The Royal National Park, south of The Shire, is the world’s second oldest national park (Yellowstone National Park was first). The Royal covers around 15,000 hectares of coastal scrub, hard-to-reach beaches, cliffs and rock formations… and it’s only an hour from the CBD.
For the early riser: Garawarra Farm to North Era
Time: 1-2 hours, map
If you’re a morning person, you’ll know there’s no better feeling than catching the suns first light. The headland that connects Burning Palms and North Era is the perfect spot to do just that – with a thermos of tea in hand. Leave your car in the Garawarra Farm car park and follow the signposts to North Era. It’s an easy walk down, but will get your heart rate up on the return. Make sure you pack a head torch because otherwise you won’t be able to see the track and there are rocks a-plenty. No one wants a sprained ankle at 6am in the morning!
Once you reach the headland, find a spot to soak up the views. You can either head back after the sunrise or, continue along the track to Burning Palms where you can check out the Figure 8 rock pools if it’s low tide. Note: To catch the sunrise, this walk needs to be done in winter as deer shooting takes place until 5:30am in the morning… and you don’t want to take that risk!
For the weekend explorer: The Coastal Walk
Time: 2 days, map
Want to make a weekend of it? The Coastal Walk is a 2-day, 26km walk that needs to be done at least once. It begins in Bundeena and finishes in Otford and sees you walking across cliffs and beaches, all while taking in the gorgeous views. Spend the night at North Era campground, but be sure to book in advance as there are only 12 campsites and in peak season, they book up fast. The walk is best done in the warmer months as you can stop at the beaches along the way for a quick dip, our pick are Little Marley, Wattamolla and Garie . A good level of fitness is required for this one, especially if you’re carrying a backpack with your overnight gear.
For the day walker: Lady Carrington drive
Time: 3 hours, map
While most walks in the Royal National Park follow the coast, this one follows the Hacking River so the scenery is completely different. Think blue gums, birds and Indigenous rock art. It’s the perfect walk if you’re planning on using the time to catch-up with a friend, as it’s not too strenuous so you won’t be out of breath! Plus, it’s quite lengthy (10km one-way) so you have plenty of time to chat.
For the view-hunter: Wedding Cake Rock
Time: 1.5 hours, map
You’ve been living under a rock (a wedding cake rock?) if you haven’t heard about this glorious location. To get to the white cliffs, leave your car in the car park in Beachcomber Rd, Bundeena. From there, it’s all a (well-signposted) adventure! You’ll pass through plenty of steep and rocky tracks and if you do it after rainfall, you’ll come across mud: plenty of mud. So don’t go bringing out your fresh Nikes.As Wedding Cake Rock’s popularity is rising, aim to explore it in the early morning to avoid the masses. The edge of the rock has been roped off for safety but you’ll still be able to capture the views.
How to get there
Entrance to the Royal National Park costs $11 per vehicle, and is open from 7am to 8.30pm, unless you’re staying overnight. If you don’t have a car you can catch the train to Cronulla, then catch the ferry to Bundeena, which is located inside the national park. If you’re going hiking, bring plenty of water, and watch out for rips at unprotected beaches.