Australia has fantastic hikes and some of the best walks are only a matter of hours away from Sydney. Some are probably better enjoyed as a weekend away but if time is tight all can be done in a day.
These are not track notes but a few highlights you can expect from the trails. For track notes we suggest consulting the wild walks website.
Here's some of our favourites.
1. Pigeon House Mountain - South Coast
Type of walk - Return. Up hill walk to a jaw dropping view.
Difficulty - Hard. This walk is relentlessly uphill with only a small flat section.
Distance - 4.8km return (3 hours)
Pigeon House Mountain stands out along the horizon when you drive down to the South Coast of NSW. It's visible from miles away and the summit offers extraordinary panoramic views.
After driving along a dirt track (best avoided after rain unless you have a 4WD), you start a gradual ascent pretty much immediately. There's a couple of views along the way - and one relatively level spot - but the majority of the track is uphill. The forest is beautiful which is great to distract you from the calf burn. When you are nearing the top you reach a series of ladders which definitely adds to the excitement of the track. The walk has it all: epic views, vertigo inducing ladders and enough of a challenge to feel it in your legs the next day. It's not technically difficult though and the ladders are perfectly doable unless you suffer from vertigo.
2. Murramarang Coast Walk - South Coast
Apple Watch says...
Type of walk - One way (high tide) or loop (low tide). Bush walk followed by traversing several beaches.
Difficulty - Medium. The length of this hike can make it tough on a really hot day, but the track is well defined and the climb's aren't too difficult.
Distance - 16.5km loop (5 hours)
One of our favourite hikes in New South Wales, the Murramarang National Park has a bit of everything: forest, beaches, wildlife, and a good mix of climbs and flat. Going from the aptly named "Pretty Beach" the walk quickly enters the forest on the Durras Mountain track. Don't let the word mountain put you off, it's definitely just a hill!
Surprisingly, even from the top of the hill the views are not particularly accessible but it's still a lovely track. At the half way point you reach "Pebbly Beach" (another literal Aussie place name). This is a great stop for lunch and a chance to hang around with the local lorikeets, king parrots and very friendly kangaroos that are more than happy to let you grab a selfie. Before you reach Pebbly Beach proper you will come to a small beach with pebbles, this is a nice spot in itself but it is not THE Pebbly Beach so continue on a little further and you will come to the large beach with grazing kangaroos.
This walk requires a bit of planning as returning via the beaches is only possible at low tide (you can head back the way you came if it's high tide but we really recommend timing your walk with low tide to make it a circuit). The beaches you pass on the way back are stunning and most of the time you will have some of the most picturesque beaches in NSW all to yourself. It does involve a bit of rock hopping and climbing on to cliff ledges but it is easy if you have walking shoes on.
3. Drawing Room Rocks - South Coast
Apple Watch says...
Type of walk - Return. Hill climb to a view.
Difficulty - Easy. The start is uphill and has some uneven path, but otherwise it's a short, straight-forward hike.
Distance - 3.5 km return (2 hours, including taking in the view from the top)
Upon starting this hike you'll not understand why anyone would put it down as one of their favourite walks. The trail is relatively steep and goes through forest and bushland with no views to speak of, but once you reach the top you'll be greeted by one of the loveliest panoramas in the Southern Highlands.
As with many places in Australia, the lookout has no barriers or rails and has sheer drops, perfect for that edge of world photo shot. This is a picnic spot to remember. The lookout offers views along the South Coast to Jervis Bay and beyond.
You might notice that the sign at the start of the track says it is steep and dangerous, if you're used to a bit of bush walking you won't find this the case at all.
4. The National Pass - Blue Mountains
Apple Watch says...
Type of walk - Loop. A great path cut into a cliff with incredible views.
Difficulty - Easy, apart from a steep start and end. You begin by walking down a lot of step, head into a flat middle section, and finish with a steep climb.
Distance - 6 km circuit when added to the short cut trail (3 hours)
If you only get the chance to do one hike in the Blue Mountains, make it this one. Built in 1906 with pickaxes and dynamite, the National Pass is a stunning trail carved straight into the cliffs of the Jamison Valley.
After descending down what seems like endless uneven staircases, the path passes the pretty Wentworth Falls and meanders around the cliff ledge, offering incredible views with every step. A short way in, you have the option to take The Wentworth Pass - an alternative loop that descends right to the valley floor on a series of ladders and sloping trails. Rock scrambling is required, if you are unsteady of your feet, take walking poles.
If you continue following the National Pass trail you will eventually come to Empress Falls (a favourite place for people abseiling down waterfalls, great place to stop and watch before the long climb back to the top). Once you have passed several more view points you will eventually come out at the Conservation Hut which is a great place for a drink or some lunch before finishing up with the short but sweet shortcut track to complete the circuit. The short cut track is much shorter than the time on the sign suggests, it usually takes around 15 minutes.
5. Extended Rodriguez Pass (or as we call it, The Walk of Death) - Blue Mountains
Apple Watch says...
Type of walk - Loop track, reasonably large elevation and fairly long distance with uneven terrain.
Difficulty - Hard. This walk is long and steep, with sections of uneven path. You can do this track over 2 days and camp at Acacia Flats if prefferred.
Distance - 13km (over 700 m of elevation)
Ok, some explanation for the name. Back in 2013, we strangely decided that the hottest day of the year (highs of 43C) was the best time to do a walk in the Blue Mountains. We also chose a 10km hike which we didn't realise was one of the hardest we'd come across in the mountains. As you can imagine, the hike was a struggle.... We advise giving yourself a lot of time (and water) to do this hike! And don't worry we are now totally wise to bush fire danger and would not make this mistake again!
Our second attempt was in winter and we included an additional trail to make the walk into a loop. Starting at Govett's Lookout for a great view of the Grose Valley, you'll soon descend down several staircases to the valley floor. Once you've got to Junction Rock (a great place to take a dip in warmer weather), you reach the beautiful blue gum forest. You can camp in the designated camp site if you want to make this a two day adventure. You then begin ascending and after a fair amount of continuous uphill you join the Grand Canyon hike (a very beautiful part of the Blue Mountains).
The first time we did this there was a lot of rock scrambling and certain sections were roped but on our second attempt the trail had been pretty sanitised and ropes were no longer required. You follow the Grand Canyon track up to Evans Lookout and head back to Govett's Lookout via the Cliff Top Track (a trail we always remember as being easy but it feels a lot harder after you have already gone up so many stairs!)
The uneven ground on the climb up to the Grand Canyon makes this walk a lot slower than you'd think, but the feeling of getting back to Govett's Leap is rewarding.... Even if your calfs suffer for the next two days!
6. The Grand Canyon Extended Loop - Blue Mountains
Apple Watch says...
Type of walk - Loop track through beautiful forest, great views.
Difficulty - Easy. There's some steps down at the start and again at the end, but otherwise it's an easy track with an even path.
Distance - 15km, 4.5 hours
This walk can be done as just the Grand Canyon Loop (probably the best part of this trail), but if you want a half - full day of hiking, you can add on a few more tracks to make this a fantastic loop.
Our version starts in Pope's Glen, meandering through largely flat, easy trails full of beautiful ferns and streams until you reach Govett's Leap. Once there, take in the view before heading on the Cliff Top Track to Evan's Lookout. This track is a great place to spot lyrebirds so keep your eyes peeled. Once at Evans you descend down the newly crafted steps (thanks NSW Parks) to the Grand Canyon, a very picturesque area within a mossy canyon and more gorgeous ferns and streams. The trail winds around the humid and wet forest floor before ascending back up to the main road. From here, follow the Braeside trail through dry eucalyptus forest until you hit the road and loop back to Pope's Glen.
The highlight is the Grand Canyon Loop section, but if you are looking to explore a little more of the mountains this trail has it all.
7. The Plateau Walk - Kanangra-Boyd
Apple Watch says...
Type of walk - Return. Flat with epic views.
Difficulty - Very easy.
Distance - 2 km+
We've included this hike purely because it offers another of the best views in NSW. The walk itself is short and flat, but you can extend further if you want to stretch your legs, just continue along the plateau and go for as long as you want. We stopped when we could no longer make out a path which was after around 5km from the carpark.
After driving 30km down a potholed dirt road (you don't need a 4WD but it would definitely make life more comfortable and avoid popping your little cars tyres like we did), you'll reach the campground for Kanangra Walls. From the carpark it is about a 5-10 minute walk to the main lookout which is utterly spectacular and no rails to spoil that out in the wilderness feeling. After the lookout head for the Plateau track which is a leisurely stroll to the top of the plateau for a phenomenal view across the National Park. You can see for miles and there's plenty of brilliant photo opportunities with those epic cliff edges.