Sydney Harbour is a spectacular setting. The iconic sails of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge can be viewed from a number of vantage points, either up close from Circular Quay or from the opposite side of the harbour where you’ll catch glimpses whilst being immersed in bushland. It’s this side of the city, starting from Taronga Zoo Wharf, where Eco Walks Tours begin their guided hikes, and despite just being a short ferry ride from the city, you’ll feel a world away.
Eco Walks – Education through exploration
EcoWalks founder and guide, Alan Toner, has a background in adventure tourism and is also an army veteran, but it was when he retrained as a geography teacher that he really found his calling.
“When I started doing fieldwork with geography students in Sydney Harbour National Park I saw there were educational and cultural opportunities for people to get outdoors and learn a bit more about the heritage there” he says. And so Ecowalks was founded.
Unfortunately, the launch of the business coincided with one of Sydney’s worst ever bushfire seasons and then the global Covid-19 pandemic. But, despite the challenges, business has been booming as Sydneysiders turned international border closures into a positive by taking the opportunity to explore more of their own backyard.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. Why do I need a guide to explore Sydney Harbour? And the truth is, you don’t. But, if you want to actually understand your surroundings, learn to identify the plants and trees that you walk past and appreciate Aboriginal culture, a guide will add immense value to your walk.
The eco walks
EcoWalks Tours currently offer two tours, Georges Head Walking Tour ($39 for adults, $30 concession, $15 children) and Middle Head Battery Walking Tour ($49 for adults, $37 concession). All EcoWalks tours, begin with an Acknowledgement of Country for the Borogegal Clan of the Gai-mariagal People who are the traditional custodians of the land in Sydney Harbour National Park. They also provide cultural immersion activities in partnership with the Gaimaragal Group to enhance visitor knowledge and respect for Australian Aboriginal culture.
The three-hour Georges Head Walk follows the track along the waters’ edge and occasionally slightly inland where you’ll be walking underneath thick canopies of the Sydney Red Gum trees. Whilst on the tour you may also have a chance encounter with local animal species such as water dragons, blue tongue lizards, rainbow lorikeets, brush turkeys and even the elusive king parrot.
The Middle Head Battery Walk would be particularly interesting to people interested in Sydney’s military history as you’ll spend time exploring Bradleys Head HMAS Sydney Memorial Park, Bradleys Head Battery, Georges Head Armoured Casemate, Obelisk Bay Battery and the Outer Middle Head.
During the school holidays, EcoWalks also runs Bush Explorer Tours for children where they will learn about the importance of plants to the local animals. In particular, they’ll learn about where bugs, beetles and spiders live and what they eat. A great opportunity to build a love of the outdoors from a young age.
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