Australia is blessed with a stunning coastline. It has long stretches of golden beaches, gentle bays, steep rugged cliffs, wild bush, tracks, dunes, lagoons and breaking surf.
Sydney's Great Coastal Walk, stretching from Barrenjoey in the north, south to the Royal National Park, has it all. It connects two of the world's oldest national parks: Royal and Ku-ring-gai Chase. Quite apart from the stunning views, the walk offers a wonderful insight into the geography, geology and history of Australia.
Catriona Rowntree joined Walking Volunteers to see some of the highlights of the walk. The group formed in 2004, and to realise their vision, they worked with 18 councils, four government departments and a federal body. They developed, mapped and prepared brochures depicting the walk.
There are no rules; it can be done as a seven-day adventure, broken into comfortable distances and heading in either direction. From Barrenjoey to North Head takes four days and the southern section three days. Combined, the walk covers around 100km. Some road is involved along the way, but the vast majority is on tracks or sand and in parks and reserves.
Starting at Palm Beach you will have fabulous views of headlands and beaches from Barrenjoey to Narrabeen, West Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the more gentle side of Pittwater, home to Snapperman and Clareville beaches, Winnererremy Bay and Church Point.
There are loads of things to see on the Narrabeen Lakes to Manly section of the walk. Four lagoons, Long Reef Headland, rock shelves, Reef Point and McKillop Park, complete with a statue of Duke Kahanamoku who helped introduce surfboard riding to Australia in 1914.
There are cliff-top pathways, wonderful isolation, the tranquil bushland of Manly Dam Reserve and revegetated green link corridors.
From Manly Lagoon you go to North Head which dominates the entrance to Sydney Harbour, and The Spit. The section takes in the famous Manly and Shelly Beaches. North Head is home to one of the city's best-kept secrets. The North Fort Museum, old fortifications, tunnels and guns were closed to the public between the 1930s and 1990s as it was an army barracks. Now it is open for everyone to explore and there are informative tours.
Every stretch of the walk offers something different, and from Manly you make your way around the coastline through Mosman and Kirribilli and over the Harbour Bridge for the southern part of the walk.
From the city, the walk goes around the harbour, through Rushcutters Bay to Bondi Beach. It's the perfect place for a bite to eat and people watching.v
The walk from Bondi to Bronte is a local favourite. It then leads to Maroubra and on to Cronulla, Sydney's only beach accessible by train.
From Cronulla there is a pleasant 20-minute ferry ride across the Port Hacking River to Bundeena and the last stretch of the track.
Bundeena is well known for its monthly Art Trail and is a great place to hire a houseboat or runabout to enjoy the marvellous surrounding bush.
There are three main beaches (Jibbon, Gunyah and Horderns), which all safe for swimming and perfect for picnicking. A stroll in either direction will take you to secluded bays and good fishing spots. A track will take energetic surfers to Big Marley Beach and Little Marley Beach.
Just beyond all this beauty are thousands of hectares of national park, and if you do just part of the coastal walk or the entire distance, you will no doubt be amazed at the variety along the way.
Catriona's tips to make the walk the best it can be are: wear your most comfortable shoes, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. There are cafes and restaurants along the way, but take along water and some snacks. Don't forget to charge your camera before you leave. It will get a big work-out!
From Barrenjoey in Sydney's north to the Royal National Park in the south.
Cronulla to Bundeena ferry ride is $5.70 for adults and $2.85 for children. Maps and brochures can be downloaded from Sydney Coastal Walk's website at www.walkingcoastalsydney.com.au.
Virgin Blue has flights to Sydney. One way fares from:
Brisbane and Melbourne
Adelaide $ 129
Darwin $ 229
Perth $ 239
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at February 11, 2010, and are subject to change.
Prices correct at February 11, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Sydney Coastal Walk