Back in 1993, Mosman Council initiated the concept of a Harbour to Hawkesbury bushwalk, which would connect to the Great North Walk. Supported by Ku-ring-gai Council and the NPWS, a bushwalking route was established from Manly to Berowra Waters. The route traverses Sydney Harbour National Park, Garigal NP, Ku-ring-gai Chase NP and Berowra Valley Regional Park, using existing bushwalking tracks. The Harbour to Hawkesbury walk is about 59km in length, but unlike the Great North Walk has no camping sites or accommodation along its length (public transport allows it to be done in smaller sections). You’ve probably seen the distinctive red logo (an H-H symbol with a bushwalker) on many track markers, despite all official references and information on the track having faded into obscurity…
If you’re super-fit, you may be able to complete the Harbour to Hawkesbury track as a long day-walk – the track has often been used as part of the 100km Oxfam Trailwalkers route. Or you can easily break up the walk into smaller sections, most of which are fairly accessible via public transport:
Manly to The Spit (9.2km) – stunning coastal scenery along Manly Scenic Walkway, but very busy on weekends
The Spit to Davidson Park (14.6km) – pleasant walking along Middle Harbour & around Bantry Bay through Garigal NP
Davidson Park to St Ives (11.6km) – some of the nicest sections, along Middle Harbour and Middle Harbour Creek (Garigal NP)
St Ives to Bobbin Head (9km) – undulating track along Cowan Creek on Warrimoo Track, through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Bobbin Head to Berowra Waters (14.4km) – the most challenging part of the walk, through Ku-ring-gai Chase and Berowra Valley National Parks
Section 1: Manly to The Spit [9.2km]
Arguably Sydney’s most popular walk, you’re unlikely to be on your own along the Manly Scenic Walkway (the first section of the Harbour to Hawkesbury route) – even on a weekday. Starting at Manly Wharf, the Fairlight Walking Track hugs the coastline fairly closely as it heads north-west. It passes the sdecluded Delwood Beach and Kay Ye My Point, a fishing spot named after the Aboriginal name for Manly Cove. After passing Fairlight Beach, the track is called North Harbour Walk from the Manly Boatshed. It circles around North Harbour to reach the picturesque Forty Baskets Beach (believed to be named after a catch of 40 baskets of fish sent to a contingent of people detained at the North Head Quarantine Station).
The track then enters Sydney Harbour National Park, and the most scenic part of the walk. The path, which is now the Reef Beach Track, follows the coastline and past the quiet Reef Beach, once a depression-era camping ground and later proclaimed a nude beach. Veering inland and onto the Dobroyd Head Track, there’s a great lookout with views of Crater Cove. Below the lookout and above the cliffs of Dobroyd Head are glimpses of a “ghost village“ – simple huts constructed between 1923 and 1963, and abandoned in 1984.
Towards the end of this section through Sydney Harbour National Park the track becomes the Grotto Point Track, passing an Aboriginal engraving site just off the main track. A rough side-track (Lighouse Track; 1km return) descends to Grotto Point. The active beacon at Grotto Point is one of only four lighthouses in this style designed by architect Maurice Festu, is which is sometime referred to as the ‘Disney Castle’ style.
From the Lighthouse Track junction, the Castle Rock Track heads towards the coastline again, which it follows quite closely again past Castle Rock Beach and another small, unnamed beach. There’s a very short climb through the Duke of Edinburgh reserve, which offers some nice views over Middle Harbour.
The last section along the Clontarf Track gets a lttle busier and less “bushy”, as the track leaves the national park and follows the coast around Clontarf, the wide Sandy Bay and Fisher Bay. There’s more views of expensive real estate than trees, other than a small patch of sub-tropical rainforest between Fisher Bay and Sandy Bay, along the Fisher Bay Track.
The end of this section is The Spit, where the current bridge – constructed in 1958 – is now one of the only lift bridges still operational on a major arterial road. Middle Harbour was crossed here via a punt until 1924, when a bridge across the harbour was completed (replaced by the current bridge in 1958).
|Transport||Regular ferry & bus services to Manly (from city, Chatswood, Mona Vale)
Direct bus services to The Spit from city & St Leonards)
|Distance||9.2km. All walking tracks (no on-road sections)|
|Grade||Easy. 200m total ascent.|
|Resources||Download official Manly Scenic Walkway map (3MB)
Detailed Spit to Manly blog post
|Map/s||9130-2N Sydney Heads (1:25K)
9130-3N Parramatta River (1:25K)
|GPS Route||AllTrails topographical map of Section 1 and entire H-H route|
Section 2: The Spit to Davidson Park [14.6km]
The first of this section is a bit dreary, with the route following suburban streets through Seaforth – this is the longest “on-road” section of the Harbour to Hawkesbury walk. You can take the steep Gallipoli Steps up to Edgecliff Esplanade, which has some great views, or follow Battle Boulevarde for a more gradual ascent! Although the official route follows the peninsula past Seaforth Bluff, you can also reduce some of the road-walking by cutting across the top of the peninsula.
The bushwalking track starts from Seaforth Oval, where the Timbergetters Track in Garigal National Park (a historic logging track that was used in the 1850s) descends to Bantry Bay. After passing the top of a small waterfall, Bantry Bay comes into a view before the final and steepest part of the descent.
At the bottom is the Bantry Bay Picnic Area. The area has an interesting history: it was the location of the Bantry Bay ‘Pleasure Gardens’ dance hall before the land was resumed in 1915 for the Bantry Bay Explosives Magazine complex, and then returned to the public in 1973.
From the Bantry Bay Picnic Area, the Bay Track (or Bluff Track) continues along the eastern side of Bantry Bay, providing views of the old Bantry Bay Explosives Magazine complex on the opposite side. The ascent gets steeper from the end of Bantry Bay, with the track negotiating a few rock outcrops as it heads up to The Bluff.
There are couple of vantage points towards the top of The Bluff, with weathered sandstone formations and spectacular views over Bantry Bay and Middle Harbour, and to the city skyline in the distance.
From The Bluff, a management trail continues to a junction with the Natural Bridge Track, which descends again to an unnamed creek. The track crosses this unnamed creek over the “Natural Bridge”, a sandstone arch carved out by water erosion over thousands of years, before ascending to meet the Currie Road Track.
Another management trail, the Currie Road Track soon crosses the Cook Street Track, and turns into the Bates Creek Track. Initially a wide service trail, the trail narrows to a bushwalking trail which descends to Bates Creek, near a small pool fringed by ferns, before becoming a service trail again. Near an access trail that goes to the end of Tiperrary Avenue, the Bates Creek Track becomes the Magazine Track.
The Magazine Track descends along Bates Creek towards Bantry Bay, passing behind the Bantry Bay Explosives Magazine Complex (which you can’t see from the track). Just after this fenced-off complex, the track reaches the edge of the water again, on the opposite side of Bantry Bay to the Bay Track. It then follows the coastline quite closely, with some nice views over Middle Harbour and across Bantry Bay to Garigal National Park on the other side.
After passing the base of a small waterfall, the track reaches the sheltered and picturesque Flat Rock Beach, accessed via a very short track down to the water.
Just after Flat Rock Beach, the track ascends to a junction with an access track up to the end of Killarney Drive, and the Flat Rock Beach Track which continues along the shoreline.
! There’s a “track closed” sign here which locals seem to ignore; the track still exists and is in good condition. The issue is that track crosses private land (the current landowner has rescinded access to bushwalkers) near Killarney Point (technically, to avoid crossing private land, you could follow the edge of the shoreline around Killarney Point, which is Crown land.)
It’s a really nice bushwalking track, with many sections of tall trees and dense ferns, and the occasional view over Middle Harbour. In the middle of this section, and looking very out of place, is Killarney Point, on which stands a derelict building. Built as a dance hall in 1928 before becoming the home of Mosman Rowing Club, the building was almost completely destroyed by a suspicious fire in 2016.
The track passes a service trail that goes up to Downpatrick Road, before reaching a large parking area and boat ramp, and then passing underneath Roseville Bridge. On the other side of Roseville Bridge is Davidson Reserve, which marks the end of Section 2.
|Transport||Direct bus services to The Spit from city & St Leonards)
Private bus service to Seaforth Oval (Forest Coaches 141 from Manly)
Private bus services along Warringah Road (Forest Coaches)
|Distance||14.6km. Mostly walking tracks in Garigal NP (4.6km on-road)|
|Grade||Easy/Moderate. 520m total ascent.|
|Resources||Bantry Bay Loop blog post
Natural Bridge Loop blog post
Flat Rock Beach Circuit blog post
|Map/s||9130-3N Parramatta River (1:25K)|
|GPS Route||AllTrails topographical map of Section 2 and entire H-H route|
Section 3: Davidson Park to St Ives [11.6km]
The middle section of the Harbour to Hawkesbury walk starts at Davidson Park, which stretches along Middle Harbour. It’s a popular spot on weekend, with picnic tables, barbecues and a small netted beach along the length of the park.
Alternative route: cross Roseville Bridge, and take Two Creeks and Gordon Creek track along the opposite side of Middle Harbour, up to The Stepping Stones where you re-join the Harbour to Hawkesbury walk. This adds about 3km to the normal route, and is a more challenging route with some sections of very rough/indisinct tracks. It’s generally a lot less busy and a little more interesting and varied.
At the far end of the park is the start of the Lyrebird Track, which closely follows Middle Harbour. The Lyrebird Track starts as a wide and flat service trail (it was once used for sand mining operations), which is popular with cyclists and joggers, as well as bushwalkers.
After 1.7km the track narrows to a bushwalking trail, which continues to follow Middle Harbour quite closely. It veers inland at the confluence of Carroll Creek and Middle Harbour.
Just above a small set of cascades on Carroll Creek, there’s a series of stepping stones across the creek (may be impassable after heavy rain).
On the other side of Carroll Creek is Governor Phillip Walk, named after after NSW’s first Governor and following his route in 1788 in search of fertile farming land. It continues along Middle Harbour Creek, passing a few overhangs and sandy beaches, and the occasional side-creek.
After passing under an enormous water pipeline (and a junction with the Davidson Track), the Governor Phillip Walk reaches the Stepping Stones. This spot marks the tidal limit of Middle Harbour Creek, as well as the location of Governor Arthur Phillip’s camp on his historic first expedition in 1788. The Stepping Stones provide access to the Bungaroo Track on the opposite side of the creek.
The Governor Phillip Walk now becomes the Middle Harbour Track, which is one of the nicest sections of the Harbour to Hawkesbury walk.
Closely following Middle Harbour Creek upstream, the forest is dominated by tall coachwood trees and ferns, with a rainforest feel. There are multiple cascades, deep pools, the occasional sandy beach and huge sandstone overhangs along the track.
The forest opens up again and the valley starts to widen just before the track reaches The Cascades. After traversing a long, rocky ledge above the creek, the track suddenly emerges from the forest onto a huge rock platform, ovelooking the equally huge “Cascades”. Formed by the confluence of Middle Harbour Creek and Frenchs Creek, there’s a huge natural swimming hole and a number of small cascades. It was a popular picnic spot and Boy Scouts camping site in the 1920s, and a weir (now destroyed) was constructed in 1934. The Cascades Track start here; it’s a wide service trail that ascends, steeply at times, up from the creek. After passing Lower Cambourne Trail, veer right onto the short Upper Cambourne Track, which goes up to Cambourne Avenue (St Ives).
From here, there’s a bit of road-walking: follow Cambourne Ave, Blackburn St and Whitehaven St, then turn onto Kitchener Road, which crosses Mona Vale Road. The intersection of Kitchener Road and Mona Vale Road marks the end of Section 3.
Alternative route: you could avoid almost the entire on-road section by taking the Bare Creek Trail just after The Cascades and then the Tree Loppers Trail, which eventually meets the Kitchener Street Trail. The Kitchener Street Trail finishes on Kitchener Road just before Mona Vale Road. This involves about 4.5km of walking on service trails through Garigal National Park, to avoid a 2km road section.
|Transport||Private bus services along Warringah Road, Mona Vale Road from Gordon station (196/197) and to the end of Warrimoo Ave from Gordon station (195) – Forest Coach Lines|
|Distance||11.6km. Mostly walking tracks in Garigal NP (2.2km on-road)|
|Grade||Easy. 350m total ascent.|
|Resources||Middle Harbour circuit blog post
Carrol Trig to The Cascades blog post
Upper Cambourne Loop blog post
Download Harbour to Hawkesbury brochure [PDF]
|Map/s||9130-3N Parramatta River (1:25K)
9130-4S Hornsby (1:25K)
|GPS Route||AllTrails topographical map of Section 3 and entire H-H route|
Section 4: St Ives to Bobbin Head [9km]
From the start of Section 4 there’s a bit more “road-bashing” to get to the start of the next bushwalking trail (just over one kilometre) – if you’re doing this as separate section you get a bus straight to the start of the Warrimoo Track in St Ives Chase. If you are starting from Mona Vale Road, after about 500m along Kitchener Trail, you’ll reach the start of a management trail that enters Garigal National and descends Mt Ku-ring-gai Creek. After crossing the creek, continue up to the end of Phillip Street. The official route from here continues along Phillip St and Timbarra St to the end of Warrimoo Road – you can also continue along a narrow public reserve between Garigal NP and the back of a row of houses to reach the end of Timbarra St.
The popular Warrimoo Track starts at the end of Warrimoo Avenue, and is very flat service trail through typical eucalypt forest.
After about a kilometre, the fire trail ends at a lookout and the Sonja Huddles Chair (a stone memorial), and a narrow bushwalking trail descends quite steeply from the end of the ridge to Cowan Creek.
From here the track undulates along Cowan Creek, which is less than a foot deep (at low tide) at the start, and gradually gets wider and deeper. It’s a pleasant walk, passing some ferny sections, patches of semi-rainforest and large rock overhangs.
Cowan Creek is never far from the track, and there are many views of the river – on a hot day you could find a few spots for a swim, although there are often mangroves or oyster-covered rocks along the shore – and the occasional Aboriginal midden.
Eventually Bobbin Head and the marina comes into view. Just before reaching Bobbin Head is the sign-posted Bobbin Head trail on the left; it ascends quite steeply up to a wide service trail, which continues to Bobbin Head Road (near the entrance to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park).
The track passes the Empire Marina at Bobbin Head, emerging through a gap in the buildings where there is a cafe (Gallery Foods) situated right on the water (open every day from 8:30am to about 4pm).
From the end of the track, continue though the marina carpark and follow the road over Cockle Creek to Bobbin Head. There’s another cafe here, a picnic ground and playground, and a National Parks information office. Although it’s always busy here, especially on weekends, there’s no public transport from Bobbin Head other than a river cruise to Patonga and then Palm Beach around midday (which could be used to connect to the Great North Walk at Patonga). From here you can continue to Mt Ku-ring-gai station (5.1km) for regular trains – or take the Bobbin Head track to Bobbin Head Road in North Turramurra (4km) for bus services to Turramurra station.
|Transport||Private bus services along Mona Vale Road from Gordon station (196/197) and to the of Warrimoo Ave from Gordon station (195) – Forest Coach Lines
Regular train services from Mt Ku-ring-gai
Bus service to North Turramurra
Only public transport from Bobbin is river cruise to Patonga & Palm Beach (Mondays & Fridays only – call 0414 466 635 to book – connects to GNW
|Distance||9km. Walking track in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP (1km on-road)|
|Grade||Easy/Moderate. 150m total ascent (385m ascent to Mt Ku-ring-gai)|
|Resources||St Ives to Mt Ku-ring-gai (via Bobbin Head) blog post
Mt Ku-ring-gai to Berowra blog post
|Map/s||9130-4S Hornsby (1:25K)|
|GPS Route||AllTrails topographical map of Section 4 and entire H-H route|
Section 5: Bobbin Head to Berowra Waters [14.4km]
From Bobbin Head, you can continue along the road to Apple Tree Bay, or just after the Bobbin Inn look for the Birrawana Loop Track on the left of the road, which ascends steeply via a set of stone steps. Well-marked – but still quite easy to miss – the track crosses the headland above the road. It meets the road again just before Apple Tree Bay, where there is a boat ramp, picnic area another small kiosk (open weekends only).
The Berowra Track starts at the northern of the bay, crossing Apple Tree Creek and following the edge of Cowan Creek. After about a kilometre is a junction with the Mt Ku-ring-gai Track – this is an alternate exit point for the previous section or start point for this section, as Bobbin Head is not serviced by public transport.
The track continues along Cowan Creek, following the water around the Lords Bay headland and skirting a few bays including Winson Gully Bay and Lords Bay. The track is a bit more exposed along this section, except at the end of each bay, where’s there a more densely forested gully and the temperature is distinctively cooler. It’s a nice section of track, but it always feels longer than it looks on the map!
Sticking incongruously out of the water next to the shoreling of Waratah – the largest bay on this part of the walk – is a rusting metal boat hull. It was once the home of Edward Windybank and his family, who acquired a life-long lease to use the bay and built his home, boat shed and boat-building here.
The track ascends from end of Waratah Bay up to Berowra stattion, ascending at times quite steeply through dense and shaded forest as it follows Waratah Creek up the gully. After crossing the sandstone creek bed at the site of an old bridge, the track zig-zags up through tall casuarina and eucalypts and a section of grass tree forest to finish at a footbridge over the F3 freeway. On the opposite side of the freeway is the railway station, and a restaurants and shops. It’s back onto the road for a short distance, crossing Pacific Highway and following Berowra Waters Road to the junction with Crowley Road. The Crowley Track descends quite steeply down some steps and a metal staircase to meet the Berkely Fire Trail.
Just before the Naa Badu Lookout, where there is a bench and picnic table, the Berkely Fire Trail meets the Benowie Track. The lookout provides a view up Berowra Creek – Naa Badu means “see water” in the language of the Dharug Aboriginal people.
A few hundred metres after the Naa Badu Lookout, there’s another junction with the Berkely Fire Trail which goes up to Berkely Close, while the Benowie Track continues down Banggarai Creek. The track ascends from the creek, before flattening out and descending into a small gully. After the junction with the Currawong Firetrail, the track narrows to a bushwalking trail that descends quite steeply down to Berowra Creek.
The Benowie Track then follows Berowra Creek, passing Washtub Gully. The creek has two deep circular rock holes, and was supposedly used by early settlers in the area to do their washing here (hence its name). There’s also some Aboriginal engravings here, including multiple fish, a bird and a large possum or a quoll.
Soon after Washtub Gully the track reaches Berowra Waters, the official end of the Harbour to Hawkesbury walk. There’s a ferry across Berowra here to a kiosk, restaurant and picnic area… but there’s no public transport to Berowra Waters. The track connects to the Great North Walk, which continues to Cowan station.
|Transport||Regular train services from Mt Ku-ring-gai
Regular train services from Berowra
Regular train services from Cowan
|Distance||14.4km. Bushwalking tracks though Ku-ring-gai Chase NP & Berowra Waters National Park (0.8km on-road)|
|Grade||Moderate. 460m total ascent|
|Resources||Cowan to Berowra blog post|
|Map/s||9130-4S Hornsby (1:25K)
9130-4N Cowan (1:25K)
|GPS Route||AllTrails topographical map of Section 5 and entire H-H route|
Berowra Waters to Cowan [7.4km]
The Hawkesbury Track starts at the end of Kirkpatrick Way, an unsealed road off Berowra Waters Road that provides access to car parking and some private jetties. Near the start of the bushwalking track is an unusual Aboriginal engraving site, which is on a vertical rock surface and depicts a Baiame figure and a seated Daramulum figure with an infant or small child on his lap.
The track follows Berowra Creek fairly closely, but not for long!
The track soon ascends quite steeply through a cleft in the cliffs, up to the junction with the Alston Drive Trail (an access trail that follows the ridge up to Alston Drive, in Berowra Heights).
The trail then descends, crossing a couple of streams; the second creek crossing has a small waterfall with a palm-fringed pool at the bottom.
The next couple of kilometres is the most challenging and fun, with the track ascending over rock outcrops, under large overhangs and between large boulders.
The track passes Berowra Reserve campground, before descending (steeply at times) into another valley, crossing Joe Crafts Creek at the bottom.
From the creek the track ascends, again steeply at times, until it turns onto a service trail. For the last couple of kilometres the track is mostly a wide service trail, finishing on Pacific Highway directly across from Cowan station.
|Transport||Regular train services from Cowan|
|Distance||7.3km. Bushwalking track though Ku-ring-gai Chase NP.|
|Grade||Moderate. 460m total ascent.|
|Resources||Cowan to Berowra blog post|
|Map/s||9130-4N Cowan (1:25K)|
|GPS Route||AllTrails topographical map of Berowra Waters to Cowan|
SECTION 1: MANLY TO THE SPIT [9.2km] 0.0km Manly Wharf - start of Fairlight Track
1.0km Kay Ye My Point
1.5km Manly Boatshed and start of North Harbour Walk 3.3km Forty Baskets Beach
3.6km Access track to Beatty St; start of Reef Beach Track 4.4km Dobroyd Head; start of Dobroyd Head Track
5.0km Crater Cove Lookout; start of Grotto Point Track
5.7km Aboriginal engraving site
5.9km Junction with Lighthouse Track to Grotto Point [1km return]
Start of Castle Rock Track
6.3km Castle Rock beach; start of Clontarf Track 7.5km Clontarf Beach 9.2km The Spit SECTION 2: SPIT TO DAVIDSON PARK [14.6km] 9.2km The Spit 13.9km Seaforth Oval - start of Timber Getters Track 14.7km Bantry Bay Picnic Area - start of Bay Track / Bluff Track 16.7km Turn onto Natural Bridge Track 17.5km Turn onto Currie Street Track 17.7km Junction with Cook St; start of Bates Creek Track 18.4km Junction with Tipperary Ave track; start of Magazine Track 20.6km Flat Rock Beach 20.8km Killarney Drive track & start of Flat Rock Beach Track 21.7km Killarney Point 22.5km Access trail to end of Downpatrick Drive 23.8km Davidson Park SECTION 3: DAVIDSON PARK TO ST IVES [11.6km] 23.8km Davidson Park & start of Lyrebird Track 27.0km Carroll Creek & start of Governor Phillip Track 28.6km Track crosses under pipeline 29.3km Stepping Stones & start of Middle Harbour Track 31.9km The Cascades & start of Cascades Track 32.8km Turn onto Upper Cambourne Trail 33.3km Cambourne Avenue (ST Ives) 35.4km Corner Kitchener Ave & Mona Vale Road SECTION 4: ST IVES TO BOBBIN HEAD [9km]
35.4km Corner Kitchener Ave & Mona Vale Road
36.0km Management trail through Garigal NP
37.8km End of Phillip St
38.2km End of Warrimoo Ave & start of Warrimoo Track
39.5km End of service trail & start of bushwalking track
40.1km Junction with Sphinx Track (up to North Turramurra)
43.7km Junction with Bobbin Head Trail (to North Turramurra)
43.9km Empire Bay (Bobbin Head) marina
44.3km Bobbin Head (kiosk and NP info office)
SECTION 5: BOBBIN HEAD TO BEROWRA WATERS (14.4km)
44.3km Bobbin Head (kiosk and NP info office)
45.6km Apple Tree Bay - start of Berowra Track
46.5km Junction with Mount Ku-ring-gai Track
48.1km Apex of second bay (Winson Gully Bay)
49.0km Apex of third bay (Lords Bay)
51.1km End of Waratah Bay (track ascends from here)
53.0km Berowra Station
53.8km Start of Crowley Trail (on Crowley Road)
54.7km Turn into Berkeley Fire Trail
55.7km Berkeley Fire Trail meets Benowie Track
56.0km Naa Badu lookout
57.1km Junction with Currawong Fire Trail (to Currawong Road)
58.7km Berowra Waters
BEROWRA WATERS TO BEROWRA STATION (7.4km)
58.7km Berowra Waters
59.9km Junction with GNW access track to Alston Drive
61.4km Junction with Turner Firetail
64.7km Track crosses Glendale Road
66.3km Cowan station