Sydney Harbour National Park: the pristine nature lining Sydney’s diverse coastline

Escape the city for the day. You don’t have to go far to immerse yourself in some of New South Wales’ most stunning natural landscapes and striking coastal scenes.

Sydney’s natural landscapes

392-hectares large and sprawling across foreshores and islands in and around the Sydney area, Sydney Habour National Park makes up a great deal of Sydney’s natural environment. Created progressively from 1975 to protect Sydney’ coastal areas, the national park protects huge green strips and sweeping spaces of bushland lining the shores.

Comprised of zones in the south such as South Head and Nielsen Park, the majority of the national park lies in the north, across the headlands of the North Shore. Additionally, parts of this fragmented national park actually lie outside of the Sydney Harbour and look out across the Tasman Sea. Laced with historic sites, walking tracks, lookouts, picnic points, beaches and coves, a visit can keep you occupied for more than a day.

Credit: Amanda Cutlack

Aboriginal people and the National Park

Diverse scenery including secluded beaches, thick bushland and jagged sandstone cliffs make up the entirety of this awesome national park. Quintessentially Australian views packed with gum trees and native greenery provide an inspiring backdrop. Upon walking through the park on a beautiful Sydney day, it is encouraged that you give thought to the utilisation and value of the land for Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal heritage is respected across the park and this is visible in different segments. Guringai Resting Places in two areas of the national park are reburial sites. Ancestral remains brought back to these places from elsewhere are significant spots for the Aboriginal community and therefore restricted access is enforced here. This includes locations at Reef Beach and Quarantine Station. To learn more about Aboriginal people and culture, you can choose to take a cultural cruise in Sydney Habour. Guides with great knowledge of Aboriginal culture will give you a tour of the region by boat. Listen to stories of the Cadigal, Guringai, Wangal, Gammeraigal and Wallumedegal people and learn the Aboriginal names of locations across Sydney. Opt for this trip, and you’ll also learn about traditional fishing and food gathering methods. Taking some time to learn a little about Aboriginal culture is an important part of your trip to Australia.

Walks in Sydney Harbour National Park

Another way to soak up the sensational nature of Sydney Harbour National Park is on foot. Numerous walks across different parts of the park – all clearly sign-posted and easy to follow – offer different immersive natural experiences. As you stroll, spot majestic birds and creatures such as the white- bellied sea eagle, the endangered little penguin (in Manly), as well as humpbacks whales making their migratory path from Antarctica in the winter months. 150 species of birds soaring overhead help to create the illusion that you’re hundreds of kilometres from the Australian capital.

Credit: John Spencer

One of the most exquisite walks in Sydney has to be from Rose Bay to Watsons Bay. Walking along the coast past Sydney’s eastern suburbs, the 8km coastal track makes for a very scenic route with first-class views. Panoramic lookouts and gorgeous coves and bays are guaranteed. Alternatively, the Fairfax walk – paved and gentle – is ideal for a stroll and offers excellent whale watching spots. Three lookouts dotted along the track provide walkers picturesque views similar to what you’d find on any Sydney postcard.

A visit to Manly Scenic Walkway, which takes hikers past beach, bush and striking lookout points, is also highly encouraged. For the best Sydney views, opt for the walk from Bradleys’s head to Chowder Bay and weave through greenery, catching awesome glimpses of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

What is being done for the environment here?

Protecting natural landscapes across headlands and islands in the Sydney area, Sydney Harbour National Park is an absolutely priceless natural gem amongst the urban environment. Simply by ensuring and preserving the existence of these diverse ecosystems, endangered plant and animal species are protected here.

Native species inside the national park are monitored, managed and protected thanks to work from volunteers as well as researchers and scientists. The park works hard to assure that this is a consistent and ongoing goal. At certain points throughout the year, the park calls for extra help with its volunteer programs. One day, or short-term projects which can include planting trees, carrying out bird surveys or even working on heritage sites, are often offered to the public. If you’re up for meeting some local people and getting stuck in to some volunteering, you might find that there’s something you can help with at Sydney Harbour National Park.

Credit: David Finnegan

During your Sydney stay, make the trip to one of Sydney Harbour National Park’s striking headlands or dazzling coves. Catch a glimpse of Australia’s beautiful coastline, flouring wildlife and impressive biodiversity, alongside the very heart of the city. Respectfully choose to learn a little about Aboriginal culture here too. A more thorough understanding of Australia’s rich history will help you to truly understand the societal and natural aspects of Australia as a whole.

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