Last weekend we finally went to see what the fuss was all about with the Figure 8 Pools in The Royal National Park, 1 hour drive south of Sydney.
Surprisingly, when I told my work colleagues of my weekend adventures, no one had heard of these pools which I found a bit insane, because surely everyone remembers how it blew up in 2016?Back in 2016 when the Figure 8 Pools were very popular
Remember it being on the news with hundreds of people flocking to see the incredibly perfect eight-shaped natural rock pool to get their Instagram pic? But without a care in the world, most got injured along the way due to not bothering to research tide times.These guys obviously didn’t check the swell or tide when they turned up to the Figure 8 Pool
I remember a work colleague back then (when I worked at a different company) show me his beaten up torso from being taken under by the waves from this hike.
It looked like this hike was going to be a bit on the dangerous side which is why I put it off and I’m not too much of a fan to visit somewhere where hundreds of people are going to be lining up for a photo.
But because a whole year had passed and Instagram fads come and go as quickly as fast fashion changing, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so busy now. And I was pretty much right…
Swimming in the Figure 8 Pools with drone perspective
Here’s my video of when I went to find this special place and my 8 tips before you visit the Figure 8 Pools below.
1.Tide Times and Swell
This is the most important step before you even think about going to the Figure 8 Pools because if you just go on a whim, you’ll more than likely have wasted your time. Make sure you plan this ahead because the tide and swell need to be under 1m. I’m no tide or swell expert at all, hell, this was the first time I’ve ever checked the tides but it’s pretty easy to figure out. Just find out when the tide is at it’s lowest at Burning Palms Beach here. And for the swell just go onto BOM and if it says “hazardous surf conditions” don’t go.
We went when the tide was at its lowest in the morning, so we had to calculate how long it was going to take for the following;
- How long to actually drive to the car park at Gunwarra Farm? For us it was just over an hour from our home in Cammeray (North Sydney).
- How long was it then going to take to actually hike to the pools? Again, it took just over an hour at a slow walking pace and stopping for photos.
- What time would we actually get to the pools and it still be low tide? We got there around 9am which was 2 hours before the tide would start rising again.
- How long would we spend at the pools before heading back and it still being low tide? The section between Burning Palms beach and the pools (20 minute hike section) is the dangerous part as that’s where you’ll be climbing over rocks and you need to make sure the tide is still low. We actually spent an hour at the pools before returning back.
So all in all here’s our timings:
- Leave home 6:45am
- Get to car park 7:45am
- Get to the Figure 8 Pool 8:45am
- Leave Figure 8 Pool 10:00am
- Get back to the Burning Palms Beach in safety and away from any chance of freak waves dragging us into the water or tides being high at 10:20am.
- 11am tide would be getting high again
When you’re on the hike, it’s obvious NSW National Parks have done their best to help people with their safety. There’s loads of pictures and signs along the way with what can happen with the tides and waves. When you head down to the beach, there’s a good sign showing you whether you can continue on or not with pictures of it being safe with the tide or not safe with the tide. If you can’t work out if it’s safe, I would turn back.
2. Only wear hiking boots
When we went on this hike, I couldn’t believe how many people were wearing thongs (that’s flip-flops for most of us!). This actually doesn’t surprise me on how many people must get injured when they set out to find this pool because why on earth would you wear thongs on a one our hike through the bush and climbing up along rocks?The part of the hike where there’s actual steps
This is a hike people, not a quick walk to the beach. I wouldn’t even recommend trainers because you’ll be walking down a hill (and back up on the return) which is in the bush so it’s not on the street FYI or just like a stroll down to Bondi. You’ll then spend 20 minutes climbing over rocks to get to the pools and rocks aren’t always fixed so a sprained ankle can easily happen. I actually hurt my ankle jumping down a very small ledge and it wasn’t fun hobbling back on those moving rocks.
3. Bring enough water
When we went at 7:45am, it was so hot on this hike, I couldn’t believe it. I took my swimmers with me but didn’t think I’d actually be going into the pool really as I just thought it would be quite cold at that time of the day, but I was wrong. Always pack more water than you need regardless of whether you can be arsed carrying it because this is an hour’s hike, not a 10 minute walk. We did see a water tap along the way on the beach, something that NSW National Parks had obviously put in to help with the masses.
4. How to find the car park
I can’t believe how many times I would have driven down this road not to have known the turn off to the start of this trek was there, but you just need to head towards the Garie Beach (one of my favourite beaches in Sydney) and as soon as you turn off Sir Bertrams Stephen’s Drive and onto the Garie Road, take the first right immediately onto Garrawarra Farm Road for about 5 minutes until you get to the end which is a car park. You’ll find rubbish bins and porta-loos here.
Here’s a map so you know where to go.
If you’re coming on public transport, you’ll need to take the train to Otford. But I’ve not done this so I can’t advise the route sorry!
There’s no toilets or rubbish bins along the way so it’s important you take your rubbish with you. I had read other blogs of people seeing loads of rubbish when they went but thankfully there wasn’t any there on our hike.
When we arrived at the car park, there were probably about 20 cars or so. I couldn’t believe it. We honestly thought there might have been about 3 but nope, it looked like the pools were still popular and more and more cars were turning up as we arrived.
5. Is the hike hard?
I’d always heard this was going to be a hard and long hike although I read another post about it taking just an hour so I was prepared for everything. Although it said it was a 7KM return hike, you just don’t know how long that might take. As we set off through the bush, it started to decline quite quickly. The decline isn’t steep but yes it is downhill. I’d read that it was really steep, it’s not. As I have my trusted Garmin 235 watch, I always time my hikes so I know exactly how long it will take us and for reassurance along the way! It took us 40 minutes to get to the bottom to Burning Palms Beach which is absolutely beautiful. It’s really easy to navigate and you’ll more than likely see other people along the way.
Looking out to Burning Palms Beach. The Figure 8 Pools is at the second headland to the right.
You’ll see some houses there which always fascinates me in The Royal National Park that you can live so remotely right in Sydney. You’d have to walk a good 40 minutes back to your car – imagine the food shopping trips?
There’s a few houses at Burning Palms Beach and in other parts of The Royal National Park
Once you get to the beach, walk right to the end on the right where you’ll come to the cliff edge. This is where the climbing over the rocks begins. It took us 20 minutes to climb over the rocks but it’s incredible. The view is amazing and we were in complete awe.
At the end of the beach where 20 minutes of climbing over the rocks began
6. How did we find the Figure 8 Pool?
You’ll know when you get to the pool because there will most likely be someone standing there. When we arrived there were a good 10 people or so there at the same time which was fine for us. I was expecting a lot more. Once you climb over the rocks which are directly next to the ocean, hence why there are so many accidents when people go at the wrong time of day, you’ll come to an open part of rocks where there are quite a few pools but not too many that you can’t find the Figure 8 Pool.
Everyone surrounding the Figure 8 Pool
We dumped our stuff and headed over to the pool. To be honest the pool isn’t that exciting. It’s small and although it’s a perfect ‘8’ shape, I honestly couldn’t believe what the fuss was all about. I’d seen better pools below at Bongon Beach.
I had my Canon 6D with me and straight away I was asked by some tourists to take their photo. Before I knew it, freak waves came crashing over and I had to leg it as I had my big camera on me. I couldn’t believe it. It went from being all calm to suddenly mental and it was still low tide!! But, it calmed down and we were able to go out quickly and get a few shots. This is where you’ll need to be careful, the water can change very quickly.
7. The actual best part of this hike
But the actual location is what did it for me. You really feel like you are away from it all, like you have come to a magical hideaway (just with other people as well!). I haven’t seen anyone actually talk about how beautiful this hike is. The walk down with the morning sun glistening on the water was incredible.
The beautiful walk down to Figure 8 Pools
The climb though the rocks made us feel so small but in awe of the beauty and now the rock pools were just insanely stunning.
We walked all around these rocks to get to the Figure 8 Pool
To me, I wouldn’t write home about the actual Figure 8 Pool because I think most like myself was expecting something a lot bigger. It was the beauty surrounding it that made it special.Up close at the rock pools
8. Break up the hike on the way back
On the way back, after a 20 minute hike back through the cliffs and rocks, we stopped off at Burning Palms Beach and chilled out there for an hour. You just need to make sure you get back to that beach whilst the tide is low and once that is done, you can just chill out on the beach and enjoy the rest of the day.
It was then a 40 minute hike back up to the car afterwards.
We actually saw a lot of people heading down to the pools whilst we were on our way back up the hill and all I thought was, you obviously haven’t checked the tides because high tide is coming right now.
Have you been to Figure 8 Pools? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.
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Thanks for reading!