New South Trails: 6 of Sydney's best hikes

Head out of the big smoke in search of the big stoke.
Hiking, New South Wales © Tatters
By James Shackell

We're in the midst of a cultural shift here in Australia. Binge drinking is dying out and being replaced by #fitspo: a generation of youngsters who care more about goji smoothies than XXXX stubbies, and who want to spend their weekends either doing bikram yoga, developing their own range of ethically-responsible organic unicycles or hiking. Here, we’ll be focusing on the latter.

Sydney is spoiled for choice when it comes to good weekend hikes. And you basically have two options: head inland, or hug the coast. No matter which way you go, you’re guaranteed some spectacular views. So grab your North Face jacket and let’s do this. Here are Sydney’s 6 best weekend walks.

The Coast Track

Coast Track © Sydneydawg2006

Probably the most famous walking track within easy reach of the Harbour (and, just quietly, one of our favourite walks in the country). The Coast Track starts in Bonnie Vale and runs for 26km through the Royal National Park to Otford. You’ll get VIP access to some of the most spectacular cliffs in Australia, and there are six or seven excellent swimming spots at various hidden beaches along the way.

If you want to camp at the North Era Campground, you’ll need a permit from the Parks Department. It’s got limited facilities, but the views are pretty special. When you reach Otford, there’s a train waiting to take you back to the Real World (depressing, we know).

Glow Worm Tunnel

Glow Worm Tunnel, Blue Mountains © Eyeweed

This tunnel is a well-kept secret for Blue Mountain pros, but it’s starting to worm its way into the public sphere (sorry). It’s basically a 900m old abandoned railways tunnel, which sounds like the setup to a slasher movie, but is actually totally safe. The most dangerous things that lives in it are worms. There’s a carpark nearby if you’re after a quick squiz at the light show, but where’s the fun in that?

Better to make a day of it. Drive three hours from Sydney to the town of Newnes and set up the tent in the beautiful Wolgan River campground. From there it’s a lovely 4-hour hike through the bush to the glow worm tunnel. Bring a torch (it gets pretty dark in there).

Pierces Pass to Bluegum Forest

Pierces Pass © Winam

Another Blue Mountains classic. The Pierces Pass track is graded as ‘Hard’, which means it’ll take more than some fierce LuLu Lemon fitness gear to conquer. On the plus side, you’re rewarded with speccy views of the northern end of the Grose Valley.

The track also winds down through the rainforest to the Grose River, and there are plenty of swimming holes for a cheeky mid-hike dip. The length and grade of the track mean this is definitely an overnight endeavor. Luckily there’s a campsite among the barked apples and stringybark trees at Acacia Flat. Watch out for the rock wallabies that come out to graze at twilight.

Six Foot Track

Six Foot Track © Neil Saunders

Six Foot Track is a 44km monster trail that winds through the state forests and the Blue Mountains from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves. Not one for the feint of heart or feint of leg. But for those that chuck a sickie on Monday and give it a crack, Six Foot is probably one of the more rewarding hikes in NSW.

It follows an old horse track, cut in 1884 and passes cascading waterfalls and wild rivers in the Megalong Valley. The scenery is insane, and because of its length, there’s a decent chance you’ll have it mostly to yourself. Keep safety in mind though: it might be worth picking up a distress beacon from a police station on the way to the Blue Mountains (they usually lend them out for free to bushwalkers).

Tomaree Head Summit Walk

Tomaree © Tim J Keegan

Just north of Newcastle you’ll find the Tomaree National Park: a sliver of a peninsula that sticks out into the Pacific like a very photogenic sore thumb. The Head Summit trail gives you the best views Port Stevens, Cabbage Tree and even the Boondelbah Islands, way off in the distance. It’s only a 2.2km jaunt (hardly a hike at all compared to Six Foot).

There’s a picnic table at the top (along with some cool WWII gun placements), so bring a packed lunch. If you’re walking the Head Summit trail between May and October, bring binoculars – you might get lucky and see whales swimming off the coast.

Bingi Dreaming Track

Traditionally, the Dreaming Tracks followed the old song lines across the country, linking places that were significant to the Aboriginal people. The Bingi Dreaming Track passes through lakeshores, forests and coastal scrub, and there’s heaps of good wildlife spotting opportunities along the way: kangaroos, wallabies and native birdlife.

If you’re passing through in whale watching season (May – Oct) there’s good lookouts at Mount Dromedary and Montague Island. The track itself is only two and a half hour drive from Sydney – the perfect length for a beachside weekend getaway.

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