The Scenic Watsons Bay Walk Around South Head

Last updated: March 21, 2021

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.

Watsons Bay itself is a popular family-friendly weekend destination, with various cafes, restaurants, beaches, and picnic spots to explore.

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 very challenging, if not impossible, to find a parking spot.

Alternatively, you can park your car a bit further out on Old South Head Rd, which is still withing walking distance.

The best way to get to Watsons Bay though is by catching a ferry from Circular Quay. This is a scenic ferry trip, and adds to the experience.

Travelling by bus is also an option, with lines 324 and 325 departing from the city to Watsons Bay. Check the Transport NSW website for more information and exact timetables.

About 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 visit the Vaucluse Yacht Club, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings with panoramic city views. Nearby the yacht club, in Robertson Park, keep an eye out for an historic stone obelisk.

Sydney CBD views from Watsons Bay
Sydney CBD views from 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 interesting!

If you enjoy high tea or extended lunches, head to Dunbar House, a truly stunning historic building with a licensed cafe. Alternatively, order some delicious fish and chips at Doyles on the wharf and have a picnic in Robertson Park.

Robertson Park in Watsons Bay
Robertson Park in Watsons Bay

Robertson park is one of the most popular picnic spots in Sydney, and for good reasons. It’s a family-friendly place with various picnic tables, public toilets, and playgrounds.

Watsons Bay Walk Track Notes

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

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

The below map has these highlights marked:

Map and route of the Watsons Bay walk

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 restaurants, heading north.

1. Green Point Reserve

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 in Watsons Bay
Green Point Reserve

Take a moment to enjoy the scenic 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 has 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 snorkeling in pleasantly calm waters, against the backdrop of Sydney Harbour.

Camp Cove Beach
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 where the Watsons Bay Walk continues further north, going up a wooden staircase.

This leads 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

From there, you will get to enjoy great views of Camp Cove beach, Sydney Harbour, and the city CBD skyline.

Cannon at Camp Cove
Cannon at Camp Cove

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

3. Lady Bay Beach

As you continue the walk past the cannon, the track merges into an old road which turns 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.

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

Lady Bay Beach
Lady Bay Beach

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

4. South Head Heritage Trail

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

South Head Heritage Trail in Watsons Bay
Start of the South Head Heritage Trail

Highlights of this trail are the iconic Hornby Lighthouse, the Lightkeeper’s cottage, and of course 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 on a prime spot with million dollar 360 degree views.

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

Hornby Lighthouse on South Head
Hornby Lighthouse

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

To return back to Watsons Bay, simply complete the circuit and then follow the same track 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

Located on the opposite side of 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 many people have lost their lives over the years.

The Gap in Watsons Bay
The Gap in Watsons Bay

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 prevented 160 people from ending their lives 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 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.”

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 Club

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 a nice vibe.

Watsons Bay foreshore
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, combined with a healthy dose of Sydney history.

The walk is fairly easy, and with Robertson Park and fresh seafood for a picnic lunch, it’s the perfect day out.

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

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

It starts with the Federation cliff walk (also known as the Watsons Bay to Bondi walk), 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.

 

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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