Watsons Bay Walking Track Around South Head

Last updated: April 20, 2020

The Watsons Bay Walk is a scenic hike around South Head featuring beautiful views of Sydney Harbour, the city skyline, the Tasman Sea, North Head and the historic Hornby Lighthouse.

On a weekday there is plenty of parking available but in the busy weekends finding a parking spot can be a challenge. Public transport is good, with regular buses (324 and 325) departing Circular Quay.

You can also catch the ferry to Watsons Bay from Circular Quay which may be a nice opportunity to see even more of Sydney Harbour, the sailing ships, and not to mention the prestigious waterfront mansions.

Watsons Bay Walk
Distance:4.5 km (circuit)
Time:2 hours
Grade:Easy

How to Get to Watsons Bay

While there is lots of parking available in and around Watsons Bay, during busy weekends it can be hard to find a parking spot. Alternatively, you can park your car a bit further out on Old South Head Rd.

The best way to get to Watsons Bay though is by ferry from Circular Quay. The ferry trip is very scenic and is a great experience. Otherwise, buses 324 and 325 depart from the city to Watsons Bay regularly.

Check the Transport NSW website for more information and timetables.

Watsons Bay

Once you arrive in Watsons Bay, either by car or at the Watsons Bay ferry wharf, it’s recommended to explore this picturesque and historic fisherman’s village before you start the walk.

Go see the Vaucluse Yacht Club and enjoy the idyllic area with beautiful city views. Close to Vaucluse Yacht Club, in Robertson Park, you may bump into a historic stone obelisk.

Robertson Park in Watsons Bay
Robertson Park in Watsons Bay

This obelisk marks the end of the construction of the first road from the city to South Head in 1811 and it reads: “VIII Miles from Sydney”. How cool!

If you enjoy high tea or fancy long lunches, head to Dunbar House, a truly stunning historic building. Alternatively, you can order the best fish and chips at Doyles on the wharf and have a picnic in Robertson Park.

Robertson Park

Robertson park is a family friendly place with public toilets, tables and playgrounds. You can also eat in at Doyles restaurant on the beach, which has been around since 1885.

Sydney CBD views from Watsons Bay
Sydney CBD views from Watsons Bay

The Watsons Bay Walk starts as you walk towards the north from Robertson Park, leading up to Camp Cove. Walk past Doyles onto the little stretch of beach.

At the end you walk into Cove Street, turn left into Pacific Street and follow all the way to Green Point Reserve.

Take a moment to enjoy the scenic views here before you make your way down into Camp Cove along the walking trail.

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 little sheltered bay popular with locals and Watsons Bay visitors.

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

Camp Cove has a beautiful, north-east facing beach where you can spend some time swimming and snorkeling in amazingly calm waters.

Alternatively, you can simply sit back, relax and soak in the uninterrupted Sydney Harbour views.

Camp Cove beach along the Watsons Bay walk
Camp Cove Beach

At the northern end of the beach is a toilet block and a little kiosk where you can buy coffee and refreshments. This is also the spot where you continue the Watsons Bay Walk further north, climbing up a timber staircase.

You will end up on a path where you can experience a bit of Sydney’s history, walking past a cannon and a gun emplacement.

Small boat house at Camp Cove
Small boat house at Camp Cove

From here you’ll have great views over Camp Cove beach, Sydney Harbour and the city CBD skyline.

Make sure you take a few good photos of the canon with Sydney Harbour in the background!

Canons and gun emplacements at Camp Cove
Canons and gun emplacements at Camp Cove

Lady Bay Beach

As you continue the walk from the cannon, you’ll end up in an old road that turns into a footpath. As you walk further, you’ll bump into a signpost for Lady Bay Beach.

Access to Lady Bay Beach in Watsons Bay
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.

If you spot a few naked people, don’t be too surprised, because Lady Bay is actually 1 of 3 legally sanctioned nude beaches in Sydney Harbour.

If public nudity is not really your thing, you can still enjoy the breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour from Lady Bay Lookout, situated right above the little bay.

South Head Heritage Trail

The Watsons Bay Walk now goes into the South Head Heritage Trail, a 500m loop track around South Head.

South Head Heritage Trail signpost
South Head Heritage Trail

Highlights of this trail are the iconic Hornby Lighthouse and the Lightkeeper’s cottage.

Hornby Lighthouse

The lighthouse was built in 1858 and is now a very characteristic red and white striped tower, surrounded by views to die for.

Hornby Lighthouse at South Head
Hornby Lighthouse at South Head

From here you can see the Pacific Ocean to the east, Sydney Harbour to the west and North Head to the north.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot some whales as they migrate north in Winter.

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

To return back to Watsons Bay, you simple complete the circle and then follow the same track back to where you started.

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

The Gap

Located on the opposite side of the Watsons Bay ferry wharf, The Gap is one of Sydney’s most famous ocean cliff lookouts with panoramic views that are unparalleled.

The Gap in Watsons Bay
The Gap in Watsons Bay

Sadly, The Gap is not just known for its breathtaking views, but also for the many suicides that have occurred there over the years.

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

A local resident named Don Ritchie, who lived near The Gap, officially rescued 160 people from suicide over a 45-year period, although that number is closer to 400 according to his family.

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

The inscription at the front reads:

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

Simple, yet wise words.

Views from The Gap
Views from The Gap

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

Where to Eat in Watsons Bay

Watsons Bay is quite a small place, but there are plenty of options to choose from when it’s time to grab a bite.

Doyles on the Beach

Opened in 1885 and run by the Doyle family for over five generations, Doyles on the Beach is the original site of the very first seafood restaurant in Australia. It’s situated directly behind the main Wharf Beach, at 11 Marine Parade.

Doyles on the Wharf

This is a popular takeaway shop owned and operated by the same family, conveniently situated next to the ferry wharf. The food is excellent, although you may need to wait a little while, especially during busy weekends.

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel + Beach House

One of the most popular food spots in the area is the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel with a huge outdoor eating area facing the beach opposite the ferry wharf. The Beach Club serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails, and comes with great views and vibe.

Watsons Bay foreshore
Doyles and Beach House along the Watsons Bay foreshore

Dunbar House

A popular venue for weddings and events, Dunbar House is an 1830’s heritage building located next to Robertson Park. Lunch at the cafe is served Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Tea Garden

Located a bit further south from Dunbar House, facing the Watsons Bay Baths, the Tea Garden is a family-run cafe with outdoor tables and bay views, serving an Italian-influenced menu with breakfast and lunch options.

Watsons Bay Milk Bar

Located just around the corner of Robertson Park along Military Road, the Watsons Bay Milk Bar and General Store is a small, 1950s-inspired shop. Their affordable sandwiches are delicious, and they also make great coffee.

Summary

The Watsons Bay Walk offers the best city, Harbour and ocean views one can imagine, combined with a healthy dose of Australian history.

The walk is fairly easy, and with Robertson Park and fresh seafood for lunch, this walk is the perfect day out.

If you’re up for a real challenge, you can also follow the trail to continue south, which forms the official start of the Eastern Coastal Walk that goes all the way to Bondi, Coogee and Maroubra.

It starts with the Federation cliff walk (also known as the Bondi to Watsons Bay walk, or vice versa), followed by the Bondi to Bronte walk.

You can then continue further from Bondi Beach all the way to Coogee Beach, Sydney’s most popular coastal walk.

Walk to Bondi Beach from Watsons Bay
Walk to Bondi Beach from Watsons Bay

Watsons Bay Walk Map and Route

Start your walk at Robertson Park, past Doyles onto the little beach. Then follow Cove Street and Pacific Street to Green Point Reserve.

Watsons Bay walk map and route

Google Map:

 

Watsons Bay walking track

 
 
2 Comments
  1. Whilst otherwise very informative, the south head and lighthouse walk is not dog friendly on or off a lead. Dogs are prohibited from the camp cove kiosk and on the beach.

    Reply
  2. Never take your dog to Watson’s Bay. Least dog friendly part of Sydney. All the walking tracks are National Park and if you pay attention to the recreational park signs, they are mostly prohibited there too.

    Reply
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