The Cowan to Brooklyn walk is one of the most famous walks in Sydney’s Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park. It heads from sleepy Cowan to the quaint village of Brooklyn which lies at the entrance of the Hawkesbury River. At around 12km one way, it is not the easiest of the Ku Ring Gai Chase walks and parts of it are quite uphill, but it does have some really nice viewpoints and places to stop off, in particular Jerusalem Bay which can be reached by a 45 minute walk from Cowan down the Jerusalem Bay Track. Read on for all you need to know about the Cowan to Brooklyn walk!
Should you do the walk from Cowan to Brooklyn, or Brooklyn to Cowan?
So first: where should you start the walk – at Cowan or at Brooklyn? Most people are in agreement that the walk is easier from Cowan to Brooklyn. If you choose to do the walk in the opposite direction – from Brooklyn to Cowan, you’ll be going uphill a lot more of the way – and at the end of the walk especially! As it is a long walk in itself, you’ll probably want to stick to the easier route, so I suggest to start at Cowan. That being said, even the ‘easy’ route starting at Cowan is still quite uphill at times but it is perfectly manageable to the average walker and most of the steep parts are at the beginning which means you’ll get them out of the way before you get too tired!
Also, I find it much better to start at Cowan and finish at Brooklyn as there are several places to eat food in Brooklyn, plus it is a lot more scenic than Cowan and there are many things to do here than in Cowan – especially if you need to wait a while for your train!
At Cowan, the walk starts along the Jerusalem Bay track, which can be accessed from Cowan (pronounced Cow Ann) Train Station. Note that the part of the track from Cowan to Jerusalem Bay is the most scenic part of the walk so you’ll be seeing the best views in the first part of the walk. The second half of the walk is mostly fire trail inland and is fairly uninteresting.
COWAN TO BROOKLYN WALK (JERUSALEM BAY TRACK)
Time: 4 hours
Below left is the route of the Cowan to Brooklyn walk, starting along the Jerusalem Bay Track and going along a part of The Great North Walk. Click on the map to see the route on Google maps in more detail.
How to get to Cowan Station
If you are coming by car Cowan is easy to get to as it is just off the Pacific Motorway (the motorway between Sydney and Newcastle). It should take you around 50 minutes to drive here from Sydney CBD and there is free parking at Cowan train station.
If you are coming by public transport it is easy to get to Cowan from Sydney: just take the Central Coast & Newcastle Line (CCN) train to Cowan from Wynyard or Central. It should take around 50 minutes. Cowan Train Station is located between Berowra and Hawkesbury River Railway Stations.
You can also take the Main Northern Line train to Hornsby and change from there to Cowan if that is more convenient. Bear in mind though that services at Cowan only run once an hour so you do need to check the times beforehand. Click here to see the timetable from Cowan.
What’s great about this walk is that it starts and ends at train stations so you don’t have to walk back on yourself at all. Both railway stations are probably only 200 metres or so from the start/end of the trail which is great, plus they both have free parking! If you come by car, just park at one train station, then when you finish the walk at the other station just get the train back to your car at the other station (both stations are on the same train line and the train ride between Cowan and Hawkesbury River train station is about 12 minutes).
Cowan Train Station
*Please not that the platform at Cowan Train Station is very short and you will need to be in the last 4 carriages for the doors to open at Cowan Station!*
Cowan train station is very basic, but there is a water fountain and free wifi here, so make sure to use either of them if you need! If you need to stop off for some food or the toilet before the walk (as you won’t find either along the whole track), head to The Great North Cafe just 220 metres north of Cowan Station.
How to access the Jerusalem Bay Track in Cowan
To access the start of the walking track from Cowan to Brooklyn you need to walk across the train tracks at Cowan, follow the signs for The Great North Walk and Hawkesbury River. Walk along the furthest platform until you see some steps on your right. These steps will take you down to the disused railway line – walk across these tracks then walk to your left along the dirt path. After 100 metres or so you’ll see a sign on your right for The Great North Walk, Brooklyn and the Jerusalem Bay Track. Walk down here – you’ll need to go across the footbridge that goes over the motorway as you do so. You’ll then see the sign for the start of the walk: The Great North Walk track. See below right for the route on maps.me (you can also click here to see it on Google maps).
Follow the Jerusalem Bay track downhill – the scenery is mostly dense forest for the first half hour or so of the walk so it is fairly uneventful. It is quite rocky though so do watch your footing. There are some unusual and impressive shaped tree-barks along the way to look out too as you start to get nearer the water! You’ll walk alongside Jerusalem Creek for a while but the views will be mostly obstructed by trees. Don’t worry though as when you get to Jerusalem Bay the views will be stunning!
The path is fairly easy to follow and it should take you around 45 minutes to reach the beautiful viewpoint at Jerusalem Bay, which is 2.5km from the start of the track. The views here across to the water are stunning and this is definitely the highlight of the walk! If you’ve packed your swimmers and the weather is good you can even walk down and have a dip in the water here! It is quite easy to get to the water’s edge from the bank.
Camping overnight at Jerusalem Bay
Jerusalem Bay is a popular place for people to camp overnight and you’ll often see a small group of friends set up camp here. Waking up to this gorgeous view would be just incredible. You’ll find picnic tables here but apart from that facilities are very basic (no toilets).
There is also a campsite further along the Cowan to Brooklyn track at Brooklyn Dam if you wish to camp there instead. This is towards the end of the walk – it is 8km from Cowan and 3km from Brooklyn. The views are however not as scenic as at Jerusalem Bay.
Make sure you enjoy Jerusalem Bay as a few hundred metres past it you’ll be climbing uphill a lot and reaching the most difficult part of the hike! This next part of the track is fairly rough and is in two parts, with the second part being tougher than the first – you are basically climbing up a rock pile!
Taffys Rock Track
If you continue along the Jerusalem Bay track for a kilometre or so you’ll then come to a crossroads of footpaths. To continue to Brooklyn carry on going straight ahead, but if you fancy detouring a little (a lot), head right onto Taffys Rock Track. Walk along this track for a couple of kilometres and you will most certainly be rewarded with the most incredible views. There are a couple of viewpoints, the most impressive one being ‘Top of the World’ You won’t find this viewpoint on Google maps but it is on maps.me – see below. Note you will have to walk back on yourself to continue the walk to Brooklyn so this will add on a fair amount of time and kilometres to your walk so only do it if you have time – you don’t want to be stuck in the National Park once it gets dark (unless you are camping of course!).
When you are back on the main track continue walking straight along the trail (still part of The Great North Walk). The path goes uphill a little bit again and you’ll see some really nice views. The path then continues along the flat and rather uneventful fire trail. I won’t lie – this part of the trail is fairly uneventful as there isn’t anything to see.
After a couple of kilometres however you’ll see stunning views of the Hawkesbury River at the viewpoint before making your way down to Brooklyn Dam. Keep following the trail and you’ll eventually find yourself in Brooklyn – yay! After all that walking you definitely deserve some food and a drink!
The walk ends in Brooklyn by the Hawkesbury River. There is quite a bit to do in Brooklyn so it makes the perfect place to finish the walk and relax! Fuel up on some food here, whether it’s at the Fish & Chip stand, at the Lifeboat Seafood Kiosk & Restaurant, or at the local cafe or pub restaurant. All of them have outdoor areas so you can enjoy the sun and the views as you enjoy your meal.
Do note the trains from Hawkesbury River train station are every hour so you may want to bear this in mind to time your activities right.
What to do in Brooklyn NSW:
- Have lunch or dinner at one of the delicious restaurants here.
- Take the ferry across to Dangar Island, Little Wobby or even Patonga.
- If you are into fishing, bring your fishing gear up here – you’ll often see many fishermen along the shores.
- Walk around Parsley Bay and McKell Reserve.
- Have a dip in the Brooklyn Baths.
The short walk around to Parsley Bay and McKell Reserve is nice: from here you can see Dangar Island and have a little swim in Brooklyn Baths if you need to cool down after the walk!
Near Parsley Bay you’ll also most likely spot some pelicans!
Here at McKell Reserve there are bbqs, picnic tables, benches, toilets, a water refill station and a playground so plenty to keep everyone occupied! There is also lots of parking if you decide to come by car.
Ferry from Brooklyn to Dangar Island or Little Wobby
If you want to take the ferry from Brooklyn to Dangar Island it costs $8.50 per adult for a single trip. Children and concessions are $4.30. Ferries depart 7 days a week and you buy tickets onboard.
You can either alight at Dangar Island and walk around this unique island yourself or do a guided tour. Alternatively, 50 minute round trip boat rides are also available if you just prefer to stay on the bot and see the island this way.
The ferry timetables coincide with the train timetables so you’ll never be waiting more than a few minutes for the train or ferry,
Below you will find the Dangar Island ferry timetables (they have also included the train times which is handy).
You can also get the ferry to Little Wobby at Brooklyn Wharf, or if you head read to Parsley Bay you can get the ferry to Patonga – a beautiful beach on the Central Coast with views across to the Barrenjoey Headland at Palm Beach.
Where to get food and drink along the Cowan to Brooklyn Walk
You will only find places for food at the start and the beginning of the walk: in Cowan and in Brooklyn.
Cowan is only a small village so there isn’t much here. Just 220 metres from the station however is The Great North Cafe which is open from 7am. Here you’ll find a store, cafe and toilets.
In Brooklyn there are a lot more choices for food. There is a fish and chips stall right outside the train station, as well as a nice cafe and a pub nearby.
Make sure you bring enough water and snacks with you for the hike. I didn’t see any water refill stations.
How to get from Brooklyn to Sydney
Hawkesbury River is the name of the train station stop for Brooklyn and it is in a very central location near the jetty. The Hawkesbury River Train Station is on the same train line as Cowan – again trains only run once an hour so make sure you check the times.
To get the train backyou must cross over the stairs on the railway bridge regardless of which direction you are going in! Neither platform can be accessed by the road side so make sure you arrive at the station at least a couple of minutes before the train is due to leave!
As you are heading back to Sydney from Brooklyn, stay on the right hand side of the train, and a couple of minutes into the ride look out to your right and you’ll see a stunning aerial view of the Hawkesbury River and the Hawkesbury River Bridge. Make sure to have your camera ready as you’ll only see the view for a few seconds!
Ku Ring Gai Chase Walks
Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park is full of beautiful walks. The National Park is split up mainly into three parts: West Head (part nearest to Palm Beach where you will find Resolute Beach and The Basin), Bobbin Head and the area around Cowan Creek up to Brooklyn. Most of the park can only be accessed by walking trails, or alternatively by boat is a great way to see the National Park. If you are looking for a nearby walk to Cowan, try the Mt Kuring Gai to Berowra walk.
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Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!