There is no better way to explore a city than on two feet. It gets even better when it is a sparkling Winter’s day and you have no time pressure to do anything other than stroll in the sunshine.
Welcome to the Bondi to Manly Walk.
The Bondi to Manly Walk was launched with great fanfare late last year and its goal is to build to a similar status or popularity as Italy’s famous Cinque Terre path. This is a totally reasonable and realistic goal as Sydney also enjoys a spectacular coastline, however it is very early days for this path.
I have set myself the goal of walking the entire length of the 80km path and I will break it into stages driven by the number of my rare visits to Sydney. Recently I had a few days to walk to my heart’s content and managed to cover the best part of three stages in one day. I will discuss each stage in separate blog posts, starting with the Bondi Beach to Watsons Bay in this first post. In reality there is nothing stopping you walking in reverse from Manly in the North, southerly to Bondi Beach, or you could walk individual, random stages as your time allowed. Totally up to you.
So here are my thoughts on Stage 1.
Stage: 1 – Bondi Beach to Watsons Bay.
Distance: 9.92km (my Garmin watch said 8.68km).
Time: Just under two hours.
Getting to Bondi Beach: Take the T4 line from Central Train Station to Bondi Junction and then bus 333 (or other buses) to Bondi Beach. I recommend getting an Opal Card for ease of ticketing and I understand the fares are cheaper with an Opal Card too.
Getting Away from Watsons Bay: Ferries depart regularly from Watsons Bay wharf taking you to Rose Bay and then to Circular Quay in the city. Or buses 324 and 325 will take you westwards to the City, connecting you to Edgecliff train station or into Wynyard in the City centre.
- Waymarking: Currently the path is not Print the maps available from the Bondi to Manly website or have them on your phone. If all else fails, do your best to keep the water on your right-hand side. (NB: I have since found out that installation of waymarking will commence in August 2019 with a Buriburi (humpback whale) as the trail marker.) Update Nov.2020: Just a quick note to let you know that there have been substantial improvements to the availability of directional signage on this stage. Participating Councils have been erecting signage featuring the Buriburi (the humpback whale). Also an excellent free app is now available and you can use the maps offline to save data. Download for free for ANDROID or APPLE. It is a very comprehensive app showing the toilets, water, coffee etc. Enjoy!
- Take water: There are very few water bubblers.
- Sun Protection: Wear a hat and sunscreen. There is little shade and the wind burns too.
- Footwear: Sneakers or runners are perfectly suitable.
- Food and Snacks: There are no coffee shops on the path, except right at the start and the end of the walk.
- Fitness: A medium level of fitness is required and some seats/rest areas are available in a couple of reserves.
- Terrain: The path is not suitable for wheelchairs or strollers as there are multiple steps, stairs, boardwalks and grassed areas, plus some steep climbs.
- Toilets: Are available in some reserves and parks. The maps on the website do indicate the location of some toilets.
My thoughts and comments:
- I was surprised to see so many people surfing and swimming at Bondi Beach. It was a blustery, cool grey morning to be disrobing and plunging into the sea. Now that’s dedication!
- The path is not marked and maps appear to be a general suggestion only. I did my best to follow the map, however ended up making it up a bit as I went along. Hence the difference in my distance to the official one. I was happy to walk the correct route if I could find it.
The start of the path is quite urban with only rare glimpses of the ocean for the first few kilometres. I did see lots of amazing and expensive real estate as well as sweeping views westward to the city.
- Eventually the path links with a number of coastal reserves which were full of happy dogs running, playing and generally doing their best to resist being wrangled back into their owner’s cars at the end of the play date. Their owners were equally friendly and happy and many greeted me as I walked by. A rare thing in Sydney.
- The coastal views are dominated by soaring sandstone cliffs plunging into clear blue water. It was amazing to see the waves smash onto the rocks and withdraw to leave everything washed fresh and clean. The water was so clear I could see reefs and rocks deep below the surface and even saw some large fish dodging the optimistic fishermen.
- A highlight was to see a large pod of whales breaching out at sea. They were quite a distance away, but you could see the massive splashes and spurts of air and water shooting skywards.
- There were plenty of other people out and about, and they were either lycra-clad or tradies – the only two species visible that early in the morning.
- There are a couple of historic sites along the route including the Macquarie Lightstation and the Wreck of the Dunbar to add some historic interest to the walk. A small amount of interpretative information is available to enlighten you.
The path takes you through small pockets of coastal bush and scrub. It was a joy to hear that parrots chattering in the trees and see the flowering coastal banksias – a very sculptural plant.
- As you get closer to Watsons Bay you get misty glimpses of North Head and I can only imagine how welcome this sight must have been in the olden days sailing into the harbour after many long and monotonous months at sea.
- The walk takes on a sad air as you pass The Gap. This is a notorious suicide spot and the fences are littered with small shrines in remembrance of friends and family who saw no alternative. Signage is also plentiful telling people to cling to hope and call Lifeline instead.
- Overall, an enjoyable walk which took me through many places I had only ever heard about. The views are stunning and the walk into Watsons Bay is a beautiful conclusion, plus there was a restorative coffee waiting for me!
Have you done this walk? What are your thoughts?
What: Stage 1 of the Bondi to Manly Walk. “The Bondi to Manly Walk is a proposal to link all of the existing coastal and harbourside walking tracks and paths on public land between Australia’s two most famous surf beaches, Bondi and Manly, in an 80 kilometre walk around the foreshore of Sydney Harbour”. Source
Where: Furthest east of the Sydney CBD, right on the coast from Bondi Beach to Watsons Bay.
When: Early June 2019.
Why: Because I love a walk and I love to get out of the concrete jungle that is a city.
How: By foot, train, foot, bus, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, etc, train, foot. check out public transport timetables here.
Who: Myself, a sprinkling of international tourists, hundreds of deliriously happy dogs, uber cool yummy mummies and caffeine-deprived tradies.
Related Posts: If you prefer to go South from Bondi Beach instead of North, have a look at my post about the path to Coogee Beach. It is not to be missed.
Related Blogs: For all things walking in Sydney, have a look at this fabulous blog, Sydney Coast Walks, written by a pair of passionate walkers.
Read About it: Need to do some research on where to walk in Sydney before you set out? Then check out the range of books available from Book Depository including Sydney’s Best Harbour & Coastal Walks and Sydney’s Best Bush Park & City Walks: The Bestselling Guide to Over 50 Fantastic Walks.
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