One of the best ways to get to know a place is to walk it. Hitting the pavement and taking in the sights at your own pace is a great way to find what you didn't know you were looking for. Sydney is a dual city: although it is a major metropolis, it is also deeply connected to nature through easily accessible coastline, bushland and mountain ranges. As a hiker, you don't have to stray too far from the city to hit upon a nature trail. Whether you're a serious hiker or a casual stroller, there are inner-city walks for all abilities and energy levels, many of which cut right through the central business district. Even here, so close to the urban centre, you can witness the spectacular natural beauty that makes Sydney such a unique international city, with unexpected swathes of pristine wilderness right on its doorstep. Here are some of the best walks to get you into nature without leaving the centre.
WESTERN ESCARPMENT WALKING TRACK
Although a relatively short walk, the Western Escarpment Walking Track brims with native bird life, wildflowers and coastal views. A one-kilometre walk that runs from Maroubra to Malabar, the path winds through an island of unspoiled bushland in the eastern suburbs. At its highest point, the trail treats walkers to 360-degree views over Botany Bay.
NORTH HEAD WALKING TRACK
One of Sydney's most spectacular coastal walks, the 10-kilometre loop that runs from Manly Lagoon through to North Head requires a time commitment, but offers a big payoff. The track takes walkers past towering sandstone cliffs, magnificent headlands and historic military sights, with plenty of places to stop to take photos, including three elevated lookouts that provide sweeping views across Sydney's waterways and cityscape. Along the way, keep an eye out for long-nosed bandicoots, rainbow lorikeets and New Holland honey-eaters.
MANLY TO SPIT BRIDGE
Hugging the coastline and unravelling through breathtaking stretches of bushland, the Manly to Spit Bridge walk takes you past a stunning range of sights. The 10-kilometre one-way trail weaves its way along sculptural rock shelves, tidal pools, historic sights and Fairlight rockpool, which brims with local sea life.
SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE TO SOUTH HEAD
During the roughly eight hours it takes to complete the Sydney Harbour Bridge to South Head walk, you'll become acquianted with some of Sydney's most iconic landmarks. The 18-kilometre track hugs the foreshore from the bridge and weaves past the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Vaucluse House and the distinctive red-and-white Hornby Lighthouse.
BONDI TO MANLY
If you want a serious walk, the new 80-kilometre Bondi to Manly Walk is for you. Although it can be done in sections depending on your fitness levels and time allowance, the full trail will reward you with a complete spectrum of Sydney's coastal walking tracks, all of which connect to this new mega-trail.