I recently completed the 80 km Bondi to Manly Walk. I did it over four days walking 20 km each day carrying a 12 kg pack plus my camera (another 2 kg) the whole way. My feet are tired and blistered but my soul is uplifted! This walk offers magnificent views of Sydney Harbour the whole way. It hugs the shoreline for most of the route and when you do walk through residential areas the grand homes also offer a magnificent view! (Way beyond my budget!) The journey takes in sandy beaches, remnant bushland, residential footpaths, and parkland. I give this experience a 5-star rating! If you like walking, have a reasonable level of fitness and can manage hills and stairs, this is the walk for you!
Bondi to Manly Walk Route Guidance.
The Bondi to Manly Walk opened in December 2019 and came about after a huge collaborative effort between municipal councils, Aboriginal Land Councils, various government agencies and some commercial sponsors. There is a great webpage which you should very definitely check out before you plan your trip. You can download a very useful app which has an interactive map showing your real-time location.
There is also an extremely detailed and very accurate walker’s guide which I would recommend printing off. Running to 21 pages it is broken into sections with detailed, sensible instructions. My travelling companion and I found only two places where the notes were “incorrect” but this was due to sudden temporary closures that the guide’s writers would not have known about. (PS: These “errors” have been updated after I sent them an email)
One thing to note, which was not included in the walker’s guide, was the locked gate at Sub Base Platypus just past Kirribilli Wharf. It is not opened until 7 AM so don’t bother catching the very early ferry if you are starting your day here! We had to wait 20 minutes until the security fellow came to open it but filled in the time eating the breakfast we had packed and planned to eat a little later.
Do the walk your way
The walk is well signposted with lots of distinctive black and yellow waymarkers. (480 of them apparently!) The walker’s guide is designed so that each section of the walk ends at some sort of public transport facility, mostly ferry wharves but also bus and train routes. The idea is that you end each day’s walk, return to your base and then go back to your previous ending point to start the next section. You can obviously break it up as you like but the website offers several suggested itineraries.
You can do the walk in either direction although the notes are written in the direction from Bondi to Manly. As I said there are plenty of waymarkers but in some locations, the waymarkers have either been removed or are missing which made the notes and app map a crucial adjunct.
While some fit folks have done the whole 80 km in one go, my walking buddy and I did 4 consecutive days and stayed in Sydney each night. This allowed us an early start each day to beat the heat and the forecasted late showers. We finished each 20 km section by lunchtime and returned to the hotel for a rest and shower before doing some other touristy things in the afternoon.
We used the suggested 4-day itinerary as follows:
Day 1: Bondi Beach to Rose Bay Wharf.
Train to Bondi Junction and then a bus to the beach. A ferry back to Circular Quay from Rose Bay.
Day 2: Rose Bay to Kirribilli Wharf.
Ferry back to Rose Bay then returning by ferry from Kirribilli to Circular Quay.
Day 3: Kirribilli to the Spit Bridge.
Return to Kirribilli by ferry and then returning by bus from The Spit to Wynyard Station.
Day 4: The Spit Bridge to Manly.
A bus back to The Spit and then a ferry from Manly to Circular Quay and finally a train all the way home to Wollongong. (After a celebratory ice cream!)
What to take with you
You should take all the things you would normally carry on a hike. Snacks, water, a first aid kit, wet weather gear, a hat, camera, and your smartphone if you’re going to use the app. The track has a LOT of hills and steps so carry the lightest pack you can. If you are not returning to the same base each night you will, of course, have to carry your clothes and toiletries. You probably don’t need to carry 14 kg! I carried the heavy pack because I am “in training” for my trek in Tasmania in March when I will need to carry everything. I wanted to test out my legs and back!
Surprisingly even though you are walking through Sydney’s beachside suburbs there are not many shops or cafes directly on the pathway, so you will need water and snacks. There are some cafes on the route and you certainly won’t go hungry but a muesli bar and fruit in your pack will allow you to stop and sit on a sandstone boulder and watch the ocean wherever you fancy.
There are plenty of public toilets and these along with water refill stations, are highlighted on the app map. Most were clean and had plenty of soap, toilet paper and were supplied with Sydney’s lovely clean drinking water. Hand sanitiser is a must in this day and age so pack that too!
Wrapping up your day
Of course, you can walk as long as you like each day. You could carry your cossies and a towel and have a swim at any of the lovely little beaches along the way. You could stop and have lunch at one of the cafes. We chose to soldier on at a fairly rapid rate as the weather forecast included an afternoon thunderstorm every day. We ended our days with some other activities and stayed at the Oaks Sydney Goldsbrough Suites in Pyrmont which is very close to Darling Harbour.
On Day 1 we headed around to Darling Harbour and sat on the outside of the open-air on-water cinema that was set up. The sound wasn’t great but we could see the screen easily and watched for free! The following night we sat in a pub and were entertained by a spectacular thunderstorm which had people unexpectedly sodden. The next night we went to the cinema and saw Nomadland (highly recommended!) and on our final night, we went to the Australian Museum. Sydney, in summer, has plenty to offer!
Pyrmont was a great location to use as a base. It is close to both Darling Harbour and Central Station which gave us plenty of options to connect to public transport at the start and end of each day. It also has some great pubs, restaurants and supermarkets so you can mix and match dining options. Our hotel had a kitchenette which was very handy too.
This walk was a great opportunity to see parts of Sydney I had never seen before and I would recommend it to both local and international travellers.