’s absolute bliss.
Fish to Flea Markets
Get up early one Saturday and find your way to the famous Sydney Fish Markets (open every day of the year, except Christmas Day, from 7AM until 5PM). The atmosphere here at the markets is lively and chaotic, especially near public holidays. Sample some Sydney rock oysters and then wend your way through Wentworth Park up to Glebe, where the Glebe Markets are held every Saturday in the grounds of Glebe Public School. Glebe is now a pretty area full of great cafés and restaurants, and was originally part of a land grant given by Governor Arthur Phillip to the Chaplain of the First Fleet, Reverend Richard Johnson, in 1790.
Central to Opera House
The dedicated flâneur should make their way along Sydney’s main artery, Parramatta Road which becomes Broadway, and eventually George Street. This was originally a cart track, which headed all the way from Circular Quay to Parramatta. If you walk from Central Station down to Broadway and then towards Circular Quay in a straight line, you’ll pass by Chinatown, the Town Hall, the CBD and numerous other Sydney landmarks too numerous to list here. By the time you reach the Opera House, you will thoroughly deserve a cold beer at the Opera Bar, where you can sit back and enjoy the best view in the world. Welcome to Sydney!
By Christiane Keys-Statham
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