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Balls Head Reserve - city view

Beginners Bushwalk at Balls Head Reserve

If you are in need of recharging your batteries and want to spend some quality time amongst nature, then you really don’t need to travel too far. Balls Head Reserve is a wonderful, quiet, lush oasis which transports you to the middle of the bush yet is only ten minutes from Sydney’s CBD, located in North Sydney. With spectacular views of Sydney Harbour, it has several short kid-friendly bushwalks that are perfect for little legs!

Balls Head Reserve - bushlandCoal Loader Tunnel - Balls Head ReserveBalls Head Reserve - steps

What You’ll Love

Not only is it close to the Inner West (you can even see Balmain and Birchgrove from the Reserve) but all the bush tracks are entry-level, so it’s ideal for young kids. There are plenty of interesting things for the kids to explore and learn about on these walks including historical caves, tunnels and Aboriginal rock engravings. There is also The Coal Loader platform which is perfect for scooter and bike-riding and many picturesque picnic spots nearby. 

Things to Do

There are several short 20-40 minute bushwalking tracks around the headland, which are all connected and as the reserve is small, the tracks are super easy to follow. The Harbour View Walk is pram and wheelchair friendly and as the name suggests, there are plenty of views of the city’s skyline and the Harbour Bridge, all of which are sublimely postcard-perfect!

Harbour View Walk - Balls Head

[Harbour View Walk – Balls Head Reserve]

Balls Head Reserve Map

[Balls Head Reserve map – courtesy of North Sydney Council]

Balls Head Reserve is also home to the historical Coal Loader. Kids will love discovering the 160m Coal Loader tunnel which leads to the bushland beyond as part of The Coal Loader Link Track, and is simply magical. This track is one of the more adventurous walks on offer but there are benches, picnic tables, grassy areas to stop at along the way.

Balls Head Coal Loader Tunnel

[Historical Coal Loader Tunnel]

Top tip: Although the tracks are entry-level, keep a close eye on the kids, as part of the track get quite close to the harbour. Also, you can follow the kids trail quiz for some fun along the walk.

Before colonisation, the Cammeraygal people used to live in this part of North Sydney. Around the corner from the Coal Loader Café, you will find an Aboriginal rock engraving known locally as ‘whale rock’, which is thousands of years old.

The area has a rich history and you can discover more about The Coal Loader’s detailed past.

The Coal Loader - ShipThe Coal Loader - wharf

[The Coal Loader Wharf dates back to the 1920s]

Along the foreshore tracks, you can also find caves and chambers dating back to the Great Depression Era.

For some relaxation time with the family, bring a picnic rug and make the most of one of the many picnic areas/tables around the reserve and along the foreshore walks.

The Coal Loader Platform

[The Coal Loader Parklands – Balls Head Reserve]

At the waterfront of Balls Head, The Coal Loader has been redeveloped as parklands and a Centre for Sustainability. The parklands themselves are great for kids to run around, have a picnic and explore the community gardens. The large flat platform makes it the perfect spot for bikes and scooters.
The kid-friendly Coal Loader Café adjoins Balls Head Reserve, with inside and outside seating and a great community garden. The café has a children’s menu and highchairs.

The Coal Loader Cafe

[Coal Loader Cafe & community gardens]

Balls Head Reserve ticks many boxes for a family outing and you’ll be amazed at how can find yourself in the middle of nowhere, within touching distance of the city!


  • Several entry-level bushwalking tracks, including one suitable for prams and wheelchairs
  • Historical features – coal loader tunnels, Aboriginal engravings, foreshore caves and chambers from the Depression Era
  • The Coal Loader Parklands area – bicycle and scooter friendly
  • Picnic tables, benches and BBQs
  • The Coal Loader Café & community gardens
  • Artisan Markets (last Sunday in each season)
  • Accessible toilet and baby change
  • Dogs welcome – on leash
  • Parking – large car park on the headland is available for parking. Street parking on Balls Head Drive is also available

Address: Balls Head Reserve Balls Head Drive, Waverton, NSW.

[Photos by Anna Jameson]

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