Rose Bay to Watsons Bay + Sydney Harbour National Park, Sydney. Australia.
ROSE BAY TO WATSONS BAY COASTAL WALK: THE GUIDE
ACCESSIBILITY: Private car, limited access via public transport.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Anytime
LOCATION: 13 mins from Sydney CBD | Open in Google Maps
WALKING DISTANCE: 8km one way.
TIME REQUIRED: Half – full day (4 hours comfortably + stops)
TOURIST RATING: Not too busy, mostly locals.
ROSE BAY TO WATSONS BAY COASTAL WALK: THE EXPERIENCE
As told by Jackie Te-Aroha.
The contouring of the land and ocean around Sydney makes it the perfect for those that enjoy coastal walks. After testing the waters with the 6km Bondi to Coogee trail we were keen to get out and try another. We decided upon the 8km track between Rose Bay and Watsons Bay that offered some incredible vantage points over Sydney Harbour. We found a 12-hour parking space on the right side of Lyne Park along New South Head Road which was perfect for this all day adventure. This walk has everything from wide open bays, secluded bays, tidal rock pools, ocean baths, cliff jumps (if you’re game), hidden beaches + more. So if you’re wanting a Sydney waterways tasting platter, then this walk is definitely for you.
1. Rose Bay Beach. (450m)
Rose Bay is lined with waterfront properties and has multiple entrances from the road behind. The tide was out when we arrived which provided the perfect opportunity for us to walk out to the sand bar and get some shots with a boat sprinkled backdrop. There are plenty of water activities here from sailing, wind surfing, kayaking and the odd scenic flight via sea plane. If you don’t own any of the above then thats OK because there are multiple places that offer equipment hire. Rose Bay is one of the few city beaches you can take the Doggo’s and you can even let them off the leash on the northern end. However, its advised you leave your swimming for elsewhere and avoid the water here completely after rain as it has been reported to be ‘susceptible to storm water pollution’… YUK, moving on!
Neighbourhood Walk: Walking north along Rose Bay Beach you take take any of the exits that bring you to New South Head Road or you can exit via the public stairs at Dumaresq Reserve. Turn left into Tivoli Avenue and left again into Bayview Hill Road. Follow it around the bend to the right and you will see the entrance to the Sydney Harbour National Park AKA Hermitage Foreshore Walk.
2. Hermitage Foreshore Walk (780m)
If you have been searching for a peaceful place to admire the Sydney skyline, then this is where you’ll find them. The Hermitage Foreshore Walk is west facing, which means it looks directly into the beautiful harbour city with a foreground of water. Technically, the park is open from 5am – 10pm although it’s un-gated and un-patrolled. The foreshore portion of our walk is approximately 1.8km one way and includes 8+ points of interest. Sorry, dogs are very rarely allowed in NSW National Parks so this is a human experience only.
2a. Secret Rock Pool – Hermitage Foreshore Walk (200m)
Not long into the walk on the left side of the pathway was a small clearing and a narrow dirt track that lead down towards the water. Although there was no signage, our curiosity begged for us to explore that had Zade and I were stepping over and climbing through fallen trees. When we reached the bottom we were greeted with our first incredible view of Sydney harbour. There was a large empty tidal pool to the left looking towards Rose Bay that had me dreaming of a warm balmy summers afternoon watching the sun set over the harbour bridge, a brew in one hand and my babe in the other… bliss <3
2b. Queens Beach – Hermitage Foreshore Walk (150m)
Queens beach is 350m from the Bayview Hill Road entrance but theres also another trail in via Queens Avenue each with equally stunning water views. There seemed to be a real chill vibe down along this small shoreline. It could have been due to the lack of noise pollution and the calm waters. Or maybe it was due to the fact that bikini tops were optional and people seemed to be comfortably bare. It was like an unspoken agreement between beach patrons who were otherwise strangers that it was a judgement and gawking free zone, and I dig that! So if you’re looking to get away from the hustle, bustle and rules of city beaches without having to drive all the way to Byron Bay then welcome to your little slice of east coast heaven!
2c. Hermit Point & Hermit Beach – Hermitage Foreshore Walk (400m)
When visiting somewhere with the charisma of Queens beach you fear the POI’s might struggle to impress. The walk onwards offered beautiful vantage points and Instagram worthy locations looking out to the harbour but the appeal was already starting to wear thin. As we approached Hermit Point we could see a small tree shaded beach and approached rather unenthusiastically. We tried to find some interesting and unique features… but were not being rewarded for our efforts. Not that there was anything wrong with Hermit Beach, its just had comparing a rose to a rose. Then, just as we were about to call it… A ding! Zade’s head raised in excitement as she exclaimed ’Is that the Ice Cream boat!?’ – Referring to the ice-cream vendors in the Philippines who paddle around with small polystyrene eskies in their kayaks. We both turned to see a small boat pulling up on the shore. It was as if her ears had become in-tune to the ice cream ding. It lit a fire in her eyes that I hadn’t seen all day. We went down to the water and ordered two Gaytimes (Ironic, I know), then sat in the shade to enjoy them. We weren’t expecting to see any shops let along ice-cream vendors, yet there he was… with his little red boat ready to make my girlfriend the happiest coastal walker in the world.
2d. Tingara Beach – Hermitage Foreshore Walk (200m)
The walk then wound its way along the edge of the cliff where the rails opened up inviting walkers to walk out on the rock and explore. We spotted another little topless adventurer climbing along taking photos and decided to leave her to her own devices and continue on. It wasn’t long until we were following a little track of flattened grass that led out to a small rock platform with a single palm growing over it. Just below was yet another private shoreline to one side and yes, crazy good harbour view to the other. Tingara Beach had the least amount of people on it thus far which could have been due to the track down being so steep. but this just shows that if you really want to find a secluded beach, you need to be ready to push further than anyone else is willing to.
2e. Milk Beach (+ Strickland House) – Hermitage Foreshore Walk (150m)
The next POI is the 19th-century estate, Strickland House. It has million dollar harbour views from its beautifully manicured lawns and apparently has exceptional historical significance. History isn’t really our thing so we skipped out on the mansion in favour of the next secluded swim-spot-with-a-view, Milk Beach. This was the most popular beach along the walk so far and had a good mixture of mostly patrons 18 years and over. The day was starting to get hot so we stripped down and headed straight for the water. It was icy, and just what we needed to freshen up. We left feeling invigorated and ready to tackle the next section.
2f. Cliff Jump Zone – Hermitage Foreshore Walk (Approx 300m)
The walk up from Milk Beach was short and we were greeted with… you guessed it, more incredible panoramic views of the city!! Theres a spot that looks perfect for a romantic picnic date with your loved one but be sure to bring an umbrella or some sort of shade cloth. Pack a nice throw rug, a cheese platter, a bottle of wine (chilled of course), play some kickback tunes and you’ll surely impress, you’re welcome fellas. It wasn’t long until we were once again off the beaten path and following our nose for adventure. We could hear a group of teens close by and saw a small group chilling atop a large flat rock and a few others in the water below. 2.5 seconds later one of the boys leapt out landing in the the deep blue with his friends cheering him on. Now, Ive cliff jumped before, but watching them and thinking about the potential hazards made me instantly feel 10 years older. Good on them though, I’d much rather see kids living recklessly outdoors than be glued to a game controller making unhealthy diet choices
3. Shark Beach, Neilsen Park. (Approx 480m)
Don’t let the name scare you, this ones not for the adrenalin junkies but for the families. Theres massive amounts of grassed areas for larger family get togethers as well as a few headland walking tracks. The beach’s namesake comes from the large sheltered swimming area (AKA shark net) which first went up in 1930. But don’t worry, the net is removed each May to undergo maintenance and repair. Apparently the net has even become the habitat for the potbellied and white seahorses which are carefully removed and relocated by National Park rangers (I thought that was pretty cool). Shark Beach has all your normal city-beach luxuries such as a sea side cafe, showers, toilet blocks, covered BBQ areas and bins so you can leave the area as you found it. Zade and I took a quick dip just outside the safety net on the eastern end before heading to the western side to explore along the rocks.
Neighbourhood Walk: When you leave Neilsen Park, head left along Greycliffe Ave continuing straight at the round about onto Coolong Road. At The end of Coolong you’ll reach Wentworth Rd where you can decide what your next sight will be. You can undertake a self guided audio tour at Vaucluse House (opposite), walk along Beach Paddock (left) or pay your respects at the Vaucluse War Memorial (by following Wentworth Road left along the headland). We chose to shortcut through the upper Eastside neighbourhood in search of the next Bay – Left onto Wentworth, right into an alleyway, left onto Boambillee Ave, straight onto Fitzwilliam Rd and then right down a set of stairs near the bus stop.
4. Parsley Bay & Bridge (670m)
If you’re following the same route we took you’ll walk straight onto the Parsley Bay suspension bridge with the bay on the right and the open water to the left. I stood for a minute in the middle to people watch then moved briskly onwards after the vibration reminded me of the Bali earthquakes of August 2018. On the other side of the bay as we were following the path up an incline when Zade noticed a huge Goanna chilling in the vegetation. The thing would have measured 50-60cm in length sitting there like a big fat angry snake on legs! I kept my distance until it moved further into the shrubs then Usain Bolt-ed as quickly as I could up the stairs and toward safety.
Neighbourhood Walk: Follow The Crescent left until you reach a small park on the left of the intersecting roads. Cut through, directly onto Wharf Road. Follow this residential street down to the bottom until you see the Vaucluse Sailing Club. To the left you will see a teeny-tiny little stairway with a white picket fence… welcome to one of Sydney’s most hidden beaches.
5. Kutti Beach (700m)
OK so if the secrecy of this beach isn’t enough to entice you maybe the entrance will. This could potentially be the east coasts most well kept secret. There is absolutely no chance in stumbling across it because the only entrance is via a private dead end road… No passerbyer’s.. ever! Oh and yes Doggo can come and have a swim here too. So with that being said, when are you visiting Kutti?
Neighbourhood Walk: Take Wharf Road back to the top and turn left onto Hopetoun Ave, then left onto Palmerston Street (which looks more like a long driveway). As you come near the bottom you will see a path that leads around to the left and towards Gibsons Beach Reserve.
6. Gibsons Beach (450m)
As the path comes down towards the foreshore you’ll begin to see the ferries coming in and out from Watsons Bay letting you know the walk is nearing its end. Although Gibsons Beach isn’t as low-key as Kutti is still relatively local, and a hell of a lot easier to access. Therefore if you’re planning to bring the beach tent, a couple of chairs, some flotation devices and lunch, then skip Kutti and come straight to Gibsons. The sand is fine, the bay calm and waters shallow perfect for an all day outing with the little ones.
7. Watsons Bay Baths (450m)
Just past the Watsons Bay Pilot Station you’ll find yet another unique swimming spot. This one is much deeper, unlike the waters of Gibsons beach. Theres a small network of platforms built over the water and although there are signs warning against diving, that doesn’t stop the local kids from doing so. The entire ‘bath’ area has a netted enclosure and at the far end is a 50m length purpose-built for lap swimmers. It’s literally a free salt water swimming pool, so head down and take advantage of the Watsons Bay Baths.
8. Watsons Bay (200m)
Onwards to the last destination for the day, Watsons Bay. From the baths you can follow Marine Parade along you reach Fishermans Wharf. Along the foreshore you’ll see a bunch of hip day clubs, cafes and restaurants where we definitely would have eaten had we not prepared our own snacks which were waiting for us back at the car. There’s a small bay to the right of the wharf where a couple of people were catching some last sun-rays. But the majority of people were relaxing on the grass in the large park that lay directly behind the bay.
Feeling accomplished, exhausted and having missed the last ferry, we ordered an Uber pool to take us back to where the day had begun. And just 15 minutes later we found ourselves sitting on the grass of Tingira Memorial Park sipping ice cold ciders, reminiscing on 8 beaches, 2 bays, 2 ocean pools and one cliff jumping area and 8km of path that we had covered in just one day