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The Taronga Zoo to Bradleys Head walk is one of the smallest Sydney Harbour walks, but also one of the most pleasurable. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
Distance: 2.8km one way
Time to walk: 25-40 minutes
Starting point: path starts opposite the zoo entrance that is 200 metres up the road from Taronga Zoo Wharf
Finish: Bradleys Head car park
Refreshments break: Athol Hall, 200 metres from start of path
Return: quickest and easiest return is to walk back
The walk from Taronga Zoo wharf to Bradleys Head is one of the easiest, and most pleasurable, of all Sydney Harbour walks.
The walk is little more than 1 kilometre and skirts around the Athol Bay foreshore, which is on the northern side of Sydney Harbour. Views of Sydney Harbour are obscured for the first part of the walk because of dense vegetation on the harbour side of the path, but filtered views pop up regularly and at certain points there are clearings with seats where the harbour is on full show.
The vegetation is lush and thick with palms and magnificent Sydney red gums (Angoraphora costata) flank the path over the last 500 metres. The color of the smooth trunks of the trees varies from grey to pinky mauve.
There are also some interesting rocks and boulders along the way.
The start of the walk sees the path covered either side with dense foliage. Don't worry, it quickly gets better. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
The walk is an easy one, mostly flat with slight inclines and descents, with views of the harbour, opera house and harbour bridge at points along the way. Most people should be able to manage this enjoyable walk. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
The path is a rustic mix of gravel, timber boardwalk and stone steps and is easy for most levels of walkers, and is signposted along the way. Not there's a lot of need for signposting as the path only leads to Bradleys Head, although there are a few small diversions along the way - all signposted of course.
One of the diversions, Athol Hall, is about 150 metres into the walk. You come to a set of stairs on the left leading up to Athol Hall while on the right is a small path leading down to Athol Beach, a small sandy cove with harbour views.
Athol Hall, a former dance hall, is now a cafe for lunch and coffee as well as a function centre for weddings. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
Athol Hall used to be a dance hall and young men and women were ferried there from Circular Quay to meet for dances in the hall. Today it retains its Federation-style character but remains little more than a hall with a cafe at one end. It's main purpose now, apart from serving lunch and coffee Mondays to Thursdays, is for wedding functions so if you walk past on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays you may well see a wedding reception taking place.
The verandah of Athol Hall provides a pleasant and restful setting for lunch or morning or afternoon coffee, complete with great views of the Sydney CBD and Harbour Bridge. There are kookaburras in the tees surrounding the hall and friendly bush turkies parade across the lawn and walkways.
Morning coffee on the verandah of Athol Hall. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
View of the Taronga Zoo wharf from Athol Hall. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
After leaving Atholl Hall and returning to the walking path the trees and vegetations along either side of the path change dramatically. You no longer are immersed in dense vegetation and salmon and red-coloured gum tree and large boulders are now the norm. There are now clear views of the harbour. This last part of the walk is by far the most pleasurable.
The walking path is a mix of boardwalk, stone steps and gravel path. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
The beauty of the gnarled gum trees is one of the highlights of the Zoo to Bradleys Head walk. Picture: © Sydney.com.au
The path soon emerges at Bradleys Head where there are tiered lawned areas, stone walled walking paths and morton Bay fig trees. Being on a point there are 180-degree views of the harbour from Watsons Bay in the east to the Sydney Harbour bridge in the west.
At Bradleys Head you have a choice: you can end the walk and return along the path to the Taronga Zoo wharf or else go on to Chowder Bay (a further 2.5 kilometres) or even to Balmoral (a further 3.5 kilometres). If you can manage the walk to Balmoral, it's well worth it because there are some splendid resting spots with stunning harbour views.
The gumtrees take on a different guise on the walk back to the Taronga Zoo wharf. Picture: © Sydney.com.au