Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, also known as Kuringgai, is a large National Park (15,000 hectares) located in northern Sydney and has many beautiful walks you can do. The National Park is stunning, consisting of beautiful secluded beaches, fantastic views and lookouts, cliffs and rainforest and lots of bush walks. Ku-Ring-Gai Chase is also an important place for local Aboriginal history. In fact, at Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park you’ll find one of the largest concentrations of recorded Aboriginal sites in all of Australia.
Ku-Ring-Gai Chase makes for a popular weekend getaway for people from Sydney, as well as for tourists. The best way to explore Ku-Ring Gai Chase National Park is by going on the many walks and paths. Let’s look at some of the best ones below!
How to get to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park:
There are a few ways to get to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, depending on which of the walks you plan to do. The below map shows the location of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park in relation to Royal National Park and Blue Mountains National Park which are also very well known and popular National Parks around Sydney to visit. Royal National Park is actually Australia’s oldest National Park and Ku-Ring-Gai Chase is the second oldest.
1. CHURCH POINT FERRY:
If you are planning to visit the south-eastern part of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park you can get the ferry from Church Point near Bayview.
2. PALM BEACH FERRY:
If you want to visit the north-eastern parts of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park and do the walks there around West Head, Resolute Beach, Great Mackerel Beach and The Basin then you can either drive to West Head and walk down, or the more scenic way is to get the ferry from Palm Beach.
Alternatively you can drive through Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park along West Head Road. It will take about an hour from Sydney CBD to get to the carpark at West Head. Entry to the National Park costs $12 per vehicle.
If you plan to do any of the walks in the western part of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park such as near Cowan or Brooklyn you can get the train.
1. WEST HEAD LOOKOUT TO RESOLUTE BEACH WALK:
Also known as the Aboriginal Heritage Loop walk this is probably the most stunning walk in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase. Note if you are taking the ferry across from Palm Beach to Great Mackerel Beach just start this itinerary from the bottom and work up. Here is how to get to Great Mackerel Beach from Palm Beach:
Bus to Palm Beach
Get the bus to Palm Beach (bus number 190 from CBD or 199 from Manly). Palm Beach is the northernmost of the Northern Beaches, located 45km from Sydney CBD so getting up here will take at least an hour. Be sure to set off early: especially on the weekends there is a lot of traffic on the road going up to the Northern Beaches. Get off the bus at Palm Beach Wharf.
Ferry from Palm Beach
From Palm Beach Wharf you can get the ferry across to the northern part of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase.
The ferry stops at Great Mackerel Beach, Currawong Beach, The Basin, Bonnie Down and Bennetts Wharf. Click here to view the timetable. Make sure to scroll down to the correct timetable as the Palm Beach/Wagstaffe/Ettalong ferry is the first timetable shown. The ferries leave roughly every hour and Bennetts Wharf – the first stop, is only a 10 minute ride on the ferry from Palm Beach.
RED HANDS CAVE
Before you visit West Head Lookout you must stop off at the Red Hands Cave located near the public toilets about 800 metres up West Head Road from the lookout. Here you will find incredible red handprints inside the cave marked by the Guringai People. Remember Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park is a significant place for the Aboriginal culture, in particular the Guringai People. The Red Hands Cave is a spiritual connection to their past as it shows evidence of their tribal ancestors.
It is anticipated these markings are over 5,000 years old. Please respect this and do not touch the red handprints here as it will make them fade. They are one of the best preserved pieces of Indigenous cave art.
WEST HEAD LOOKOUT
Visit West Head lookout to get stunning panoramic views across Pittwater, Palm Beach, Broken Bay and even Lion Island and The Central Coast. This is one of the best viewpoints in Sydney!
From West Head Lookout make your way down to West Head Beach and then carry on to Resolute Beach, passing some streams along the way. Both beaches are incredibly stunning small secluded beaches with beautiful golden sand. In fact the 60 metre long Resolute Beach is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Sydney!
Both of the beaches are safe to swim in (the water is calm here) and can be accessed by steps coming off the main track. You’ll often see some leisure boats here where locals and visitors from Palm Beach will come over and relax in the sun.
From West Head Lookout to Resolute Beach it will take about 20-30 minutes to walk (it is just over 1km). If you follow the loop track back it will take you longer to get back but you’ll come across some more incredibly well-preserved Aboriginal engravings along the way. Alternatively you can continue your journey down and follow the path to Great Mackerel Beach.
GREAT MACKEREL BEACH
Follow the Mackerel Trail from Resolute Beach for about a kilometre to Great Mackerel Beach. Behind Mackerel Beach there are several houses and you’ll notice wheelbarrow and golf cart is the way most people transport things around here!
From Great Mackerel Beach you can go up Mackerel Trail towards West Head Road, passing some Guringai Aboriginal land markings, or again you can continue down to Currawong Beach and then eventually make your way to The Basin.
2. ELVINA BAY TO LOVETT BAY WALK:
Another one of the best walks you can do in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park is from Elvina Bay to Lovett Bay via a lookout on Flagstaff Hill. This walk is a little challenging as you will need to cross a creek at some point, the path isn’t marked very well and there is a lot of overgrowth which makes it quite easy to take a wrong turn, plus the walk to the viewpoint is quite steep at times. However the views from the top make it totally worth it! Make sure you have maps.me downloaded as you will need it for this walk! The path is the one in the bottom right corner going from Elvina Bay to Lovett Bay on the footpath marker, then detouring to go up to the viewpoint (where the binoculars are). The lines show the ferry route.
To start this walk get off the Church Point ferry at North Elvina Wharf. Below are the instructions to get here:
Bus to Church Point
There is plenty parking at Church Point Wharf (Pay & Display). Alternatively if you are coming by public transport get the B1 bus from Wynyard to Mona Vale, then from Mona Vale take the 156 bus, getting off at Church Point Reserve which is just past Bayview. The 156 departs every 30 minutes and the bus takes 10 minutes to get from Mona Vale to Church Point.
Ferry from Church Point
The Church Point ferry will take you first to Scotland Island (read more about Scotland Island below) and then to the lower parts of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase such as Elvina Bay, Lovett Bay and Halls Wharf. Click here to view the Church Point ferry timetable.
Ferries leave every hour and it takes about 20 minutes to get from Church Point to one of the stops on Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
The ferry costs $9.40 for a single ride or $15 return. You pay for your ticket on the ferry and you cannot use your Opal card.
Follow the track and on your left you’ll see a giant rock waterfall above you if it has been raining recently. Go down the left of the big rock to cross to the other side of the path, don’t go down the rock as it is too steep. You won’t get wet here as you are only walking past the waterfall, however do watch out for leeches if it has recently rained.
Keep walking along the path – you might have to cross the creek depending on the tide and recent weather. When you reach the steps by the creek make sure you turn left instead of right once you’re at the bottom of the stairs. If you turn right and then cross the creek then you won’t be able to get up onto the path as it is too steep. You can cross the creek without getting wet even if it has recently rained as there are lots of rocks you can use for stepping stones.
At several points during the walk you will have to climb over tree trunks and push some tree branches to pass as a recent storm made a lot of trees fall down (the second picture is the tree you need to cross to get to the viewpoint!).
The path turning off for the viewpoint is not marked so you could easily miss it – it is literally just a small opening in the bushes and at first you may think you have gone the wrong way. Therefore you will definitely need maps.me to follow the path – it’s not even marked on Google maps! It is quite a zig zag path and goes uphill a lot to get to the viewpoint so make sure you bring enough water as you’ll get out of breath!
The viewpoint is onto of the huge boulders you’ll see as you’re walking up. Keep looking at maps.me to check you are in the right place, then turn left by the cave rock. The path is quite hard to tell as lots of trees have fallen down but just keep following your online map. You’ll find a stunning opening in the trees where you can sit on the rock and get a gorgeous view out across Elvina Bay, Scotland Island and Pittwater. You’ll notice on maps.me that the actual binoculars for the viewpoint is up a little bit further. You can head up but it is a little tricky as one tree completely fell down in a storm so you’ll have to do some climbing (see picture above right!). Don’t worry if you can’t get up to this viewpoint though – I went up and can say it is pretty much the same as the one below.
The last part of the walk towards Lovett Bay is on a dirt path adjacent to the water’s edge. At one point it was hard to tell what was the path and I turned left for a bit. The path became harder and harder to follow so I turned back and found the proper path. Basically if you can’t see water on your right at any point on the walk it means you’ve gone the wrong way! You’ll walk along the waterfront past a few houses for a few metres before you get to Lovett Wharf.
Getting the ferry back to Church Point
At Lovett Bay pier you’ll find a red flag inside the pier shed. You will need to put the red flag up in the flag holder, which will signal to the ferry that there is someone at the wharf waiting to go back. When the ferry approaches, place the flag back where you found it.
Note that after 5pm the ferry doesn’t stop at Ku-Ring-Gai Chase and you will need to phone the Ferry Master on 0408 296 997 to pick you up so try to time to so you don’t have to, especially if you don’t have any phone credit. In the winter it gets dark by 5pm anyway, and you definitely don’t want to be doing the walk in the pitch black.
Other walks in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park you can do:
America Bay Track
On the western side of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park is the America Bay Track that leads off West Head Road down towards America Bay and Cowan Creek.
It is a short and easy walk that will take 1 hour in total (30 minutes each way). The views are incredibly beautiful and you will end up at the top of the waterfall! Here you will also find rock pools and cascades where you can have a dip if you wish. Look out for the Aboriginal rock art too.
Once you are at the waterfall you can take the rough track down to the bay and shoreline if you wish (it is quite rough so be careful).
At the southern end of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park near Turramurra and St Ives you will find the Sphinx Memorial, which is a small replica of the Sphinx in Giza, Egypt. This monument was built in memory of the lives lost during World War 1. Start at The Sphinx Memorial then go on the Sphinx track, turning left at the end onto Warrimoo Track which will take you alongside Cowan Creek. The walk is over 6km long (walking mostly in the shade), should take about 1.5 hours and you’ll end up at Bobbin Head where you can relax in the cafe or have a nice meal at the pub!
What to bring on walks in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park:
- water and snacks. There are very few options to purchase anything so make sure you have enough!
- bring a jacket as many of the walks can be shady and so it can get cool if you are out of the sun especially in the winter.
- decent trainers/walking shoes.
- wear leggings or long pants, and wear something to cover your arms. There are ticks about and you don’t want one to land on you.
- suncream and a hat
- swimming costume and towel if you wish to go for a dip or sunbathe.
Things to bear in mind when doing walks in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park:
- don’t go right after it has been raining as the paths can be very muddy and slippy.
- protect your head and limbs from ticks by wearing long sleeves and a hat. Ticks are particularly common in this part of Sydney especially in spring.
Accommodation in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
Accommodation options in Ku-Ring-Gai Chase are limited but there are a few options.
- At Halls Wharf there is a YHA.
- The Basin campground is a great place for people to camp overnight. It is the only place you can camp in Ku-Ring-Gai and is one of Sydney’s most popular beach camping spots. Click here for more information and to reserve a spot.
Other walks near Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park:
All the walks mentioned below offer stunning views across to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
Scotland Island is only 1 of 2 inhabited islands in Sydney and if you plan to take the ferry from Church Point to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park it will stop off at Scotland Island so it is worth having a walk around for an hour until the next ferry arrives.
Walking around the perimeter of the whole of Scotland Island should take about 45 minutes. Even though there isn’t a specific marked out path you are absolutely allowed to walk on the water’s edge, even though you pass very close to some houses and may feel like you are intruding. Walking around the perimeter of the island is fairly straightforward, however some people have put plants or boats in the way so a couple of spots are hard to cross, in which case you can just walk up onto the road if it is easier.
There are a few paths that lead up to the road – be careful not to go through someone’s property though! Also at high tide it may be a bit difficult to walk around the perimeter but you can just hop onto one of the many jetties (literally every house has their own jetty). There is a park in the centre of the island called Elizabeth Park, however it is very densely covered in trees and so you can’t see the view once you have climbed to the top!
Note though that there are NO public toilets on Scotland Island so make sure you go at Church Point before you get the ferry across! There is also no drinking water here so make sure you bring enough water, especially if it is a hot day. There are no shops, no pubs, no schools nothing (the children take the school ferry to Newport if you were wondering!). Here there are literally just houses, one bnb and a few Airbnbs. For this reason I found 1 hour plenty time to explore the island.
There is a store, cafe and restaurant at Church Point where you can buy some food (and have a nice meal after your walk!). The ferry across just takes a few minutes and you pay on the ferry ($9.40 single, $15 return). You can’t use your Opal card but if you plan to take this journey a number of times there is a travel card specifically for the ferry that you can buy. It’s a small ferry but a couple of rows of outdoor seating at the front. Bring a jacket as it can get breezy.
The ferry actually stops a four different wharfs on Scotland Island before heading across to Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park. After 5pm the ferry only stops at Tennis Wharf and Bells Wharf on Scotland Island. If you want it to stop at any other points you will need to phone the Ferrymaster. Note though that there are no street lights here so once the sun goes down it will be very dark!
You can bring your dog on the ferry but they must stay on a leash. Dogs cannot enter Ku-Ring-Gai Chase as it is a National Park, but they are allowed on Scotland Island and you’ll see many of the locals walking their dogs here.
There are between 600 to 1000 people living on Scotland Island (numbers vary as many people just have a holiday home here so it isn’t always occupied). Most of the locals use a golf buggy to get around the island and there are very few vehicles – only 4x4s, and utes. There are no cars as lots of the roads are dirt roads.
If you are taking the bus back to Mona Vale from Church Point the bus stop is located right outside the public toilets.
If you are taking the ferry across from Palm Beach make sure to spend some time here before or after your trip. Palm Beach is a lovely beachside town and is the filming location of the popular TV series Home and Away! Walk up Barrenjoey Head to get a beautiful view over Palm Beach, Pittwater and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Click here to discover how to spend the best day in Palm Beach.
Patonga to Pearl Beach
If you’ll be in Palm Beach anyway then why not also get the ferry across to Patonga and do the Patonga to Pearl Beach walk. Located on the Central Coast but actually within very easy reach from Sydney, the views on this walk are particularly stunning. Click here for all you need to know about the walk.
Box Head Walk
Just across from Pearl Beach is Box Head which also offers incredible views. You get the ferry from Palm Beach to Wagstaffe and pass by several secluded beaches too. You’ll find all the information about the Box Head Walk here.