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The Top 15 West Head Walks in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

The Top 15 West Head Walks in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is one of the best national parks, not only in Sydney but in all of New South Wales. In particular, the West Head area is one of the most spectacular and popular areas of Ku-ring-gai. Despite there being well-known walks and attractions in West Head, there are an equal number of beautiful spots that are barely known. Indeed, West Head isn’t short of less-explored walks, lookouts, waterfalls, and beaches, all just a stone’s throw from suburban Sydney.

By following our guide, you and your adventure buddies can explore the popular walks as well as the lesser-known and quieter trails and attractions in West Head.

Read about the best waterfalls in Sydney

West Head Walks Map

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, as a whole, enjoys a beautiful coastal setting, situated on the northern edges of Sydney. Without stating the obvious, this guide only covers walks in the West Head area of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. There are other gorgeous areas of Ku-ring-gai Chase, such as Bobbin Head and Cowan Creek, which have fantastic walks. But, for this guide, we’ll just focus on the walks and attractions in West Head.

In this guide, our aim isn’t to exhaustively list every single walk possible in the West Head area. Simply, we want to highlight the absolute best walks in the area. That way, you can easily figure out what walks to do during a trip to West Head. For your convenience, we’ve made an interactive map, showing you the exact location of all of the best walks in West Head.

West Head Walks map
West Head map

To keep things simple, we’ve listed the best walks in West Head from north to south. Hopefully, this will help you organise your trip to the area.

Without further ado, let’s kick off the Best West Head Walks Guide with the West Head Lookout Track, which is also known as the Red Hands Track.

1. West Head Lookout Track (AKA Red Hands Track)

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 1.9km
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 95m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Resolute Picnic Area

Visiting the well-known West Head Lookout is an absolute must for a first-time visitor. It’s no coincidence that it’s one of the most popular attractions in the West Head area of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Personally, Beck and I enjoyed a lovely sunrise from this viewpoint.

From the large sandstone viewing area, you’ll enjoy fantastic views of Broken Bay, Pittwater and Barrenjoey Lighthouse. On a clear day, you’ll also have far-reaching views across the Hawkesbury River and towards Lion Island Nature Reserve. You may also be able to spot some beaches on the Central Coast, such as Umina Beach.

Most people will simply park at the end of West Head Road and walk only 50–100 metres to reach the lookout. But, there is a longer walk option to the West Head Lookout. Starting from the Resolute Picnic Area, you can follow the West Head Lookout Track (AKA the Red Hands Track) to reach the viewpoint. Other than exploring serene bushland, one of the main attractions along the walk is the extraordinary Red Hands Cave.

By the way, the West Head Lookout Track forms part of the longer circuit walk called the Aboriginal Heritage Walk. We’ll cover details about this walk later, talking more about Red Hands Cave and other Aboriginal sites en route.

Sunrise at West Head Lookout, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. A sun pokes out above the horizon line to create a spectacular sunrise. The sun is reflected strongly in the water and the sky is mostly cloudy. A headland protrudes the distant scene.

2. West Head Army Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 1.4km
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 85m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: West Head Lookout

Next is the West Head Army Track. It’s quite a new track, only opening in 2016. Starting from the West Head Lookout, it steeply makes its way down to West Head Battery; a series of defence fortifications built during World War II. Its purpose was to protect Pittwater, the Hawkesbury River and northern Sydney. Given how new the track is, it’s in great condition and is well-signposted.

The steep track features some wooden stairs. They quickly meander down to a near-vertical winding metal step ladder. Descending the step ladder is good fun and feels adventurous. There is an old observation post waiting for you near the bottom.

Then, a rougher track begins where you’ll eventually arrive at a T-intersection. To explore one of the accessible gun casings, head left at that intersection. Once you enter the gun casing fortification, you’ll be met with a gorgeous silhouette of the Hawkesbury River. It’s amazing to see these wartime fortifications still standing. There’s also an ammunition magazine to explore as well.

The views of Hawkesbury River from West Head Battery during one of the newest walks in West Head – the West Head Army Track. The gun casing creates a fantastic rectangular shaped lookout of the calm river and cloudy sky. Beck is positioned to the right of the lookout.

3. West Head Beach Walk

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 0.9m
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 80 metres
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: West Head Lookout

West Head Beach is a small and secluded beach that’s only accessible by foot (if you don’t have a boat). Ideally, you’ll park near the end of West Head Road, walk by West Head Lookout and complete a short bush walk to arrive at the remote beach.

From near West Head Lookout, simply follow signs for West Head Beach and Resolute Beach. You’ll wind your way through some stunning coastal bushland. You’ll also hear cascading water as it runs down rocky platforms situated to the side of the track. As you descend the leaf-littered track, you’ll arrive at a steep meandering wooden staircase leading to West Head Beach.

Much of the small beach is covered by submerged rocks. They stick out from the sand and some from the depths of the calm blue ocean. From West Head Beach, you’ll have some of the best views of Barrenjoey’s Lighthouse.

Read more: West Head Beach – The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide

West Head Beach at Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. A beach with many a footstep in the sand is brightened even on a considerably cloudy day. A headland with a lighthouse is located far from the shoreline.

4. Resolute Beach Walk

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 2.1km
  • Time: 30–45 minutes
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 105 metres
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: West Head Lookout

Some people walk past West Head Beach and head straight to the more well-known Resolute Beach from West Head Lookout. By doing so, you’ll complete the Resolute Beach Walk, which is also known as the West Head Lookout to Resolute Beach Walk. Resolute Beach is a slightly larger beach and shares similar views and remote vibes as West Head Beach. Certainly, Resolute Beach is easily one of the most stunning remote beaches in Sydney.

The walking track that leads to both West Head Beach and Resolute Beach follows the Resolute Track. Similar to the Red Hands Track, the Resolute Track forms another part of the longer Aboriginal Heritage Walk.

Read more: Resolute Beach – The Easiest Walk There and 9 Nearby Attractions

Beck on the Resolute Beach Walk in West Head with Barrenjoey Headland and Lighthouse in the distance. Beck, facing away from the camera, walks on a beach with a calm bay to her right, with bushland and an island in the distance, with a cloudy sky above.

5. Aboriginal Heritage Walk

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 1.5–2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 190m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: West Head Lookout

Combining several tracks, the Aboriginal Heritage Walk forms one of the best walks in West Head. Previously, the Aboriginal Heritage Walk was known as the Resolute Loop Trail.

During the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, you’ll visit many of West Head’s best attractions. Starting from West Head Lookout, you can visit West Head Beach and Resolute Beach. From Resolute Beach, you’ll join a track heading away from the coast. Soon enough, you’ll pass by an Aboriginal Occupation Site and Aboriginal Engravings, before reaching the Resolute Picnic Area.

From there, you’ll essentially do the West Head Lookout Track (AKA the Red Hands Track) back to the West Head Lookout. As mentioned, along the Red Hand Track, you’ll pass the amazing Red Hands Cave. It’s incredible to be able to enjoy these examples of Aboriginal rock art from tens of thousands of years ago.

Red Hands Cave along the Aboriginal Heritage Walk – one fo the best walks in West Head, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. A single handprint positioned centrally, is covered by a red colour, which is truly outstanding on the cave.

6. Koolewong Track

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 1.1km
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 70m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Resolute Picnic Area

Near the Resolute Picnic Area, you’ll find the trailhead for the Koolewong Track. The Koolewong Track is a short track that heads through dry bushland, leading you towards the Hawkesbury River. At the end of the track, you’ll arrive at an unmarked lookout, with impeded views of the river. Sure, Koolewong Lookout isn’t the best lookout in West Head, but the Koolewong Track, as a whole, is one of the best short walks in the area.

The beautiful but impeded views of Hawkesbury River from the Koolewong Track along of the best short walks in West Head. Much bushland in the foreground frames the calm river in the background. Beyond, green coastal land and a partly cloudy sky dominate.

7. Flint and Steel Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 1.2km
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 140m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Flint & Steel Beach Car Park

Hiking down to Flint and Steel Beach involves one of the most straightforward walks in West Head. The track pierces through the bushland, winding and descending its way down to the secluded beach. Yes, another hidden beach, which is lesser-known than the beaches nearer West Head Lookout.

The track itself provides stunning views of the surrounding Hawkesbury River and Lion Island. There are some decent photo opportunities on the way, as you are still at a decent vantage point before descending to the beach.

Views of Lion Island on the way to Flint and Steel Beach. Dan stands on a rock with a rucksack looking at far distant island and coastal line. The calm ocean is far below and framed nicely by surrounding bushland.

The final descent to the beach is on a fairly steep but sturdy wooden staircase. It takes you onto the highest of the levelled flat rock platforms leading to the beach. Exploring the small beach by walking along the rock platforms will help you feel truly immersed in nature.

FYI – to do an extended walk, it’s possible to complete a loop, rather than an out and back. This would involve walking to White Horse Beach at Flint and Steel Bay from Flint and Steel Beach and returning to the car park via a different trail.

Flint and Steel Beach, West Head Ku-Ring Gai Chase National Park. A mostly cloudy sky parades above Dan as he walks across that some flat rock platforms at the water's edge. The ocean is calm.

8. The Basin Track and Mackerel Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 9km
  • Time: 2.5–3.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 290m
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Basin Track Trailhead

The Basin Track and Mackerel Track involves one of the best walks in West Head. A popular route option is to combine both tracks as out and back walks, which is reflected in the trail specs above. But, there are several route options for exploring the Basin and Mackerel Tracks.

You can simply do an out and back of just one of the tracks. So, you could just do the Basin Track to reach the Basin Campground. Even if you’re not planning to camp overnight at the Basin, there is still a nice picnic area there, with plenty of kangaroos and a chance for a swim.

Or, you could just do an out and back of the Mackerel Track to reach the secluded Mackerel Beach and Great Mackerel Beach. Another option, which can only be completed at low tide, is to do a loop walk combing both tracks. The latter involves walking between Mackerel Beach and the Bain via Currawong Beach.

Beck making her way down onto Great Mackerel Beach. Standing oat the end of fallen trees, she looks out to the white sand that precede the ocean, as well as the bushland surrounding it and the cloudy sky positioned above it.
Great Mackerel Beach

One of the highlights of either route option is the Aboriginal rock engravings on the Basin Track. The Basin Aboriginal art site is another example of the rich cultural history of the Indigenous people living in this area. Rock engravings found here are some of the best, if not the best, in the area. You’ll see outlines of animals and humans, interacting in a way that helps tell a story.

Rock engravings on the Basin Trail. An outline of a human is faint but still obvious on the flat rock.

9. Challenger Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 3km
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 60m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Challenger Track Trailhead

Despite what the walk’s name suggests, the Challenger Track is one of the easiest walks in West Head. The track follows a flat and wide fire trail, which arrives at a small clearing overlooking the Hawkesbury River and Little Pittwater Bay. At this clearing, you’ll find several rock platforms, which provide decent yet still impeded views. Sure, the Challenger Track isn’t the best walk in West Head, but it’s a nice and easy trail if you’re looking for a simple stroll.

Dan on the Challenger Track, which is one of the best short walks in West Head.

10. America Bay Walking Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 2km
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 37m
  • Difficulty: Grade 3
  • Trailhead: America Bay Walking Track Trailhead

There’s only a tiny car park at the trailhead of the America Bay Track, with enough space for probably half a dozen cars. There are a couple of entrances to commence the walk. Most people will notice the signpost to the right of the car park and will start from there.

It’s a narrow track with stunning vegetation to enjoy, especially in spring. Bear in mind, that the track can get fairly muddy after rainfall. Contributing to this is the lovely red-bedded small creek running adjacent to the track, particularly nearing the end of the trail. You’ll pass over the creek once, which helps form the impressive America Bay Waterfall, which is one of our favourite waterfalls in Sydney.

Not only will you enjoy a stunning waterfall, but you’ll be treated to the most exquisite views of America Bay. Best of all, the hike is mostly flat and an easy 2km return trail. So it’s a huge reward for such minimal effort.

I’ve been here a few times before. So I had a great sense of nostalgia returning here and a great pleasure showing Beck this place for the first time.

Back in the day, it was possible to scramble over some rocks and get to the base of America Bay Falls. But, that track is now closed and access to the base of the falls is forbidden.

11. Topham Walking Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 4km
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 90m
  • Difficulty: Grade 4
  • Trailhead: Topham Walking Track Trailhead

Admittedly, the Topham Track, as a whole, isn’t the most exciting of walks in the West Head area of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. But the ending, with a bit of extra exploration, will reward you with one of the best lookouts in the entire national park. The management trail, which is rather uninspiring other than some nice wildflowers in spring, leads you to a dead-end without any real views of the surrounding bays.

Luckily, we had done some research before going and knew of a secret cave lookout near the end, not indicated on any formal trail maps. This hidden cave is roughly northwest of the proposed finish of the trail. Essentially, once you reach the trail’s end, continue straight another 50 meters or so.

There’s a rough track leading you through the dense bushland. You’ll then arrive at a natural end. To the left, at an approximately 45-degree angle, you’ll notice a rocky outcrop. This is where the cave is located. So head left, and be careful around the edges of the rock platforms. You’ll need to bush bash just for a minute or so, before arriving at the epic cave lookout.

The open cave provides fantastic framed views of the spectacular bays beyond you. One thing we don’t know is the name of the cave. If anyone knows the name of this cave, please let us know in the comments below.

Topham Walking Track, West Head Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. Beck stands silhouetted by a cave opening and has gorgeous views of bushland and bay.

12. Willunga Trig Walking Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 1.4km
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 50m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Towlers Bay Track Trailhead

Another one of the shortest and easiest walks in West Head is the Willunga Trig Walking Track. Similar to the Challenger Track, the Willunga Trig Walking Track shouldn’t be right at the top of the West Head Walks to-do list. But, it makes for an easy walk for someone who has perhaps already completed the main walks in the area.

At the end of the gently undulating track, you’ll find a trig point, where you’ll enjoy extensive views of Pittwater and views as far out as Sydney. Interestingly, the trig point is the highest point of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park at 240 metres above sea level.

Dan along one of the shortest walks in West Head – the Willunga Trig Walking Track

13. Towlers Bay Circuit via Birnie Lookout

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 7km
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 220m
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Towlers Bay Circuit Trailhead

The Towlers Bay Circuit via Birnie Lookout is one of the hardest yet most rewarding walks in West Head. That’s because this circuit has a bit of bush-bashing through unmarked and faintly defined trails, which require a bit more concentration regarding navigation.

Of course, for those up for a bit more of a relaxed walk, this is possible. You’ll simply follow the Towlers Bay Track without visiting Birnie Lookout.

Views over Pittwater from the Towlers Bay Circuit. Beck stands on a flat rock platform far above the water. The sky is clear and the distant coastal line and ocean is framed nicely by surrounding bushland.
Towlers Bay Track

But, for those who want to enjoy one of the best lookouts in West Head and for those up for a bit more adventure, we recommend visiting Birnie Lookout, where you’ll also find an epic picnic cave nearby. To get to Birnie Lookout and the cave, we recommend using trail navigation.

For more information about this walk, read the article I wrote for We Are Explorers about Birnie Lookout.

Dan stands by a table and corresponding long bench on the opposite side inside a cave with two main openings either end and some smaller openings in the cave's roof.
Birnie Lookout provides epic views of Pittwater. Dan sits on a rock, overlooking the serene bays filled with boats and yachts that slither its way through dense bushland out to the ocean.

14. Elvina Trail and Fredricks Track

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 6.2km
  • Time: 2–3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 190 metres
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Elvina Trailhead

By walking along a combination of trails, you can see both Lovetts Pool and Elvina Waterfalls. This combination of trails is also known as the Elvina Bay Loop or Elvina Bay Circuit Walk.

Basically, from the Elvina Trailhead, you’ll initially follow the Elvina Trail towards Elvina Bay. But, well before reaching the bay, you’ll turn left onto Fredricks Track. This will lead you to both Lovetts Pool and the top of Elvina Waterfalls. Lovetts Pool is an awesome place for wild swimming. While, plummeting 25 metres over a sheer cliff, Elvina Waterfalls is one of the most amazing natural attractions in West Head.

Lovetts Pool near Elvina Waterfalls, Elvina Bay and the Elvina Trail
Lovetts Pool

You’ll then continue along Fredricks Track to reach Elvina Bay. From Elvina Bay, you’ll follow Sturdee Lane, to reach the bottom of Elvina Waterfalls. To complete the circuit walk, you’ll then return to Elvina Bay, and follow the Elvina Trail back to the trailhead.

Dan at Elvina Waterfalls on Fredricks Track near Lovetts Pool, Elvina Bay and the Elvina Trail

15. Upper Gledhill Falls

Last but not least is the walk to Upper Gledhill Falls. It’s such a small walk down to the falls, that it barely counts as a walk. You can easily find the falls by parking at a small car park on McCarrs Creek Road. From there, simply walk towards the creek. You’ll be able to hear the sound of the water thrashing against the rocks. Once you step down off the road into some bushland, there are essentially two options.

You can chuck a right and head around the long way. This path slowly descends and then hooks back to the left, where you’ll negotiate rock along the creek to reach the waterfall. The other option is the quicker but muddier choice. It involves heading left instead and climbing down some slippery and steep rocks. So, be careful. It’s quite muddy here, even in the drier months.

It’s a popular swimming hole that can look quite crowded with just a few people there, given how small the area is. You can even stand behind and under the waterfall. But again, it’s mighty slippery so be cautious. Upper Gledhill Falls is a serene waterfall that is very much underrated.

A small but pretty waterfall splashes and crashes onto rocks beneath, before emptying into a turquoise coloured pool.

It’s also possible to explore Lower Gledhill Falls by doing this walk.

Other West Head Walks

Of course, there are many other walks to do in West Head. As mentioned, this guide is simply about the best walks in West Head, rather than listing all of them. But, for thoroughness, we’ll provide some trail specs and brief details about other walks you can do in West Head.

Bairne Walking Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 9.7km
  • Time: 2.5–3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 200 metres
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Bairne Walking Track Trailhead

To be honest, the Bairne Walking Track is a great walk in the West Head area, and a walk that was unlucky to miss our Best Walks list. At the end of the Bairne Walking Track, you’ll enjoy impressive views from the Towlers Bay Lookout. There is also an option to do Soldiers Point Track, which is a 1km extension. Admittedly, the views from the end of the Soldiers Point Track aren’t as good as the views at the end of the Bairne Walking Track.

Salvation Loop Track (Wallaroo & Yeomans Tracks)

  • Type: Loop
  • Distance: 4km
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 40 metres
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Salvation Loop Track Trailhead

The Salvation Loop Track is nothing special in itself. But, it’s the gateway for both the Wallaroo and Yeomans Walking Tracks. Both of which, are nice bushwalks, but lack a wow factor!

Salvation Loop Track

Waratah Walking Track

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 10km
  • Time: 2.5–3.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 255 metres
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Trailhead: Waratah Walking Track Trailhead

The Waratah Walking Track is one of the hardest walks in West Head. Despite featuring wildflowers and nice scenery, similar to the Wallaroo and Yeomans Tracks, the Waratah Walking Track lacks a definitive exciting attraction.

Refuge Bay Track

The Refuge Back Track became a popular walking trail when the infinity pool and waterfall at Refuge Bay went viral on social media. The trailhead for the Refuge Bay Track is found along the Wallaroo Track. But, since 2023, NSW National Parks have prohibited access to Refuge Bay Waterfall from the Wallaroo Track. These days, the only way to access Refuge Bay is by boat.

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park signage

The Best Attractions on West Head Walks

By doing walks in the sublime West Head area of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, you’ll see loads of beautiful natural attractions and interesting historical sites. Below, we’ll recap the best attractions to enjoy in West Head, that you’ll see by doing some of the best walks mentioned in this guide.

West Head Lookouts

West Head is full of amazing lookouts and views across Pittwater, the Hawkesbury River and other picturesque bays in the area. The best lookouts in West Head include the West Head Lookout, Bairne Lookout along the Towlers Bay Circuit Walk, and the lookouts at the end of the America Bay and Topham Walking Tracks.

Beck and Dan sit on a rock ledge at the end of the America Bay Track
America Bay

West Head Waterfalls and Natural Pools

West Head is also home to many superb bay-side waterfalls and natural pools. The best waterfalls in West Head include Upper Gledhill Falls, Elvina Waterfalls, America Bay Waterfall and Refuge Bay Waterfall. By far, the best swimming hole (besides the Refuge Bay infinity pool) in West Head is Lovetts Pool.

Lovetts Pool
Lovetts Pool

West Head Beaches and Bays

As you’ve gathered, West Head is a prime location near Sydney to visit secluded beaches. Many of the West Head walks featured in this guide visit gorgeous remote beaches backed by bushland. With this in mind, the best beaches in West Head include West Head Beach, Resolute Beach, Great Mackerel Beach, Mackerel Beach and Flint and Steel Beach. While there are too many gorgeous bays to name in the area!

Beck walks on Resolute Beach in, West Head Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park with a calm bay to her left, with bushland and an island in the distance, with a cloudy sky above.
Resolute Beach

West Head Aboriginal Sites: History

The Darramuragal or Darug people are the Traditional Custodians of the land found within Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Within the park, you’ll find over 800 Aboriginal sites! Indeed, in West Head, there are loads of Aboriginal rock art and engravings to explore.

Regarding recent history after European settlement, West Head was used as a secret military training base during WWII. You’ll find gun batteries and fortified shelters in the area. Also, after the Royal National Park, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is the second oldest national park in Australia. It was declared a public reserve in 1894 and given national park status with the proclamation of the National Parks and Wildlife Act in 1967.

Useful Things to Know About Visiting West Head

Before conquering all of the best walks in West Head, there are some useful things to know. Below, we’ll look at details about opening hours, fees, getting there, getting around, facilities and where to stay.

West Head Opening Hours

The gates to West Head may close between 8:30pm and 6am during daylight savings and between 6pm and 6am during the rest of the year.

West Head (Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park) Entry Fee

The park entry fees are $12 per vehicle. But, if you have a NSW National Parks Annual Pass, entry is free. Indeed, if you explore NSW National Parks often, we highly recommend buying an annual pass. That way, you don’t have to pay for parking when you visit NSW National Parks where parking fees apply.

Getting to Sydney

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 to Sydney.

Booking Flights


Skyscanner is our go-to website for booking flights. If you’re looking to find the cheapest flights, we recommend getting the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. It allows you to scan all airlines and platforms to find the cheapest airfares.

To find out more about booking the cheapest flights, read our Skyscanner review.

Getting to and Around West Head

The West Head area of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is just a stone’s throw away from Sydney. Plus, it’s right at the doorstep for those living on the Central Coast. From Sydney, it’s a 1–2 hour drive depending on where you’re based. From the Central Coast or Newcastle, it’s approximately 1–2 hours as well.

To get to and explore the West Head area, you’ll need a car. There are no public transport options for accessing West Head. In comparison, the Bobbin Head and Cowan Creek parts of Ku-ring-gai can be accessed by trains.

If you don’t have a car, we recommend hiring one. The roads in West Head are sealed and of great quality. A 2WD will suffice.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

West Head Facilities: Picnic Areas & Toilets

There are three picnic areas in West Head. These include the Resolute Picnic Area, the Salvation Creek Picnic Area and there is a picnic area at the Basin Campground. There are toilets at both the Resolute Picnic Area and Basin Campground.

Where to Stay in West Head

If you plan to stay at West Head, your options are limited regarding camping as there is only one campground in the entire national park. That’s the Basin Campground. Don’t get us wrong, the campground is lovely with its kangaroos, decent facilities, water activities and chance to go for a swim. But at around $35/night, we thought that was a bit steep for camping at a NSW National Park.

It’s also a walk-in campground, which requires you to walk the approx. 3km Basin Track. That’s why NSW National Parks recommend you get the ferry. If you’re arriving by ferry from Palm Beach, it’s suggested that you drop your camping gear at the ferry wharf. Make sure to leave your car in the seasonal car park at the Careel Bay Sporting Fields, then catch the 199 bus back to the wharf. The 199 bus runs every 15 minutes and is just a 5 minute ride.

Hiking Gear Essentials For West Head Walks

These are our gear essentials for walks in West Head.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Bonus Tips

  • Make it a weekend trip: there’s much to see in the West Head area of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Although a day trip is a great option, if you want to complete more of the walks in this guide, you’ll want to spend a weekend here, at least.
  • West Head Army Track has plenty of spiders: we found plenty of spiders throughout the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. However, there seemed to be a particular concentration of Golden Orb-Weaving spiders on the West Head Army Track. You’ve been warned!
  • Bring your swimmers: if you’re keen for a swim to break up the walking, there are plenty of opportunities. You could swim at any one of the hidden beaches, bays or even at Upper Gledhill Falls.

Interested in other great walks around Sydney? Read about the Royal National Park Coast Track, Botany Bay Coastal Walk: Cronulla to Kurnell Challenge and The Best La Perouse Walks.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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  1. Yulianto Lukito says:

    Thank you for sharing Dan! Awesome! I also wanted to let you know there are at least 3secret lookouts on the way to Flint and Steel but none of them are marked so they’re very easy to miss but if you’re curious enough to explore and bushbash a bit, there are a few huge rocky outcrops and boulders to the left of the track. The one near the end just before the steps bend sharply to the right down towards the bay. There are two spectacular views overlooking the Hawkesbury. One is from the top and the other one is hidden behind huge rocks. It’s a huge cave-like overhang from which you can get a sweeping view of the Hawkesbury. If you contact me, I can share some photos 😊

    • Daniel Piggott says:

      Hi there,

      It’s our pleasure!

      Oh, that’s good to know for next time. There seems to be so many hidden lookouts in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

      Thanks for sharing, and we’ll have to hit you up when we’re back in Australia!

      Many thanks, Dan & Beck