The world over knows Sydney for its beaches, opera house and bridge. But look at a map of the city, and you’ll notice not only that it hugs the ocean, but that is nearly completely ringed by national parks.
For two years I explored the coasts, forests and gorges in and around Sydney, trekking over 80 hikes and walks in Sydney and Middle Harbour, Blue Mountains, Royal National Park, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and the Hawkesbury River area. Further afield is Kangaroo Valley in the Southern Highlands, and the Jervis Bay Territory south of Wollongong.
Sydney hinterland – from wildflowers to rainforest
Sydney is positioned within a sub-tropical weather zone, but the soil on the plains and hill-tops is generally poor. This harshness creates extraordinary diversity of flora with a rich mix of wild flower, banksia, black-butt, turpentine, wattle, bottle-brush, callistemon and grass tree. A Sydney favourite is the angophora, a pitted, pink-coloured eucalypt with fantastical twisting branches of fairy-tale knottiness. Step down into Sydney’s many gullies, creeks or deep valleys, however, and plunge into a magical wonderland of rainforest umbrella ferns, mosses, watery overhangs and cascades. The Grand Canyon loop is the best-known of these rainforest walks, but there are many others, especially in the Blue Maintains and in the deep valley folds around Berowra and Cowan Creek to the north.
Exploring the coastline and harbour trails
Sydney Harbour itself has its own national park. Threaded along the harbour, between mansions and recycled brownfield sites, are walking paths set in pristine bushland with sandstone rock ledges, secluded beaches and absurdly beautiful harbour views. The Sydney ferry network is a great way to start and end these walks. And while nearly everyone seems to do the Spit-to-Manly Walk, there are plenty of others, including Balls Head Reserve and the North Head up past Manly. Likewise, the coastal walk between Bondi and Coogee is very popular, but extending this walk to Maroubra is superb, as are coastal walks between Collaroy and Curl Curl, and along the Royal National Park and Jervis Bay.
I hope you enjoy the following images from some of my walks, and that they inspire you to experience Sydney’s natural beauty. Don’t forget to look out for the wildlife, especially the wombats of Kangaroo Valley!