It’s so serene surrounded by all this green, just a stone’s throw from the cityLess
Less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s CBD, you’ll find a whopping 15,091 hectares of bushland hugging the coast south of the city. Whatever outdoor pursuit you’re in the mood for – swimming, surfing, hiking, biking, bird watching, camping, or just chilling out in nature – you can find your fix here. Serious walkers should set their sights on the 26km coastal trail, which usually takes two days to complete.
Where the Hawkesbury River meets the sea, overlooking the insular peninsular of the Northern Beaches, some 15,000 hectares of dense forests, hidden coves and sheltered beaches are waiting for you. If you want to keep one eye on civilisation, you can catch the ferry from Mackerel Beach Wharf across the sapphire expanse of Pittwater to Palm Beach, where you'll find bijou cafés and waterfront diners.
There’s a very good reason why the epic vistas of the Blue Mountains are World Heritage listed. Several in fact. Firstly, it has some of the most breathtaking geological formations, gorges and waterfalls anywhere in the country, many of which are important sacred sites for the Gundungurra and Darug peoples who have called these lands home for thousands of generations. Secondly, it boasts a unique diversity of vegetation, including certain species of eucalypts that are found nowhere else.
Most easily accessed from the city via the Taronga Zoo ferry, this park is set up with walking trails and coastal paths, making it a perfect day trip destination for anyone who doesn’t want an overly arduous trek. Follow the trail to Bradley’s Head, where you’ll find stunning views of the harbour, the Middle and South Heads as well as the Hornby Lighthouse in the distance at Watson’s Bay, one of Sydney’s most Instagrammed landmarks.
Hugging the Central Coast near Gosford, this park is a real crowd-pleaser. The 8.5km coastal walk is easily manageable in an afternoon, and if the uninterrupted ocean views on the trail aren’t enough for you, you can always head to Gerrin Point Lookout, a short walk from Putty Beach, where you’ll find unbeatable whale watching conditions during the season.
The ancient eucalypt and shale forests, dense bushlands and pooling waterways within this protected area south of Helensburgh sit on the ancestral lands of the Dharawal people. There are several sites of cultural and sacred significance within the park, including Indigenous artworks and axe-grinding grooves that date back thousands of years. One of the most enlightening and powerful ways to experience this beautiful park is on one of the official Indigenous-led walking tours.
This sprawling forest is one of the Hawkesbury's best-kept secrets. The landscape here is staggeringly dynamic; sandstone gullies give way to mangrove forests on the shoreline, while tall, ridge-top woodlands blanket the highlands. In the summer months, the conditions are perfect to explore the area by kayak or canoe, although there are also excellent biking routes to explore and even a horse riding trail. In winter, day hikes are the best activity for the season.
Nestled inconspicuously in Sydney's north, hugging the Lane Cove River as it snakes its way through the suburbs, this small yet perfectly formed National Park is one of those Sydney miracles, where you can be surrounded by the urban cityscape one second, and then find yourself deep in the bush the next. While it doesn't have quite the same impressive footprint as some of its starrier neighbours, this is still a wonderful place to retreat from the city.