Take in relics of Sydney’s military and colonial past, while soaking up the best views north of the Harbour, on this bush trek from Georges Head to Clifton Gardens.
If you’re time poor but still want to enjoy all the picturesque characteristics of a Harbourside walk, head to the Bungaree Walkway in the heart of Georges Heights.
Bungaree Walkway, located within the traditional lands of the Borogegal people, is a bush track that starts near Headland Park and spirals down towards Chowder Bay and Clifton Gardens.
It’s a perfect walk to do after you’ve explored the historic military fortifications at Middle Head.
I do this walk at least once a week. I start by parking at Bradleys Head Road and walking through Rawson Park at Mosman, passing the grandstand and cricket field and the nearby Scotland-Australia Cairn.
You’ll also notice a large Celtic cross in the parkland that stands over the grave of aviator, Keith Anderson, who lost his life while searching in the Australian desert for Charles Kingsford-Smith.
The trail begins on the lower eastern edge of the park and takes in disused military land around Suakin Drive.
Many of the military buildings here – including the six single-storey colonial Victorian terraces at Gunshot Alley (pictured above) – have been converted for various commercial uses and now form part of the Headland Park Artist Precinct.
Make your way down the hill towards Gunner’s Barracks, once a crucial military post for protecting Sydney Harbour, now a popular spot for weddings and high tea.
Nearby you’ll see the entrance to two bush tracks. The one closest to Gunner’s Barracks is Bungaree Walkway, named after First Nations elder and chief of the Broken Bay tribe, King Bungaree, who was in charge of a local farm established by Governor Macquarie in 1815.
The track is thought to have been the original road for transportation down to the wharf at Chowder Bay. For more than 100 years, the military used the same path to travel between their Chowder Bay depot and their barracks at Georges Heights.
The other path – the Georges Headland-Chowder Bay track – is about 10 metres from Bungaree Walkway and runs parallel at a higher level. Both tracks are easy to navigate and come out at the same spot at Chowder Bay.
Bungaree Walkway has sandstone steps while the higher track has a few cladded stairs before it levels out, as you can see in the video below.
The native bushland in this area has been conserved thanks to years of relative isolation.
It’s largely a eucalypt forest with a scrub containing banksia, kunzea, acacia and hakea species. Some areas also support endangered plant species such as Acacia terminalis.
It’s also a habitat for various native species including blue tongue lizards, ring tailed possums, fairy wren, common bent-wing bats, rainbow lorikeets, kookaburras, currawongs and green tree snakes.
As you progress along the track and begin the downward hike, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the three decommissioned World War II camouflaged fuel tanks that once stored fuel for submarines.
The tanks, first installed in 1936, were given false roofs to make them resemble nearby buildings.
As you leave the track and progress down the steep driveway alongside the fenced-off fuel tanks (below), you’ll come to the Chowder Bay Road roundabout.
Head right, past the former Sergeant Major’s cottage (which is currently up for lease at 18 Chowder Bay Road), and follow the path towards the historic military buildings at Chowder Bay.
You’ll see a “Safe Base Charlie” sign near the wharf. It basically means there are tighter restrictions on access to the naval area, and the public is not permitted beyond that point. It’s still enforced to this day as navy ships still dock there.
Control of the former military buildings at Chowder Bay was transferred to the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust in 2001, and many buildings have since been converted into popular restaurants and cafes.
Wander down to Clifton Gardens Beach, with its white sand beach, netted swimming area and boardwalk. There’s also a BBQ area, a shaded playground for children (above) and a basketball court.
Follow the walking trail from the eastern end of the beach towards the stairs in the western corner, and continue your walk through the exclusive neighbourhood streets of Clifton Gardens.
Unfortunately this is where the hills kick in as you make your way back to your starting point. I tend to head along Morella Road to Kardinia Road, then up to Bradleys Head Road to finish the 2.4 km loop.
The more adventurous can continue their bush walk along the harbour foreshore to Taylors Bay and take in the Bradleys Head Walk.
The harbourside walking track actually stretches for nearly 20km from Manly (via Balmoral Beach) to Taronga Zoo, so choose a section that best suits you. Just make sure you have good hiking boots, sun screen and a bottle of water.
By Bus: Route 244 from Wynyard Station to Middle Head stops at Georges Heights and Georges Head Parkland.
By Ferry: Take the ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo, then catch a bus up Bradleys Head Road (it also stops at the main Zoo entrance) to Rawson Park.
Rawson Park is several blocks from the Zoo, but it is walkable (about 10-15 minutes depending on your pace). Get off the bus at Cross Street and walk through to Rawson Oval and the start of the bush track.
© 2020 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved.
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