I have walked along the entire coastline of Sydney’s beaches – from Palm Beach down to La Perouse and I can honestly say Rose Bay to Watsons Bay is one of my absolute favourite parts to walk! Much less crowded that the Spit to Manly or Bondi to Coogee sections and full of cute Instagrammable spots! What’s more, the start and end of the walk are located on one of Sydney’s most scenic ferry rides so it is super easy to get to!
Along this walk you’ll be able to enjoy stunning harbour views, discover two of Sydney’s best dog beaches as well as Australia’s oldest fishing village. Not to mind some of Sydney’s best neighbourhoods and the iconic Hornby Lighthouse. Here’s all you need to know about the Rose Bay to Watsons Bay walk!
The Rose Bay to Watsons Bay walk forms a small section of the iconic 80km Bondi to Manly walk, which connects Sydney’s two most iconic surf beaches: Bondi Beach and Manly Beach. Many people choose to do the walk in sections over several days, such as:
You can click on each one to read about each of the specific walks in detail.
The Rose Bay to Watsons Bay walk can take as little as two hours if you’re a fast walker, however most people like to do the walk over the course of a few hours, stopping off at the beaches and cafes along the way. The walk isn’t too challenging and the majority of the route is flat. There are however a couple of parts where you go uphill but overall it is an extremely pleasant walk. Most of the walk is paved and the track is in really good condition.
Distance: 7km one way (if you go up to Hornby Lighthouse and back it will be 10km).
Start of walk: Rose Bay Ferry Wharf
Walk finishes: Watsons Bay Ferry Wharf
Should you start the walk at Rose Bay or Watsons Bay?
It is completely up to you whether you choose to start the walk at Rose Bay or at Watsons Bay. Most people choose to go from Rose Bay to Watsons Bay as there are some really great places for food and drinks in Watsons Bay where you can enjoy after the walk, but it really doesn’t matter which direction you choose to go. This direction is always the way I have done the walk, so this is the way I will describe below.
As mentioned earlier, this walk forms a section of the Bondi to Manly walk. The route is quite easy to follow, but do look out for the Bondi to Manly signs to guide you! Follow the arrow in the Bondi direction – this will take you towards Watsons Bay (of course if doing the walk in the other direction from Watsons Bay to Rose Bay, follow the arrow in the Manly direction!). The signs are black with a yellow fish and are there to help you as in some parts it is easy to take a wrong turning or miss a secret spot!
If you are coming by car, it is generally much easier to find free parking around Watsons Bay as opposed to Rose Bay. You can park at Watsons Bay then get the ferry or 325 bus to Rose Bay to start the walk.
If you are coming by public transport it shouldn’t make a difference where you start as you can get both the ferry or the bus to and from Rose Bay and Watsons Bay.
What should I bring on the Rose Bay to Watsons Bay Walk?
- Bring a swimsuit and towel if you fancy a dip in the sea
- Reusable water bottle – you’ll find several places along the walk to top up your water.
- Suncream and even a hat too as the path is mostly exposed.
- Walking shoes or trainers aren’t essential as the path is in really good condition so many people complete this walk in flip-flops (thongs).
How to get to Rose Bay
The best way to get to Rose Bay is by ferry from Circular Quay. You can get the 324 or 325 bus too but the ferry is a lot quicker and incredibly scenic providing some of the best views of Sydney Harbour! The ferry goes directly to Rose Bay from Circular Quay Wharf 2 – taking around 12 minutes. Services depart every 20 minutes and operate 7 days a week. Click here for the timetable and remember to bring your Opal card!
As with all the neighbourhoods in this walk, Rose Bay is a very desirable neighbourhood of Sydney which lies along the harbour. It is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon and there are lots of places for you to stop off for a coffee or a quick bite before you start the walk. For example: Catalina right by Rose Bay Wharf, Club Rose Bay by the Sailing Club, the two coffee shops in the park, or along New South Head Road which is just behind the beach you’ll find plenty of options for food. There’s also a Woolies on New South Head Road if you want to pick up some snacks and drinks to bring with you.
Once you’re ready to go, head onto Rose Bay Beach which is just to the right of the wharf past Woolahra Sailing Club. Here you can walk pretty much the entire length of the beach. This is one of Sydney’s best loved off-leash dog beaches and you’ll find many dogs playing in the shallow water near the end of the beach.
It’s one of the more crowded beaches along the walk and isn’t as picturesque as some of the other beaches so my advice is to keep walking along the beach and then you can relax and swim at one of the more secluded beaches further on. Towards the end of Rose Bay Beach there is a big stone staircase on your right that leads up to New South Head Road. It’s not always easy to spot if you’ve got your eyes on the gorgeous harbour view though!
Head up the staircase then turn left once you get to the road at the top. From here for about 1.5km you’ll be walking along pavements but you will have some fabulous aerial views of the harbour that make it really worth it. You’ll walk uphill along New South Head Road for 300metres or so. When you see the turning for Tivoli Ave turn left. Follow it all the way to the end, keep walking down in the direction of the water on your left, then to your right you’ll see the start of the Hermitage Foreshore Track.
HERMITAGE FORESHORE WALK
The Hermitage Foreshore Walk is a section of the Rose Bay to Watsons Bay walk and lies pretty much halfway between the two. Many people choose to walk the Hermitage Foreshore Walk without continuing on to Watsons Bay or Rose Bay, especially those who are not used to doing long coastal walks as it is a short 2km trail and this part of the walk is pretty much all flat. It is also one of the most picturesque parts along the walk and you’ll find several stunning beaches really close to each other.
Whilst the complete walk can be done in around 30-45 minutes, many people like to make several stops along the way. There are five different scenic yet secluded beaches along Hermitage Foreshore where you can enjoy a dip or sunbathe. Do be mindful though that none of these beaches are patrolled and strong currents and rips can sometimes occur so do exercise caution here if you or your children plan to swim.
If you are into photography there are some seriously Instagrammable places to photograph along this walk. You can get some really nice pictures of The Harbour Bridge and Shark Island, especially at sunset. Equally the beaches here are very picturesque.
You’ll reach the first beach – Queens Beach within five minutes walking. This is one of the smaller and more secluded beaches on the trail and often you’ll find it completely empty! After Queens Beach the trail continues along boardwalk, dirt track and a few stairs for a couple of minutes before reaching Hermit Point which is a really popular place for a picnic. There are a few picnic tables and shaded areas here and the view is also really lovely. It is right by the track though so it isn’t that secluded. If secluded beaches are what you are after then the next beach – Tingara Beach is for you!
From the path Tingara Beach is quite hidden because of the trees so many people don’t even notice it. Plus the path to get down to the beach is not noticeable at all so most people just walk straight past it! I only realised you could go down when I saw someone fishing there, so I walked back on myself to the start of the beach and found a tiny opening to a dirt path between the bushes probably only 1 or 2 metres long that got straight down to the beach.
Watch your step as you go down as it can be a bit slippery. Then walk around to the right across the rocks (be careful if it is wet!) to the sandy beach and you’ll most likely have the whole beach to yourself! I just love how you can find such secluded beaches with perfect harbour views right in the middle of Sydney!
When you are ready to leave continue walking around the corner, scrambling over a couple of rocks, and you will come to some giant rocks that make for some really impressive photos! These rocks lead on to Milk Beach.
Milk Beach is regarded as one of Sydney’s best kept secret beaches. It offers perfect views of The Harbour Bridge, Shark Island and Sydney Harbour. And at 50 metres wide there is plenty space to relax, whether it is on the sand, on the grass or on the rocky outcrop on the far end of the beach.
Directly above Milk Beach is Strickland House. When Strickland House was constructed in 1850 it was the home of the second Mayor of Sydney. Here you’ll find lots of picnic tables nearby and it’s always a popular spot at the weekends!
Keep following the path for about a kilometre in total to get to Shark Beach. Along the way you’ll see a few rocky areas on you left by the water that make the perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset, then you’ll follow the path until it gets to the road, turn left and walk along the road until you get to Shark Beach.
Shark Beach is the biggest beach along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk, located next to Nielsen Park. It is the most popular beach along the walk and is a great place to go for a swim as it has a big swimming net enclosure (shark net) surrounding it which is great if you’re scared of sharks! The water is very calm here in contrast to the big waves you’ll get at many of Sydney’s beaches. As Shark Beach is in the harbour it is protected from the big sea waves, so it certainly makes a nice change from the usual beaches in Sydney.
Shark Beach doesn’t face The Harbour Bridge – it faces north across the harbour towards Middle Head direction but the views are still stunning. There is plenty space to spread out here, either on the sandy beach or the surrounding grassy area of Nielsen Park. Plus there are public toilets, changing rooms and showers here too, so it makes for a great place to freshen up before continuing on to Watsons Bay.
The Nielsen is located on Shark Beach and is the perfect place to stop and enjoy food with a view. There is a restaurant and a kiosk here, so whether you just want to grab a coffee or you want to enjoy a nice sit down meal you can do so, all whilst enjoying a stunning harbour view. The kiosk has several al fresco tables for you to sit down at and feast on their delicious fish and chips! The Nielsen is set in a great location and has open free Wifi. The reception is quite good as you can pick it up whilst still being on the footpath. Overall around here there is just a really nice relaxed holiday vibe.
If you want to get a nice view over Shark Beach, walk up the stairs that go behind the toilets (Bottle and Glass Road) for about 40 metres or so. Then on your left you’ll see a flat grassy opening and here you can see an aerial view of Shark Beach that makes for a really nice Instagrammable spot, although there are no railings here so please be careful. Follow Bottle and Glass path around (it makes a loop), stopping off by the water’s edge for a little bit. Hardly anyone goes up here so it is nice and quiet.
VAUCLUSE HOUSE & JOHNSTONS LOOKOUT
Once you’ve followed the path round it will take you onto Coolong Road – walk up here and turn left at the end onto Wentworth Road. In front of you you’ll see the entrance to the 19th Century mansion Vaucluse House. Now it is a museum but is only open from Wednesday to Saturday 10am-4pm.
By the way if you want to make a quick 15 minute detour for quite possibly the best view from the Eastern Suburbs head up from Vaucluse House onto Olola Ave and Hopetoun Ave to Johnstons Lookout on New South Head Road. It is uphill but the lookout is incredibly stunning!!
Once you are back on Wentworth Road you’ll walk for almost a kilometre along the picturesque roads until you reach Parsley Bay. You don’t get any sea views but the houses here are huge and absolutely stunning that it makes a really pleasant walk anyhow!
Parsley Bay is a little hidden gem in Sydney and you’ll never find crowds here as tourists are unfamiliar with this area – it’s only really locals who venture down to this little slice of paradise! There is a cute suspension bridge going over the bay providing lovely aerial views and there are lots of secluded spots where you can take nice photographs.
If you want to get onto the Parsley Bay Bridge, when you are walking along Fitzwilliam Road (which comes off Wentworth Road) right by the bus stop you will see the house number 43A. The pedestrianised turning onto the bridge will be just after this building.
Parsley Bay Beach
If you want to get onto Parsley Bay Beach walk across the bridge, turn right and go down to the beach. The beach is really picturesque and often you will have the place to yourself! The enclosed bay is surrounded by beautiful headlands and houses and is a great place for swimming as the water is clean, shallow and calm here and is really good for snorkelling. The shark net here is really large, although at the time of writing the shark net here is damaged so exercise caution if you do go in the water as this is an unpatrolled beach.
Just behind the beach you in the reserve will find toilets, as well as a playground and several picnic tables in the shade. Parsley Bay Cafe Kiosk is also located here so you can grab a coffee and some food here if you wish! Opening times are 9am until 4pm.
When you’re ready to leave, follow the coastline and walk on the footpath that goes under the rock on the right hand side of the beach. It will take you round to the little jetty and then back up to the road via some steps to continue the walk. Before you head up the steps and onto The Crescent turn around and look at the view: Parsley Bay Bridge looks particularly picturesque from here. Watsons Bay wharf is only a 20 minute walk from here, but there are still a couple more secret beaches to explore before you get there!
Kutti Beach is a very narrow beach and like Rose Bay Beach it is dog friendly! This is a beach where you will only find locals as it is really secluded, hidden from view and actually very easy to miss if you don’t know where the entrance is! To get to Kutti Beach you’ll need to head down Wharf Road just after you exit The Crescent. Walk all the way to the bottom of Wharf Road until you get to Vaucluse Amateur Sailing Club. By the way the houses here are breathtaking.
It’s a small winding residential street so at first you’ll think it is not the way to the beach, but just keep going! When you get to the Sailing Club you’ll see a white picket fence on the left hand side. Walk right to the end and you’ll see a hidden narrow staircase behind the fence. Head down and you’ll find Kutti Beach – one of Sydney’s beautiful and undiscovered secret places!
To get back on the walk just head up the way you came, then turn left onto Hopetoun Ave. Then take the first left onto Palmerston Street. It feels a bit like a jungle walking down this part which I liked!
You’ll come out onto Gibsons Beach – not as secluded as Kutti Beach but still nice and quiet nonetheless. Follow the path round to your right and you’ll pass the Watsons Bay Baths (another netted swimming area certainly not as picturesque as Shark Beach or Parsley Bay) and The Tea Garden which is opposite the baths. The Tea Garden has a lovely outdoor area and is perfect for a coffee and a cake, as well as the nearby Dunbar House. Continue walking along Marine Parade and you’ll reach Watsons Bay wharf.
Watsons Bay is such a lovely charming part of Sydney and is actually Australia’s oldest fishing village established in 1788! It is also the point where Governor Philip first landed in Australia. The atmosphere here is always great, especially at the iconic Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel – a popular place for evening and weekend afternoon drinks. The outdoor area here is always full and the selection of food and drinks is brilliant! Or if you fancy some yummy fish and chips head to Doyles just opposite. Dunbar Cafe also is great if you fancy brunch and a coffee. As you can see, there is a great selection of food options in Watsons Bay!
You can either finish the walk here at Watsons Bay wharf or do the quick walk up to South Head and picturesque Hornby Lighthouse via Camp Cove then return to Watsons Bay to finish, which I definitely recommend doing!
From Watsons Bay to Hornby Lighthouse is a 20 minute walk (1.5km), so walking to Hornby Lighthouse and back will add roughly 45 minutes onto your walk. It is certainly worth it though as it is a lovely easy walk and the views across to North Head and Manly are stunning.
Camp Cove Beach
If you are facing Watsons Bay Wharf, turn right and walk along the beach for a couple of hundred metres until the end of the beach where you will see a turning on your right hand side. Go up the steps and then turn left onto Cove Street. Carry on to the bottom then turn right at the end onto Victoria Street. Take a left onto Cliff Street and you’ll find yourself on the picturesque Camp Cove Beach.
Even though the beach seems tucked away it gets pretty busy on weekends as it is a great place for swimming. The Camp Cove Kiosk is a cute Instagrammable place and you can stop off for some freshly squeezed orange juice or snacks here if you need!
You’ll see a stairway near the kiosk at the end of the beach that will take you on to the rest of the walk. On your left you’ll see the Camp Cove Jetty which is also gaining popularity on Instagram. The path is well maintained and easy to follow, plus the harbour views are really sensational along the walk. Like in many parts around the entrance to the harbour you’ll see a cannon that was used to protect against military invasion.
Lady Bay Beach
Half a kilometre along from Camp Cove Beach will take you to Lady Bay Beach. This is a nudist beach (just so you are prepared!) so please don’t take photos if there are people here! Lady Bay Beach is a really stunning beach and it feels very private and quite rugged yet you get great views of the city and the harbour in the background! The water is calm here so it is a really good place to swim too.
South Head & Hornby Lighthouse
Continue along the South Head Heritage Trail and you’ll reach a nice rocky area that also has stunning views across to the city. Following the path around you’ll then come to the beautiful red and white Hornby Lighthouse. This is the third oldest lighthouse in NSW and is one of the most Instagrammable places in Sydney: it looks so cute and vintage! I just love the views across to Manly and North Head from here.
There are lots of rocky ledges for people to sit on, relax, watch the sunset and enjoy with friends that you’ll always find a spot for yourself here on the South Head. It also makes for a great whale watching spot as you look out across to the ocean! To walk back to Watsons Bay take the same route back.
Where to get food on the Rose Bay to Watsons Bay Walk
- There are plenty places in Rose Bay (Catalina, Club Rose Bay, Jezve Coffee, Sugar & Spoon Cafe).
- Parsley Bay Cafe Kiosk
- Watsons Bay (Doyles, Watsons Bay Hotel, The Tea Garden, Dunbar House).
How to get back from Watsons Bay
From Watsons Bay you can either get the ferry or the bus back to Sydney.
If you want to take the bus, get the 325 bus from Watsons Bay to Town Hall. Click here to see the timetable and route map.
The most scenic way to get back from Watsons Bay however (and to beat the awful rush hour traffic on New South Head Road!) is to take the ferry back to Circular Quay or Manly if that is more convenient for you.
The ferry to Circular Quay takes under 20 minutes, which certainly beats the hour or longer it can take on the bus if you get stuck in rush hour traffic. If you will be getting the ferry to and from Circular Quay ferries are roughly every half an hour, but sometimes it can be an hour in between services so check the timetable here. The ferries to and from Manly are roughly every hour, starting around 11am and finishing at 6pm usually, so definitely look at the timetable if you plan to use this service.
I definitely recommend to take the ferry back – this is one of the most scenic ferry rides in Sydney! The ferries do stop around sunset though, so if you want to stay later or you miss the last ferry back you will need to get the bus back.
If you prefer to come by car the best thing to do is park at Watsons Bay in one of the free spaces then take the 325 bus or ferry to Rose Bay and walk back to Watsons Bay. To head back to the CBD just drive down Hopetoun Avenue until you join with New South Head Road which takes you into town.
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