Known for its deep blue harbor, wide-open beaches (over 100 of them) and abundant greenery, Sydney is Australia’s largest city. Luckily, though, it never feels crowded and there are plenty of runs you can take to avoid people entirely.
If you’re after a classic running route, trace the steps of the famous 14km City to Surf fun run, which starts in the CBD’s Hyde Park and travels through the eastern suburbs to the golden sands of Bondi Beach.
It’s tough to narrow down the best of Sydney’s other routes, but here are three that show off the city’s prettiest corners.
ROUTE 1: CENTENNIAL PARK (EASY; 3.5 KM CIRCUIT)
A cool oasis of shaded ponds and quiet wetlands, Centennial Park lies just to the east of the CBD and is easily accessible by public transport (hop on the 355 or 372 bus from Central Station).
The best option for an easy afternoon jog is the Grand Drive Circuit, which follows the white fence around the parklands. You’ll be running on dirt and grass, which is better for your knees—unless you’d prefer the tar walking track—but keep in mind you’ll be sharing it with horses (and their riders), walkers and quite a few other runners.
The best time to avoid the crowds is mid-afternoon, as the sun starts to dip down under the foliage and the wetland birds come to life. There is, however, a nice vibe about it at peak times as well, when the track is bustling with people, dogs and prams.
This short run is great for beginners or injury-prone runners as half of it is slightly uphill, which will challenge your thighs, but the remaining half offers relief with a slight decline.
To increase the distance (though not necessarily the difficulty), add a loop of nearby Busbys Pond, one of the park’s most tranquil. It makes for an even 5km circuit, or a longer 10km route if you run it twice.
The park kiosk (found between Busbys Pond and Randwick Pond) is the perfect to place stretch afterward with a snack; it’s open 6am–5pm on weekends.
ROUTE 2: BONDI TO COOGEE (INTERMEDIATE; 6KM)
One of Sydney’s most well-known stretches of coastline, the Bondi to Coogee coastal path is for experienced runners due to its mixture of stairs, steep incline and breezy downhill.
There are plenty of places for rest breaks and mid-run swims, and the views will not disappoint even the most intrepid of travelers. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for whales from April to December.
Starting in Bondi (catch the 333 bus from the CBD), head to the southern end of the beach near the famous Icebergs ocean pool and run down the steps to the coastal path.
Follow this along the cliffs to Malabar Headland, using the stairs and handrails (you’ll need them) until you reach tiny Tamarama Beach.
From here it’s a nice flat path for around 700m leading to lesser-known Bronte Beach, where a small strip of cafes can satisfy any caffeine cravings.
Running uphill to the scenic cliff path, you’ll pass the enormous Waverley Cemetery, which has been host to Sydney’s departed for about 150 years.
The eerie sight of so many tombstones with million-dollar views will distract you from the hills coming up.
The route then dips down into protected Clovelly Beach and on to Gordons Bay (great for snorkeling) before climbing a steep set of stairs up to the cliffs, where you’ll find relief in the breathtaking views.
From there it’s a relatively easy jog to Coogee. Finish with a cool drink at the Coogee Pavilion rooftop, which boasts incredible views of the beach. To get back to town, catch the 372 bus.
ROUTE 3: THE SPIT TO MANLY (DIFFICULT; 10KM)
Another one of Sydney’s most scenic running tracks is the less congested Manly to The Spit.
Running along the northern shoreline of Sydney Harbour, this challenging 10km one-way (or 20km round-trip) route lets you explore some of the city’s most affluent and beautiful harbor-side suburbs, but your payment will be tackling the hills and stairs.
For a one-way run, it’s best to begin at the Spit Bridge in Mosman (catch the 428 bus from the city) so that you can finish with a swim in Manly’s cool waters.
Starting at the northern end (accessed by a path under the bridge) follow the coastal path past Fisher and Sandy bays until you reach the shade of Clontarf Reserve, where you might be tempted to flop into the shallow aqua waters.
From there continue north along the shoreline, passing secluded Castle Rock Beach, until you reach an intersection. Go straight to continue on, or turn right to visit the cute Grotto Point Lighthouse with its beautiful views over Middle Harbour.
From there, you’ll run past some impressive Aboriginal rock engravings (a poignant reminder of the traditional owners of this land) before heading to the most scenic parts of the run.
If you need a break, stop at Dobroyd Head where you’ll find lookouts with views over the harbor. Picking up speed on the final downhill, run past both Reef and Forty Baskets beaches, then follow the shoreline along to Manly Cove before cutting through the short shopping strip to Manly Beach.
Our pick of where to swim is tiny Shelly Beach, accessed via the southern end of Manly Beach. To head back to the CBD, catch one of the regular ferries from Manly Cove to Circular Quay.
Sydney can be quite humid and hot on summer days, so it’s best to bring your own water and some money to buy drinks along the way.
Even on mild days, the call of the ocean can be hard to ignore so swimsuits are a good idea, as is lots of sunscreen and a hat.
Public transport is easy to catch and runs frequently, but you’ll need to pick up an Opal card from a train station, newsagent or online as most buses won’t accept cash. Opal cards work on all modes of public transport, including ferries, buses and trams.
Do you have a favorite running trail in Sydney? Share with us at #momentumtravel.
Main image: Shutterstock; body images: Lucy E Cousins/Pixabay