For the visitor to Sydney — and the state of New South Wales — the national parks in and around the greater Sydney metropolitan area are convenient and accessible areas for picnics, games, bushwalks, bird watching and escapes from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The national parks comprise tracts of native bushland found not only in the outer reaches of the greater Sydney area but also within its metropolitan boundaries.
Here are a number of New South Wales national parks in and around Sydney listed roughly in the order of proximity to the city centre.
1. Sydney Harbour National Park
The nearest national park to the Sydney city centre would be Sydney Harbour National Park with sections at Nielsen Park adjacent to the suburb of Vaucluse; South Head just north of Watsons Bay; across Port Jackson to Bradleys Head southeast of Taronga Zoo; Chowder Head, Georges Head and Middle Head east of Mosman; then across Middle Harbour from North Head to Blue Fish Point east of Manly. Basically it covers areas of the harbour's North and South Heads, and creeps — sometimes disjointedly — along the harbour shores. Park fees are charged per vehicle entering North Head and Bradleys Head and hourly parking fees are charged in the Chowder Bay precinct.
2. Lane Cove National Park
Lane Cove National Park, some 11 kilometres from Sydney city centre, meanders along the Lane Cove River from the Wahroonga/Pennant Hills area to East Ryde. From Sydney, cross the harbour via the bridge or tunnel and head north on the Pacific Highway. At Chatswood turn left (west) into Fullers Rd and enter the park on Riverside Drive. The park features a number of picnic spots and walking tracks. Cabins and campsites are available at nearby Lane Cove River Tourist Park. The park's northern section is good for bushwalking and bike riding on fire trails. A fee per vehicle is charged for entry into the park.
Formerly known simply as Botany Bay National Park, this park took on the dual name of Kamay Botany Bay National Park in 2002. It straddles the two headlands at the entrance to Botany Bay with the La Perouse section in the north and the Kurnell section in the south. The La Perouse section, some 15 kilometres from Sydney city centre, can be reached through Anzac Parade, and the Kurnell section from the Princes Highway through Sylvania and into Port Hacking Rd and Captain Cook Drive. Cape Solander provides a vantage point for whale watching during the whale migration season. A fee is charged per vehicle for entry into the Kurnell section.
4. Georges River National Park
With forested hillsides, plateaus and riverside flats, Georges River National Park is a river habitat for native animals and plants. There are a number of riverside picnic areas, such as Fitzgerald Park at Picnic Point, and a network of walking tracks. The park follows the Georges River from Picnic Point in the west through Padstow and Alfords Point to Lugarno in the east. The western section of the park is probably best accessed from Henry Lawson Drive at the junction of The River Rd or through Fitzpatrick Park through Carinya Rd from Henry Lawson Drive. A fee per vehicle is charged for entry.
5. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, one of Sydney’s larger national parks, is some 25 kilometres from Sydney city centre. It lies east of the Newcastle Freeway between the Hawkesbury River in the north to Bobbin Head in the southwest just north of St Ives and Terrey Hills in the southeast. From Sydney city centre, travel north on the Pacific Highway, turning into Bobbin Rd through Turramurra to the park entrance. Within the park Bobbin Head Rd turns into Ku-ring-gai Chase Rd which exits on Royston Rd and into the Pacific Highway between Asquith and Mt Colah. Alternatively get into Mona Vale Rd from the Pacific Highway and turn into McCarrs Creek Rd at Terrey Hills and enter the park through General San Martin Drive or continue on McCarrs Creek Rd to Church Point. A fee per vehicle is charged for entry into the park.
Royal National Park, some 29 kilometres south of Sydney city centre, is the only "royal" Australian national park, having acquired that distinction after Queen Elizabeth's visit to Australia in 1954. Established in 1879, it is the world's first gazetted national park. Located at the southern edge of the greater Sydney metropolis, with picnic and camping areas, walking tracks, beaches where it faces the Pacific, and water sports and activities, the park is arguably the most visited national park in the state, if not in Australia. An entry fee is charged per vehicle.
7. Blue Mountains National Park
Part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage site, Blue Mountains National Park is some 81 kilometres from Sydney city centre but its Glenbrook section is actually no more than 6 kilometres from the Sydney outer west suburb of Emu Plains and some 10 kilometres from Penrith. Comprising 269,000 hectares of bushland in mountain and valley areas, the park features 140 kilometres of walking tracks. There are numerous entry points to the park along the Great Western Highway, particularly at Glenbrook, Wentworth Falls, Katoomba and Blackheath. A park entry fee per vehicle is charged only at Glenbrook.
8. Kanangra Boyd National Park
Farther from Sydney than Blue Mountains National Park but also a part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage site, Kanangra Boyd National Park features vast gorges, high lookouts and wild and scenic rivers. Landscape highlights include Thurat Spires, Kanangra Walls and Mount Cloudmaker. Extended walks and backpack camping are available for experienced hikers. Car-based camping is also available. Walk from the Kanangra Walls carpark to a park lookout for views of the World Heritage landscape. Kanangra Boyd National Park is 180 kilometres west of Sydney near Jenolan Caves on Kanangra Rd. A park entry fee per vehicle is charged.