There are so many amazing Royal National Park walks you need to discover, it still blows my mind how a national park like this is just under an hours’ drive from Sydney CBD.
Steve introduced me to the Royal National Park in Sydney within about a week of moving to Australia. At the time, nature and hiking wasn’t my thing because I was a city girl. And to be honest, I didn’t really get what the fuss was about.
Fast forward since 2011 and I have to say Sydney’s Royal National Park is one of THE best places everyone needs to explore.
Not only is Royal National Park the second oldest national park in the world (which is just mind blowing in itself) it was founded in 1879. If you’re wondering, the oldest is Yellowstone in USA.
So where do you start with exploring the walks in Royal National Park? After visiting countless times, here’s our favourite walks we’ve discovered!
You don’t need to be an experienced hiker to take on the “Nasho” as most of the hikes are clearly signposted and the paths are filled with boardwalks.
A word of advice though – the weekends can get pretty busy!
There’s not many toilet or food facilities in the Royal National Park. Make sure you stop off in Audley, Bundeena, Waterfall or Heathcote if you need to pee or grab something to eat before you begin your hike.
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Need Camping Gear?
If you’re thinking of going camping in Royal National Park but you either don’t have time to pack or you don’t have the right equipment, fear not!!
Local Sydney company called Overnight Adventures actually plan your self guided walks and deliver everything you need to go on a 2 or 3 day adventure. It’s actually pretty cool and something we’ll be doing on our next Sydney walk.
The Coast Track Info Time: 2 days. Can be done in 1 day for experienced hikers if you set off very early in warmer months. Distance: 27KM Public Transport Friendly: Yes! Catch the train to either Bundeena or Otford depending on which way you start the trek.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could take on the massive The Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford. At 27KM one way, most people plan this hike over two days.
This means you’ll need to camp along the way and take absolutely everything with you (remember Overnight Adventures can supply all of your camping and food supplies for this hike!).
Before you plan this hike, you’ll need to make sure you can book into the campsites because they do book up.
The good news is, you don’t need a car to get to this hike. You can catch the train down to Cronulla, get the boat over to Bundeena and then catch the train back from Otford.
The highlights of this Sydney hike include passing through the many incredible beaches like Little Marley, The Garie, and insta famous spots like Wedding Cake Rock and Figure 8 Pools. We’ll talk more about all of these places plus more in the below.
2. Figure 8 Pools Walk
The Figure 8 Pools Info Time: 1 hour each way Distance: 3KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Yes! Catch the train to Otford and hike from there. If you’re driving, park at Garrawarra Farm Car Park.
The Figure 8 Pools became a huge Instagram hit a few years ago. It became so busy on this track that it was reported 3,000 people did this hike in one day. But it’s no wonder because this is one of the best Royal National Park walks we’ve been on.
Luckily those crazy times have since calmed down and you can happily go on the Figure 8 Pools hike without joining a conga line.
The main thing to know about this hike is it takes 1 hour to get there and you absolutely must wear hiking shoes as you’ll have to climb over rocks to get there.
You also 100% must check the Figure 8 Pools tide times. If you don’t and just try your luck, chances are you will have wasted your time. You need the tide to be low to even make it over to the pools. Plus, you need to time it so that you can actually make it back in time.
Barefoot Downunder offer up a day trip to Figure 8 Pools so you don’t need to worry about planning anything. It’s a full day trip at takes about 9.5-10 hours return to Sydney. This is a reputable company which you can book via Get Your Guide below.
3. Bundeena To Wedding Cake Rock
Wedding Cake Rock Info Time: 30 minutes each way Distance: 2.5KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Yes! Catch the train to Cronulla, then the ferry to Bundeena. If you’re driving, park at Beachcomber Avenue.
I’m not too sure why Wedding Cake Rock became such a popular Instagram spot in Sydney, but the main thing to know is this is one of the most popular Royal National Park walks because it’s pretty easy to get to and you can easily come here via public transport.
Just jump on the train to Cronulla, then take the ferry over to Bundeena and walk from there.
The Wedding Cake Rock walk is pretty busy and is one of the busiest tracks in the Royal National Park I’ve personally seen.
When you reach the insta famous spot, you’ll see that’s it’s fenced off for a reason. Don’t jump over to get a photo as it’s really dangerous and there have been many fatalities in the past.
Bundeena To Big Marley Beach Info Time: 1 hour each way Distance: 4KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Yes! Catch the train to Cronulla, then the ferry to Bundeena. If you’re driving, park at Beachcomber Avenue.
To be honest, once you leave Wedding Cake Rock, the crowds disappear instantly and the track becomes much more beautiful. When it opens up onto the cliff and over to Big Marley Beach is when it’s at it’s most beautiful.
Big Marley Beach is an absolute cracker of a beach as well. Just be careful with the rips but it’s stunning! If you’re feeling adventurous, continue on to Little Marley Beach or over to the sandunes and to the lagoon.
And if you’re feeling super adventurous, continue on to Wattamolla Beach.
5. Wattamolla to Big Marley Beach
Wattamolla Beach to Big Marley Beach Info Time: 1.30 hour each way Distance: 5KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Unfortunately public transport is not available for this hike. If you’re driving, park at Wattamolla Beach Car Park.
Wattamolla Beach itself is the kind of place you could easily spend the entire day at. It’s a fantastic spot for the whole family, with a lagoon for kids to play in on one side and the beach on the other.
There’s also a waterfall here where a lot of people jump into. Obviously it’s not recommended to jump because accidents do happen.
At Wattamolla Beach, there’s a few Royal National Park walks you can explore.
The first hike I think I ever did in Sydney was from Wattamolla to Big Marley Beach. I remember seeing my first brown snake on this hike but don’t worry too much as most of the track is on a boardwalk.
The walk itself isn’t too hard and takes about an hour to get to Big Marley Beach. Alternatively, just stop a bit sooner at Little Marley Beach if you want to turn round.
6. Wattamolla to Eaglehead Rock
Wattamolla Beach to Big Marley Beach Info Time: 1 hour each way Distance: 3.5KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Unfortunately public transport is not available for this hike. If you’re driving, park at Wattamolla Beach Car Park.
One of the best Royal National Park walks is to Eaglehead Rock. Although we actually walked straight past the highlight which is Curracurrong Falls – a waterfall which flows over the cliff and into the ocean, it was still a fantastic walk.
Eaglehead Rock is another highlight of this walk as the rock is shaped like an eagle’s head which is pretty cool. What I loved about this walk is how it’s very much in an open space and makes you feel like you’re a million miles away.
7. Garie Beach To North Era Campground
Garie Beach to North Era Campground Info Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour each way Distance: 2KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Unfortunately public transport is not available for this hike. If you’re driving, park at Garie Beach Car Park.
If you’re looking for an amazing Royal National Park coastal walk then you must go on the Garie Beach to North Era Campground hike!
I don’t think I’ve seen a hiking path literally on the beach before and as you walk along The Garie Beach, you’ll then pass through the rolling hills over to North Era Campground. It’s not the easiest hike in this list because there are quite a few hills to go up and down which is why it takes longer than 30 minutes one way.
What I loved about this hike is trying to get my head around the many homes dotted on this path. When we spoke to one of the residents, they said that they had to walk the entire trek from their car to their home with their shopping.
A couple of times a year the residents would pitch in and pay for a helicopter if they needed heavier items. To me, it’s quite incredible how you can live off the grid, in the second oldest national park in the world, right in the middle of Sydney!
How to get to Winifred Falls Info Time: 30 minutes each way Distance: 2KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Unfortunately public transport is not available for this hike. If you’re driving, park at the car park on Warumbul Road.
Firstly, I couldn’t believe how many times we had passed the turn off for the track and had no idea it existed before.
The path down to the falls is quite steep and takes about 30 minutes. When we visited it was very busy but it’s a cool spot everyone should make the effort to visit. It’s just the walk back up isn’t that much fun!
12. South West Arm Pool Walk
How to get to South West Arm Pools Info Time: 1 hour each way Distance: 3.5KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Unfortunately public transport is not available for this hike. If you’re driving, park at the car park on Warumbul Road.
If you continue on from Winifred Falls, you’ll come to South West Arm Pool. When we visited a few years back, the path wasn’t that well trodden on but things might have changed now.
The interesting part is that as soon as we left Winifred Falls, the path was completely quiet. When we arrived at South West Arm Pool, there were a couple of boats there. We sat on the rocks and had our picnic lunch before going for a swim. There’s a rope swing there too!
9. Palona Cave Walk
How to get to Palona Cave Walk Info Time: 30 minutes each way Distance: 2.5KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Jump on the train from Sydney to Waterfall and start the walk from there. If you’re driving, park at the car park on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive.
If you’re looking for a quieter walk in Royal National Park, opt for the Palona Cave Walk. This one hour return walk will take you right to the Palona Cave and over to some waterfalls.
I went on this hike a few years back with a tour which was great! People have been known to camp at the cave but I reckon it would be pretty cold at night.
How to get to Karloo Pools Info Time: 1 hour each way Distance: 5KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Jump on the train from Sydney to Heathcote Station and start the walk from there. If you’re driving, park at the car park on Wilson Parade.
When we visited Karloo Pools, we were actually trying to find another pool (more below) but ended up staying here instead.
Although Karloo Pools is one of the busier places to swim in the Royal National Park, there’s a reason why. The pool is really beautiful and it’s a cracking spot to spend the day at. Unfortunately many other people think the same so don’t be disappointed if you see people playing loud music and floating around on their floaties here.
We actually visited again in Winter and it was truely beautiful as there wasn’t a single other person around.
You could potentially get here by public transport – just get the train to Heathcote.
11. Olympic Pools In Royal National Park
How to get to Olympic Pools Info Time: 1.5 – 2 hour each way Distance: 8KM each way Public Transport Friendly: Jump on the train from Sydney to Heathcote Station and start the walk from there. If you’re driving, park at the car park on Wilson Parade.
So that pool I was telling you about that we couldn’t find from Karloo Pools is Olympic Pools.
We came back a second time to find this hidden swimming spot in Royal National Park and eventually found our way there.
Just follow the same path to Karloo Pools, then keep to the left hand side of the pools and follow the river. After about an hour of walking from Karloo Pools, you’ll come across loads of swimming pools. At the end you’ll find the biggest pool which is Olympic Pools.
Funnily enough, when we found Olympic Pools, there wasn’t a single soul there and we didn’t swim because it’s kinda overbearing at the size of it. If we saw others swimming in it, I’m sure we would have gone for it. The irony!
No map sorry! We hiked this route a while ago and it doesn’t come up on Google Maps!
13. Kelly’s Falls
How to get to Kelly’s Falls Info Time: 30 minutes each way Public Transport Friendly: Jump on the train from Sydney to Stanwell Park Station and start the walk from there. If you’re driving, park at the car park at Kelly’s Falls Picnic Area.
We thought we’d mention a couple more hikes just outside of Royal National Park.
Kelly’s Falls are located just outside of the Royal National Park. These spectacular falls are a proper hidden gem but just be careful with trying to get to the bottom as the path isn’t that well trodden on.
Head over to Sri Venkateswara Temple to get an authentic Indian lunch. We’ve not eaten Indian food out of India that tasted like the real thing until we came here.
How to get to Sea Cliff Bridge Lookout Info Time: 15 minutes each way Public Transport Friendly: Jump on the train from Sydney to either Scarborough Station or Coalcliff Station and start the walk from there. If you’re driving, park at the car park on the side of the road in the designated car parking spots.
15. Looking For Other Things To Do In Royal National Park In Sydney?
If Royal National Park walks isn’t your thing, there’s still some cool things to do in Royal National Park.
Firstly, you can go surfing at the Garie Beach. This beach is stunning – it’s the type of place you’d want to spend all day at.
Hire a rowing boat at Audley. We had loads of fun on the boat and we often recommend this as a fun dates idea in Sydney.
Or hire a canoe at Audley if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous.
Just be careful if you bring a picnic with you to Audley. There’s so many birds there who are completely used to people feeding them so it’s not fun to be around when you want a peaceful or romantic picnic setting. There is a cafe and toilet facilities on site.
Find More Sydney Hikes & Beaches
If you’re looking for more places to visit in Sydney, look no further!