Royal National Park
Situated on the southern outskirts of Sydney, the Royal National Park is the second oldest National Park in the world. A railway station between Loftus and Bundeena on the suburban Illawarra line provides easy access to the park. Alternatively, a ferry operates from Cronulla near the railway station to Bundeena.
The Visitor Centre is the ideal place for you to begin your explorations of the first gazetted national park in the world. Call in for maps, brochures and information on things to do and see in this special place. Over 150 km of walking tracks give access to the park. Walk the coast for magnificent clifftop views, or experience the diversity of habitats, including heath, rainforests, open woodlands and estuarine systems. Enjoy historic landscapes, picnic in one of the many shady, peaceful areas and stroll to lookouts with spectacular views over the park. Wattamolla, Garie and Burning Palms are among the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Hire a row boat at historic Audley and take a leisurely paddle up Kangaroo Creek.
There are kiosks at Garie, Wattamolla and Audley. Bonnie Vale camping ground provides basic facilities (fees apply), though other camping sites are limited, with bookings and permits essential. Learn more about this icon of our national parks on one of the many Discovery Ranger guided walks (bookings essential 02 9542 0649). Park use fees apply.
Beyond the park's southern entrance is the Lawrence Hargraves Memorial Lookout at Stanwell Tops which celebrates Australia's foremost pioneer aviator who launched experimental flying machines here a century ago. Today the lookout is Sydney's most popular launching place for hang gliders. As well as being a viewing platform for the sport, it offers spectacular views south along the Illawarra coast, as do Sublime Point and Bulli Lookouts further south. Bushwalks from Stanwell Tops lead to and through a number of abandoned railways tunnels between Otford and Helensburgh. Public transport: train to Loftus, walk to park entrance via Princes Hwy and Farrell Ave.; or train to Cronulla, ferry to Bundeena.
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Hundreds of sites have been recorded in the Sutherland district, those within the National Park's boundaries being the easiest to find and access. Middens are visible at Curracurrong Cove and Era and Garie beaches.
Marley Headland: Engravings are visible on the walking track from Bundeena to Marley Head and numerous whales and sea creatures are carved into rock on Jibbon headland. The latter are well signposted with descriptions and interpretations of the art. They are of wobbegong sharks, fish, a whale, boomerangs and shields.
Audley: Alongside the road from Audley to Fishermans Bay 100 metres south of turnoff to Costens Bay are engravings a flat rock surfaces scattered throughout the scrub on the ridge. These include a man with a three-pronged head-dress and circles and ovals 20 metres to the north. 130 metres west of the road on the southern edge of a large, level rock surface are two whales facing each other. 80 metres north is another whale in the centre of a large rock surface sloping down to the north. Both sites have commanding views to Port Hacking and South West Arm.
Wattamolla: Sites at Wattamolla Beach have been excavated by archaeologists and show it to have been a specialised fishing site. Between Wattamolla Road and Curracarrang Creek are two kangaroos. On the north side of the camping area overlooking the Wattamolla Inlet is a 1 metre long fish and the remains of human figures that have been defaced by vandals. 50 metres west of the coast road at a point 2.6 km south east of the Wattamolla turnoff are a number of rock faces with carvings. These include 3 male figures, 6 men in a line, and very faint axe grooves.
Curracurrong: The Curracurrong area has 8 rock shelters, some of which have been excavated, revealing evidence of occupation, and two small groups of engravings, both sign posted, are located on a small outcrop at the extreme north-western end of a large rock platform about 150m west of the fire trail. A shelter at Curracurrong is one of the oldest sites found in the Sydney region, showing evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 7,500 years ago.
There are many waterfalls within the boundary of Royal National Park, all of which can be reached via walking trails which lead deep into the more remote sections of the park where most of them are. Maps showing walking tracks are available from the Visitors Centre at Audley and manned entry points to the Park. Tracks to most falls ford streams so wear appropriate footwear and be prepared to wade through ankle deep fast flowing water immediately after heavy rain, which is when these waterfalls are at the most scenic. The most easily accessed waterfalls in the park are:
Wattamolla Falls: Wattamolla is a popular picnic spot with a pretty waterfall which is a gentle trickle most of the time and a raging torrent after a downpour. Accessed on foot via the Coastal Walk or by car, Wattamolla has a clean, sheltered beach with picnic and barbecue facilities. Behind the beach is a lagoon into which Coote Creek tumbles over the cliff face.
Curracurrong Falls: The most spectacular waterfalls in Royal National Park (there are two of them) in which two creeks flow straight off the edge of the cliff face into the ocean. On a windy day, the strong winds at the foot of the cliffs blow the water back up again, which is quite a memorable sight. The only access is via walking tracks from Wattamolla, Garie or Sir Bertram Stevens Drive. The walk to the falls from each location is around 40 minutes.
Winifred and Anice Falls: The closest falls to Audley are Winifred and Anice Falls. The stepped, 7 metre high Winifred Falls is a 4 km hike from Audley along an at times steep walking trail. Cut down through the bush to the pool below the falls for the best view. A kilometre further along the main walking trail towards Maianbar Road is Alice Falls, on Saddle Gully. South West Arm Creek, which flows over Winifred Falls on its way to Port Hacking, must be forded first and can be quite a challenge after rain when the creek is deep and flowing strongly. The track across the ridge is steep but the 10 metre high falls are worth the climb. They are best viewed from the rock ledge beyond the falls on the eastern side or better still from within the gorge provided you have the energy and patience to find a way down. It is not the easiest of waterfalls to photograph.
Toonoum Falls: A pretty 5 metre high falls alongside Sir Bertram Steven Drive not far from the Garie turnoff. There is a second falls a little further down the valley.
National Falls: A two-tiered waterfall in which the upper falls drops some 6 metres onto a rocky platform before plunging deep into the valley below via the second falls. A novel feature is the ability to walk into the overhang over which the upper falls cascades (above), allowing access behind the water as it falls. Located beside The McKell Drive not far from the park entry point from Waterfall, it is these falls which gave the locality of Waterfall its name.
Lower National Falls (below), just down from the parking area, is very difficult to photograph unless you are prepared to hack your way through the bush and hope you don't lose you footing and end up in the valley below. Tracks on either side of the top of the falls permits only glimpses of the water as it tumbles off the escarpment deep into the valley below. The walking path up the valley to the base of the falls has been closed for many years. If you do manage to make the base of the falls, the drop is so deep and the vegetation so dense, it is only possible to photograph the lower section of the falls.
Uloola Falls: The falls at Uloola in Royal National Park has two sections - the upper section (photo) is composed of a cascading set of falls while the lower section is comprised of a large and long fall. Midway between Uloola Falls and Heathcote station is Karloo Pool which is also worthwhile a visit. The falls and nearby camp can be reached from either Waterfall or Heathcote railway stations. From Waterfall station follow the the Uloola Trail for approximately 5 kms to reach the falls and campsite.
For over 100 years, the Royal National Park Coastal Track has been a "must-do" walk for visitors to Sydney who want to explore a little of what is beyond Sydney on foot. This walk commences at Bundeena and follows the coast for about 30 km past some of the most dramatic coastal scenery you could every wish to see. Along the way you'll pass The Waterrun and Curracurrong Waterfalls (which plunge in spectacular fashion off the cliff top to the ocean below); Wattamolla (picnics, camping, lagoon and swimming, waterfall); Garie (swimming, surfing); North and South Era (swimming, surfing, wildlife, camping); Burning Palms (swimming, surfing, camping); Palm Jungle (forest of palms and vines). Join Cliff Track at Garrawarra Ridge, continue south then take track through bush near Lady Wakehurst Dr to Otford.
The dramatic Curracurong Falls, a pair of waterfalls which plunge of the cliff face into the sea after rain
For a half or full day walk, begin at either end and allow enough time to return before dark or in time to catch ferry or train back (check timetables before embarking on this trip). To walk the full length of the coastal track, allow 2 days with an overnight camp along the way. Easy to moderate walk.
How to Get There: walk along Brighton Street (Bundeena's main shopping area) away from beach, left into Scarborough St, right into Beachcomber Ave. The Coastal Track begins at end of street. If completeing full walk, return to city via train from Otford station. Otherwise, walk back to Bundeena ferry via Beachcomber Ave, left into Scarborough St, right into Brighton St.
Uloola Track (Heathcote to Waterfall)
Now that the Royal National Park railway branchline is used only by trams from the Loftus Tramway Museum, the only direct access to the Park by rail is from Heathcote or Waterfall stations. They are joined by a track which wanders through the western section of the park. Take the fire trail at the east end of the oval on The McKell Ave to the south of Waterfall station. Known as the Uloola Track, it leads past Callaghans Tor and Uloola Swamp to Uloola Falls. On the north side of the Uloola Brook above the falls, take the the Karloo Track to Uloola Pools and Karloo Pool, a large swimming hole on Kangaroo Creek. Continue on to Heathcote station for the return train trip to Sydney. Allow 4 to 6 hours. Moderate walk.
How to Get There: train to Waterfall. Alternatively, alight at Heathcote and walk the track in reverse.
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Loftus to Winifred Falls
Following well-maintained bush tracks and service trails, this walk descends into the Royal National Park, to a spectacular set of pools and cascading falls on South Western Creek. The Royal National Park Information Centre, on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive, is approximately in the middle of this walk and is a great spot to grab a bite to eat before continuing to the falls. Unfortunately, it is necessary to have a car to get from Winifred Falls out of the park.
The Burgh Track (Garie Beach to Helensburgh)
11km one way. This walk has a great mixture of ocean cliffs, with fantastic views, and beautiful forest. The walk follows the well maintained Burgh Track, passing great views of the ocean and the cliffs, before turning inland and exploring some eucalypt forest on the way to Helensburgh. The environment and views near Lady Wakehurst Dr are incredibly special as the track winds its way through a shrouded eucalypt forest.
Otford to Figure 8 Pools via Burning Palms
13.2km return. From Otford Train Station, this walk enters the Royal National Park at the coast. There are great views of Wollongong down the coast. The walk also passes through the magnificent Palm Jungle and Burning Palms beach. This is a great spot to go, wet the toes, and enjoy the environment. The walk then continues to Figure of Eight Pools.
Heathcote to Engadine via Audley
13.2km return. 15km one way. Covering a large section of central Royal National Park, this walk goes through the heath and scrub along a well managed and signposted track. The walk loops from Heathcote Railway Station around to Engadine Station. With public transport at both ends, toilets and water at both Uloola Falls and Reid s Park, this track has ample infrastructure to keep a walker out for a day, without losing the sense of getting away from it all.
Otford to Helensurgh
12.9 km one way. Largely along service trails and well managed bush tracks, this walk goes from train station to train station through parts of southern Royal National Park. The bush track between Garrawarra and the Hacking River is incredibly beautiful as it winds its way down the hill through shrouded eucalypt forest and low lying scrub.
Wallumarra to Palona Cave
11.8km return. Winding next to Bola Creek, the Wallumarra bush track is very pretty, as is the track to Palona. Great rest areas at Bola Picnic Area, and next to the waterfall at Palona Cave, cap off a great walk. While the Wallumarra service trail and the side trip to the Beehives are not the most interesting tracks in Royal National Park, the Wallumarra bush track and the trail to Palona Cave make up for this.
11km circuit. This walk takes you down from the ridge to the quiet Deer Pool on Marley Creek. You pass the Big and Little Marley beaches, with an optional side trip to Wattamola Dam. This side trip is well worth it on a hot day to take a dip. The walk then leads away from the coast to loop back to the starting point on Bundeena Drive.
Curras Moor Loop
9.2km circuit. A pleasant walk with some great views, mostly along service trails. The walk passes through heath and some areas of trees (flowering in spring). This walk follows the Coastal Track along the headland, giving great views along the coast and out to sea.
Wattamolla to Eagle Head Lookout and Curracorrong Falls
7.4km return. The walk from Wattamolla picnic area to Eagle Rock is an excellent way to see the the Royal coastline and the Eagle Rock formation. This walk heads south from Wattamolla, following the Coast Track, leaving the sea cliffs for a while to pass through some beautiful heath, then back to the coast, to the Eagle Rock Lookout. The walk returns to Wattamolla the same way, for a bite to eat and a swim.
Bundeena to Jibbon Head Circuit
6.8km circuit. On this loop walk you will enjoy some grand ocean views, a few secluded beaches, rock shelves and some Aboriginal engravings. The walk starts in the community of Bundeena and follows the roads to Jibbon Beach then along the track to Jibbon Head and Shelley beach, then a long stretch of sandy management trail through the heath. The walk also describes a side trip to Bundeena Lookout.
Engadine to Audley
5.8km one way. From Engadine Railway Station, this walk ventures into the centre of the Royal National Park, through light scrub. Highlights include Tuckawa Rill Creek, where the cascading water and small rock pools contrast beautifully with the surrounding dry bushland. On from here, there are great views of the Hacking River from the Robertson's Roundabout. The walk then descends into the park lands surrounding the visitor centre at Audley.
5.6kim return. A popular trail for those wanting a well-signposted bush track, and a great place to swim. The Karloo Track follows the bush track from Heathcote Railway Station east, into the Royal National Park, to a great set of waterholes on Kangaroo Creek. This walk offers more than just a set of waterholes at the end, there are also fantastic views from the ridge, of the surrounding bushland.
Forest Way Track
4.4km circuit. Opened in 1886, the Forest Path was once part of a controversial logging site, the first time that logging was stopped in Australia by protest. Now it is a short trail looping around the hill, following the Hacking River. Through a shaded environment of ferns and eucalypts, this walk passes through a very pretty environment that was definitely worth preserving.
Stockyard Spur to Garie Beach
3.3km one way. The walk down Stockyard Spur to Garie Beach is an excellent way to take in coastal views before following the Coastal Track. This is great if you are with a driver who is happy to drop you and wait for you are Garie Beach, or if you can do a car shuffle. You can always just walk back up. There are plenty of opportunities to get your feet wet if you wish to cool down on the walk, and you can see some of the houses built during the depression at North Era and Little Garie.
2.3km circuit. From the Royal National Park Centre, this walk crosses the Hacking River before rising steeply up onto the ridge to fantastic views of the Hacking River. If you look into the distance you can see Cronulla on the horizon at the highest points. Towards the end of the circuit, with good views of the surrounding bushland, the track descends to the river and back to the visitor centre.
Audley to Gibraltar Rock
2.2km return. This walk starts at the historical and beautiful Audley picnic area and dance hall. Have a picnic or enjoy coffee from the cafe, before wandering along the quiet public road alongside Hacking River. After heading around the locked gate, you walk along the old Lady Carrington Drive trail for about 450 to the Gibraltar Rock and lovely views over the Hacking River. Retrace your steps to enjoy another coffee and back to the car.
Wattamolla Beach and Headland
Wattamolla Beach: Offers both ocean and lagoon swimming beaches. The most popular of the Royal National Park's beaches, it has numerous facilities, a sizeable car park and bushwalking tracks to the north and south. The waves on the ocean beach are moderate and therefore quite safe for children and average swimmers. It was at Wattamolla that Matthew Flinders and George Bass sheltered from a storm in 1796, calling it Providential Cove.
The lagoon is fed by a stream which enters the pool over a waterfall. In summer, the creek is dry and the wall of the falls becomes a popular diving spot.
Facilities: kiosk, grassed areas, barbecue and picnic facilities, toilets. No direct public transport.
Little Marley Point and Beach
Marley Beach: South east swells can create strong rips at this isolated surfing beach. Little Marley is a short walk south from Marley. No facilities at either beach. A 1 km walk from Marley Beach leads to a freshwater swimming holes named Deer Pool (camping ground). No access by road.
Public transport: train to Cronulla, ferry to Bundeena, 1 hour walk along Coastal Track to Marley Beach.
Garie Beach: Big swells make this the most popular surfing beach in the park. Patrolled by Royal National Park & Garie SLSC. Little Garie, to the south, is more secluded but not patrolled. No direct public transport. Limited facilities include a backpackers hostel at Garie.
South Era Beach
North and South Era Beach: Popular surfing beaches. South Era is patrolled by Royal National Park & Era SLSC. Limited facilities include cabins for hire (must be pre-booked). No direct public transport or motor vehicle access (walk from Garie Beach or car park at Garawarra Hill on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive and walk down).
Burning Palms Beach
Burning Palms Beach: Isolated surfing beach patrolled by Royal National Park & Burning Palms SLSC. Limited facilities. No direct public transport or motor vehicle access (walk from Garie Beach or car park at Garawarra Hill on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive and walk down).
Werrong Beach: A nudist beach located at the most southern end of the park near Otford. There is a parking bay overlooking the ocean. Take the track up the hill into the park to where it joins the track to Werrong Beach. It is a strenuous 40 minutes from the car park to reach the beach. No facilities.