Walking the Federation Cliff Walk with a Dog

The 5km-long Federation Cliff Walk is a popular walk in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, that meanders along the clifftops between Dover Heights and Watsons Bay.

While not as popular as the nearby Bondi to Coogee Walk, this walk is a great dog-friendly walk in Sydney, thanks to the multiple off-leash parks along the way, plus the stunning views.

Find out more about walking the dog-friendly Federation Cliff Walk with a dog.

Federation Cliff Walk

Are Dogs Allowed on the Federation Cliff Walk?

Dogs are allowed along nearly the entire length of the Federation Cliff Walk. There is only one section where dogs are not allowed: in Gap Park, at the northern end of the walk in Watsons Bay. It’s easy to detour around Gap Park, if you wish to continue on to Watsons Bay with your dog, or else turn around earlier.

Are Dogs Allowed Off-Leash on the Federation Cliff Walk?

For the majority of the Federation Cliff Walk, dogs are required to stay on leash. This applies both in many of the reserves along the route, plus along the sections of streets that you need to walk along at times.

However, there are multiple reserves along the way where dogs are allowed off-leash, whether all day long or at certain times. This applies at the following reserves, from south to north:

  • Raleigh Reserve: Dogs are allowed off-leash all day long
  • Diamond Bay Reserve: Dogs are allowed off-leash in part of the reserve all day long
  • Christison Park: Dogs are allowed off-leash before 10:30am and after 3:30pm, as long as organised sport is not in progress
  • Lighthouse Reserve: Dogs are allowed off-leash all day long
Christison Park Sign
The sign displaying off-leash hours at Christison Park

Is it Safe for Dogs on the Federation Cliff Walk?

The majority of the Federation Cliff Walk follows the high sandstone cliffs between Bondi and Sydney Harbour. And cliffs and dogs are not always a good combination…

However, be reassured that there are fences all the way along the clifftops. All off-leash areas next to cliff edges appear to have reasonably dog proof fences. Some sections of the fence are just strands of wire, but these are alongside on-leash sections of the walk – another reason to keep your dog on leash when required by the rules!

Federation Cliff Walk Fencing
A relatively secure fence next to an off-leash section of the walk

How Long is the Federation Cliff Walk?

The Federation Cliff Walk is generally reported as being 5km long, or sometimes 5.5km, depending on the exact start and end points used. However, I’m sure your dog will cover a lot more ground on this walk!

Allow about 1 1/2 hours to walk the entire distance from Raleigh Reserve to Gap Park, pausing to take in the views and take photographs along the way, but not making any extended stops.

If you plan on retracting your steps to your starting point, perhaps turn around earlier on the walk, or start at a different point, unless your dog is used to long walks.

Getting To and From the Federation Cliff Walk

The easiest way to get to the Federation Cliff Walk with your dog is by car. If starting at Raleigh Reserve, it’s easy to park in the surrounding streets, with parking unrestricted and free. However, you’ll need to retrace your steps to this starting point. Parking at the Watsons Bay end of the walk is much more difficult.

If you have a smaller dog and a carrier bag for them to travel in, you can also make use of Sydney buses and ferries. Dogs in a carrier bag are permitted on both buses and ferries, with permission from the driver or crew, with the requirement to remain on the outside deck on the ferry.

The 380 bus route mirrors the walk between Dover Heights and Watsons Bay, travelling a few blocks west along Military Road and Old South Head Road. It can be used to return to your starting point.

Note though that the 380 bus only starts at Bondi Junction – the 333 bus is the best connection to the city (from North Bondi) or the 324 and 325 buses from Watsons Bay. However, the much more scenic and fun way to get between Watsons Bay and the city is by ferry!

Watson Bay Ferry Wharf
The ferry wharf at Watsons Bay

Best Time to Walk Federation Cliff Walk with a Dog

There is minimal shade along the Federation Cliff Walk, so skip the walk during the middle of the day during summer months. In summer, it’s best to stick to early or late in the day. At the northern end of the walk there’s even lights along the footpath, although you’ll miss out on the views walking after dark.

Alternatively, head out on this walk with your dog on a cooler day. During winter and spring, it’s a great place to try and spot whales off the coast, with great viewpoints from along the high cliffs.

What to Pack on this Dog-Friendly Walk

There’s regular water fountains located along the Federation Cliff Walk, suitable for both two-legged and four-legged walkers. However, it’s best to also pack a water bottle (and fill it up along the way), plus pack a collapsible water dish for your dog.

Federation Cliff Walk Water Fountains
There are regular water fountains along the Federation Cliff Walk

There’s also regular poo bag dispensers at most of the reserves along the route. Packing one or two of your own though is recommended, because you know what dogs are like…

Points of Interest Along the Federation Cliff Walk

The highlight of walking the Federation Cliff Walk are the beautiful views along the route, as the walk mainly follows the high sandstone cliffs between Bondi and Sydney Harbour. However, there’s also some other interesting historic sights along the walk. Plus most importantly some dog-friendly off-leash parks. Walking from south to north, you’ll pass through…

Raleigh Reserve

The southern end of the Federation Cliff Walk starts at Raleigh Reserve. This long, narrow reserve follows the clifftops, and is a popular dog-walking spot due to being off-leash all day long.

Raleigh Reserve Federation Cliff Walk
The off-leash Raleigh Reserve at the southern end of the walk

Rodney Reserve

Once you reach the larger Rodney Reserve, it’s time to put your dog back on their leash, plus avoid the playing field when it’s in use. Along the clifftop look out for the sign about the radio astronomy that used to take place in Dover Heights, plus a telescope model.

Dudley Page Reserve

At the northern end of Rodney Reserve, walk down Weonga Street to Military Road and Dudley Page Reserve. Located well off the clifftops, this reserve instead offers excellent views back to the skyscrapers in the Sydney CBD. Dogs need to be kept on a leash in this reserve.

Dudley Page Reserve View
Skyline views from Dudley Page Reserve

Eastern Reserve

From the northern end of Eastern Reserve, head down Lancaster Road to Eastern Reserve and a stretch of boardwalk along the clifftop.

Note that as of December 2022, the boardwalk was unfortunately closed due to safety issues, with no indication when it would reopen. Look for whether there is a detour sign at the start of Lancaster Road – in that case continue down to Bulga Road and enter Eastern Reserve at this point.

At Eastern Reserve make sure you keep your dog on a leash – the fencing is just wire rope and off-leash dogs could slip underneath it. Take the steps up to Oceanview Avenue and Ray Street just before the end of the reserve.

Eastern Reserve Federation Cliff Walk
The cliff edge at Eastern Reserve

Diamond Bay Reserve

Diamond Bay Reserve is one of the most spectacular locations along the Federation Cliff Walk, though surprisingly still rather undiscovered and quiet.

On the southern side of the bay is a prominent apartment building designed by renown architect Harry Seidler. Another section of boardwalk passes below it and through a stretch of forest, connecting the end of Ray Street and the middle of the reserve. Unfortunately, this boardwalk was also closed as of December 2022, with a detour via Kimberley Street in place.

Federation Cliff Walk
Spectacular Diamond Bay

Dogs are allowed off leash in the centre of Diamond Bay Reserve, alongside the path – look out for the map on the sign. Just heed the requests to pick up after your dog, to help protect the coastal heath being regenerated in the reserve. Next, take the steps up to Chris Bang Crescent and one of the best viewpoints looking back south.

Diamond Bay Reserve Off-Leash Area
Dogs are allowed off-leash in the centre of Diamond Bay Reserve

Clarke Reserve

After the viewpoint, continue along Marne Street to reach Clarke Reserve. Note that dogs need to remain on leash in this reserve.

The route of the Federation Cliff Walk is lacking in cafes. One of the easiest cafes to detour to is the The Grumpy Baker in Vaucluse. Follow Clarke Street down to Old South Head Road, next to the roundabout. There’s a handful of dog-friendly outdoor tables, or just grab takeaway.

Christison Park

From Clarke Reserve the walk becomes much easier to follow, with a single path through a string of clifftop reserves. Next up is the large Christison Park. Dogs are allowed off-leash here before 10:30am and after 3:30pm, as long as no organised sport is in progress.

Christison Park Footpath
The footpath along the edge of Christison Park

Macquarie Lighthouse and Lighthouse Reserve

At the northern end of Christison Park there’s clear signs on the footpath to put your dog back on leash, as you walk around the back of Macquarie Lighthouse.

On-Leash Section Federation Cliff Walk
Time to reattach your dog’s leash…

The oldest lighthouse in Australia, the Macquarie Lighthouse was designed by Francis Greenway and constructed in 1818, over 200 years ago. It’s worthwhile detouring off the path around to the front of the lighthouse for some photos. There are occasional tours that visit the interior, though dogs would not be allowed inside.

Macquarie Lighthouse
Macquarie Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Australia

After Macquarie Lighthouse, you enter Lighthouse Reserve, where dogs are allowed off-leash all day long.

Signal Hill Reserve and South Head Signal Station

As you enter Signal Hill Reserve, dogs are required to be leashed once again. The reserve backs on to the South Head Signal Station, where a signal has been continuously maintained since 1790. As of December 2022, the cottages at the station were being renovated.

The reserve also contains the remains of the Signal Hill Battery. At the northern end of the reserve, the footpath continues alongside Old South Head Road. If walking from the north, make sure you detour onto the start of the footpath at this point.

Signal Hill Battery
Battery at Signal Hill

Gap Park and Watsons Bay

The northernmost reserve along the Federation Cliff Walk is popular Gap Park. Unfortunately, dogs are strictly not allowed in the park, with multiple signs spray painted on the ground. On the other side of Gap park is also the start of a section of Sydney Harbour National Park, where dogs are also prohibited.

Gap Park No Dogs Allowed
Dogs are not allowed in Gap Park

If you want to continue on to Watsons Bay and the ferry wharf, detour along Old South Head Road. Dogs are also not allowed in the harbourside Robertson Park, a popular picnic location, so walk around the edge of the park.

Near the ferry wharf, dogs are allowed in the large beer garden at the Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, plus there are a few dog-friendly tables outside the renown Doyles on the Beach. Alternatively, grab some takeaway at Doyles on the Wharf and eat it on the benches just outside Robertson Park.

Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and Doyles
The harbourfront Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel and Doyles

Variations to the Walk

There’s a number of variations you can make to this walk. For starters, you can just walk a short section of the Federation Cliff Walk with your dog, then retrace your steps to your starting point. Parking is free and easy on the street along most of the walk.

Another option is to start or end at Bondi Beach. It’s just under a 2km walk from Raleigh Reserve down to Bondi Beach. While dogs are not allowed on the sand, they can join you in walking along the promenade behind the beach, on a leash.

Bondi Beach
It’s possible to extend the walk south to Bondi Beach

However, the walk between Dover Heights and Bondi Beach mainly just follows Military Road, and is not as scenic or peaceful. The most interesting sight along this section are the Aboriginal rock engravings at Bondi Golf Club – access them using the access road opposite Blair Street.

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About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

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