The Royal National Park, located 45 minutes south of the centre of Sydney, is the oldest national park in Australia, and the second oldest in the world! Situated adjacent to the coast, the park offers great views of the Pacific Ocean as well as many secluded pools, adventure walks, and picturesque waterfalls. Below are our I’m Free local guides’ eight favourite day trips in the Royal National Park.
How To Get There
Accessing the park is easy via either public transport or car. Train services leave the city regularly, and the park is easily accessible from Loftus, Engadine, Heathcote, Waterfall, or Otford stations. Alternatively, to access the northern end of the park, catch a train to Cronulla station and then take the ferry across the water to Bundeena.
Driving into the park is also very easy. Just know that there is a daily $12 entrance fee to access the national park (which contributes to maintenance and conservation).
7. Winifred Falls
Winifred Falls is easily accessed from either a hike from Loftus train station or a short walk along the Winifred track from the carpark at Audley. You will be rewarded with awesome waterfalls and a great picnic location.
I’m Free Local Tip: head a bit further away from the falls, along the creek towards the South West Arm Pools, for a secret swim spot!
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Join a free walking tour.
6. The Royal Coast Track
Stretching the full coastal length of the Royal National Park, this 28km walk includes the iconic Wedding Cake Rocks and the Figure 8 pools. Whilst it can technically be completed in a day, the walk might be a bit of a stretch, and it is usually set aside as an overnight hike. But do not worry if you do not want to or cannot tackle the entire length of this walk in one go. Sections of the track can be hiked from Oftord or from Bundeena (if you are using public transport), or from many of the carparks inside the park.
I’m Free Local Tip: The Bundeena to Marley Beach circuit (which is part of the Wedding Cake Rock walk) gives you great views of the Pacific Ocean and is a great day hike. Also, you can grab a coffee at Bundeena at the end of the day!
5. Palm Jungle & Burning Palms Beach
Whilst they are often overshadowed by the more famous Figure 8 pools, burning palms beach and the palm jungle are a great addition to the hike from Otford. Featuring rainforest terrain, rocky outcrops, woodlands, and a sandy beach, this area shows the natural biodiversity of the coastline.
I’m Free Local Tip: Checkout the old beach shacks at the northern end of the beach. They have a lot of history and are in fact listed on the NSW heritage register.
4. Wedding Cake Rock
This beautiful white cliff face is famous for being one of, if not the, most ‘instagramable’ places in the Royal National Park. Whilst you will get some great pictures here, please be careful! The rock is sitting precariously and the cliff edge is sheer, so much so that unfortunately in 2014 an attempt to take a picture on the cliff resulted in a fatality. So, whilst we recommend heading past the rock, ensure you stay behind fences and follow all signs and advice given by authorities.
I’m Free Local Tip: Do not stop at Wedding cake Rock. Keep walking another 15 minutes to Marley Beach. It is a great beach with sand hills that you will most likely have all to yourself.
This picnic area and beach and lagoon and rockface and waterfall (yes, it really has everything!) is a fantastic place to start a hike or just relax for the day. The area is equipped with free barbecues and plenty of picnic tables, so be sure to pack a lunch after your swim in the lagoon. Wattamolla should be accessed by car because there are no public transport links to this spot.
I’m Free Local Tip: From Wattamolla, you can make your way to the Providential Point Lookout. This lookout is located near Wattamolla car park and is a great place to whale watch.
2. Karloo Pools
After a short walk (less than 3km) from Heathcote station along the appropriately named Karloo Track you will arrive at Karloo Pools. This is one of the best swimming holes in the national park! It is a great place to relax, swim, and picnic on a sunny day. Moreover, it is easily accessible, thus suiting those less interested in spending the day hiking.
I’m Free Local Tip: Continuing along the Uloola Track past Uloola falls is a great way to turn this short walk into an easy day hike.
1. Figure Eight Pools
The most popular and ‘instagramable’ place in the national park is also the top pick by our I’m Free local guides. Famous for the circular pools at the edge of the water (ironically, there is only one in the shape of a figure eight), this spot can be accessed from the Garawarra Farm carpark or as a day hike from Otford station.
Be warned though, the pools are located on a rock shelf and can only be accessed at certain times of the day (i.e., subject to tides and swells). Before heading out, ensure you check warnings from the Royal National Park and always follow their advice.
I’m Free Local Tip: Numerous less-informed tourists have suffered serious injuries because they did not follow safety advice. So, if you get close to the pools but the weather does seem right, please do not risk it and stay at Burning Palms beach instead. From there you can still get some awesome pictures!