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Sydney Outdoors

Going Bush in Sydney
Sydney Outdoors
Sydney may be a city—Australia’s largest, in fact—but it's not hard to find outdoor adventures both within and right around the city limits. With five national parks nearby, you have the choice of coastal or bush experiences, or both.
By Julie Schwietert Collazo, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Ellenor Argyropoulos/Tourism Australia
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    Going Bush in Sydney
    Going Bush in Sydney
    With heaps of native flora and fauna nearby, it’s well worth heading out of the city center to “go bush.” Lane Cove National Park is just 20 minutes from Sydney and offers cycling, canoeing, and hiking. About 40 minutes south, Royal National Park flanks the coast and has more than an entire trip’s worth of exploring, relaxing, and swimming opportunities. Also worth checking out is Blue Mountains National Park, where you can rock climb, canyon, and ride horses 90 minutes west of the city. If you’re not up for a drive, head to Sydney Harbour National Park, located in the city itself, and take a stunning coastal walk.
    Photo courtesy of Ellenor Argyropoulos/Tourism Australia
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    Coastal Hikes
    Coastal Hikes
    Aussies have long used the term “gone walkabout” to describe their adventures or wanderings. Join thousands of years of tradition and do the same on one of Sydney’s coastal walks, most of which link the city’s popular beaches. One of the prettiest hikes is the Spit Bridge to Manly walk, a 5.5-mile trek that travels along the bushland north coast of Sydney. You’ll pass several little beaches before arriving at Manly, where you can enjoy more beach time, or refuel at a pub. The famed Bondi to Coogee walk, much beloved by Sydneysiders, is about three miles, while the Clovelly to Maroubra walk is around nine. Both offer plenty of places to stop for photos and swims, making for a pleasant way to pass the afternoon.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Swimming Pools in Sydney
    Swimming Pools in Sydney
    Sydney may be blessed with beautiful beaches, but it also has a number of outdoor, family-friendly pools that are accessible for a small fee. Local favorites include Maccallum, a harbor-side pool near Mosman; Andrew Boy Charlton, a saltwater pool in Woolloomooloo Bay near the Royal Botanic Garden; and Drummoyne Swim Centre, which features outdoor heated saltwater pools. The city also offers a wealth of seawater pools right on the beach, the most famous being the Icebergs swim club on the southern end of Bondi Beach.
    Photo by Petrina Tinsley
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    Explore Sydney on Two Wheels
    Explore Sydney on Two Wheels
    With fantastic weather and abundant scenic landscapes, Sydney is a popular place for cycling. Rent a bike at Sydney Olympic Park and explore more than 20 miles of off-road cycling track, which winds past venues from the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, through the park itself, and along the banks of the Parramatta River. Also popular is the Birkenhead Point to Rozelle track, otherwise known as the Bay Run. It stretches for a leisurely four miles and affords some great water views and glimpses of the city skyline. If you’re keen to tackle urban cycling, try out the Harbour Bridge to ANZAC Bridge route, which features a dedicated lane to protect bikers from car traffic.
    Photo by Blaine Harrington/age fotostock
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    Whale-Watching from Shore and Sea
    Whale-Watching from Shore and Sea
    Each year between May and November, approximately 3,000 humpback and southern right whales pass by—and sometimes even through—Sydney Harbour on their migratory path. To catch a glimpse, bring your binoculars to the Bondi to Coogee coastal path or the Barrenjoey Lighthouse in Palm Beach. If you want to get closer, opt for one of the whale-watching tours that depart daily from Circular Quay and Darling Harbour during the migratory period. You’ll enjoy coffee and tea as your guide explains whale behavior and, if you don’t spot at least one cetacean, you can go on a future excursion for free.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism QLD/Tourism Australia
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    Adrenaline Sports
    Adrenaline Sports
    Sydney is heaven for travelers seeking an adrenaline rush. At the Skywalk at the Sydney Tower Eye, you can stand on a platform nearly 880 feet above the city and enjoy 360-degree views. Another popular sky-high activity is BridgeClimb Sydney, a three-hour trek that requires scaling catwalks and ladders to reach the top of the bridge—440 feet above the harbor. If you’d rather get out of the city and into nature, there’s always Blue Mountains National Park, where you can rappel cliff faces and waterfalls with help from an experienced guide.
    Photo courtesy of BridgeClimb Sydney
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    Sydney for Fishos
    Sydney for Fishos
    In Sydney, there are plenty of opportunities for anglers, or “fishos,” to get out on the water, drop a line, and try to snag something swimming in the Tasman Sea. Local guide Scott Lyons leads both deep-sea day trips and excursions on nearby rivers, during which you can trawl for bonito, kingfish, and salmon, or cast your line for snapper and trevally. Justin Duggan, another local guide, specializes in saltwater fly-fishing trips and can also lead sport-fishing excursions. If you prefer dry land, however, there’s always the Sydney Fish Market, where you can pick up fresh seafood—no sea legs required.
    Photo courtesy of Basquali Skamaachi/Tourism Australia
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    Paddling Sydney’s Waters
    Paddling Sydney’s Waters
    Paddling around Sydney Harbour in a kayak offers spectacular views of the bridge, Opera House, and other iconic sights. The city’s boating opportunities aren’t limited to the harbor, however—sparkling rivers are equally ripe for exploration. It’s no wonder locals refer to Port Hacking as “God’s country,” as it’s an especially picturesque place to get out on the water. You can even catch glimpses of hilltop mansions and native wildlife as you float down the estuary.  If you’re up for a day trip, Royal National Park and the Nepean Gorge in the Blue Mountains are also ideal for boating.
    Photo courtesy of Garth Oriander/Tourism Australia
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    From Koalas to Cockatoo Island
    From Koalas to Cockatoo Island
    Sydney is ripe with outdoor activities for families. The Royal Botanic Garden offers guided walks focused on local flora and Aboriginal heritage, while the Taronga Zoo, which can be reached by ferry, features animal encounters with some of Australia’s iconic reptiles and mammals, like koalas. If you’re up for exploring one of Sydney’s outlying islands, head to Cockatoo, a former convict colony that is now home to heritage sites, hiking paths, and more. Take to the tennis courts, rent a motorboat, or even stay overnight in a glamping tent for the ultimate experience.
    Photo courtesy of Julian Button/Tourism Australia
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    Explore Sydney by Horse
    Explore Sydney by Horse
    While it may sound surprising—you are in the middle of a city, after all—you can actually explore Sydney by horseback. Multiple stables offer trail rides in and around the city, including Centennial Stables, which offers 30- and 60-minute jaunts through its namesake park. An hour outside the city in Glenworth Valley, you can go riding alone or with a guide through valleys, along rivers, and past groves of eucalyptus trees. If you’d rather just watch, head to Sydney’s International Equestrian Centre, which hosted the equestrian events during the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. The center holds a number of competitions and dressage events, many of which are open to the public.
    Photo courtesy of Kristoffer Paulsen/Tourism Australia