My love affair with this fabulous path continues although it is a little tinged with sadness as I get ever closer to my final destination, Manly Beach. But let’s not think about the end and just enjoy this stupendous walk for now.
Today’s stage was quite a surprise as it is more like a bushwalk than an urban walk. Who would have thought so much gorgeous virgin bush could be found in the heart of a city of 5.3million people?
Stage: 6 – Taronga Zoo to Spit Bridge.
Distance: Official distance: 12km. My Garmin watch said 14km.
Time: Around 3.5 hours with a break for a restorative coffee and warm-out-of-the-oven muffin.
Getting to Taronga Zoo: Taking the ferry from Circular Quay is the quickest and most logical option, but it does not operate in the wee hours if you aim to get walking at sunrise. The ferry trip takes around 15 minutes and costs $6.12 (using an Opal Card). It is a special way to start this stage as it gives you a completely different view of the harbour. For a bus option, take bus #100 from Wynyard Station (Stand T over on Clarence St) for $2.61 (using an Opal Card). The bus will deposit you at the main entrance to the Zoo and it is then a short, downhill walk to the Zoo’s wharf – the official start of this stage.
Getting Away from Spit Bridge: Catch the bus #173X from Spit East Reserve for an express trip back into Wynyard Station. It takes around 24 minutes ($2.61 using an Opal Card).
- Waymarking: This stage is not well signposted at all and I recommend that you have the app (Android or Apple) on your phone. Not that you can go too far wrong if you keep the water on your right hand side (South to North), but that didn’t stop me missing a few turnoffs and obscured sets of steps/stairs. Note: there is a hidden path at the northern end of Balmoral Beach which is not sign-posted at all. Also be careful as you slog your way up the stairs on that path, as a sizeable, low-hanging branch awaits you. If you see a dent in said branch, that is the exact shape of my head!
- Sun Protection: There is plenty of shade in the early stages of this walk as you make your way through Sydney Harbour National Park, but always wear a hat and sunscreen if you are anywhere under the Aussie sun.
- Footwear: Sneakers, runners or walking sandals are perfectly suitable.
- Water, Toilets and Cafés: The app is excellent for showing the location of all the bare necessities. Take a water bottle with you and refill it at the intermittent water stations.
- Fitness: A medium level of fitness is required. Some seats/rest areas are available in a couple of parks.
- Terrain: This path has a bit of everything from bush paths to concrete walkways and lighted wooden boardwalks. Be careful if you are walking after rain as it can be quite muddy and slippery. Again, steps, stairs and a few rock scrambles are a feature of this stage meaning access may be limited for those with mobility issues.
- Swimming Gear: If you walk this path in Summer, make the most of all the tiny hidden beaches and popular Balmoral Beach.
- History: Anyone who has even a passing interest in early colonial Australian history or military history will enjoy this stage. Bradley’s Head was a military establishment from the earliest days of the colony when there were fears that both the Americans and French would invade. The fact that this area has always been used for military and protection purposes, and it was therefore vital to have a high level of camouflage, meant that the virgin bush was left undisturbed for our enjoyment today.
The path leads you around the edge of Taylor’s Bay which was the retrieval site of an invading Japanese submarine in World War II, around Chowder Bay (a submarine mining depot), up to George’s Head for more encampments and lookouts, and finally through to Middle Head which has the HMAS Penguin still in residence and in operation today. Middle Head is about to undergo a major restoration and renovation which will make it even more informative and attractive.
- Bushwalk: As I mentioned above, this is a true bushwalk until you hit suburbia near Balmoral Beach. Busy spiders wove their webs across the path and the trees and scrub were full of birdlife. Twitchers will enjoy the magpies, King Parrots, cockatoos, Whip Birds, Rainbow Lorikeets, bush turkeys, kookaburras and currawongs – all singing good morning as I walked by. It was an amazing feeling to have the thickest Australian bush on your left and yet have waves, created by passing ferries, lapping on your right.
- Popularity: This is a very busy stage of the Bondi-to-Manly path with many other walkers and trail runners enjoying the early morning cool. Canny fishermen sidled and disappeared down narrow bush paths knowing where the best spots were for a successful morning out.
Even before the sun was up I had to stand aside to let the trail runners sprint past and to lose the chatter of lycra-clad North Shore Yummy Mummies blathering on about how their little Tristan had been selected for the debating team. They didn’t have the interest or the time to admire the view or listen to the glorious bird song, but each to their own.
- Coffee: Places to rest and recuperate are not as plentiful on this stage until the more northern sections of the walk. Chowder Bay is a good option. Middle Head has a couple of cafes (although only one was open) and, Balmoral Beach has a vast array of eating and drinking options and would be the perfect spot for a late breakfast. Just be prepared to queue up. The end point of this stage, Spit Bridge, also has a handful of cafes and some nice shady trees to rest under and watch the sailing boats motor out towards the harbour.
- Timing: If you are going to set out early, note that there is a steep set of stairs at the southern end of Balmoral Beach with a gate that is locked from 6pm to 630am (extended hours during daylight saving). Be careful on these steps as they can be very slippery underfoot after rain.
- Final Thoughts: Yet another highly recommended stage of the Bondi-to-Manly path. The contrast of the thick patches of bushland with the high activity area of Balmoral Beach is stark, but scenic. Don’t miss it!
Have you walked any stages of the Bondi to Manly walk? What are your thoughts?
What: Stage 6 of the Bondi to Manly Walk. I have chosen to divide this walk into eight stages, but there is a handful of energetic (or crazy?) individuals have run the whole 80km in one go. Check out the Walk’s website for an itinerary to suit you and the time available.
Where: Working my way eastwards away from the Harbour Bridge and then northwards.
When: I walked in mid-March 2021. An early start will help you avoid the worst of the heat.
Why: Walk this path for a taste of the Australian bush.
Who: This path is perfect for bird watchers, history buffs, and visitors to Sydney.
Related Posts: To start from the beginning, read my posts about:
- Stage 1 from Bondi Beach to Watsons Bay – here.
- Stage 2 from Watsons Bay to Rose Bay – here.
- Stage 3 from Rose Bay to Darling Point – here.
- Stage 4 from Darling Point to Kirribilli – here.
- Stage 5 from Kirribilli to Taronga Zoo – here.
Related Blogs: If you like your walks with a distinct Iberian flavour, then join Jo as she strolls through the gorgeous countryside and beachside in Portugal.
Read About It: For an fascinating insight into Sydney Harbour, grab a copy of Scott Bevan’s The Harbour: A city’s heart, a country’s soul. Bevan takes us on an adventure around Sydney Harbour paddling in and out of small coves and bays in his kayak, revealing the intriguing history of the harbour, its workers, industries and invasions. Available from Book Depository.
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