I cannot imagine anyone coming to Sydney and not taking a walk along Circular Quay to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Few would visit and not get out onto the harbour, either by way of a tour or on one of the regular ferries that scurry hither and thither. Something few people do is go for a walk at other points along the harbour and admire it, and the city, from different angles. This is a great shame – so make sure you do not miss out. There are many options available and this walk from Taronga Zoo around Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay (in Sydney Harbour National Park) is but one.
To get to the start of this walk (though it can be done in either direction – I recommend you start at the Zoo) take the ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo wharf. In so doing you will have a wonderful trip across the harbour with all the wonderful sights that, in itself, affords the visitor. Additionally this ferry skirts by Fort Denison which sports one of only two Martello Towers remaining in the Southern Hemisphere and the only one ever built in Australia.
Having arrived on the Taronga Zoo wharf turn right (i.e. do not enter the zoo) and walk along the footpath for a couple of hundred metres, just past one of the rather impressive lower entrances to the zoo, before veering off along a marked path to your right.
The walk is about 4kms long, one-way. The track is a mix of graded gravel, limestone steps and some newer raised walkways. It is generally flat except towards the Chowder Bay end as you descend to the water. I always hate to say how long to allow for a walk. At a brisk pace with no stops you can do it in an hour. I suggest you give yourself at least a couple of hours (from the ferry) as you really do deserve a coffee and cake, or whatever, when you arrive a Chowder Bay, don’t you, Dear Reader? If you can’t wait to the end of the walk (or perhaps on your return if you walk both ways), shortly into the walk from the zoo and signposted off to your left is Athol Hall, a former grand old estate, now a café and function centre. While I had a peek, I didn’t eat here so can’t really comment on the café. What I can say is that it does have a nice view.
The delightful thing about this easy walk, suitable for most ages and fitness levels, is that when you look right along most of the way you have wonderful views across Sydney Harbour (including back to the city, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House).
Look left and you can enjoy nature at its best – delightful old trees, lots of pretty plants, flowers and an abundance of ferns and other undergrowth – remnant bushland a stone’s throw from the centre of Australia’s largest city.
That said, don’t let the natural beauty along this walk blind you to the military relics as Bradleys Head, pause for a look before continuing your walk. See my separate review on these relics.
It was as I approached Bradleys Head that I saw the gorgeous kookaburra (terrestrial tree kingfishers native to Australia and Papua New Guinea) depicted above. I am not a twitcher but I do love kookaburras and spotting one here and being able to admire it for 5 minutes or so, until a rabble of rowdy walkers approached and frightened it off, was a delight. Also look out for Eastern Water Dragons (lizards which grow to about 60 cms) as you walk along.
Something less delightful to ponder on as you walk along is the fact that the area just before Bradleys Head was the location of a series of huts, erected in 1895, which housed miners who were to work on a coal seam under the waters of the harbour. Prior to mining actually commencing, a public outcry lead to the mining lease being cancelled. While mining did take place further in in the harbour, at Birchgrove, at least this more prominent and delightful area was spared a fate which might have left it looking very different to how it looks today.
Between Bradleys Head and Chowder Bay you will walk around the small but pretty Taylors Bay on which I have also written a separate review as this was the point at which two Japanese WWII mini submarines were retrieved from the Harbour after the war. You will find pictures of the bay on that review.
The track continues on through banks of ferns and a more rain-forest type of terrain than the earlier drier Angophora type forest until you make your way down to Clifton Gardens in Chowder Bay. The Gardens and sandy beach is a popular relaxation area and picnic spot for locals and it was here, at the end of our walk, we enjoyed a coffee and bite to eat at Bacino Kiosk. I have written a separate review on the kiosk and, attached to that review you will find some pictures of Chowder Bay.
A delightful walk.
Getting there and back
Naturally you can do the walk in either or both directions. In terms of public transport Taronga Zoo is best reached by Ferry from Circular Quay (though there are buses from the city and other locations) while Chowder Bay is serviced by bus number 244 from from/to Wynyard in the city. Be aware that bus 244 is, for the most part, an hourly service and plan accordingly.