Hands down, one of the best things about living in Sydney is the coastal walks. I sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to live in a vibrant, young city that is fringed by dramatic sandstone cliffs and the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean. There are so many places along the coastline where you can turn your back on the busses and skyscrapers and general noise that the city emits, and fill your view with sea and sky, blue on blue. It’s so damn calming, and I can’t help but feel immensely grateful for it.
A while ago I wrote about the Malabar to Maroubra walk, and why it has become one of my favourite coastal walks in Sydney (when it’s open to the public). But there’s another fabulous, lesser-known walk if you don’t want to put up with the squawking Saturday crowds on the Coogee to Bondi walk. Enter: Henry Head walking track, La Perouse.
La Perouse is a suburb on the northern headland of the Kamay Botany Bay National Park – where Captain Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet initially landed in 1788 before deciding on Sydney Cove as a more suitable settlement site (in case you wanted a brief history lesson, you’re welcome).
But we’re here for the Henry Head Walk: a 4 km return track that boasts stunning ocean views and a beautiful mess of natural vegetation. It’s only 30 minutes from the CBD by car (about an hour by bus), but it feels like you’ve left the city entirely.
The walk starts at Congwong Beach – utter perfection of sand and water, in my opinion.
After a short waddle through the sand, the actual track begins.
That’s Macquarie Tower the fenceposts are pointing at, an old fort built in the early 1800s and the oldest building in Botany Bay which stands proudly in the centre of the La Perouse headland. (Side note: it also might be Barracks Tower or Customs Tower according to Google, as evidently being one of the oldest surviving sandstone tower buildings in Australia doesn’t warrant clarity over its historic name 🤷♀️).
Anyway, remember that sign at the start of the walk, which proudly announced that NUDITY IS NOT PERMITTED?
Well, our next detour is to the nudist beach. I had heard rumours about this hidden lagoon, but was never sure until I wandered over there for a looksy (Editor’s note: don’t say “looksy” about a nudist beach, it sounds super creepy).
Well, now I can confirm. The proof is, as they say, in the pudding *cough cough*.
Poor unwitting Edwina, about to stumble on the nudist beach and get her evidence.
Still, what a gorgeous spot. Look at that natural beauty.
As the track ascends further into the natural vegetation that covers the headland, you’ll start to glimpse the real beauty of this walk: the serene waters that sparkle like hidden gems through the trees and the overgrown scrub that cares little for your contracts and schedules.
A wild Edwina appears!
At times, you may forget entirely that you’re in Australia’s biggest city (although there is the occasional reminder, if you’re open to seeing it).
Sneaky reminder that you are, in fact, still in Sydney.
Everything about the Henry Head walk feels hidden, secret.
Eventually the surrounding scrub tangles itself into a natural tunnel, like the nest of a bower bird.
You can practically hear Frodo crying, “get off the road!”
As you walk along, you’ll find all different kinds of vegetation and, my favourite, hidden wild flowers.
I will always, always adore wattle, our national flower.
And then suddenly you come out of the scrub at Henry Head, where you are rewarded with the most exquisite views of the ocean, a panorama that reminds you what the word vast means. Vast, vast blue.
Views for days.
Up here on Henry Head you’ll also find historic battlements from World War II, part of Sydney’s coastal defence systems during the war. The graffiti acts as another subtle reminder that you aren’t far from the urban jungle (and possesses that intriguing mix of curious and creepy, like only abandoned and graffitied concrete buildings can).
From here, you can turn back or continue another kilometre to the Cape Banks headland (another beautiful spot to explore, which is also easily accessible from the nearby golf course. Oh, yeah. Another not-so-subtle reminder that you’re still in the city).
Or, if it’s a nice day, you can skip on down to Cruwee Cove for a secluded swim. My friend and I did this walk on a stunning Saturday morning and had the tiny beach all to ourselves. Now how rare is that in Sydney!
The kind of smile that can only arise from a surprise swim at the beach (and far too much sun in the eyes for a nice selfie).
Now, as if I haven’t given you enough reasons to put this walk on your Sydney to-do list, La Perouse has a bunch of great cafes, restaurants and fish + chip takeouts to reward yourself at the end of the hike. You can start your walk with a great coffee from Driftwood Cafe, and finish it with a burger from Bare Grill’d. What more could you want in a coastal walk, or dare I say, in life itself?
Do you have any favourite walks that make you forget about the city? What are they? I’m always adding to my escape list and would love to know!