Federation Cliff Walk Dover Heights

This 5km coastal trail will get you from North of Bondi all the way to the Gap Lookout at Watson’s Bay, a short walk from the ferry wharf.

While some of the track follows clear footpaths and boardwalks, it sometimes seems to stop dead at a fence or someone’s garden. When this happens, just head up the nearest street, around the obstacle and then back down to the water. It is impossible to get lost. Google maps can also direct you should you need reassurance.

A walk that joins Watson’s Bay to North Bondi

The Federation Cliff Walk, also known as the Waverley Cliff Walk, is a result of government funding to mark Australia’s centenary of federation.

Where to begin the walk?

While you can begin at Watson’s Bay or Dover Heights, I prefer to start at Dover Heights for two reasons; one, I like to finish the walk with some harbourside refreshments and a ferry ride home. Two, I don’t particularly appreciate walking up all the wooden stairs at the Dover Heights end of the walk and would much rather walk down them, lol.

These instructions will assume you share my dislike for ending a walk by going upstairs. 

Federation Cliff to Watsons Bay walk wooden stairs
Federation Cliff Walk stairs at the beginning of the walk

You can technically start anywhere you like north of Bondi Beach, but the official starting point is at Dover Heights. I usually catch the bus to Lancaster Street or park near Rodney Reserve and send Mr Expert back for the car when we are done. 

How to get to the start of the walk

The 323 bus departs from Edgecliff Station and travels via the backstreets to Watsons Bay. To begin the walk at Lancaster Road, get off the bus at the Dove at Dover cafe. You can also join this bus at North Bondi.

Take a 380 bus from Bondi Junction train station to Dove At Dover on Military Road Dover Heights.

Walking route

Dover Heights to Diamond Bay Reserve

Rodney Reserve – The reserve is home to a plaque commemorating the first radio telescope installed in the 1950s and a little before the spot where we began our walk. If this is of interest, you can get off the bus here. There are two buses to choose from, the 323 from Edgecliff Station or the 380 from Bondi.

We stop to take in the view at Dudley Page Reserve before heading down Lancaster Road to start our walk. The wooden boardwalk begins here.

start the walk to Watsons Bay at this white picket fence
The cute white fence marks our entry today.

You continue through a grassy reserve until you reach a dead end. Here you head back up onto the street and follow Ray Street until its end, and the track begins again to the right of a large apartment building in the picture below.

Designed and built in 1963 by architect Harry Seidler

A 1 bedroom apartment here will sell for over 1.2 million dollars. There are currently plans to add two more penthouse stories to this building and give it a spruce up.

From here, it’s a short walk around Diamond Bay Reserve.

Diamond Bay Reserve

Until becoming Insta famous in recent years, Diamond Bay reserve was a hidden local gem and rarely attracted visitors. Even today, you are lucky to find more than a dozen people walking here unless, of course, you hit a tour bus, but mostly you will have space to yourself mid-week.

You often see rock climbers and fishers here on weekends, and it’s an excellent spot for whale watching in season.

Diamond Bay Cliff and Stairs Vaucluse
An Instagrammers paradise with dramatic cliffs, an old ruined gate and crumbling staircases

A little pocket of rainforest, known as Rosa Gully, appears just before you leave Diamond Bay. This is a favourite rock climbing spot suitable for experienced climbers only.

Sielder building Vaucluse
Looking back at the Seidler designed apartment building 

Macquarie Lighthouse

This fully operational lighthouse stands 26-metre high and is the first and oldest still in use in the country. Famous convict architect Francis Greenway designed the original building (1818) and it earned him his ticket of leave to begin life as a free man of NSW. Sadly, it was built with poor quality sandstone, and while Greenway had warned the materials were substandard building went ahead anyway.

As he predicted, the lighthouse suffered damaged rather quickly and was completely rebuilt in 1883.

Macquarie Lighthouse – the original Greenway building, was restored in the 1880s.

The new building, a replica of the original, was designed by James Barnet, who made sure it was strong enough to pass the test of time. Barnet was responsible for many beautiful buildings in Sydney. The first lighthouse master was Robert Watson, for whom the area is now named.

They offer tours a couple of times a year and include walking 100 stairs to the top of the lighthouse.

As Greenway predicted, the lighthouse suffered damaged rather quickly and was completely rebuilt in 1883.

The Gap Lookout

With a sad history of shipwrecks and misfortune, the Gap lookout is an infamous spot in Sydney. There is plenty of signage here to tell you the history of the area and some relics of times past, like the anchor of The Dunbar, one of the first ships to come to grief here.

The Gap Lookout is the final stop on the Federation Cliff Walk.

Before you start, read our ideas for exploring the rest of the eastern suburbs, as you may like to combine another walk to make a day of it.

You will find lots more walking adventures on these pages

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