Speed hiking the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk, with an extension to Georges and Middle Head, is a sensational harbourside trail in Sydney. This hike has it all really – gorgeous harbourside views, hidden bays, epic lookouts and historical fortifications. So there’s something in it for everyone – keen hikers, history buffs and nature seeking enthusiasts.
Being located in the busy Sydney Harbour National Park means it can get pretty rammed on the weekend. So make sure to hit the trail early with your speed hiking buddies for maximal enjoyment. There’s many an opportunity for a swim along the way, so pack those budgy smugglers in with any other of your usual hiking gear.
Sydney Harbour National Park | Extended Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk
The Sydney Harbour National Park has some surprisingly beautiful and abundant bushland. Despite the busy suburban life that’s not too far away, the extended Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk does provide a sense of refuge. At times, you’ll be completely immersed in nature and forget that a busy city is just a stone’s throw away!
Alongside the Blue Mountains and Royal National Park, the Sydney Harbour National Park is one of the most highly visited parks in NSW. This isn’t by coincidence. Yes, it’s conveniently located and easily accessible for Sydneysiders. But the national park has a fascinating mix of the natural world and a world class city skyline in the background. This uniqueness certainly makes it worth the visit.
If you’re after complete remoteness and a total natural sanctuary, then this won’t be the speed hike for you. But it’s certainly a great trail to mix things up if you usually choose a more wild scene. Plus, given its populous location, this walk itself is not as well known or well walked as you’d think! So it might even be quieter than you’d expect.
Highlights of the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk + Middle Head
- Bradleys Head
- Taylors Bay
- Chowder Bay – Clifton Gardens Reserve
- Georges Head Lookout
- Headland Park
- Middle Head
- Obelisk Beach
Right off the bat, you’ll have amazing views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House from Bradleys Head. It’s certainly an epic harbourside vantage point to take in the stunning Sydney skyline and all of its main attractions. As part of the Bradleys Head Amphitheatre, we recommend heading onto the stone jetty for the best photos. There, you’ll feel further immersed in the gorgeous harbour.
SIDE NOTE: Having grown up in Sydney, I admittedly take these views for granted. But for someone who hasn’t seen much of the city before, Beck really enjoyed exploring Bradleys Head and the harbourside. If you have visitors from overseas, this is a great place to show off the magnificent Sydney harbour.
Pretty as it may be, nothing beats the beauty of nature. So after you’ve scoped out the harbour, it’s time to crack on with the extended Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk. With Port Jackson Bay to your right, you’ll head away from Bradleys Head and towards Taylors Bay.
Following a dirt trail, you’ll be surrounded by harbourside bushland in a matter of minutes. The transition is so swift, that you’ll feel like you’ve been teleported to some bayside national park outside of the city. You’ll continue to have glimpses of the sparkling harbourside bay, as you speed hike through increasingly dense bush.
Admittedly the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk becomes fairly narrow and muddy around Taylors Bay. So you might have to slow down and make way for passing groups, particularly if you’re speed hiking.
WHAT IS SPEED HIKING? We’re glad you asked! It’s but one way to enjoy the awesomeness that is hiking. Speed hiking can be a bit tricky on busy on narrow paths, so you’ll have to use common sense, slow down and be courteous to your fellow hikers. For more information on how to avoid being a jerk when speed hiking – read our comprehensive speed hiking guide.
Other than the serene trail that leads you there, Taylors Bay is the next major attraction. It’s a small, picturesque and concealed bay. There’s a small set of steps leading you down to the bay on a rather overgrown path if you wish to scope it out in more detail or even go for a swim. To be honest, Beck and I were just hitting our strides with our speed hike, so we decided to press on. If you’re keen for a swim, Chowder Bay – the next attraction, will also provide you with that opportunity!
After bending around Taylors Bay, you’ll continue towards Chowder Head. In between the thick bushland, to your right, the turquoise waters of Chowder Bay are revealed. The bay calmly stirs, creating a peaceful ambience.
As you hike adjacent to Chowder Bay, the dirt trail gently undulates, eventually spitting you out onto the sand of Chowder Bay. Within the comparatively larger bay, are a few boats and yachts. If you can’t get too far out of the city, on a sunny day, Chowder Bay is truly a great place to be to catch some rays! For the hikers, it’s a welcome change-up from the bushland trail.
Adjacent to Chowder Bay is Clifton Gardens Reserve. It’s a large grassy area with a few picnic tables and covers – a wonderful spot for a snack, or even lunch. From there, you’ll have unbeatable views of the bay and the wooden jetty that seems to split the bay in two.
Now, you might be thinking, that it’s – the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk is over! Well, technically, yes. But we don’t recommend finishing your hike at Chowder Bay. Further along the coast, are epic lookouts, more great harbourside bushland trail, beautiful beaches and fascinating fortifications. So after taking in the tranquil bay, and putting down some food, speed hike your way towards Georges Head.
Georges Head Lookout
From the eastern end of Chowder Bay, you’ll ascend a concrete set of steps, passing by a restaurant and a few other buildings. It’s not the best part of the hike, but it brings you above the bay, revealing more great views of the harbourside. Continuing slightly uphill, you’ll be taken to another headland, this time – Georges Head. From this vantage point, you’ll have vast views of the entire harbour.
To your right is Chowder Bay, where the wooden jetty prominently sticks out. Surrounding Chowder Bay is the lovely bushland you just hiked through. Further in the distance is the Sydney skyline. You should be able to make out all of the buildings, including the tallest – Sydney Tower Eye.
In front of you is a large body of water, separating you and South Head – the tip of the Eastern Suburbs. You should be able to make out the small beaches of Watsons Bay and Vaucluse.
To your left is a gap between South and North Heads, which is essentially the opening and gateway for the Sydney Harbour. All of these beautiful views in front of you, and yet, there’s still more to enjoy at Georges Head itself. Here, as well as Middle Head, there are military fortifications to check out. The ones here are from WWII. On a grassy area, the forts are roped off but you’ll still feel quite close to this historical attraction. Take time to enjoy the cannons and battlements on display.
After you explore a few more of the viewpoints from Georges Head, continue your hike northwards. When leaving Georges Head, make sure to take the bush trail that initially steers you towards Headland Park. Along the way, you’ll continue to have some fantastic views of the harbour, particularly towards South and North Head.
At this point, you’ve well and truly finished the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk and have technically started Bungaree’s Walkway. This harbourside trail, beginning from Chowder Bay, has obviously taken you through to the Georges Head Lookout and now continues through Headland Park. You’ll see a bunch of signage on the way, keeping you on course. You might even be lucky enough to have a cackling kookaburra righteously perched at the top of one of the signs!
Bungaree’s Walkway then takes you up through Georges Heights and eventually leads you to Balmoral Beach. However, that isn’t on the itinerary for today! Once you get to Middle Head Road, you’ll turn right, instead of continuing straight. You’ll then follow a dirt trail, adjacent to Middle Head Road, that leads you to Middle Head.
You’ll pass by HMAS Penguin – a Royal Australian Navy Base and Middle Head Oval, over the road, to your left. Afterwards, you’ll pass a relatively large car park to your right. Fair to say, this part of the walk isn’t that great. But soon enough, you’ll find the Don Goodsir Walking Track. This small, flat and easy dirt trail is what leads you to heritage-listed fortifications dating back to 1801!
The Don Goodsir Walking Track quickly winds its way through some more bushland which becomes increasingly thicker. The trail becomes a bit fainter as you near the batteries, but it’s easy enough to follow. You’ll then arrive at a small concrete platform, surrounded by a metal fence, overlooking the harbour. Next to it, is the first of the fortifications on Middle Head.
You can then follow the outer concrete parameter of this old battery, making your way around it. The views of the harbour from Middle Head are just as exquisite as any of the other viewpoints. After you’ve explored this battery, there are in fact, many others, some even larger, littered throughout Middle Head. Take time to explore them all before you head to Obelisk Beach – the final attraction of this extended Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk.
It would be a shame not to visit Obelisk Beach during this hike. Located right around the corner from Middle Head, is a secluded beach packed with beauty. It is a nudist beach though, so it can also be packed with naked rigs. Regardless, the beach itself is gorgeous. To get to the beach, head back to Middle Head Road, and before continuing back to Headland Park, take a left onto Chowder Bay Road. Not far from there, is an entrance to your left, indicated by a narrow trail of old wooden steps winding down to the beach.
Once you arrive onto the beach, most people head to the right where there is a larger stretch of uninterrupted sand. But to your left, are an array of scattered rocks, majestically protruding from the sand. It’s a great place to take a photo or hang out to take a breather, before the return hike back to Bradleys Head.
Again, expect serene harbourside views from this cosy beach. Of which, the Gadigal clan of the Eora Nation are the traditional owners. We thank them for caring for the land for many tens of thousands of years prior.
Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk Recap
The extended Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk is a lovely harbourside hike. It’s certainly one of the highlights of the Sydney Harbour National Park. There’s an interesting combination of impressive Sydney architecture which is enjoyed from the many great bushland surroundings on the trail. What a marvellous mix!
Getting to Sydney
Flights: Of course, you’ll need to fly to Sydney to do this trip from abroad. If you’re travelling to Sydney from overseas, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search.
Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. If you’re interstate, subscribe to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts to and from other states. You can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.
Getting to/from Bradleys Head
Bradleys Head is located on the northern side of the harbour. There are many ways to access this part of Sydney Harbour National Park. As well, there are different options for completing the hike depending on how you get there and whether you want to pay for parking. We’ll cover the three best options.
Simply parking at Bradleys Head is the first option and most logical choice. But you’re looking at $8AUD/day ($6USD). Even with a NSW National Parks All Parks or Multi Parks Pass, you have to pay at the Bradleys Head Amphitheatre Car Park. There are only around 20 spaces, so it can fill up quickly on the weekend.
Parking on Chowder Bay Road, just outside Obelisk Beach is your second option. If you follow the rules, you can even park here for free. Basically, if you have a NSW National Parks All Parks or Multi Parks Pass, you can park here for free for up to 4 hours/day. But it means that you might be rushed to finish in time, so you better be speed hiking your butt off!
Otherwise, parking here is $3AUD/hour ($2USD), to a max of $16/day ($12USD), increasing to $4/hour ($3USD), to a max of $20/day ($15USD) on weekends and public holidays.
There’s probably even less parking here than compared with Bradleys Head so arrive early to get a spot. If parking here is full, there’s the Middle Head Car Park around the corner. But parking there can be exxy. For Middle Head Car Park prices, check here.
If you don’t have a car, you could always get the ferry to Taronga Zoo from Circular Quay. The walk from Taronga Zoo Wharf to Bradleys Head would be a lovely 1.5km harbourside addition taking only 20 minutes or so.
To get the most out of the day, bring a packed lunch plus plenty of water and snacks. Our go-to grocery stores when travelling in Australia are Aldi and Woolworths. They will cover everything you need. Of course, you won’t be too far from civilisation if you need any last-minute supplies. There are plenty of cafes around Georges Heights if need be as well.
- Petrol: $10AUD/person ($7USD)
- Food: $10AUD/person ($7USD)
- Parking: $8AUD ($6USD)
= $24AUD/person ($18USD)
The best way to save on this half-day trip is to plan ahead on where you’ll park!
Five Hiking Gear Essentials for the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay Walk
For a more detailed summary on hiking gear, please check out 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With and for a comprehensive list of useful accessories for any trip, check out our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – these breathable hiking boots are great for the hotter conditions you can get in Sydney.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – this backpack is great for any day hiking. It’s lightweight and compact but it’ll fit everything that you need.
- Ray-Ban Polarised Clubmaster Sunglasses – sunnies will come in handy, particularly when checking out the glistening harbourside views.
- Anker PowerCore 10000 Portable Charger – the most reliable lightweight portable charger around.
- GoPro HERO 9 – capture your epic speed hiking footage with this premium action camera.
Trail navigation is fairly straightforward on the extended Bradleys Head to Towlers Bay Walk. But if you’re unfamiliar with the area, it’s worth having some GPS guided directions as it can get a little bit confusing around Georges Heights. We recommend using Wikiloc or AllTrails.
For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during the hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Start early: avoid the Sydney crowds.
- Bring your swimmers: there are too many options for swimming to choose from!
- Explore more of North Sydney: this hike shouldn’t take longer than 4-5 hours, so you’ll have plenty of time to see more of this beautiful city.
- Check out more of Sydney Harbour National Park: there is plenty of other amazing harbourside walks that you can fit into a day trip. Why not try the Hermitage Foreshore Walk or check out Balls Head Reserve?
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