Watsons Bay Walk and the South Head Heritage Trail

Last updated: April 9, 2024

The Watsons Bay Walk is a scenic trail exploring South Head, offering panoramic views of Sydney Harbour, the city skyline, the Tasman Sea, North Head and the historic Hornby Lighthouse.

This family-friendly walk, which includes the South Head Heritage Trail, is situated in one of Sydney’s busiest tourist spots and is easy to get to by ferry.

Watsons Bay Walk
Distance: 4.5 km (part circuit)
Duration: 1-2 hours
Grade: Easy
Wheel-friendly: No
Dog-friendly: No

How to Get There

While there is ample parking in and close to Watsons Bay, it can be very challenging to find a parking spot on the weekends.

If you can’t find a parking spot in the main area, try to park further out on Old South Head Rd, which is still within walking distance, albeit up the hill.

However, the best way to get to Watsons Bay is by ferry from Circular Quay. This enjoyable ferry trip across Sydney Harbour adds to the experience and is a lot more relaxing that driving.

Travelling by bus is also an option, with buses regularly travelling between the city and Watsons Bay. Check the Transport NSW website for more information and exact timetables.

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Track Notes

We’re going to describe the Watsons Bay Walk along the following highlights, landmarks, and milestones:

  1. Green Point Reserve
  2. Camp Cove
  3. Lady Bay Beach
  4. South Head Heritage Trail
  5. Hornby Lighthouse
  6. The Gap

The map below has these highlights marked:

Map and route of the Watsons Bay walk

1. Green Point Reserve

The best spot to start the Watsons Bay Walk is from the ferry wharf at the end of Military Road.

From there, follow Marine Parade along Watsons Bay Beach in front of the cafes and restaurants, heading northbound.

Watsons Bay foreshore
Watsons Bay foreshore

At the northern end of this small beach, walk into Cove Street, turn left into Pacific Street, and continue all the way to Green Point Reserve.

Green Point Reserve
Green Point Reserve

Take a moment to enjoy the pretty views from this reserve before heading down to the secluded beach of Camp Cove.

2. Camp Cove

Camp Cove is where Governor Arthur Phillip first landed in Port Jackson (the old name for Sydney Harbour) in 1788.

It is now a sheltered bay with a beautiful, north-east facing beach.

Governor Phillip plaque at Camp Cove
Governor Phillip plaque at Camp Cove

It’s a great beach to spend some time swimming and snorkelling in pleasantly calm water against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour.

Camp Cove Beach
Camp Cove Beach

At the northern end of the beach are a toilet block and a little kiosk where you can buy coffee and refreshments. This is also where the Watsons Bay Walk continues further north, going up a wooden staircase.

That connects to a path where you can experience a bit of Sydney’s history, walking past a cannon and a gun emplacement.

Camp Cove Jetty
Camp Cove Jetty

That path is also a great spot to take in the views of Camp Cove Beach, Sydney Harbour, and the city CBD skyline.

Cannon at Camp Cove
Cannon at Camp Cove

Use this opportunity to take a few good photos of the cannon with Sydney Harbour in the background, as it’s a classic Sydney photography spot.

3. Lady Bay Beach

As you continue on the walking path past the cannon, the track merges into an old road that evolves into a footpath.

You will then soon see a sign for Lady Bay Beach.

Access to Lady Bay Beach
Access to Lady Bay Beach

Lady Bay Beach is a very small, secluded beach that you can access by going down the stairs from the footpath.

Lady Bay Beach
Lady Bay Beach

If you spot some sparsely dressed people, don’t be too surprised, because Lady Bay is one of the few sanctioned nude beaches in Sydney Harbour.

4. South Head Heritage Trail

The Watsons Bay Walk now evolves into the South Head Heritage Trail, a 500m loop track around the northern tip of South Head.

Start of the South Head Heritage Trail
Start of the South Head Heritage Trail

Highlights of this trail are the iconic Hornby Lighthouse, the Lightkeeper’s cottage, and the fantastic Sydney Harbour and ocean views.

5. Hornby Lighthouse

The lighthouse was built in 1858 and is now a characteristic red and white striped tower located in a prime spot with beautiful 360-degree views.

From the lighthouse, you can see the ocean in the east, Sydney Harbour in the west, and North Head on the opposite side. You may even spot some whales while they migrate to warmer regions.

Hornby Lighthouse in Watsons Bay
Hornby Lighthouse

From Hornby Lighthouse, the circuit walk continues along the footpath past the concrete gun emplacement, towards the Lightkeeper’s Cottage.

To return to Watsons Bay, simply complete the loop and then follow the same trail back to where you started.

When you arrive back in Watsons Bay, it’s time to visit the cliffs of The Gap.

6. The Gap

Situated opposite the Watsons Bay ferry wharf, The Gap is one of Sydney’s most famous ocean cliff lookouts with beautiful coastal views.

But as beautiful as The Gap may be, it’s also a spot where a number of people have lost their lives over the years.

Security cameras and emergency phones have been installed to help prevent people from jumping off the cliffs and to offer support.

The Gap in Watsons Bay
The Gap in Watsons Bay

Local resident Don Ritchie, who lived near The Gap, officially prevented 160 people from jumping over a 45-year period. However, that number is closer to 400, according to his family.

In 2006, Don was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his efforts, and in 2013 the Don Ritchie Grove was established along Old South Head Rd in his memory. The inscription reads:

“Always remember the power of the simple smile, a helping hand, a listening ear, and a kind word.”

The park around The Gap is a beautiful place to wander around and enjoy some of the best coastal views in Sydney.

More Hiking

If you’re up for a longer hike, you can follow the coastal trail heading south from The Gap, which forms the official start of the Eastern Coastal Walk that continues to Bondi, Coogee, and Maroubra.

It starts with the Federation Cliff Walk (also known as the Watsons Bay to Bondi walk), followed by the Bondi to Bronte Walk.

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

You can then continue further along the coast from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. And, once in Coogee, you can continue hiking along the Coogee to Maroubra Walk, a beautiful 5 km coastal trail.

Want to find more great walks like the Watsons Bay walking trail? Read our guide to the best Sydney Harbour walks for inspiration!

 

Watsons Bay Walk and the South Head Heritage Trail

 

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AJ Mens

AJ Mens is a digital publisher based in Sydney, Australia, and the editor-in-chief of Sydney Uncovered and Blue Mountains Uncovered.

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