Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park sprawls across Sydney’s northern doorstep, less than an hour from the CBD. Australia’s second-oldest national park (after Royal National Park), it encompasses a steep sandstone plateau lapped by broad rivers and narrow creeks. Bush-clad hills deliver if you want a sweaty challenge, or just sooth the soul with eucalypt-scented air, tranquil water views and ancient Aboriginal art. With 15,000 hectares to explore, these five walks will get you started.
America Bay Track: for waterfall and wading pools
Time: 1 hour return
It’s an easy walk from West Head Road to the top of the waterfall, with a short detour to some Aboriginal engravings. Descending gradually, the track joins a small creek before reaching the edge of the escapement overlooking secluded America Bay. Sandstone terraces above the waterfall include cascades and rook pools, perfect for a picnic, dip or paddle, depending on the water flow. Approach quietly and you may see basking water dragons. For a quick workout, a rough track leads down to the bay; it’s a bit of a scramble but the short climb back up will get your heart pumping.
West Head Lookout to Resolute Beach: for Pittwater vistas and beach swims
Time: 1 hour return
Get a panoramic perspective of Pittwater, Barrenjoey Head, Broken Bay and Lion Island from Westhead Lookout before descending on the right of the headland. The track heads downhill through sheoaks, below a waterfall and across streams in cool, damp woodland gullies before steps lead to Resolute Beach. A side track en route leads to West Head Beach, another small crescent of golden sand. Both beaches offer safe swimming and have steps for sprinting up and down if you’re feeling energetic. From Resolute Beach, head up to Resolute Rockshelter Aboriginal site before returning the way you came, or for a longer route, continue in a loop on the Headland and West Head tracks.
Bobbin Head to Sphinx loop: for war monument and marina cafe
Time: 3 hour loop
You can start this loop walk at the top of the hill by the Sphinx, a sandstone miniature of the Egyptian monument carved by a returned serviceman to commemorate fallen comrades of World War I, but starting at Bobbin Head means you can have a celebratory post-walk coffee or lunch at Empire Marina or Bobbin Inn! Take Warrimoo Track from behind the marina, following the upper reaches of tidal Cowan Creek where shell middens mark Aboriginal occupation, before climbing up to the Sphinx. Read about the memorial and admire the waratah blooms in spring before returning via Bobbin Head Track (the old road) for an easier, but less shady, walk downhill.
Mount Kuring-gai to Berowra, via Apple Tree Bay: for riverside rambling and waterside history
Time: 3.5-5 hours one way
This is one of the prettiest tracks in the park, so allow plenty of time; it’s also public-transport-friendly. Take in wildflowers and whistling birds as you descend from Mount Kuring-gai Station to Cowan Creek. Turn right for a short walk to Apple Tree Bay, then return, continuing beside the sparkling creek, around shallow bays offering shady rest stops and swimming spots. Watch for the remains of boatsheds and houseboats from the late 1800s. It’s a 50-minute climb from Waratah Bay to Berowra Station, but the remains of an old cobble-stoned track make for a relatively smooth ascent.
Cowan to Brooklyn via Jerusalem Bay: for steep climbs and Brooklyn views
Time: 4.5-6 hours one way
A challenging walk, with multiple steep ascents and creek crossings, it offers picturesque views along Jerusalem Bay and panoramic vistas over Brooklyn, Long Island and the Hawkesbury road and rail bridges. Majestic angophoras and scribbly gums guard the track, which takes in the waterlily-covered Brooklyn Dam. Part of the Great North Walk it starts at Cowan Station and ends at Hawkesbury River Station in Brooklyn. Just don’t do it in the pouring rain when steep sections of track turn into spontaneous waterfalls! Track notes recommended.
Getting there: Vehicle access to the park costs $12, and entry points include Mt Colah, North Turramurra, Terry Hills and Church Point. Some walks on the western side of the park are accessible by public transport.
Written by Briar Jensen.