There are three great view points at the entrance to the Sydney Harbour worth visiting. South Head, Middle Head and North Head. Each one deserves most of a day to really enjoy what it has to offer. Here is my experience and recommendations on how to get the most out of each location.
Getting there: You could drive but parking was very limited when I was there. I caught a ferry from Circular Quay Wharf to Watsons Bay Wharf. It is worth the breezy boat ride on the Sydney Harbour. Do be sure to check what time the last ferry returns to the city otherwise you might be taking the long way back by bus.The beach at Watson’s bay is popular and often busy with boats and people. There are a variety of places to eat right by the wharf if you want to stop for a snack or a meal. You might plan to have lunch here or dinner before you head home. From Watson’s Bay you can walk along the beach and then down the street towards South Head which is about twenty minutes. There is a popular beach about half way called Camp Cove. This is a great place for a swim so be sure to pack your swim suit and a towel. From Camp Cove you walk up the stairs and on to the path that will take you all the way to the light house. Be warned you will pass a nudist beach called Lady Bay Beach which Google Maps identifies as a photo location. Don’t make the mistake I made and start snapping away before realising people on the beach are naked! A little further on you will come to a rock edge which has some great views looking back to the city. I am convinced this would be a perfect location to watch a gorgeous sunset. This would also be a great spot for a picnic if you have packed one. I could sit here for a few hours enjoying the view. Just around the corner is the light house and a view out to North Head and the open ocean. It can get pretty windy here so do be prepared for that.
Getting there: You could drive and park in the car park near the visitors center or you might consider the walk from Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach. This is what I did and you will find more information here. The walk is 6.8km and estimated to take 3 hours. If you want to stop and enjoy some of the places you will pass then I would recommend giving yourself more time than that. I caught a bus to Taronga Zoo and then left Balmoral Beach by bus.
Starting off at Taronga Zoo had me heading straight into the bush and then following the coastline all the way to Clifton Gardens Reserve/Beach. This was a great find for me as Clifton is my last name. This would be a great location for a family fun day at the beach. And apparently fishing off the wharf is worth while if you want to catch your dinner.From here it was not exactly clear where to go but between Google Maps and my hiking app Gaia GPS I followed the road to Middle head. Once arriving at Visitors Center I was able to head off and explore this old gun battery. If you are into defense history then you will find this place very interesting. You can learn more here. I really enjoyed exploring the different concrete structures as it is probably the biggest battery I have ever been to and I have been to a few. When you get here you can see why it was a good defense location as it has a perfect view out to the Sydney Harbour entrance. This also makes it a great place to stop for a picnic lunch.From Middle Head I continued to a track I had found on my hiking app which showed me the way to a little beach called Cobblers Beach. I thought it could be a good place to check out. Turns out it was another nudist beach, I guess Sydney must have a few! It was a bit of a scramble up the hill through the bush but I came out at HMAS Penguin, Royal Australian Navy. From here it was a short walk up the road to the last part of the journey, down hill to Balmoral Beach. This was a lovely stroll down a wooden walk way through tropical bush. A very picturesque location. By the time I got to Balmoral Beach I was definitely ready for a swim and it was such a great way to finish off a great day. You will find plenty of places to eat here and it’s a great spot to spend a sunny afternoon.
Getting there: From Manly you can catch a bus out to the visitor center. If you are coming from the city it is definitely worth catching the ferry from Circular Quay Wharf to Manly Wharf. I caught the bus out to North Head and walked back to Manly.I didn’t really plan anything before making my way out to North Head. Having already done South Head and Middle Head I needed to tick this one off to finish all three. I didn’t know what I was going to find other than some great views from the Sydney Harbour entrance. However, I found a whole lot more!I really should have checked out the visitors center but I was just keen to get out there. It is a short walk to the last car park and lookouts and yes there were some great views. But my adventure had only just began! I decided to follow a track which lead along the spectacular ocean cliffs and to many more great views. I had no idea where this track was taking me but I ended up discovering so many things along the way. This included a War Memorial Walk, Hanging Swamp, Gun Emplacements, The Barracks Precinct and a diversity of interesting flora and fauna. It didn’t take me long to work out there were plenty of spiders around as there was a lot of hanging webs. There was no needing to convince me to stick to the track to avoid any creepy crawlies. Apparently the endangered long-nosed Bandicoot lives in this Sanctuary but I wasn’t lucky enough to spot one.
The last part of my adventure took me down a track to the Shelley headland upper lookout and then along another walking track to Shelley Beach. This was probably the best find of the day! If I had known this place was right by Manly’s main beach I would have visited this spot long ago. I stopped on the rocks and jumped in for a swim. This is a busy beach on a sunny day but worth a visit. If you like snorkeling you definitely want your snorkel gear here. Even without goggles I could see plenty of cool fish. Out of the three Sydney Harbour Heads I think North Head was my favourite, there is so much to see and explore. If you want to know more about the North Head Sanctuary click here.