Last updated: September 20, 2020
One of the most enjoyable Sydney Harbour walking tracks is the Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach walk. This 6.5km trail takes in beautiful secluded beaches, picturesque bays, impressive lookouts, and historical sights.
Get ready to be overwhelmed by spectacular Harbour views, scenic bushland, and thriving wildlife, with the Sydney CBD only a stone’s throw away.
|Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach|
|Distance:||6.5 km (one way)|
|Time:||2-3 hours (including stops)|
How to Get to Taronga Zoo
The best way to get to Taronga Zoo is by ferry from Circular Quay. The ferry trip crossing Sydney Harbour is quite exciting and adds to the experience. On Sundays you can take advantage of the $2.80 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 prefer to drive, 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 starting point of the track is on Athol Wharf Road, only moments away from the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf.
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 along this popular walking track:
- Athol Bay
- Bradleys Head
- Taylors Bay
- Clifton Gardens Reserve
- Chowder Bay
- Georges Head Lookout
- Georges Heights
- Balmoral Beach
In the track notes below, we’re diving a little deeper into each of these highlights, as we’re navigating through the trail from south to north.
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 Beach Track Notes
In the following track notes, we’re starting at the Taronga Zoo ferry wharf, heading south to Bradleys Head, and then north to Chowder Bay and Balmoral Beach.
The track is very easy to follow with lots of signage along the way.
1. Athol Bay
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 alongside Athol Wharf Road and keep an eye out for a sign that marks the starting point of the walk.
The 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 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 to 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 huge mast standing tall and proud at the edge of the cliff, overlooking the Harbour.
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.
Another interesting sight at Bradleys Head is the Fortification Complex which holds lots of 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 track back into the bush heading to Taylors Bay.
This section feels like a true bushwalk where you will be surrounded by lots of different types of birds and native trees, such as eucalyptus and ferns.
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 is has been a popular picnic spot for families in the area for a very long time, and for good reasons.
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 Choweder 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 Watsns Bay and South Head on the opposite side of the Harbour.
To continue the main walking track, look out for the signpost that says Headland Park and Bungaree’s Walkway, located next to the cafe at the parking area.
Bungaree’s walkway is a short but rather steep hike 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 paved lawn just 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, it is also home to historic Sydney military relics such as tunnels, battlements, and cannons.
7. Georges Heights
From Georges Head Lookout, follow the lawn 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 and 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 for a moment to really soak in the amazinng views that make Sydney so unique.
The last section, before the trail reaches Balmoral Beach, goes through a protected area for native trees to flourish.
It’s a section with boardwalks and stairs above the ground, to protect the local vegetation against the spread of water mould in soil.
This section is quite steep but very scenic, and makes 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 finally 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 lots of cafes and restaurants to choose if you’d like to have lunch in Balmoral.