Five best hiking trails on Sydney’s northern beaches

Erina Starkey, Manly Daily

Source: Erina Starkey, Manly Daily

With whale watching season just around the corner, now is the perfect time for a coastal hike.

With whale watching season just around the corner, now is the perfect time for a coastal hike.

Five best hiking trails on Sydney’s northern beaches

WHETHER you’re an expert trekker or weekend wanderer, there are plenty of beautiful pockets to explore on Sydney’s northern beaches.

So lace up your boots and slap on the sunscreen, here’s our list of five best nature trails.

The Manly Scenic Walkway will take you past the Grotto Point Lighthouse.


Running from Manly to Mosman, this boarded walkway runs through pink-barked bushland and past a host of secret beaches. Highlights include the aboriginal rock art at Grotto Point, the Grotto Point Lighthouse and Arbaroo Lookout, which offers a great vantage point for whale watching come June. Don’t forget to bring your swimmers, the trail offers easy access to secluded swimming spots such as Reef Beach, Forty Baskets Beach, Castle Rock Beach and Washaway Beach.

Distance: 10km

Time: 3-4 hours

Level: Intermediate

The new walking track at North Head. Picture: Adam Yip


This looped walking track will take you on a coastal stroll from Manly Lagoon to North Heads and back. On the way you’ll pass popular snorkeling spot Shelley Beach as well as the Q Station, a “haunted” former Quarantine Station from 1832. Keep your eyes peeled for native flora and fauna, in particular echidnas, little penguins and long-nosed bandicoots. When you reach Fairfax Lookout prepare to be gob-smacked by the unending ocean views which sweep across the city skyline. One of the best things about this walking track is you finish close to the start point, so you can park your car nearby and drive your tired legs home.

Distance: 8km

Time: 3 hours

Level: Easy

View of Barrenjoey Heads and its famous lighthouse.


One of Sydney’s most iconic walks takes you past peach-coloured beaches to the historic white turret of the Barrenjoey Lighthouse. You can choose from two tracks, the one kilometre access track, which is twice as long but half as steep, or the hilly Smuggler’s Track which may require some clambering. Try ascending one way and descending another for a new outlook each time. At the furthest point of the headland, you’ll hit the historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse. Come on a Sunday between 11am – 3pm and you can take a 30 minute inside tour of the lighthouse which offers breathtaking 360 degree views from the top.

Distance: 2.3km return

Time: 1 hour

Level: Intermediate

There’s dramatic views from the Long Reef Point Lookout.


This charming coastal trail will take you on a loop around the Long Reef Golf Course and Griffith Park. Along the way you’ll pass a series of public art sculptures as well as a Fisherman’s Hut built in 1870. At the peak of the headlands you’ll find Long Reef Headland Lookout which offers awe-inspiring ocean views, perfect for whale watching during the migration months. Finish your walk with a dip in Fisherman’s Beach, a sandy little cove perfect for swimming, fishing and pelican-watching.

Distance: 3km

Time: 1 hour

Level: Easy

The Avalon to Narrabeen walk goes past the Bungan Castle. Photo Northern Beaches Council.


This satisfying track will take you up and over the rugged coastline from Avalon Beach to Narrabeen Lakes. Along the way you’ll conquer multiple headlands, which boast beautiful rock formations and dramatic views out to sea, as well as four lagoons, seven beaches and many rock baths, perfect for cooling off after a long day in the sun. If you plan to take a picnic, Mona Vale Headlands has plenty of grassy knolls, perfect for sprawling out with a rug and sandwiches, plus you’ll also be treated to great views across Bongin Bongin Bay and Mona Vale Beach.

Distance: 13km

Time: 5 hours

Level: Intermediate

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