After eight months living in Sydney, I didn’t find anywhere in Australia I loved more than Royal National Park. A short 1 hour train ride and 15 minute boat ride from Central Station in Sydney’s downtown is the world’s second oldest national park and, in my opinion, the world’s best coastal walk. I went every chance I got.
The train from Central takes you straight to Cronulla, the last stop. It’s an easy train ride; with a good book or podcast it passes in no time at all. From there you have to make your way down to the docks, where you can catch a ferry across the bay to Bundeena, where the coastal walk starts. The boat costs $6, but if you’re a student you can get a concession ticket for $2. It’s a total steal. The ferry ride is beautiful and easy; it’s a great place to get everything in order for the hike. I always packed a water and a gatorade, and a variety of snacks, like jerky or almonds. If you forgot anything, there’s a change to grab it at the little grocery store on the Bundeena side. I couple times I had to run in and grab sunscreen before setting out for the hike.
There’s two ways to get to the trail. The first time I went I followed the coast and wend across the Bundeena beach. It’s beautiful, but tough if you’re in runners to walk across the sand. You essentially follow the beach to the other side where you’ll see a small marker for the beginning of the trail. This takes you to the very beginning of the trail, which is beautiful, but requires you to hike through the internal bush for a good few kilometers which is both much more challenging and much less picturesque than the coastal trail. The bush floor in this portion is made up of sand, so, again, the hike is much more difficult, and is mainly up hill as well. It’s nice if you’re up for it, but otherwise you can skip straight to the coastal walk.
After the first time I usually would skip that portion of the hike and go straight to the coastal trail in order to maximize distance along the coast. The trail takes at least two days if you’re going to do the whole thing, so unless you’re in for the real deal you have to factor in both ways, which definitely limits how far you can go. A reasonable landmark for a good morning hike is the Wedding Cake Rock, which I’ll get to.
You reach the coastal trail by cutting through the residential streets. From there you walk along an inland trail towards the coast, about 10-15 minutes.
The coastline is amazing. The trail takes you in and out from the cliff edge, and on a stormy day you can see the clouds rolling in over the ocean. Depending on how far far you go there’s a bit of up and down, hiking down to the sea level and then back up.
Arguably the main event is the Wedding Cake Rock, although officially you’re not allowed anywhere near it. For security reasons, there’s a big fence around the rock area but it’s been opened up so you can squeeze through and come out on the other side. Maybe not advisable, since the rock can apparently collapse into the ocean at any given moment, but it’s definitely a cool experience to be out on the edge like that. And the photo opp is pretty spectacular.
The park is massive, and you can keep going forever. You can also start from a number of different spots, including the south end of the park which makes it easier to reach the figure eight pools, another fun spot that I’ll cover in a different post. I would recommend Royal National Park to anything who has a day in New South Wales.