Here’s a wonderful, long walk which is a must for all visitors to Sydney. Whether pushing a stroller or walking with the family, it’s a manageable route with views that will take your breath away.
The Heart of the Harbour City:
A Foreshore Walk from the Harbour Bridge to the Art Gallery
Sydney shows off its most famous icons in this walk alongside the harbour.
This walk commences under the splendid steel stretch of Sydney Harbour Bridge, follows the waterside around the bustling hub of Circular Quay and then progresses into the tranquil Royal Botanical Gardens.
From the Gardens, the foreshore is followed through The Domain, past Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and alongside the waters of Woolloomooloo Bay ending at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
This is a must-walk for stroller-pushing visitors to Sydney. It traverses the heart of Sydney with not a step to negotiate, and only two kerbs encountered. It’s a terrific walk too for Sydneysiders who are stroller-learners and whose legs need a bit of a stretch.
The entire walk is along either a smooth tarmac path or a paved walkway. Only a tiny portion of the walk runs beside a road, so it is quite safe for older children. But those with young children need to pay a lot of attention on this walk because most of it is immediately alongside the harbour. Although almost all of the route has a seawall or fencing of some sort, none is truly childproof and at some places the seawall is so low that it is more like a street kerb.
There is little shade along this walk so sun protection is a must.
Length of walk: 5 kilometres
Time to walk: 60–70 minutes
Start: Hickson Road, under the Harbour Bridge
Toilets: At Circular Quay there are public toilets opposite Wharves 3 and 6. In the Botanic Gardens there is a large toilet block with baby change facilities to the rear of the Botanic Gardens Restaurant and Kiosk building.
There are public toilets in the Yurong Precinct not far from the Yurong Gate. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is free to enter and has public toilets and baby change facilities on Level One.
Parking: Meter parking on Hickson Road, and parking stations in Harrington Street, The Rocks
Nearest station: Circular Quay is a 15 minute walk away
Nearest ferry: Circular Quay is a 15 minute walk away
Bus stop nearby: The Sydney Red Explorer Bus Stop 21 is at Dawes Point Reserve on Hickson Road
The Bridge to Circular Quay
From below the bridge, walk along the pavement with the sea on your left towards Circular Quay. Walk alongside the water, through Dawes Point Reserve on the paved walkway. Wave to climbers on the bridge!
The paved walkway turns into a wooden one as it passes in front of the rather grand Park Hyatt Hotel. The wooden sleepers that provide a seawall are very, very low here.
Just past the hotel is a tiny inlet known as Campbells Cove where you might see tall ships.
On your right is a row of restaurants with outdoor tables under a sea of shade cloth. It is sometimes impossible to go around the seaward side of the Sydney Cove Overseas Passenger Terminal where cruise ships dock when in Sydney, so walkers may have to go along the road. This is the only less than breathtakingly scenic part of the walk and a very short section.
After this there is a broad walkway, with the Museum of Contemporary Art looking quite imperial and many birds high-stepping around the garden areas.
On the left are ferries to Darling Harbour and pleasure cruisers, and ahead lies the bother and bustle that is Circular Quay.
Circular Quay to the Opera House
The broad expanse of Circular Quay can get extremely busy and hectic, especially at peak commuter time. The jumble of city workers, tourists and street performers can be tricky to dodge through and perhaps a bit scary for young children in prams.
It is possible to walk under the arches of Circular Quay and along Alfred Street to avoid this crush, coming back to the waterside at Circular Quay East’s vast complex of cafes, shops and cinemas. City Extra is a child-friendly cafe on Circular Quay.
There is a shaded walkway along Circular Quay East, which is handy in hot or wet weather. Ahead is the Opera House. Proceed in awe.
At the Opera House
After a suitable length of time gazing in wonder at the splendours of the Opera House, walk across the forecourt to the water’s edge on the far side. Alternatively, you can walk all the way around the Opera House on this level and come out exactly where you need to be on the other side. Note that the seawalls are very low here, as they are in many places along this walk.
From the Opera House to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Go through the ornate Queen Elizabeth II Gates leading into the Royal Botanic Gardens. A wide promenade skirts Farm Cove all the way to Mrs Macquarie’s Point.
The tranquil oasis that is the Botanic Gardens can be walked through in many detours. There are lots of paths and all areas can be reached by pram, though sometimes steps will have to be avoided.
Have a look at the large map at the gate for ideas for detours. The Botanic Gardens Restaurant and Kiosk is a good spot to stop off for a rest and refreshing snack or meal.
Otherwise, whiz along the promenade by Farm Cove, where there are lovely views to Kirribilli and Neutral Bay, and particularly to the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
All too soon the Kurong Gate appears, marking the end of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the beginning of the Domain, and the part of it named the Yurong Precinct.
The views from Mrs Macquarie’s Point itself provide photo opportunities par excellence, which is why you will have to steer your stroller in and out of crowds of enthusiastic tourists. The screeches of the cockatoos tend to be drowned out by the tourists’ enthusiastic chirping.
From Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to the Art Gallery
Having rounded the point and stopped to have a look at the wide stone ledge that is Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, take the lower pathway when the path forks. This lower path dips down to run alongside the waters of Woolloomooloo Bay. The seawall here is very low indeed. On the opposite side of the bay, navy ships are often berthed.
The path rises up a slope and goes past the Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton Swimming Pool, good for a quick splash to cool off. The path rises up to join the road, which takes you to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Art Gallery is free to enter and has a family-friendly cafe if you need refreshment.
You can return to the Opera House using a short cut through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Enter by the Woolloomooloo Gate on the other side of the road and a little way along from the Art Gallery and cut straight across to the Queen Elizabeth II Gate at the Opera House.
What’s your favourite place to walk with the family in central Sydney?