A new 10-mile route on the England Coast Path from Newport Bridge in Middlesbrough to North Gare in Hartlepool has been opened by Natural England.
Project partners celebrated the completion of the path in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at RSPB Saltholme nature reserve near Billingham on Wednesday, September 18.
Walkers using the new path will be able to view seals around Greatham Creek and open wetlands at Saltholme where a range of bird species such as the lapwing and yellow wagtail thrive.
The route also passes popular tourist attractions such as the Transporter Bridge and Teesmouth National Nature Reserve.
It means there is now a 156-mile continuous path along the east coast from Filey in North Yorkshire to Amble in Northumberland.
Natural England is currently establishing a 2,700-mile path around the entire English coastline which when completed will be the longest continuous coastal walking route in the world.
Chair Tony Juniper said: “This stretch will give walkers access to 10 miles of beautiful coastline, enabling people to visit some wonderful nature conservation sites along the estuary.
“We know that being outside in the natural world is really good for people’s health and wellbeing and I hope the path will bring benefits for generations to come.”
The new route incorporates parts of the estuary that were previously inaccessible to the public or very difficult to reach.
New causeways, boardwalks and footbridges have been built.
Hartlepool Borough Council leader Councillor Shane Moore said: “This marvellous new route will enable walkers to explore this fascinating area of coastline, which is rich in wildlife, including a host of different bird species and the seals of Greatham Creek.
“It will also increase even further the profile of the visitor attractions which are along or not far from the route including, in Hartlepool, the golden beach of Seaton Carew and the National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool.”
Coun Moore added the new stretch will form part of a new pilgrimage route from Hartlepool to Whitby which the council is creating called The Way of St Hild which will launch in 2020.