A superb coastal walk around South Head, the gateway to Sydney Harbour. Discover stunning views of the city, ocean and surrounding headlands from vantage points only accessible on foot. Rich in early settler and forgotten military history, Watsons Bay walk is home to one of Australia’s first lighthouses. It’s the easiest way to escape the city and yet still enjoy city and harbour vistas.
4.5km (3 miles)
Mainly paved walkway
Class 2 Track (Although Camp Cove Beach is untracked so technically 5+).
Mountains to climb?
Relatively flat. Slight incline to 20m elevation at South Head itself. Steep climb to 40m up stairs at Gap Bluff.
Mobile (cell phone) reception?
Yes. Public ferries and Eco Hopper to Watsons Bay. Or Bus Route 324 City to Watsons Bay.
Yes. Plenty of options. Try Watsons Bay Hotel (better known for cold drinks than hot!), historic Dunbar House for high tea, or gelato on Military Road. The iconic Watsons Bay experience is fish and chips from Doyles on the Beach.
On the night of 31st May 1942, Japan brought WWII to Sydney’s doorstep. Three miniature submarines, launched from larger mother ships offshore, secretly entered Sydney Harbour. They torpedoed navy ships at Garden Island as the Manly ferry still transported passengers to and from Circular Quay. Stand on the spot where anti-submarine defences were controlled and read how one of these submarines was successfully caught.
The arrival of the English navy to Aboriginal Australia was truly a clash of cultures. The Birrabirragal mob had fished, hunted and harvested shellfish at Kutti-kutti (Watsons Bay) for nearly ten thousand years. The Europeans arrived in huge ships with fancy clothes and rifles that could fell a kangaroo at 100 yards. Walk on the beach where stone-age Aboriginal hunters were confounded by English sailors cooking fish in a cast iron pot.
Sydney has always been a maritime city. With shipping, comes shipwrecks, and Sydney has her fair share. Two tragedies at Sydney Heads in 1857 caused Hornby Light, the red and white striped lighthouse to be built on South Head. Macquarie Light was built atop the cliffs further south 40 years earlier but was unable to prevent these tragedies. See the places these ships were wrecked and read a lone story of survival from the carnage.
Watsons Bay is such a great day’s outing that it can get busy on weekends, making parking difficult to find. The short ferry trip is a highlight, so well worth considering.
Hands-down, the best way to get to Watsons Bay is by ferry across Sydney’s glistening harbour. Public ferries are clean and offer just as scenic views as the private sightseeing ferries (Captain Cook Cruises and Sydney Harbour EcoHopper). The differences are validity of an Opal Card, commentary and sometimes bar service. The trip from Circular Quay takes 15-25 minutes, depending on stops, and run regularly.
It’s a 700m walk from Watsons Bay ferry wharf to Gap Bluff, crossing the road and heading across Robertson Park.
If you’re coming from Bondi Junction (Bus # 380, 387 and more) or the eastern suburbs, then the not-very-scenic bus is best – a half hour trip. The bus stops at Military Road, right at Gap Bluff. There’s also a ferry from Rose Bay.
Check Transport NSW for timetables and trip routes from your departure point.
It’s about a half hour drive from the city centre to Watsons Bay, or about 20 minutes from Bondi Junction.
Watsons Bay could be described as a village, with the equivalent-sized parking. There’s time-limited street parking wherever you can find it, and two small car parks. Park either in the carpark opposite Watsons Bay Hotel at 1 Cliff St – close to Robertson Park and Gap Bluff, or at Camp Cove carpark at the far end of Cliff St, near Camp Cove and South Head).
SELF GUIDED WALK
Hear all the stories that make this walk so fascinating – at your leisure! Coming Soon.
HALF DAY GUIDED WALK
Enjoy an exclusive guided experience with one of our passionate guides.