The Best Running Trails In Australia
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful scenic running trails in Australia. There is really no better place in the world than our coastal stretches, loops around lakes and bushland trails shared with native wildlife. Explore ones of these popular scenic routes along the Eastern seaboard:
NEW SOUTH WALES
SPIT BRIDGE TO MANLY
One of the more famous scenic routes in Sydney’s north is a series of short tracks between Manly and the Spit Bridge. Covering all the tracks in one run or walk is a lengthy 10km, but a great way to experience the various bays and beaches of Sydney Harbour. Follow the signs and detours through the bushland to discover historic sites and incredible vantage points with sweeping Harbour views. And on a hot day, there is nothing better than stopping for a quick dip at Forty Baskets Beach in Balgowlah.
CRONULLA SAND DUNES
If you’re looking for an easy weekend workout – the sand dunes are not it! Located along Greenhills Beach in Cronulla, the iconic dunes are a 3.5km training playground. Start at Lucas Reserve and follow the trail until you reach the sand. Test your endurance, or train in short bursts by sprinting up the enormous sand hills. Forget your trainers, barefoot is best! It may sound like a gruelling challenge, but it’s not all bad – at their highest point, the dunes offer panoramic views of southern Cronulla with glimpse of Sydney’s CBD to the North.
THE BAY RUN
This inner-west beauty is one of the most popular harbourside tracks in Sydney. It follows the Iron Cove shoreline, offering a much-needed escape from the day-to-day stresses. The tranquil, community atmosphere attracts everyone from families and dog walkers to cyclists and serious runners. Although it’s fairly flat, you can really test your limits, especially on the gradual incline at the Eastern end of the Iron Cove Bridge. You might just earn yourself one of Inner West’s finest delicacies – just off the track in Haberfield you’ll find the best baked ricotta cheesecake in all of Sydney at Papa’s Patisserie. It’s a welcome reward and definitely worth the effort!
SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE AND OPERA HOUSE
Every Sunday at 6am I love to run around the most iconic symbols of Sydney with my family. Start at Milsons Point and follow the path over the Harbour Bridge, down the tunnel towards Barangaroo and loop around the park. Hang a left onto Hickson Rd, past Finger Wharfs and Circular Quay terminal, and follow the Harbour foreshore all the way around to the Opera House. This is your Rocky moment – the Opera House steps! After a lap (or two), head via the Cahill Expressway and back over the Harbour Bridge to get back to Milsons Point.
NARRABEEN LAGOON TRAIL
The 8km loop around Narrabeen Lagoon is one of my favourite scenic running routes on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It’s a popular track for walkers, joggers, dog walkers and cyclists with lush greenery and shading, tranquil water views and a variety of running surfaces to keep it interesting. You can start anywhere, but I like to set off at Jameson Park and finish up with a breakfast at the Boatshed Cafe, or hire a paddleboard and get out on the water for the day. Plus, a pit-stop at the outdoor gym in Billarong reserve is a great place for a friendly chin up competition!
BONDI TO BRONTE
It might be the most walked track in Sydney, but there’s no question why! The 3km path that extends between two of Australia’s iconic beaches, Bondi and Bronte, boasts epic coastal views, hidden coves and spectacular beaches. It’s one of my favourite places to spend a sunny Saturday morning. If you’re a serious runner, get in nice and early to avoid the crowds and be sure to take in the views from iconic vantage points along the way, like the sandstone lookout at Hunter Park. If you’re lucky, you might also spot a few celebs!
Fun fact: This track was once a horse and carriage drive for Melbourne’s well-to-do. These days it’s a beautifully shaded, 3.84km tree-lined path curving around Melbourne’s Bo-TAN-ical Gardens. (Tan, get it?) In addition to the stunning gardens, you’ll get glimpses of the city, dappled sunlight through the overhanging trees and lovely river views. But it’s not all roses! The Anderson St leg, known as ‘heart-break hill’ will get you working, and you’ll find quite a few people set a cracking pace with hill sprints and interval training. Whether you’re walking your pooch, or going shoulder to shoulder with the professional athletes, The Tan is a great place to train outdoors on the fringe of the city.
If you’re looking for a trail that is close to the city but with the feel of the countryside, the Yarra Trails is as good as it gets. It has a mix of terrain that is more varied and interesting than some of the other inner city tracks. At 12.1 km it’s a great weekend run along the Yarra River, far enough for a solid hit-out but it won’t take up your whole day. But you may be tempted to spend some recovery time at the beautiful Abbotsford Convent for breakfast or lunch – start and finish the run there and you might just find your day happily slipping away.
BAYSIDE COASTAL TRAIL
Stretching from Mordialloc to the iconic Brighton Beach Baths, this trail weaves its way around the clifftops above the popular bayside beaches of Mentone, Beaumaris and Sandringham. My favorite run begins at the Black Rock Clock Tower and for the next 5km undulates along a tree-lined path towards Sandringham and Brighton for an out and back 10km. It’s a lovely surface to run on, offering a break from the bitumen and away from the traffic noise. Ramps and steps down to the beaches below can add zing to your workout but I prefer running along the clifftops, catching glimpses of the beaches below, the boats on the bay and city skyline in the distance. And being so close to Beach Road means lots of post-run coffee options!
THE SPIT AT MAIN BEACH
With glimpses of rolling ocean and iconic beach landmarks, this scenic coastal trail is a must-do on the Gold Coast. Start from the public car park at Southport Surf Club and head north along the footpath until the track turns into a dirt compact. Just past the 2km mark, take a left hand turn to follow a return loop to the start (5km in total), or take a right to run along the shoreline past sand dunes and life guard towers. On the longer route, use the large concrete pipe as your turnaround point to make it a solid 10km path. Be sure to enjoy a post-run dip in the ocean and head to Main Beach for delicious breakfast!
BRISBANE CBD TO SOUTHBANK
Start at Fitness First King George Square and take in the bustling city vibes as you run along Adelaide Street towards the casino. Take a right turn onto the Victoria Bridge, leading you straight into Brisbane’s famous Southbank Parklands. Lookout for Brisbane icons as you cross the bridge, like the Brisbane Eye and the Performing Arts Centre on your left. The view is even more spectacular at twilight! Once you reach the Goodwill Bridge, head back over into the CBD past the Botanical Gardens and QUT.
KANGAROO POINT CLIFFS
For those that want a run with a view of Brisbane plus a little extra challenge, I wouldn’t look past running through Kangaroo Point cliffs. Starting at the base of the Goodwill Bridge, runners can follow the 4km track along the river through Kangaroo Point Park to Captain Burke Park. Located at the eastern end of the cliffs are the Kangaroo Point stairs, all 107 of them. Racing to the top is sure to get your heart racing and promises a spectacular city view. Add distance by following the river along Dockside Wharf and finish with a healthy treat from Puk Espresso, tucked away under the Story Bridge.