Get your nature fix and save money at the same time! Ditching the gym and finding free local outdoor activities is an absolute no-brainer for your mind (and your wallet). Smash the kind of workouts your colleagues will actually want to hear about, you’ll even get to see some picturesque Aussie landscapes while you break a sweat!
Take a Hike
Hiking’s a rewarding meditative experience with some decent cardiovascular benefits, but it doesn’t have to take all day. Head straight from work to one of Sydney’s national parks for an afternoon stroll. You won’t regret it.
In the north, drop into Lane Cove National Park, check out Wallumatta Nature Reserve near Ryde or try The Salvation loop trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The walk features delicate mosses and swamp banksias – way more exciting than a treadmill.
In the south, check out Kamay Botany Bay National Park. The La Perouse headland just down the road from Maroubra is the perfect place to breathe in the refreshing salty air and get those legs pumping. On the Henry Head walking track expect views over Botany Bay and the Pacific Ocean, historic World War II battlements and a heap of friendly lizards.
Ranger’s Tip: Don’t get locked in. Gate closing times vary by park and season, check before you go!
Go for a Paddle
Did you know that large parts of Sydney Harbour are a national park? What better way to skip the gym than a sunrise swim, kayak or stand-up paddle board session? You’ll be working out your upper body and core, it’s the perfect complement to that hour hike you’ve been doing in the afternoons.
Here’s your hitlist: Nielsen Park, Bradley’s Head – Booraghee Amphitheatre, Camp Cove, Reef Beach. Pack a coffee and brekkie to savour sunrise while the foreshore comes to life.
Did you know: Ecotreasures hires out kayaks and paddleboards to start your morning exploratory workouts, as there are many providers around the harbour to choose from.
Wild swimming > Pool Swimming
Seriously, what’s the deal with chlorine? Sometimes I think it would be nicer to just swim with the bugs that it’s holding off. OK that’s naive, but chlorine is super gross, I’d much rather have salt water stinging my eyes or freshwater brushing my lips.
Salty goodness can be found on the Basin and Mackerel Tracks (Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park) where the protected coves of Pittwater leave the water clear enough to see underwater (kinda). Go for an early one! This park is open from 6AM. You can even delay the hike back up by catching the ferry across to Palm Beach for a coffee. In Heathcote National Park, Kingfisher pool is perfect for a cooling dip, but they’re not quite deep enough for laps. Don’t fret though, the 1.5km hike back to the car via Bullawarring walking track is a certified quad-burner.
Ranger’s Tip: To get to kingfisher pool it’s a significant walk, this area is remote so go prepared with proper clothing, footwear, food and water. Please take your rubbish out with you too. Wild swimming spots like these aren’t patrolled. Don’t enter the water if you don’t know how to swim, never jump or dive in and keep an eye on your mates. Stay informed and read up on water safety.
Sweating on a borrowed yoga mat whilst an instructor struts through the aisles isn’t really my idea of carpe diem. Seize the day right with a clifftop stretch at South Head (Sydney Harbour National Park). Stretch deeply as you look back to the city you’re going to conquer, or wistfully gaze out over the ocean. Try these other top yoga spots.
If you’d prefer the sand between your toes, stroll down to Chowder Bay – Gooree, you could even float out for some bootleg water aerobics.
Did you know? Keep an eye out for whales between May and November.
Nothing helps you work harder than a cheeky dose of old mate adrenalin. Sydney’s full of trails that’ll test your reflexes and endurance atop of a 2-wheeled steed. The Gahnia and Serrata mountain bike trails (Garigal National Park) offer experienced riders the chance to test their skills and get the heart pumping. Go easy on those steep sections!
For the endurance fiends, the Bouddi Ridge Explorer 10km loop offers kilometres that will really put your muscles to work with its combination of trails, from the easy going Strom Loop and Rock Point trail to the Daley Point Trial and MacMasters Ridge trial that requires more effort. The cool sea breeze is a blessing but comes prepared with a helmet, sunscreen, water and a spare tyre – it gets fairly steep in parts.
Ranger’s Tip: Stay on existing trails and don’t create new ones. Leave no trace, be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones, so when the trail is soft, consider other riding options.
- Check the NPWS site ahead of your planned visit, or call the Park visitor centre: in the cooler months, there may be planned controlled burning to reduce fire hazards over summer. In the warmer months, total fire bans can close tracks and parks. Best to check before you go.
- To get the most out of your trip download the NPWS App, this app gives you access to park maps, guides and important info when you’re in a national park and may not have internet access or mobile reception.