Friday, 20 February 2015

Sydney Centennial Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.4 km (2.7 miles), terrain: fairly flat, 40-meter gain

Pictures courtesy of Google Maps StreetView. Thanks! 

Sydney Running Routes:
Best Sydney Running Routes: Overview
Central Businesss District (CBD)  
Harbour north shore  
South Head and Watsons Bay  

Bondi to Coogee Coastal Run
Manly Beach Run
Centennial Park Run 

If you look at a map of Sydney, you can't help noticing the big, green splotch four kilometers southeast of the Central Business District (CBD). For anyone looking for some extensive nature for a good run, Centennial Park looks very tempting. And indeed, it is a great spot for a run.

It opened as a park in 1888. And it even has some historic significance, as the site of the founding ceremony of the Australian Federation, back in 1901.
Vernon Pavilion
Vernon Pavilion in Centennial Park
Centennial Park is fairly huge, almost 200 hectares in size, and if you're staying in one of the many hotels in Paddington, it's right next door.

And even if you're not already in Paddington, it's easy to get there. Just take one of the buses that head out to Oxford Street from the CBD (for example, use the bus stops at the south end of Hyde Park to catch lines 352, 378, 380 or M40).
Along Parkes Drive
Centennial Park is actually part of an even bigger park landscape. It is flanked by Moore Park to the west and Queens Park to the east, and they can be added-on to provide a much bigger running route, if you prefer.

Queens Park, to the east, is basically a big lawn full of athletic fields. Moore Park, to the west, doesn't look or feel much like a park, though. It's a strange collection of stadiums, concert halls, a cinema, office buildings, sports fields and a big golf course.

So we'll concentrate on Centennial Park itself. It has the feel of a vast lawn, punctuated by trees and ponds. Some areas are carefully landscaped, others look fairly unplanned. It's not as beautiful as Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens, but is much bigger, with lots of space to explore.

Centennial Park can be divided into several areas: along the north edge, next to Oxford Street, are some fenced-off underground reservoirs, partially covered by athletic fields above. Then, south of them, come the rolling, open lawns and thickets in the center of the park. And south of them are the ponds of the Lachlan Swamp, once Sydney's main source of drinking water.

There are also lots of athletic fields in the park, for all sports imaginable. That's one thing that I love about Australia: the people are interested in about every sport there is, and they have no qualms about trying/watching any new ones that come along. You'll find yourself running by people playing soccer, rugby, cricket, tennis, field-hockey, lacrosse, softball, Aussie-rules football, basketball, horse-riding, biking, roller-blading, hiking, you name it.

And, of course, a lot of people will be just relaxing in their green oasis, barbequing, bird-watching, having weddings, eating at the caf├ęs and generally having a great time hanging around.

One word of warning, though: the park isn't open around-the-clock. The park gates are generally open between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. But check this link for more detailed opening times: http://www.centennialparklands.com.au/plan_your_visit/gate_opening_times

The main -- and very simple -- route through Centennial Park is a loop around Grand Drive. This 3.5-km loop within the park has parallel paths for bikes, cars, runners and horses (a dirt bridal path). It's fairly quiet, staying away from the bigger streets along the park boundaries. There is an unmarked dirt trail just inside the white fence bordering the bridal trail, which is used by most runners.

The Centennial Park Route
This route will circle the park counter-clockwise, following Grand Drive in the north part of the park, and following the lake-shores in the south. This adds some waterside scenery and avoids the louder southern edge of the park.
Paddington Gates
Paddington Gates on Oxford Street
So, start at Oxford Street, heading south through the red sandstone Paddington Gates and onto Parkes Drive. Keep along the right side of the street, keeping to the right as the street branches twice. You're going downhill a bit.

The street crosses Grand Drive at the 0.5-km mark, at the Dining Area restaurant and park offices.

We'll now follow Grand Drive for a while. Notice the wide, ripped-up dirt bridal (horse) path with the white fence just inside Grand Drive. Run to the other side of the white fence and turn right onto the smaller dirt running path.
The running path where you join Grand Drive
Now just follow the fence as it curves southwards. You'll cross a little road, Dickens Drive, and continue towards the first pond, Busbys Pond.

The trail comes to the western tip of the pond just after the 1-km mark. Turn left to follow the palm-lined footpath along the pond's southern shore, going past a sports field and Fairlands Pavilion. Busbys Pond is the biggest lake in the park, with a few islands and birdlife, if you look around a bit.
Busbys Pond
Busbys Pond
When you reach the eastern tip of the pond, turn left before the next pond (Randwick) begins and run the few steps to the little stone picnic shelter called Vernon Pavilion.

You'll find yourself facing Parkes Drive again. Just cross the street and continue running eastwards, along the north shore of the Duck Pond, with its nature trail.
Crossing to the Duck Pond
At the far (eastern) end of the Duck Pond, turn right (south) to follow the shore. Continue until you get back to the white fence at the bridal path along Grand Drive again, at the 2.2-km mark.

Now turn left and continue following the fence and bridal path.
Grand Drive with Federation Pavilion
At about the 3.2-km mark, you'll see a small, round stone pavilion across the street on the lawn. This is the Federation Pavilion, the place where the British Australian colonies officially joined to become one country in 1901.

At the 3.8-km mark you'll come back to the Dining Area, where you turn right and head uphill along Parkes Drive back to the finish at Oxford Street.
The Dining Area, where you re-join Parkes Drive

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