Last updated: November 21, 2023
One of the most enjoyable walking tracks in Sydney Harbour is the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk.
This relatively easy 6.5 km walking trail takes in beautiful secluded beaches, picturesque bays, impressive lookouts, historical sights, and much more.
Keep reading, and learn more about the highlights of this unique walking track in Sydney Harbour.
|Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach
|6.5 km (one way)
|2-3 hours (depending on stops)
|Easy / moderate
|Not allowed on the trail
How to Get to Taronga Zoo
The best way to get to Taronga Zoo is by ferry from Circular Quay. For many, the ferry trip crossing Sydney Harbour is an exciting adventure in itself. On the weekends, you can take advantage of the Opal weekend travel cap on all public transport.
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 prefer to drive, turn into Bradleys Head Road from Military Road and continue 1.3 km before arriving at Taronga Zoo. Parking at the zoo is quite expensive, so on less busy days, it’s recommended to find street parking.
The starting point of the track is on Athol Wharf Road, only moments away from the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf (see map location).
Highlights and Map
The Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk can be divided into three sections:
In this guide, we are going to focus on the following eight highlights and landmarks along this popular walking track:
- Athol Bay
- Bradleys Head
- Taylors Bay
- Clifton Gardens Reserve
- Chowder Bay
- Georges Head Lookout
- Georges Heights
- Balmoral Beach
Here is a handy map for your reference, with the highlights marked from 1 to 8, starting at the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf:
Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Track Notes
In the following track notes, we’re starting from the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf, first heading south to Bradleys Head, and then north towards Chowder Bay and on to Balmoral Beach.
The track is very easy to follow, with lots of signage along the way to keep you on the right path.
1. Athol Bay
The section between the zoo and Bradleys Head is an easy and pleasant introduction to the 6.5 km long adventure that awaits you.
From the ferry wharf, follow the footpath alongside Athol Wharf Road and look for a signpost on the side of the road that marks the starting point of the walk.
The track follows the shoreline around Athol Bay, offering great views of the Harbour. You can visit Athol Beach, a secluded stretch of sand directly 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 enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
2. Bradleys Head
The trail continues past Athol Bay and arrives at Bradleys Head, a unique and historical spot in Sydney Harbour National Park.
The first thing you will notice is the large mast standing tall and proud at the edge of the cliff overlooking the 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 an amphitheatre that offers the best views towards the city skyline, the Opera House, and the Harbour Bridge.
Another interesting sight at Bradleys Head is the Fortification Complex, which holds many relics from Sydney’s military history.
Built in the 19th century, the complex was part of the Sydney Harbour defence system, designed to protect New South Wales from hostile visitors.
3. Taylors Bay
From Bradleys Head, follow the walking trail that goes back into the bush, heading to Taylors Bay.
This is where the trail quickly evolves into a genuine bushwalk, surrounded by native trees, such as eucalyptus and ferns, and lots of wildlife, such as birds and lizards.
The track navigates around Taylors Bay, with the option to do a short detour down to the bay to a tiny secluded beach.
It’s worth having a look if you can find this short path.
4. Clifton Gardens Reserve
Leaving Taylors Bay behind, the track continues to the Chowder Head peninsula before arriving at Clifton Gardens Reserve.
Clifton Gardens Reserve has been a popular picnic spot for families in the local area since the 19th century, and it’s not hard to see why.
This beautiful spot is now home to a rocky beach with a netted swimming enclosure, excellent BBQ and picnic facilities, a fenced playground, and toilet facilities.
5. Chowder Bay
The track continues along the beach of Clifton Gardens to Chowder Bay, which is a great spot to have a break with a coffee and a meal at one of the cafes or restaurants.
Take your time to explore Chowder Bay and enjoy the panoramic views of Sydney Harbour, with Clifton Gardens and Chowder Head to the south and Watsons Bay and South Head on the opposite side of the Harbour.
To continue on the main walking track, look for the signpost that says Headland Park and Bungaree’s Walkway, next to the cafe near the parking area.
Bungaree’s walkway is a short but steep walking track up to Headland Park and Georges Heights.
The path connects with the Gunners Barracks, which was once a crucial military post and is now a popular spot for weddings.
6. Georges Head Lookout
Perhaps the biggest highlight along the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk is the Georges Head Lookout. You can access this lookout point by following the path on the lawn behind the Gunners Barracks.
This popular lookout point 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 the Georges Head Lookout offer great views, but it is also home to historic Sydney military relics such as tunnels, battlements, and cannons.
7. Georges Heights
From Georges Head Lookout, follow the path back to the main walking track, and continue into the bush heading north towards Middle Head.
The section in Georges Heights between Georges Head Lookout and Balmoral Beach offers incredible views of North Head, South Head, and the ocean further ahead.
There are a few lookout points along the path where you can enjoy uninterrupted views, with a few benches where you can relax and soak in the fantastic views that make Sydney so unique.
The last section, before the trail reaches Balmoral Beach, goes through an area with protected status, allowing native trees to flourish.
It’s a section with boardwalks and stairs right above the ground to protect the local vegetation against the spread of water mould in the soil.
This section is quite steep, and the scenic surroundings make you feel like you’re wandering through a thriving rainforest.
At the end of this section, the trail finishes at Balmoral Park, a large open field with an oval, a fitness station, and toilet and shower facilities.
8. Balmoral Beach
To get to Balmoral Beach, simply cross Balmoral Park and the car park on the other side.
Balmoral Beach is one of the most popular family-friendly beaches in Sydney, and once you arrive there, it’s not hard to see why it’s such a popular spot.
The water at the beach is typically very calm, perfect for a relaxing swim. There are also many cafes and restaurants to choose from if you’d like to have lunch in Balmoral.