Bondi to Manly Walk

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!) Your journey will take 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.

At Bradley’s Head

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)

Print off the detailed walkers notes.

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.

These gates, just after Kirribilli Wharf don’t open till 7 AM

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. 

The distinctive waymarkers are on the ground and on telegraph poles

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.

Chess Tournament

It’s mid-afternoon and 32oC on an early December day in Sydney.  My buddy*, Isaac and I are sitting on a park bench in Hyde Park watching a chess tournament. Tournament may be a bit generous, but let me tell you the atmosphere is quite tense! 

There is a group of 9 people in the inner circle, all men over 60, probably over 70 shouting and gesticulating as Mr Black (we’ll call him) picks up his Bishop to make a move. His choice is roundly opposed by the Inner Circle except Mr White who is gleefully saying “Bye-Bye”.

I am unsure what language they are speaking. The Inner Circle is made up of people who appear to have Asian and European backgrounds. English is no-one’s first language. I am guessing that bye-bye is an agreed term for checkmate in this chess game. 

Mr Black goes boldly ahead with his move and the game is swiftly over. The pieces are gathered together and a new opponent sets up to face the victorious Mr White. 

On the tier above, there is another tight group of players using a regulation-sized board. From my angle, it appears to be a serious game. The onlookers, standing with one hand on their hips have the other held on their chins as if holding their mouths shut. The easy conviviality of the giant board players is missing and no-one is shouting out suggestions. 

The Outer Circle of 20 -30 onlookers is populated with people like me. Folks drinking coffee, eating ice-creams and enjoying the shade of the large trees that surround the chessboard. There is a nice breeze brushing across our sweaty skin and there is a feeling of slow calm peacefulness. No-one is in a rush. Languid laziness has set in. Even the pigeons and bin chickens (aka White Ibis) seem to be less raucous than usual.

Although each separate group of onlookers are sitting the regulation 1.5 m away from each other, the intense force fields from 6 months ago have been dropped. Our fear seems to have subsided and everyone is happy to enjoy a communal space. Close but not too close. 

*My 5-year-old grandson.

Camping on Cockatoo Island

What a treat! Camping in the middle of Sydney Harbour with uninterrupted views of the sun rising over the Harbour Bridge! Must be a private resort? No!  This harbour gem is owned and managed by the Sydney Harbour Trust and is open to the public.

Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney Harbour.  A UNESCO World Heritage site with a busy history, its been a place for indigenous women’s business, convicts, a reform school for women and girls and most recently a shipyard.

The bar was serving drinks and hamburgers and closed at 6 PM

The various buildings leftover from these previous uses are still in place and many are open for public viewing.  The island re-opened as a picnic spot and cultural precinct in 2007 after the shipyards closed in the late 1980s.

Camping on Cockatoo Island

Aside from day visits, you can camp on Cockatoo Island. You can either bring all your own gear or rent a tent with beds and linen.  The accommodations are basic but comfortable. There is an amenities block with hot showers and toilets, a laundry block and a camp kitchen. There are three cafes, however these close fairly early in the evening, so don’t rely on them for dinner. (Closure times were affected by COVD restrictions so check it out before you go) You can not take alcohol onto the island although you can buy some limited takeaway supplies from the cafes. Your bags may be checked at the wharf by security or rangers.

The camp kitchen has a toaster, microwaves, fridges and plenty of BBQ plates. There is no other cooking equipment, so you need to come properly prepared as you would for any camping venture. Given you need to take it on a public ferry, you also need to be pretty frugal with your packing!

The campsites are unpowered. There are power points (only 4) at the camp kitchen and in the shower cubicles. Take your own torch for inside the tent, or hire a lanterns from the site officce.

When I visited, in July 2020, the number of tents had been reduced by half to ensure there was adequate spacing between them and to reduce the number of people on the island due to COVID. There were only 2 other tents in use the night I stayed, so it was certainly not crowded! There are rangers and security guards on duty 24 hours, so I felt safe and secure. You might want to take a small padlock to secure the zippers on your tent when you are out and about during the day.

The setting is amazing! Massive metal structures, cranes and slipways all creating tantalizing backdrops for photographers. I wandered around after dark looking for spooky spots! The staff organise a fire pit when the weather is fine so perhaps you’d like to take a guitar and sit around the fire and sing! There is a ghost tour as well if you wanted to book. This is currently on hold due to COVID!


By happy coincidence, the  Sydney Biennale, an art exhibition, was on during my visit. It is normally on in March but had been postponed because of, you guessed it, COVID!

How to get to Cockatoo Island.

There are very regular ferry services to Cockatoo Island leaving from Wharf 5 at Circular Quay. Rivercat ferries heading downriver to Parramatta and the ‘normal’ green and yellow harbour ferries both visit the Island.  They start early and finish late so you should not have trouble getting there.

one of the many shipbuilding cranes still in situ.

The bloody seagulls!

My only complaint, if it is one, where the bloody seagulls! There were plenty of them and it was mating season.  They were also very loud and territorial, much more so than the other times I had visited. I didn’t think I would be able to sleep but their raucous squawking did not end up bothering me too much. I didn’t see a single cockatoo!


How much does it cost to camp on Cockatoo Island?

The cost of the ferry will depend on what day you go and ranges from $2.50 – $6 one way. The deluxe camping package which is the deal I took was $155 per night. I could have got a 20% Biennale discount but I did not see the promo until after I had already booked. I purchased some groceries from the Woolworths near Wynard Station. This is the closest supermarket to the Quay. I bought items that I could heat up in the microwave.  I had my cutlery kit with me so I was all set for a cheap night in!

Mt rating for this venue is 5 stars! If you had a group of buddies to sit around the campfire with on a frosty winter night – 10 stars! If you’re a photographer – 12 stars!