Taronga to Georges Head Guided Walking Tour Review
Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff or keen photographer, a walk from Taronga Wharf to Chowder Bay / Georges Head offers you the chance to visit the natural, cultural and historical sites of Sydney Harbour National Park. However, for an in-depth learning experience, top tips and secret spots only a local would know, I recommend joining a guided walking tour with EcoWalks Tours to explore Sydney further.
Who are EcoWalks Tours?
EcoWalks Tours are a small family-run business founded and ran by walking tour guide Alan Toner. Focusing on small group walking tours within Sydney Harbour National Park, Alan specialises in providing customers with a thorough commentary about the native flora and fauna you will see throughout the walk, along with a detailed history of the relics. With a wealth of knowledge of the local area, native plants and wildlife, ask Alan anything and he is sure to know the answer.
Friendly, caring and passionate about what he does, you will leave your walking tour feeling refreshed and inspired to get outdoors again with a new perspective and respect for Mother Nature.
Offering two Sydney guided walks, choose between the 3-hour Georges Head Walk or the 4-hour Middle Head Battery Walk and save 10% using promo code 'bitesizetraveller'.
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Why choose a Sydney guided walking tour with EcoWalks Tours?
Although you can easily walk this route by yourself, joining a guided walking tour with EcoWalks Tours has so many benefits and added value. This includes:
- Supporting a small business
- Knowledge and expertise from a local guide
- Learn more about the flora, fauna and history of the local area
- Opportunity to meet new people
- Discover hidden gems
- Your safety comes first
- No need to map read
- It’s a fun and affordable day out
- Perfect to do when you have friends and family in town
Summary of the Georges Head Walk
I had the chance and privilege to join Alan on the 3-hour Georges Head Walk that starts at Taronga Wharf and ends at Chowder Bay / Georges Head.
- Time: 3 hours with EcoWalks Tours – Starts at 10am – 1pm approx.
- Distance: Approx. 6km
- Difficulty: Easy with some steps up and down. A good track consisting of a footpath or boardwalk. Beware – it can get muddy and slippery when wet.
- Water stations: Bradleys Head and Chowder Bay
- Toilets: Athol Hall, Bradleys Head, Chowder Bay
- Snacks: You can purchase drinks and snacks at Mosman Zu Café at Taronga Zoo Wharf. Athol Hall has a café which is open periodically. In Chowder Bay, you can find Ripples Chowder Bay restaurant, Del Taco and Drift Café.
- Dogs: Not allowed through Sydney Harbour National Park
- What you’ll see: Local animal species, Sydney Red Gums, native flora, intricate sandstone rock formations, military relics and fortifications, Sydney Harbour views.
Getting to Taronga Wharf
The easiest way to get to the walk’s starting point is to take the ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Wharf – a 12-minute ferry ride with the opportunity to photograph and take in the gorgeous harbour views along the way. Ferries typically run every 30 minutes Monday to Friday or every 20 minutes at weekends. You can take the 9:40am ferry to arrive at Taronga Wharf at 9:52am in time for your guided walk or take the 9:20am ferry from Circular Quay to arrive slightly earlier and explore the local area before your tour starts.
Alternatively, the 238 bus frequently runs between Balmoral and Taronga Zoo Wharf via Mosman if coming from the Lower North Shore. Buses usually run every 20 minutes at weekends or every 30 minutes during the week.
There is also plenty of free car parking along Athol Wharf Road. Alternatively, you can find limited parking at Bradleys Head car park at a rate of $8 per vehicle per day.
Getting back from Chowder Bay
The Taronga Wharf to Georges Head walk ends in Chowder Bay with the 244 bus departing every hour to Wynyard station in Sydney city via Mosman and Neutral Bay.
What to wear
I recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes or trainers along with a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. You should also wear comfortable clothing such as exercise wear or long sleeved top and trousers to reduce sunburn. Thin layers are advisable as you quickly warm up whilst walking and if it’s raining a light rain jacket is recommended, although there is some shelter from the trees as you walk.
What to bring
As well as your sense of adventure, be sure to bring a one litre bottle of water, energizing snacks, camera and opal card (to use Sydney’s public transport) and money if you want to buy any snacks or drinks along the way. You could also consider bringing a pair of binoculars to watch the wildlife up close
Who is this walk for?
It’s not just tourists who can enjoy this Sydney guided walk to Georges Head. Anyone who has an appreciation for nature and the outdoors will love this half day tour including:
- Overseas and domestic tourists
- Local Sydneysiders
- History buffs
- Nature lovers
- Wildlife lovers
- Keen walkers
- Visiting friends and family
- Families with children
- Anyone looking to relax and unwind
Highlights along the Taronga Wharf to Georges Head Walk
Athol Hall and Bradleys Head Beach
One of the first places you will see on this walk is the historic Athol Hall, originally known as Athol Gardens Hotel. Once a popular spot with excursionists at weekends due to being the only place in Sydney where drinking was allowed on Sundays, today Athol Hall is a popular venue for weddings, events and private parties. Step out onto the lawn for incredible Sydney Harbour views and even enjoy a pleasant picnic under the shady boughs of trees. From here, we strolled to Bradleys Head Beach and were greeted by spectacular water views and an empty beach all to ourselves. Check out the jagged rock pools for shells and potential crabs and watch as the Manly ferry swiftly passes you by.
Bradleys Head Battery
Step back in time as you arrive at the convict-built Bradleys Head Battery, one of the best-preserved military fortifications found along the shores of Sydney Harbour. Originally built to protect Sydney’s harbour after four American warships entered the waters undetected in 1839, the fortifications were completed in 1871. These comprised a series of tunnels, a powder magazine, gun emplacements complete with three mounted cannon and a rifle wall was added later. Today, you can still see a 68-pounder gun, mounted on traversing platforms with a firing range of up to 1,000 metres. You can also view the HMAS Sydney (I) mast, a striking monument to the WWI warship.
Bradleys Head Amphitheatre
Whilst at Bradleys Head, be sure to explore the Bradleys Head Amphitheatre, a beautiful spot for iconic Sydney Harbour views and sensational sunsets. Movie buffs will enjoy hearing that this was the stunt scene setting for the movie Mission Impossible 2 with actor Tom Cruise. These days, the Amphitheatre is often used for wedding ceremonies as well as musical performances, whilst the wharf is popular for fishing.
Sydney Red Gum Trail
One of my favourite parts of the walk includes strolling through the ancient Angophora forest, home to giant Sydney Red Gum trees, also known as the Smooth-Barked Apple. Be captivated by their striking salmon pink coloured bark with gnarled and twisted branches extending right above you. Framed with the glistening Sydney Harbour to your right, take your time to breathe in this magical setting and watch for wildlife and birdlife aplenty.
Sydney Harbour Views
There’s no shortage of spectacular views over Sydney Harbour, including the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, so be sure to bring your camera or phone for endless photo opportunities. Some of the best views are along the Bradleys Head Walking Track, although Bradleys Head Amphitheatre is renowned for its city skyline views and striking sunsets.
Soon after strolling through the shady Sydney Red Gum Trail you will arrive at the v-shaped Taylors Bay, a lush cove with shimmering azure coloured waters and a small secluded beach popular with expensive white yachts anchored in the bay. The views overlooking Taylors Bay are simply stunning so be sure to take a moment to soak it all in. Learn from your tour guide Alan about its history which includes this being the site where one of three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour on 31 May 1942.
Our walk soon reaches picturesque Chowder Bay. Once home to a naval base, a Submarine Miners Depot was completed in 1892 to house the Submarine Mining Corps who maintained an electrically triggered minefield to prevent enemy ships from entering Sydney Harbour. This was later converted to barracks and mess buildings. Today, the Depot buildings are home to backpacker accommodation, cafes, a scuba diving centre and The Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) research facility. Chowder Bay is also a popular spot for fishing, snorkelling and leisurely family picnic lunches.
What wildlife will I see on the walk from Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay?
This part of the Sydney Harbour National Park is rich with a diverse amount of wildlife. Look out for ringtail and brushtail possums, alongside water dragons basking in the sun and brush turkeys (also commonly referred to as bush turkeys) digging in the dirt. You will also see a variety of birdlife with approximately 150 bird species found here including New Holland Honey Eaters, white-bellied Sea Eagles, Wrens and rainbow lorikeets. If you’re lucky, you might also see King Parrots or the laughing Kookaburra sitting in a gum tree, as well as hear the croaking of frogs hiding in the wetland areas. From May to November, there’s a chance to see humpback whales breaching up the coastline as they embark on their migration along the coast.
What types of native plant life can I see?
There are around 400 native flora species within the Sydney Harbour National Park and your Sydney walking guide will be able to point out both native flora as well as invasive plants. Some of the frequent flowers and plants that Alan pointed out to my walking tour group included:
- Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea) – a very slow growing plant, identifiable for their long cylindrical spikes (1 – 3 metres) when it flowers, which eventually turns brown. Often flowers when there’s a bushfire.
- Blueberry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus Sm.) – a conical tree that can grow to six metres or more. Numerous white pendulous bell-shaped flowers with finely fringed petals, with fruit shiny dark blue to black in colour. Flowers November to December.
- Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthin Labill.)– soft, creamy white flowers branching off long stems, often flowers from October to April.
- Heath Banksia (Banksia ericifolia) - Native tree with orange cylindrical flowers in autumn and winter.
- Sunshine Wattle (Acacia Terminalis Terminalis) – small creamy white to pale yellow flowers, grouped tightly in showy globular heads, typically flowers from February to June.
- Lance-Leaf Crowea (Crowea saligna Andrews) – look out for its bright pink flowers, normally flowering between February to May.
- Fuschia Heath (Epacris longiflora Cav.) – beautiful red and white tubular flowers, often crowded along branches of a prickly shrub. Typically flowers from April to November.
What else can I combine this walk with?
Make the most of the day and combine this 3-hour walk with the following:
- Continue your walk to Middle Head and on to Balmoral Beach (this is also run by EcoWalks Tours)
- Visit Taronga Zoo and see the wildlife up close including lions, elephants, seals and monkeys
- Tour the Gunners Barracks (check website for hours of operation).
- Walk to Manly as part of the 80km continuous Bondi to Manly walk.
- Follow the Sydney foreshore back towards Taronga Zoo and then on towards Sirius Cove, Mosman, Cremorne, Neutral Harbour and Kirribilli. Finish off the day by walking over Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- Go kayaking with Sydney Harbour Kayaks at Spit Bridge.
My overall verdict of Georges Head Walk with EcoWalks Tours
As many of you might know, I am a huge fan of walking on my own and escaping from city life to enjoy my surroundings in peace and quiet. However, I was thoroughly impressed with my recent guided walk from Taronga Wharf to Chowder Bay / Georges Head with Alan at EcoWalks Tours. Not only is he a true professional and an absolute wealth of knowledge when it comes to naming the flora, wildlife, birdlife and detailing the historic events and relics, Alan also provides a fun commentary and has a great sense of humour. If you’re worried that this tour will be information overload then you needn’t worry. Alan takes you on a sensory journey and points out all the intriguing and exciting sights and sounds you might often miss when walking solo, such as the croaking of frogs or the New Holland Honey Eaters perched on a Sydney Red Gum branch only metres from us. I found the tour refreshing, fun and immensely enjoyable and above all his passion for walking and nature really shone through.
Ready to get walking? Book a Sydney walking tour with EcoWalks Tours and save 10% when you quote the promo code: 'bitesizetraveller'.