A good long walk is a great thing. One that involves a swim? Even better. Australia’s coastal capital cities offer ample opportunities for taking a dip to break up a hike, or to cool off at the end. We round up some of the best.
Mornington Peninsula Coastal Walk
30 kilometres, one way
You can tackle this beast of a walk starting at either end: from Cape Schanck to Point Nepean, or vice versa. But if it’s views you’re after, stick with Cape Schanck as your start; the Bass Coast scenery as you head west is unbeatable. Begin at the Cape Schanck Visitor Area car park, then double back on yourself for a few hundred metres until you hit a dirt track that’ll take you down through the bush towards Gunnamatta Beach. You’ll see dense bushland, incredible clifftop trails, Aboriginal middens and natural rock formations, and stroll along sandy beaches. The sheer length of this hike means plenty of beaches – many are unpatrolled, though, and only suitable for experienced surfers. For a swim, your best bets are Gunnamatta Beach, Sorrento Ocean Beach and Portsea Surf Beach (but only while they’re patrolled).
Lerderderg Gorge Walk
8.4 kilometres, return
Head an hour north-west of Melbourne CBD to Lerderderg State Park for the moderately challenging Lerderderg Gorge Walk, which follows a dramatic gorge carved through native forest by the Lerderderg River. This walk requires several river crossings over stepping stones, so wear suitable shoes. Start your journey at O’Briens Crossing Picnic Area and follow the river as you spot rock formations along the way. As for swimming? Dip in and out of the river as you go – be mindful of strong currents and other hazards like floating debris.
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Bondi to Coogee Walk
6 kilometres, one way
Some things are famous for a reason – but the magnificent Bondi to Coogee walk is famous for many reasons. It traces the rugged eastern-Sydney coastline along clifftops, white-sand beaches, rocky bays and rockpools. Kick off your walk at Bondi, and head up past local icon Icebergs to the headland – there’s a path the entire way, so getting lost isn’t an option. Along with the views, you’ll catch 2000-year-old Aboriginal rock carvings at Marks Park, and probably one of the most scenic cemeteries in the world, Waverley Cemetery, where bush poet Henry Lawson and Australia’s first prime minister Edmund Barton are buried. There is also a ridiculous number of swimming opportunities along the way for a walk that only takes around two hours. Before you even begin you can dive into Bondi Beach, then cool off every now and then as you pass Tamarama, Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee beaches. And if you prefer a more structured swimming setting, there’s Bondi Icebergs pool, Bronte ocean pool and Giles Baths at Coogee.
Barrenjoey Lighthouse Walk
3 kilometres, return
This walk gives a big reward for little effort, ending with cracking views over Palm Beach, the ocean, Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River. Start at the Governor Phillip parking area, then follow the signs for the Access Trail through bushland up to Sydney’s northernmost point, where you’ll see Barrenjoey Lighthouse, which was built in 1881 from sandstone quarried on-site. Visit on a Sunday when there are guided tours of the lighthouse. Once you’ve had your fill of scenery, make your descent, then dive into the waves at North Palm Beach.
Marion Coastal Trail, Marino to Hallett Cove
7.2 kilometres, one way
South Australia’s rugged coastline and extraordinary rock formations are the star of this clifftop boardwalk, which is easily accessible by public transport (Marino Railway Station is a 12-minute walk from the northern trailhead at Burnham Road, Marino Rocks). The astounding views and native greenery will be more than enough to distract from the many stairs that take hikers from clifftops down to gullies at regular intervals. The path winds up at jaw-dropping Hallett Cove – not only can you go for your post-walk swim, you can see the incredible glacial rock formations from an Australia ice age around 280 million years ago. And this isn’t its only historical significance: tools from an Aboriginal settlement dating back 40,000 years have also been found here.
Glenelg to Seacliff Walk
6 kilometres, one way
There are plenty of both human-made and natural sites to see along this relatively easy waterfront path from Glenelg Pioneer Memorial to Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club. The walk begins on a path edged on one side by water and on the other by Norfolk pines, before it reaches a stretch of beach lined with very large houses. Do a bit of property-spotting then take in the endless ocean views as you continue on your journey. Other highlights include the dunes at Minda, Tjilbruke Spring – an important Indigenous site south of Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club – and The Kingston Park cliff face, which echidnas and blue tongue lizards call home. There are plenty of beaches safe for swimming along the way.
Scarborough to Newport Walk
8 kilometres, return
Cotton trees, casuarinas and Norfolk pines offer shade during this walk, which takes in the pretty Scarborough beachfront, gorgeous views from Redcliffe Peninsula and, finally, the picturesque canals of Newport. Begin your walk at the park next to Scarborough Beach car park, off Kennedy Esplanade, and follow the well-paved path that’ll take you the whole length of the walk and back. There are loads of cafes to fuel up at along the way, and beautiful Scarborough Beach is perfect for a dip after you’ve completed your stroll.
Wynnum to Manly Esplanade Walk
10 kilometres, return
This scenic walk traces the waterfront between Wynnum and Manly, beginning at Wynnum Mangrove Boardwalk and ending at the Wynnum Manly Yacht Club Marina. For most of the walk, the path runs adjacent to the water line, meaning views for days and fresh sea breezes to keep things cool. Take a dip on the way there and back at the serene white-sand Pandanus Beach, or the enclosed Wynnum Wading Pool. There are plenty of pretty parks along the way for breathers, and you won’t be short of spots for coffee or fish’n’chips.
Scarborough to Trigg Heritage Walk Trail
7.3 kilometres, return
The Scarborough to Trigg Heritage Walk Trail is actually three separate loop trails: the Scarborough Coastal Loop, the Trigg Coastal Loop and the Trigg Bushland Reserve Loop. Easy-to-follow signposts direct walkers the whole way, and informational displays tell the history of the area, from the heritage of the local Noongar people to the more modern development of the area. Along the way you’ll meander past coastal shrubland, native plants and trees like the quandong and Rottnest Tea Tree, and be treated to glimpses of magnificent blue ocean. The walk begins and ends on the walking and cycle path near the Scarborough Surf Life Saving Club, and heads north to Trigg Beach – both beaches are beautiful swim spots before, after and during your walk.
Melville Water Riverpark Trail
(swim at Bicton Baths)
16 kilometres, one way
City views, the mighty Swan River and signs explaining the history and heritage of the area – this walk has it all. You’ll begin at Fremantle Traffic Bridge, heading along a shared path with cyclists to Canning Bridge, right along the river. Along the way you’ll catch peeps of the city skyline, and there is a slew of riverfront cafes that are pit-stop worthy. The highlight? A swim in 100-year-old Bicton Baths. If you’re coming from Fremantle, it’ll appear quite early on in your walk, but start at Canning Bridge and it’ll be a lovely reward to push you through the last couple of kilometres.