Last Sunday was sunny and clear so I headed to the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, for the park’s Coast Track. Walking is an excellent exercise and coastal tracks provide outdoor workouts combined with natural landscapes and gorgeous views. Who needs anything else, right?
The Royal National Park has an extension of 151 m2, it was the first National Park declared by Australia in 1879, and the second one declared in the WORLD after Yellowstone in USA (which is the one that started the whole “National Park” term). This link provides a list of all National Parks by countries (That’s just in case you are like me and enjoy reading as much information as you can gather). I was surprised to learn that Australia is the absolute world leader in National Parks declared. I had my suspicious that it was on the top 5, but still amazed to know that the country has 685 parks registered followed (not so closely) by China with 208. The importance of National Parks is the conservation commitment the government does to protect these areas, due to the fact that they are of great value because of the flora and/or fauna present. National Parks are restricted for commerce, activities and construction among other limitations as well.
Anyway, enough data for this post, back to the coast track. The coast track is the most famous walk in the Royal, it’s 23 km in its full length and it’s recommended to finish it in two days. In the NSW National Park website is all the information you will need about the track (I love that website, especially the interactive map section it’s great)
My plan is to eventually complete the full-length 23 km of track in one go. However, last Sunday I got to Wattamolla Beach (9 km from Bundeena) and returned, for a total of 18 km. I finished in 4 hours, taking time for some photographs and a couple of breaks, but in general I did it in a steady workout pace.
The track starts in Beachcomber Avenue, Bundeena. When I first got there the firefighters of the area were keeping a survey of the first language spoken by the walkers (I was the second Spanish speaker of the day, yei!) The purpose of the survey is to have first aid and other services available and written in the languages the tourists speak. I think it’s a great initiative and it’s nice that all languages are being considered.
The first section of the track is wide open and flat, not that very challenging. After 700 m approx., the nice views and proper coastal walk begins. For the next 2 km you will walk mostly in a platform constructed for this purpose, reaching several breaks with risks and cliffs that provide nice views and photo opportunities. Around this time of the year (May to September), the area hosts the migration of humpback whales. It’s nice to seat, relax and watch the whales perform bridges or showing their tales in the sea. Only for this reason the walk is well worth it.
Something worth mentioning, and that I love about well-organised countries such as Australia, is that at all times you have signalised posts telling you the track direction and route:
This track is very well-maintained and it’s hard to get lost but in some other tracks the posts are very handy and necessary.
Usually this first section of the track is crowded till the Wedding Cake rock (approx. 3 km from Bundeena) where most tourists stop and return.
The popular Wedding Cake rock is a cliff area which looks similar to a classic white wedding cake, hence the name! However, some time ago the authorities assessed the rock and concluded the area was unsafe, unstable and it could fall at any moment. For this reason a fence was installed to prevent people from reaching on to the rock, potentially hurting themselves. But, we live in an era of communications and thirst for great and unique photographs. All the times I’ve been in this area people are jumping the fence and taking pictures. Last Sunday there was even a queue to have their picture taken. I saw at least 50 people behind the fence!!!
This is a bit shocking for me, I know I should expect some people doing everything they can for a photograph, but there were even parents with young children. Also, majority of people around the area were jumping the fence, even though there are BIG signs telling you that it is illegal to jump it, that you will get a penalty if seen, and that you could actually DIE. Anyway, I don’t want to sound cranky but don’t do this, stay on the safe side of the fence as hurting yourself for a photograph it’s definitely not worth it.
I continued my walk to Marley’s head and Marley beach. I’m not a fan of using hiking boots on the sand, I must admit. This is the part of the track where I get cranky, but the beach is really lovely.
After Marley beach you will find Little Marley beach and from there it gets a bit challenging gaining altitude but at the same time providing gorgeous views. I took this panoramic shot with my iPhone in this section:
I continued my way to Wattamolla beach (5 km from Marley head). I was already feeling hungry but I pushed myself till the beach, which was great because Wattamolla is accessible by car so it’s a very popular spot. There are toilets available, tables and picnic areas. I didn’t have a picnic though, I only had a tuna can and a mandarin, but still, the other people’s BBQs smelled really nice!
In total it was a 9 km walk till the beach, I rested for 20 min and headed back to Bundeena for the return walk. The return trip I did it considerable quicker because I stopped less for breaks or pictures.
After Wattamolla you could continue the coastal track for the rest of the 12 km length to Otford, you could stop and camp there overnight, or you could return as I did. You could also start at Wattamolla and head North! The beauty of a well-maintained long coastal track as this one is that there are many possibilities into the same track, and accessible points at different stages. Hopefully in the future I can update you with other versions and side tracks.
Additional photos I took are in the gallery section, I hope you enjoy them because the day was sunny and beautiful. Overall I loved this track, the views are stunning and I highly recommend it. This is a collage of all the surfaces my boots stepped on!
- Track name: Royal National Park, Coast Track.
- Section: From Bundeena to Wattamolla.
- Length: 18 km return.
- Time: allow 4 – 5 hours.
- Australian grade: 4 (challenging).
- Fitness level: Good fitness level required for the 18 km length, you could return at any time.
- Kids friendly (Y/N): Partially, up to the wedding cake rock yes. Extending may be exausting for them.
- Pets friendly (Y/N): N.
- What to expect: Stairs, elevations, crossing small creeks, rocks, cliffs, bush, sand, beaches.
- Variations: Return at the Wedding cake rock (6 km return) or Marley beach (8 km return).
- Shoes required: I would recommend Hiking boots, some areas are slippery and proper boots provide better support for the ankles (especially in the rocky sections) but a good pair of sport shoes with support will do.
- Access: Beachcomber Avenue, Bundeena.
- By car: It’s 1 hour from the city. The park has an entry fee of $12 per vehicle. I paid the annual pass to avoid the queue at the entrance. The annual pass costs $65 and allows unlimited access, of the vehicle registered, to all NSW National Parks except Kosciusko.
- Public transport: Train from the city to Cronulla (T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra, 45 min), then Ferry from Cronulla – Bundeena Wharf (20 min) and then walking (approx. 15 min).
- Toilets: At the start of the walk (Bundeena) and at the end in Wattamolla beach.
- Water and food: None, bring supplies.
- NSW National parks link for this track. https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/the-coast-track
- Photographic opportunities: Endless, see Gallery.
- Recommended: Highly!
I hope you enjoyed this recap,
Have a nice day!