Two days after walking 20km in Sydney with my husband, I decided to tackle another long walk, but solo this time.
My plan was to start at Manly Beach, weave through nearby Shelly Beach and Sydney Harbour National Park, wander along the coast and finish at the Spit Bridge. I had good intentions, but the walk took much, much longer than I anticipated. At the end of the day, I ended up walking about 10km more than I had planned – a total of 36,000 steps on my Fitbit. Good exercise, but man, my body was worn out!
From Circular Quay, I caught the 9 a.m. Manly Fast Ferry which features a relaxing 20-minute ride through the harbor and over to Manly Cove. I enjoyed sitting outside on the deck watching the world whiz by and reminiscing about all my previous ferry boat rides in Istanbul. I love taking ferries and wonder why anyone would want to drive a car instead!
From the Manly pier, it’s about a 5-minute walk through the pedestrian-only stretch of The Corso, which is lined with beachwear shops and small cafés. On the other side is Manly Beach, a beautiful, long stretch of sand occupied by surfers, seagulls and some walkers like myself during the winter months. I walked along the sand here and enjoyed taking photos of the surfers who braved the freezing water, at least it felt like cold to me!
From here, I kept on walking along the coast past Shelly Beach and then following a path up into the Sydney Harbour National Park. This dirt path took me through trees, shrubbery and essentially what I would call “the Bush” even though I haven’t actually been to the middle of Australia yet. I clambered over large boulders so I could get close to the coastal cliffs for some amazing views back Manly Beach.
Back on the path, it was just me and the Bush. I started to freak out a little bit because I was on this trail all by myself in what seemed like the middle of nowhere and signs were posted everywhere for fox traps. I had plenty of water and snacks in my backpack, but I was more worried about what else might be sharing the park with me.
So I hurried along the trail until I finally came across a paved road which led me past the Manly Hospital and through a residential area for a bit. I ended up back where I had started when my ferry had docked at Manly Cove. In the park along the Esplanade, I found a large flock of Australian cockatoos with bright yellow crests (Sulphur-crested Cockatoos). These fellas were just strutting along the ground and cracking open fallen pine cones/acorns using their feet and beaks.
|Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in Sydney|
|Does anyone know what kind of Aussie bird this is?|
Manly to Spit Bridge
I’m guessing I had covered about 4-5 km at this point. The real Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal Walk starts here (10km) and takes about 3-4 hours to complete. The walk is well sign-posted but definitely isn’t easy as you go from nicely paved walkways to uneven, rocky paths and through another bushland park along the coast.
Most of this walk hugs the coast so you pass several beaches, small bays and marinas. The sea water is stunningly clear and you can literally see the bottom of the sea! If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Little Penguins near Manly, but they mainly appear at sunrise and sunset.
After you clamber through the bush, which is another section of the Sydney Harbour National Park (Dobroyd Head), you’ll be greeted with impressive views of the harbor and the bushland you just hiked through.
I was definitely getting tired by this point and the temperatures were warmer than originally forecasted (about 18C/64F). I was hot and I was supposed to meet an American friend from Istanbul who just moved to Sydney for a late lunch. I had no idea how much longer the walk would take.
By the time I reached the end of the coastal walk, the ugly Spit Bridge was a big disappointment. After walking through such lovely parks, I guess I was expecting a bit more. The marina is full of fancy boats and there are a few cafés here. In general, there are very few places to buy any food or drink along the walk so I would definitely recommend that you have enough water and snacks especially on hot summer days.
From North Sydney to Sydney Harbour Bridge
My friend picked me up from the Spit Bridge and drove me to North Sydney where I consumed a giant American-like bacon cheeseburger from Five Points. Delicious! After some good conversation and a bit of rest, I decided to walk back to the CBD and then our hotel. At this point, I was feeling a bit like actor Tom Hanks in the Forrest Gump movie when I decided to just keep on walking.
“For no particular reason I just kept on goin'. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on goin'. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on goin'.” - Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump, 1994
When the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932, it was the longest, single-span steel arch bridge in the world. The bridge measures 1,149 m (3,770 feet) long. Comparatively, the Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883 as the first steel-wire suspension bridge, is nearly double in length at 1,825.4 m (5,989 feet). The Sydney bridge does offer wonderful views over the busy harbor as well as the Sydney Opera and the skyscrapers that make up the CBD area. However, I was a little put off by all the evil-looking barbed wire fencing that covers the bridge’s entire walkway.
Admittedly, I’m still a sucker for those Manhattan skylines as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge in my beloved NYC.
Observatory Hill Park
After figuring out how to get off the bridge and where I wanted to go, I set off for the Sydney Observatory. The observatory, originally built in 1858, and the surrounding park is the perfect place to watch the sunset in Sydney. Or go during the daytime for gorgeous views of the Sydney Harbour and Bridge, a tip I learned from popular Australian bloggers, Caz and Craig at ytravelblog.
By this point, I could have easily taken a lil nap on one of the nearby park benches. Instead, I kept on walking another 1.2km back to our hotel.
After a long day of walking in Sydney, my biggest lesson learned is to remember to review my map better. MUCH better!
If you need more walking inspiration, check out these suggested Sydney walks by Destination NSW (New South Wales).