Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach Walk
One of the most enjoyable Sydney Harbour walking tracks is the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk. This 6.5km trail swirls its way past secluded beaches, picturesque bays, impressive lookouts and historical sights.
Get ready to be overwhelmed by spectacular Harbour views, luscious bushland and thriving wildlife, with the Sydney CBD only a stone’s throw away.
- Distance: 6.5 km (one way)
- Time: 2-3 hours (including stops)
- Grade: easy
Getting to Taronga Zoo
The best way to get to Taronga Zoo is by ferry from Circular Quay. You could of course travel by car, but the ferry trip through the Sydney Harbour is lovely and adds to the experience. On Sundays you can take advantage of the $2.60 cap on all public transport travel.
Taronga Zoo also has a bus stop right in front of the entrance with regular services from Central, Town Hall, Wynyard and North Sydney. If you do wish to drive, simply turn into Bradleys Head Road from Military Road and continue 1.3km before arriving at Taronga Zoo. Parking at the zoo is rather expensive so on less busy days it’s recommended to find street parking.
The walking track between Taronga Zoo and Balmoral can be divided into three sections with Bradleys Head, Chowder Bay and Balmoral Beach as the key milestones. The starting point of the track is on Athol Road, a few moments away from the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf.
1. Taronga Zoo to Bradleys Head
The section between the zoo and Bradleys Head is a very easy and pleasant introduction to the 6.5km long adventure that awaits you.
From the ferry wharf, follow the footpath beside Athol Road heading east and keep an eye out for a sign that marks the starting point of the walk.
The walking track follows the shoreline around Athol Bay offering great views of the Harbour. You have the option to visit Athol Beach, a secluded stretch of sand that lies right in front of the walking track, facing Athol Bay.
The water is usually very calm there but it’s not the cleanest beach in Sydney due to Harbour water pollution. It’s still nice though to have a quiet look around and to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Athol Bay is home to a second strip of sand called Whiting Beach, located west of the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf, just around the corner of Sirius Cove.
It’s a lovely spot that’s definitely worth a visit on another day.
2. Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay
As soon as you come out of the bush and into Bradleys Head, you’ll notice that huge mast standing tall and proud at the edge of the cliff, overlooking Sydney Harbour.
This used to be the foremast of HMAS Sydney, a light cruiser that was broken up on Cockatoo Island in 1929. It was erected at Bradleys Head in 1934 and serves as a monument for all Australian ships lost and all Australian sailors killed at war.
Next to the mast is a man-made amphitheatre that offers the best views across the city skyline, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
The Bradleys Head Fortification Complex on Bradleys Head Road holds lots of relics from Sydney’s military history. Built in the 19th century, the complex was part of the larger Sydney Harbour defence system, designed to protect New South Wales and its wealth from invaders.
From Bradleys Head, follow the track back into the bush heading to Taylors Bay. This section is a true bushwalk where you’ll be surrounded by lots of different types of birds and native trees such as eucalyptus and ferns.
The track circles around Taylors Bay towards Clifton Gardens and eventually Chowder Bay.
Chowder Head has a great lookout point from where you can enjoy wide views across South Head, Rose Bay, Shark Island and Bradleys Head.
Clifton Gardens Reserve has long been a popular picnic spot for families. It has a rocky beach with a netted swimming enclosure, excellent BBQ and picnic facilities and a fenced playground.
Next door neighbour Chowder Bay is a beautiful spot to relax with a coffee and a meal at one of the cafes or kiosks.
You can also try Ripples Chowder Bay If you’re up for a somewhat pricier lunch or dining experience. The restaurant is situated in a beautifully renovated 19th-century building overlooking the bay.
3. Chowder Bay to Balmoral Beach
The third and last section of the walking track between Taronga Zoo and Balmoral Beach starts at a sign that says Bungaree’s Walkway, close to the car park at the roundabout and next to the little coffee shop with outside terrace.
Named after a local aboriginal who was in charge of a farm established by Governor Macquarie in 1815, the Bungaree’s walkway is a steep hike up to Headland Park. and Georges Heights.
The path eventually connects with the Gunners Barracks, once a crucial military post for protecting Sydney Harbour, now a popular spot for weddings and high tea.
The Georges Head Lookout Lawn leads to a popular lookout point at Georges Heights that offers amazing views of Sydney Harbour, with North Head and South Head right in front of you and the city skyline in the west.
Not only does Georges Heights offer great views, it is also home to historic Sydney military relics such as tunnels, battlements and cannons.
The last section of this adventurous walk towards Balmoral will take you through a protected area with a boardwalk where native trees get to flourish.
This is quite a serene area that makes you feel like you’re walking through a tropical rain forest.
The path ends at the playing fields and large car park behind Balmoral Beach, one of Sydney’s most popular, family oriented beaches. Balmoral usually has calm waters which makes if perfect for swimming.
And with lots of great cafes and restaurants nearby, it’s not hard to spend a few quality hours in this beachside suburb.
Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo and follow the path beside Athol Road that brings you to the walking track. Buses also travel regularly between the zoo and the city.
Car parking is available at the zoo but is expensive. Alternatively you can try to find street parking nearby or you can park at Bradleys Head which has a more affordable day rate.