Immediately upon arriving in Sydney we set out to explore the numerous Sydney Walks in our Northern Beaches region. The City has an incredible network of walking trails along almost every mile of coastline, as well as a number of beautiful “bush” tracks. Considering that we have a toddler with a very short attention span in tow, our focus has been on finding walks that give us our biggest bang for the buck (i.e. most scenic and best toddler amenities in the most compact area). In this post we highlight our five favorite “short family walks” in the Northern Beaches that we think should be on everyone’s list during a visit to Sydney. Not only do these walks have spectacular views, they all provide easy access to great swimming spots, a tasty spot to grab a bite to eat, and a playground to wear down the little one before confining them to the hiking backpack. And, they can all be done in under an hour!
1. Manly Life Saving Club to Shelly Beach
You can begin this walk at any point along Manly Beach (start at the southern end near the lifesaving club for the shortest walk) and follow the Marine Parade boardwalk south around the point. The path is sealed and stroller-friendly for the entire way, except for a gate that is currently blocking the path while they make some repairs and requires some tricky maneuvers to get around. We were able to pass our child and stroller (separately) around the gate, but it took a bit of effort and couldn’t be done alone. Alternatively, you can follow the signs along the alternative route at Bower Street for an easy walk through the exclusive neighborhood. The walk follows the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, a recommended snorkeling spot. At the end you reach Shelly Beach, a gorgeous cove removed from the crowds of Manly. The beach is sheltered by the headland and provides a protected swimming spot for little ones.
Eat: The Boathouse at Shelly Beach – this chic cafe has beach-inspired decor and a relaxed patio setting. A great spot for brunch or just to grab a coffee and muffin.
Play: There is no playground here (the only walk on this list without one), but Shelly Beach provides plenty of space to runaround and there is a playground at Manly Beach midway along the boardwalk.
Park: Pay to park in one of the many spots along South Steyne, or head into the neighborhoods for free 2 hour parking. Alternatively, arrive by ferry at the Manly Wharf and walk across the peninsula to the beach side.
2. Little Manly Cove to Collins Beach
This walk follows the Collins Flat Track, a segment of the Spit to Manly walk, from Little Manly Cove to Collins Beach. Little Manly Beach is another great local spot away from the fray of Manly and provides a sheltered swimming area for young children. The first part of the walk ascends up from the southern end of the beach along the Little Manly Point pathway. You can choose to take either the high route, which passes the Little Manly Point Park playground, or the lower route for expansive views across the harbor to Mosman and downtown Sydney. At the far side of Little Manly Point, the path passes through a gate and turns into a forested dirt path. It is just a short jaunt down the hill to the gorgeous and secluded Collins Beach. The beach is home to a colony of Little Penguins (and thus dogs are strictly forbidden) and a beautiful cascading waterfall.
Eat: Little Manly Beach Kiosk – casual beachside cafe with a mostly local crowd
Play: Little Manly Point Park playground
Park: Street parking along Stuart Street, or take the ferry to Manly Wharf and walk south along the Esplanade.
3. Manly Dam Walk
This walk is the only one not on the coast, but the Manly Dam Reservoir promises a refreshing swim come summertime (there were signs warning of frigid winter temperatures). Accessed via King Road from the A8, the reservoir has a number of attractions, including picnic and BBQ areas, swimming and a 7km track that circles the entirety of the lake. For a short walk, start near the entrance to the reserve and either walk out and back across the dam or head further into the reserve along the path that parallels the park road.
Eat: Bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the many structures along the reservoir’s shoreline.
Play: A simple, gated, playground is located just inside the reservoir entrance.
Park: 12 hour paid parking is available inside the gates of Manly Dam from sunrise to sunset.
4. Long Reef Point Loop Trail
This coastal walk is the furthest north of the bunch and provides the most spectacular vistas. From Long Reef Point there are sweeping views all the way up the coast to Narrabeen and south to DeeWhy. It is also the most stroller-friendly of the bunch with a paved pathway the entire way, and it is a loop trail so there is no backtracking necessary. Begin the walk at the Long Reef Golf Club on the north side of the point next to Fisherman’s Beach and follow the coast out to Long Reef Point. There is a nice grassy area and some benches at the point if you want to stop for a picnic or just rest and enjoy the views. You can also walk down to the very end of the point for some tide pooling at low tide. From the point, the path turns south and follows the coast between Long Reef Beach and the golf course. There are numerous trails down to Long Reef Beach if you want to stop for a swim or some beach play, or if you continue along the pathway it eventually turns inward and cuts across the golf course along a nice shaded route, ending at Griffith Park.
Eat: Pittwater Road is lined with eateries just north of Griffith Park in Collaroy, or bring a picnic to enjoy at the point.
Play: Griffith Park has an enclosed playground perfect to stretch little legs at the end of the walk.
Park: Park for free along Anzac Avenue, or pay to park (12 hour parking) along Seaview Parade at the Long Reef Aquatic Reserve lot.
5. Curl Curl to Dee Why Beach
We’ve saved the best for last as this is by far our favorite walk – and luckily for us it starts just a few blocks from our house. The walking track is tucked along the steep coastline between Curl Curl and DeeWhy and one would never know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. The start of the trail is marked by a small sign in the North Curl Curl Life Saving Club parking lot. Shortly after the start there is a turnoff for the track down to the North Curl Curl rock pool, a nice side trip if the weather is hot, or continue on to the left along the coast track. At numerous points there are turnoffs that lead out to rock outcroppings over the cliff with amazing ocean views (just don’t get too close to the edge!). Depending on your pace, and how many times you stop to admire the view, the walk takes about 30-45 minutes. Most of the track is a dirt pathway through the bush with steps and roots, so not suitable for a stroller. At the end you pop out at the south end of Dee Why just above the Dee Why rock pool.
Eat: Grab a coffee or snack from the Beach Shed along the boardwalk or head up to The Strand in Dee Why for a bite at one of the many eateries (we recommend the Beach Burrito Company for the casual atmosphere and enclosed patio with children’s toys).
Play: There is a great, fully enclosed playground at the southern end of Dee Why Beach, as well as lots of grassy space to run around.
Park: Park in the lot at the North Curl Curl Surf Life Saving Club or in the bordering neighborhood (there is a pedestrian cut through from Robertson Road to the parking lot).