There’s a national park just south of Sydney that offers spectacular hiking trails at the top of high coastal cliffs: Royal National Park. We spent a day hiking there and were amazed by its interesting rock formations and incredible coastal scenery. We found a nice beach, too – we’re talking about Australia, after all.
Have you ever heard about this park? Established in 1879, it’s actually the second oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone. Originally, it was simply called National Park. Then after the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954, it was renamed to Royal National Park.
While nearby Sydney offers fabulous swimming and surfing beaches, Royal National Park is unbeatable in coastal hikes and views. Most of its beaches are dangerous to swim because of the large waves and strong currents. Still, you can find exceptions if you look for them – we’ll show you some, anyway.
Coastal Track, the most popular day(?) hike
Royal National Park has over 100 kilometres of walking tracks. The most popular one is the Coastal Track – and for a good reason. This long trail impresses with incredible coastal views all the way!
The length of the Coastal Track is 26 kilometres one-way. It starts in Bundeena and ends in Otford. It’s definitely not a typical day hike. They say you can do it in one day if you really want to. Well, I guess that means you do it without taking rests, taking pictures,
taking a breath. It definitely means you won’t have time for a swim. We didn’t want that. And we didn’t have multiple days or proper camping equipment either. (And I know I’m not able to do such a hike without constantly stopping to take pictures, anyway.)
Do half of the Coastal Track as a day hike
So we decided to do only half of the track as a day hike. But then came the hardest question: which half? The first section from Bundeena to Wattamolla Beach gives access to the Wedding Cake Rock and Wattamolla Lagoon, the second section from Garie Beach to Otford has the Figure 8 Pools. Why are they special?
Wedding Cake Rock
Wedding Cake Rock is an interesting and very fragile rock formation. It’s pure white and its sharp edges give it a unique look – like a piece of cake, really. The sandstone it’s made of is different than the harder sandstone of its surroundings, this is what makes it stand out. But it also makes it dangerous, because it can collapse more easily. There’s a fence around Wedding Cake Rock these days, and you should stay behind the fence for your own safety.
Wattamolla Beach & Lagoon
There are some beaches along the Coastal Track, but most of them are not suitable for swimming. Wattamolla Beach is protected enough to be an exception. In addition, there’s a lagoon behind the beach where even children can play and enjoy the calm, shallow water.
This was our last stop on the Coastal Track. We enjoyed swimming in the ocean and also in the lagoon. If you don’t hike, there’s a parking lot at Wattamolla Beach. Facilities are great, too: toilets, dressing rooms, showers. From there we turned back to reach the parking lot at Bundeena by sunset.
Figure 8 Pools
This is the attraction we didn’t see. But as their name suggests, they are tidal pools and one of them has a shape of an 8. They are located on a rock shelf near Burning Palms Beach. But here’s the trick: you can’t see them just anytime you want to. Because they are underwater at high tide. You need to time your visit when it’s low tide so that you can actually access the pools – and do so safely.
A day hike: from Bundeena to Wattamolla Beach
We’re sure that Figure 8 pool looks spectacular and makes for a cool photo, but we chose to do the other section of the Coastal Track: from Bundeena to Wattamolla Beach. We saw stunning rock formations on that part of the route, too – Wedding Cake Rock, just to mention the most famous one -, and we enjoyed our beach time at Wattamolla Beach.
We only had one day to explore Royal National Park on our Australian road trip, so no regrets here. If you have more time or choose the Figure 8 pools instead, make sure you calculate with the time it takes to hike there. It’s 6 kilometres from the nearest parking lot.
Useful information before your visit
You can visit Royal National Park in every season. Spring brings pretty wildflowers, summer brings warmer water, autumn and winter bring lower temperatures and migrating whales. But it’s important to check park alerts on the official website of the national park. You need to be aware of bushfire danger, temporary bans and wave risk at Figure 8 pools.
You need to pay entrance fee to visit the park. It applies per car per day. You can check the prices and the opening hours of the gates on the park’s website, as well.
Do you have a favorite coastal hike?
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