I’ve said it before and I’ll undoubtedly say it again and again: One of the best things about Sydney is all of the harbour walks and coastal walks you can do here.
They’re free, and they’re a great way to stay fit – what more could a Sydneysider want?
Sydney visitors should definitely take advantage of the bushwalks and hikes here, too. The Sydney Harbour walks in particular are an excellent way to get your bearings and enjoy views of the harbour from many different vantage points.
In this post, we’re focusing on the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk, which can be divided into 2 parts:
- Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk (the main walking trail; 1-3 on the map)
- Middle Head walk to Balmoral Beach (more of an add-on to the other walk; 4-5 on the map)
It’s a choose-your-own-adventure sort of situation here: do one, the other, or both depending on how you feel.
The Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk is a proper bushwalk; from the endpoint at Georges Head, you can choose to walk along Middle Head Road if you want to check out Middle Head or walk to Balmoral Beach. Both are well worth a look, but if you have limited time then just walk from Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay.
1. Bradleys Head
From Taronga Wharf, head right towards and past the zoo and you’ll soon spot a path veering off from the right side of the road. This is the start of the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk!
The boardwalk leads around the west side of Bradleys Head, which offers sensational views out toward the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Every time I’ve done this walk I’ve seen dozens of boats cruising around or floating in the nearby bays. Such a vibe! (as the younger millennials say these days).
At the end of the peninsula you’ll find Bradleys Head Amphitheatre, a most excellent spot for a sunset picnic or casual date. There are some spots of sand here where you can enter the water if you fancy a dip (I wouldn’t quite call them beaches, but).
Bradleys Head Lighthouse sits at the very tip of the peninsula and is another good spot for a rest with a view.
From here, the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk gets super bushwalky. Think lots of trees and not so many clear views of the harbour. That’s ok though because next up is Chowder Bay beach!
2. Chowder Bay
Chowder Bay is one of those harbour beaches that’s popular amongst Mosman locals, but virtually unknown to everyone else. With sheltered waters and a spacious park, this is a fab place to relax and go for a mid-hike swim.
If you happen to arrive during their lunchtime hours, Ripples Chowder Bay is the perfect place to grab lunch on the waterfront. Though if you’re just needing a quick pick-me-up to tackle the rest of the coastal walk, hold off for coffee or a snack at Drift Cafe just up the stairs from Ripples.
From Drift Cafe, you can either continue walking up Chowder Bay Road or follow the path alongside it – both lead up to Georges Head.
3. Georges Head
Georges Head is definitely one of the main highlights of the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk. The panoramic view of Sydney Harbour from up on the hill is a STUNNER.
Not only that, but you can check out the old gun emplacements and forts carved into the cliff here in the late 1800s. If you’ve done the walks around North Head or South Head across the harbor, then you’ve likely seen these already – but all the same, it’s worth checking out to learn a bit about Sydney’s history.
If you were aiming to just do the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk, you can end your hike here and catch the bus back to the CBD.
If you’re carrying on to Balmoral, then read on!
4. Middle Head
From Georges Head, the walking trail will take you about halfway to Middle Head; the rest of it you’ll have to walk along Middle Head Road. This is a good time to refer to Google Maps and get your bearings.
First off, if nude beaches are your jam, then you’ve got two at your disposal on Middle Head: Obelisk Beach and Cobblers Beach. Both are small and delightfully free of crowds, not just because of the nudity but also because they require a bit of a walk off the main road to reach.
Otherwise, hold tight for Balmoral Beach at the end of this walk!
Apart from beaches, Middle Head is where the bulk of the historic sites can be found on the Taronga to Balmoral walk. Think more old forts with harbour views. Also Middle Head looks out toward Manly, so the view here is different than the ones at the other headlands on this walk.
5. Balmoral Beach
The final stretch of the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk has you retracing your steps along Middle Head Road, then taking a path down to Balmoral Beach.
It looks innocent enough on Google Maps, but let me tell you: this path is actually hundreds of stairs through the (very pretty) bush. You’ll be going down them to reach Balmoral Beach, which is much easier than the alternative (which, fair warning, you may have to endure if you’re catching the bus back to the city from Middle Head Road).
Balmoral Beach is one of Sydney’s best and biggest, and merits a full day on its own. But if you’re here, it’s well worth stopping at the beach to soak in the views and vibes, go for a refreshing swim to wash off all the sweat from the hike, or enjoy a beverage at The Boathouse (note that they close at 4pm).
FYI The Boathouse also rents out stand-up paddle boards (you probably won’t feel like paddling after a 9km hike, but the option is there… perhaps for another time ;).
How to get there: Take the ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo to start the hike.
If ending the hike at Georges Head, take the 244 to the city, or the 247 or M30 from Mosman to the city.
If ending at Balmoral Beach, take the 245 bus from the beach to the city, or the 178 or 230 from Mosman to the city.
How much time to allow: Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk is 4km and should take you 1.5-2 hours depending on how often you stop. Chowder Bay to Georges Head, Middle Head, and Balmoral adds on an additional 5km and 2 hours of walking.
You’ll love this hike if you enjoy: Family-friendly beaches, nude beaches, harbour views, historic sites.