From dawn to dusk, you'll find a happy mix of locals who like to start their day walking or jogging along the tracks that criss-cross the Shire. From the well-utilised Esplanade in the beachside enclave of Cronulla to the Woronora Bridge Walk, here are a few walking tracks that are worth a wander in Spring...
The Jibbon Loop Track at Royal National Park
Catch the MV Tom Thumb ferry over to Bundeena and head east along Jibbon Beach toward the headland where tall flowering gums make the crisp spring air heavy with their cloying perfume. Here the birds sing wild and chaotic arias, as if they are in a choir with a renegade conductor. Listen for the cockatoos as they shriek and clatter through the trees, watch fat pelicans flap lazily out to sea and look out for herons bobbing along in the wake of boats. Highlights of the Jibbon Loop Track are the Aboriginal rock carvings engraved by the Dharawal people, the traditional owners of this land, and the panoramic views from the cliff-top. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Sydney's CBD.
Distance: About 5 km
Duration: About two hours.
Hot tip: Pack your swimmers and have a dip off Jibbon Beach on the way back to the ferry.
Best place for lunch: Vinegar & Brown Paper, 46 Brighton St, Bundeena.
Cape Baily Lighthouse Walk at Kamay Botany Bay National Park
Those with a yen for wildflowers will love stretching their legs along the Cape Baily Lighthouse Walk. Set off early in Spring and you will likely find clouds of mist hanging over the cliffs, which are a sheer drop down to the sparkling sea below. Springtime is when you will see the flannel flowers and blushing pink wild flowers in full bloom, native shrubs with waxy leaves and seed pods, and reeds and native grasses growing in hanging swamps like floppy fringes of hair in desperate need of a cut. Wondering what lies just around the bend? There are numerous signposts and plinths dotted along the path to the lighthouse that point out areas of interest: keep your eyes peeled for Tabbigai Gap where a small community of people lived, perched on the cliff edge, between 1920 and 1969.
Distance: About 5.5 km return
Duration: About two hours
Hot tips: Pack a small pair of binoculars as Cape Solander is one of the best places to spot whales in Sydney. ** PLEASE NOTE: The road to Cape Solander and the whale watching platform will be closed from Monday 3 May to late July 2021. Learn more about the improvements being made at Cape Solander and check out some other top whale watching locations around Sydney.
Best place for coffee: 1770 Bakery and Café, 3/1 Captain Cook Drive, Kurnell
The Coast Track at Royal National Park
Fitness freaks will easily manage the 26km Coast Track from Otford to Bundeena in one day. But the route is best experienced and more manageable when carved up into bite-sized chunks over two days. The northern section of the walk stretches some 18 km from Bundeena to North Era, where you can camp overnight at North Era campground if you book ahead. The scenery along the track is of soaring sandstone cliffs surrounded by rugged bushland and roaring seas. Look out for Wedding Cake Island, which really does look like a slab of cake presented on a blue tablecloth. If you want to add a degree of difficulty, you can add a loop in to the Figure Eight Pools, which is advised during low tide in a low swell only.
Distance: 26 km
Duration: 10 hours
Hot tip: Bring enough water and snacks for the journey and a set of binoculars to spot migrating humpback whales.
Best place for coffee: Driftwood Café, Bundeena, 1/36-40 Brighton St, Bundeena.
Expect a motley assortment of locals who like to march along the Cronulla Esplanade from dawn -- when the horizon is like a piece of frayed pink silk -- to dusk -- when the sky has donned what resembles a faded blue and white shirt. When the sea is a roaring monster, the Esplanade takes on a festival vibe, with socially distanced onlookers stopping to gawp at the neoprene-clad surfers paddling around the metallic seas with purpose. But when the seas are pancake-flat, expect the walkers, joggers and pram-pushers to move with the swiftness of a river, whirling in eddies around the cafes that are scattered all the way from Wanda to Oak Park. The walk starts at Wanda Surf Club and finishes at Hungry Point, which is now open to the public.
Distance: One hour
Hot tip: Pack a mask, snorkel and flippers and admire the natural aquarium at Salmon Haul.
Best place for coffee: SixSmith, 145 Ewos Parade, Cronulla
Woronora River Bridge Walk
The Woronora Bridge Walk is suspended beneath the northern rim of the Woronora River Bridge and offers fantastic views over the Woronora River, which wends all the way to Lake Woronora where you will find a Heritage-listed concrete gravity dam. Start and finish at River Road, Woronora, where you can begin your walk to the elegant wooden pathway that curves out across the river, hugging the curves of the concrete structure. This beautiful walk has a lookout in the middle where you can admire the belt of trees and dense foliage that rises up to the sky and stretches upriver past Bonnet Bay. You can either retrace your steps or follow the stairs down into the valley. The walk is suitable for little legs.
Grade: Easy (and suitable for wheelchairs, scooters and all ages and levels of fitness)
Distance: 1.5 km
Duration: One hour, allowing for stops along the way.
Hot tip: Make a day of it and hire a kayak from The Boatshed Woronora.
Best place for coffee: The Boatshed Woronora, 131 Prince Edward Park Road, Woronora.
Como Heritage Trail
There are many different corners of Como worth exploring. Ask a proud local and they'll probably tell you about Como Pleasure Grounds, the historic Como Hotel and Como Tidal Baths, one of many stunning sea pools worth exploring in the Sutherland Shire. But the Como Heritage and Environment Trail also gives good cause to snake through the suburb, and learn about local characters and stories that add layers of richness to the area's history. Featured along the trail are eight interpretative stories that detail the history of Como Pleasure Grounds, the Rail Bridge and Station, Como Hotel and Scylla Bay Oval. There are also two indigenous stories that have survived thousands of years and come from the Alcheringa (Dreamtime) of the local Indigenous people. If you are searching for a sudden rush of poetic inspiration, you may well find it in Wolger St, where you will also discover a plaque commemorating the fact one of Australia's finest writers, Henry Lawson, used to live here. Download the map here to tick this off your list of cool things to do in Como.
Distance: 4.2 km
Duration: 2.5-3.5 hours
Hot tip: Whirling in eddies, shaded and garrisoned against the sun
Best place for coffee: Dine on the deck at Blackfish Cafe, 2r/50 Cremona Rd, Como.
Carla Grossetti is an award-winning food and travel writer. To see more of Carla's food and travel stories, like her Facebook page and follow Carla on Instagram @food.travel.stories
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522 Kingsway (Corner of Jackson Avenue), Miranda
T: 1800 004 321
Gerrale Street, Cronulla
Old Princes Highway, Engadine
20-38 Gerrale Street, Cronulla
T: 02 9710 0333
20 - 26 The Kingsway, Cronulla
T: 02 9527 3100
1 Kingsway, Cronulla
T: 02 8536 3600
1229-1233 Princes Highway, Engadine
T: 02 9520 8166
2 Seabreeze Lane, Bundeena
T: 0419 254 981
104 President Avenue, Caringbah
T: 02 9710 0333
Cnr Rawson Avenue & Pitt Street, Loftus
T: 02 9542 3646