Sunday 28 November 2010

Sydney CBD Running Route

Length: 8.6 km (5.3 miles), terrain contains one hill

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 Check the Routes by Country/City page for more routes

Pictures by Jessica Hauser and  Thanks!

View of Bennelong Point, the CBD and the opera house
NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
Sydney, the wonderful place that it is, even offers great running routes downtown, called the Central Business District, or CBD. There are great parks, the beautiful opera house, a dynamic business area, relaxed entertainment neighborhoods, and a scenic waterfront stretching for miles. And the impressive Harbour Bridge spans the bay, with its own pedestrian walkways, letting you run over the bridge and join into the North Shore run, described in another run description, Sydney North Shore, Australia.

This route will basically run AROUND the CBD, staying close to the water and parks, but the downtown skyscrapers are never more than a stone's throw away. Count yourself lucky to be able to lace up your running shoes for this route: we'll go by the opera house, through the botanical garden, see some of the oldest buildings in town, run through Hyde Park and then down to the Darling Harbour waterfront entertainment area before we head back through Sydney's oldest neighborhood, the Rocks, to our starting point.
At Circular Quay
The Central Sydney Route
We'll start the run in Sydney's spiritual heart: at Circular Quay (pronounced "key"). This is the spot where the first British settlement in Australia was built, the heart of the whole history of modern Australia. All the ferries start at this teeming spot, as well as most of the buses and trains, with the historic Rocks neighborhood to the left, the opera house and parks to the right, with a spectacular view of the Harbour Bridge and North Sydney straight ahead.
Panoramic collage from park above Circular Quay
So off we go, turning right and running along the water (water on your left side), past the clubs and restaurants lining Sydney Cove, straight towards the opera house. You can run straight up the steps and take a closer look at the several graceful roofs curving upwards. When you're up close you can see that the whole facade is made up of patterned tiles. This is, in my opinion, the most fascinating modern building around. Try to get tickets to a show in one of the various halls. Even the toilets are amazing.

Now we keep going towards the right (eastwards) along the waterfront on Farm Cove, into the park stretching before us. The park is part of a chain of parks that we'll now follow. The water curves around to the left out towards Bennelong Point, but when we get to the middle of the cove, take the path to the right, going along the ponds to the south.

Keep your eyes open for exotic wildlife: the giant white cockatoo parrots, water birds, lizards, turkeys. When you run past the café, the real botanical garden starts, with tropical jungles full of palms, bamboo, fern trees and banyans (strangler figs). Some of the trees are suffering badly from their treetop guests: thousands of giant bats, flying foxes, hang from the branches. If you are there in the evening, you will witness the spectacular sight of them swarming out to eat the figs and other fruit throughout the area. In the daytime, they're fairly inactive, hanging there, wrapped within their wings of skin.
Flying foxes in the botanical gardens
I like to jog up and down the many paths here, and maybe go through the fern-tree garden.

Keep going straight southeast until you find yourself at the main south gate at Art Gallery Road. You'll see the big, classical red-stone art museum ahead, on the left. Cross the street and you'll run straight into the next park, the Domain. At the café, called Pavillion in the Park, turn your back to Art Gallery Road and run straight across the great lawn of the park, directly westwards, towards the CBD skyline. This will bring you to the back side of the old hospital, with its Victorian buildings. Run through the grounds to Macquarie Street on the other side.

Turn left on Macquarie to run south, past some of the oldest buildings in the city (or all of Australia), Government House and the old barracks, one of the first things the transported convicts had to build. Just past the barracks, you'll see the Catholic Cathedral, St. Marys, on the left, and Hyde Park straight ahead. Just run right down through the center of the park. We'll run through the northern half of the park, then turn right at Park Street to run 3 blocks to the old Town Hall at George Street.
St. Mary's from Hyde Park
To the right of the Town Hall is the Queen Victoria Building (or QVB), an elegant old indoor shopping gallery. On each side of the QVB you'll find bus stops for buses going about everywhere.

Turn left on George Street, and run past the St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral and you'll be in one of the night-life centers of town, full of cinemas, discos and packed pubs. When you get to Liverpool Street, where the monorail tracks cross the street, turn right, at the Three Monkeys pub and Sir John Young Hotel (most Australian pubs are called "hotels").
In Tumbalong Park
In just 3 blocks you will run straight into Tumbalong Park at the south end of Darling Harbour, after passing Chinatown on the left. Once in the park, follow the main path along the right, going northwest along the pond. On the left side is the Exhibition Centre. You'll then run under a maze of raised expressways connecting the CBD with everything south and west of here, with the IMAX cinema lodged between them. Somehow they don't disturb much way up there. Then, there you are, facing the water at Darling Harbour.

This is the most successful harbor redevelopment that I've ever seen. The outdoor restaurants and bars look inviting and are full of life, the little harbor marina is full of scenic yachts bobbing around, and the Victorian-era swiveling Pyrmont Bridge and the restaurant ship add a historic note, as do all the ships of the maritime museum further on. And then there are the aquarium and ferry landings, with the old light house, and the giant Australian flag waving over the whole scene. It's a wonderful spot, and is often used as the backdrop for big events with fireworks, water-ski shows and fashion shows.
At Darling Harbour
The right side is the nicer one, but we'll run along the left, to the South Steyne, the old restaurant ship, the ex-Manly Beach ferry. Run up to the bridge entrance and you'll see the ships of the maritime museum and the lighthouse on the other side. Now run across the bridge to the east. When you get to the other side, run down the stairs and turn north, with the water to your left, past the tour boats and the aquarium. Beyond the aquarium to the north, there is a new extension to Darling Harbour along the water, with more clubs and lots of tour boats docked up.

Keep running along the water for 3 blocks, past the last of the clubs at King Street Warf 5, then follow the walkway as it turns right, and goes back into the downtown. At the Sussex Hotel, take the steps up the hill straight ahead one more block to Kent Street, then turn left to go into the oldest part of Sydney, but going under the Freeway bridge (for the third time) first.

The colonial-era houses along northern Kent Street are typical for any older neighborhoods in Sydney, homey row-houses with ironwork balconies. At Argyle Place, you'll find one of the most historic pubs, the Lord Nelson, where we'll turn right and run past the historic homes on Argyle Street, with the hill to the right side crowned by the old observatory (worth checking-out sometime!). Keep running past the church, into the tunnel that goes under the ramp leading to the Harbour Bridge, coming out into the main part of the Rocks.

NOTE: Turning left at the church, on Lower Fort Street, would bring you to Sydney's oldest pub, the little stone building housing the Hero of Waterloo, one block on the left.
Restaurants (in winter) in the Rocks
As soon as you get through the tunnel, take the old stone stairs going up to the left to the Gloucester Walk path overlooking the Rocks, Sydney's old downtown and port, with its old warehouses turned into clubs and restaurants. From the walkway, you'll get a great view of the opera house just across Sydney Cove, and the Harbour Bridge just above you.

The path ends at George Street, where you turn right and run downhill past the Irish Pub (live music most nights) and some other interesting places. The street curves down to a small park on the left, next to Cadman's Cottage, Australia's oldest building, I believe.

Turn left here and run into the park bordering the cove, with the opera house across the way, and Circular Quay around to the right. At the water, turn right to run through the park for 200 meters and you'll be back where you began.


  1. I need a map. Stranger in Sydney

  2. The better track around the CBD is to start at town Hall station, go up to Hyde Park, run through to the domain, around Mrs Macquarie's chair, through the Botanic gardens, around opera house, through Circular Quay and the rocks and Walsh bay sticking next to the water, around Barangaroo, through to darling Harbour then link back up to town Hall station. Basically following the shoreline the entire way. This loop is 10km exactly and I used to run it every weekend - there's no better run in the world! No traffic lights or stops if you start at Hyde park. You could also add on Pyrmont at the end (again sticking to the shoreline) if training for a half marathon or more.

  3. Thanks for the tips. Indeed, Sydney is one of the most beautiful places to run!