The Munmorah State Conservation Area on New South Wales’ (NSW) Central Coast is an underrated natural haven. Situated between Budgewoi and Catherine Hill Bay, in the Lake Macquarie area, are lesser known beaches, coastal trails and lookouts.

Considering how close the Munmorah State Conservation Area is to Sydney, you’d expect the area to be better known. But that’s the beauty of exploring Munmorah. You’ll be able to check out world class nature without the crowds (for now anyway!)

This beautiful part of the world can be enjoyed any time of year. For speed hiking, visiting outside of summer would be ideal. But if you’re all about the optimal swimming conditions, then summer might be better suited for your visit to Munmorah’s sensational beaches. So get your crew together, jump in the car and make your way to Munmorah!

Beck stands beside a shallow, thin strip of clear ocean water, with pink and green rock hues within. The sky is mostly clear.
Beck admiring the rock pools at the northern end of Moonee Beach, Munmorah State Conservation Area.

Munmorah State Conservation Area | Day Trip Guide

Our day trip guide will unearth the highlights of the area which include the increasingly popular Pink Sea Caves. The Munmorah State Conservation Area is located within Sydney’s basin. This certainly explains the area’s epic geological wonders! There’s also the epic Rainbow Caves, which we will cover as part of this guide too.

Other than amazing caves, Munmorah has plenty to offer for those fond of the coast. We’ll cover the best coastal walk in the area (which takes you to both the Pink Sea Caves and Rainbow Caves). Plus, we’ll reveal the lookouts and beaches worth exploring.

Munmorah isn’t a large area. So if you’re in a bit of a rush, it would be easy to see all of the highlights in a day, maybe even a half day, depending on how fast you hike!

All of the attractions can be easily visited from Sydney, Central Coast or Newcastle. But with many other great hikes and natural wonders in the Lake Macquarie area, we recommend exploring Munmorah as part of a weekend trip.

Check out our Top 4 Walks in Lake Macquarie to fill the rest of your weekend’s itinerary!

Dan is ankle deep in the shallow whitewashed waters on a white sand beach. He is pointing at a gap in a rock cliff which is a  very narrow opening of a cave. The sky is clear.
Dan pointing to Rainbow Caves on Ghosties Beach, Munmorah.

Highlights of Munmorah State Conservation Area

Wybung Lookout

Before you get stuck into any hiking, we recommend the Wybung Lookout as your first stop. Keep in mind, you’ll be driving on unsealed roads throughout this area to get to lookouts such as this one. But the road quality is fairly good with flat and consistent gravel. Our 2WD managed well.

The parking for this lookout is quite conspicuous. Just a tiny turning bay to the side of the road (see below). There’s likely only enough space here for three or so cars. Essentially, the lookout is located right where you park. We wandered just a few metres off the road onto dirt terrain. For the perfect photo together, we set up the tripod and stood just before the dense coastal heath.

The lookout provides distant views of Birdie Beach and Bird Island. The luscious green heathland contrasted nicely to the sweeping bright blue of the ocean. We enjoyed this lookout. It provides nice overall views of the area.

Feel free to drive further along to Wybung Head for another lookout (Wybung Head Lookout). We would have, but our stomachs were rumbling, having walked the Pinny Beach return trail that morning. So we headed to Frazer Beach for some lunch, knowing there would be a spectacular headland lookout to see afterwards.

Beck and Dan stand among the coastal heath, admiring the coastal views in the distance. The sky is partly cloudy.
Wybung Lookout is one of the best lookouts in Munmorah State Conservation Area.

Frazer Beach

This was a perfect lunch stop. There is a huge car park at Frazer Beach, plus plenty of picnic tables. According to Londoner in Sydney, there are some amazing rock pools located to the right of Frazer Beach. We wish we had more time to explore. But admittedly, after throwing down lunch, we were keen to crack on with today’s main agenda. That would be, taking on Moonee Beach trail to find the incredible Pink Sea Caves.

We were so keen to start some speed hiking, that we didn’t take any photos from our picnic bench at Frazer Beach. Instead, we were able to capture Frazer Beach from the Snapper Point Lookout. This lookout provided stunning 180 degree coastal views. Plus, it was a unique vantage point for the adjacent headlands and associated beaches.

WHAT IS THIS SPEED HIKING YOU KEEP BANGING ON ABOUT? We enjoy a good workout. But we also love to travel and explore beautiful locations. I mean, who wants to be road running in a concrete jungle or stuck in a gym? Speed hiking combines the best of both worlds. We hike quickly to experience an aerobic effect (huff and puff), whilst enjoying the stunning natural surrounds of wherever we choose to explore.

So for epic views of Frazer Beach, check out Snapper Point Lookout. This is where you’ll be headed next!

Dan walks up a dirt trail with views of a beach. The surrounding green headland provides a boundary for the water. Clouds are scattered in the sky.
Frazer Beach, Munmorah State Conservation Area.

Snapper Point Lookout

Other than the gorgeous views of Frazer Beach, you’ll also have the best seat in the house for the Snapper Point blowhole. Beck and I have been blessed with exploring some amazing blow holes in NSW such as the Kiama Blowhole. The Snapper Point blowhole isn’t quite as extraordinary. But the carved out cliff wall and the resultant cave is epic nevertheless. Expect a roaring crash as the ocean penetrates the cave and smashes within.

A moody sky dominates the background. A indented headland with a large cave invites a large swell inside to crash and break.
Views from Snapper Point Lookout.

At Snapper Point Lookout, there is a decent sized car park. Just meer steps away are the stunning views of Frazer Beach and on the other side of the headland; Snapper Point blowhole. Feel free to explore the Snapper Point headland some more. It can get a bit windy here so make sure to have a wind jacket handy in the cooler months.

Again, we were chomping at the bit to get to the Pink Caves in time for low tide. So after checking out the lookout, we headed slightly inland to begin the Moonee Beach Trail; the gateway to the Pink Caves.

A small beach is blurred in the background. A dense but thinly leafed green plant with white and pink flower tips is in sharp focus in the foreground. The sky is cloudy.
Views of a blurred Frazer Beach from the Snapper Point Lookout.

Munmorah State Conservation Area Hiking Preview

Moonee Beach Trail (includes Pink Caves and Rainbow Caves)

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 12km
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 113m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trailhead: Moonee Beach Trailhead

Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated this trail

Moonee Beach Trail

The car park for the Moonee Beach Trail is tiny. There’s probably enough space for half a dozen cars at most. See below for help with finding the car park.

The Moonee Beach trail is an easy to walk fire trail with a gentle undulating terrain. You’ll be hiking adjacent to the coastline, and close enough for engaging coastal views. You’ll pass by Ghosties and then Timbers Beach before finally arriving at Moonie Beach. This is the beach from which you can access the Pink Caves.

We enjoyed our speed hike to Moonee Beach. The terrain allowed us to work up a solid pace. Of course, once we arrived at the northern end of Moonie Beach, we applied the speed hiking brakes! To find the Pink Caves involves negotiating some rock platforms which requires a bit more caution and a slower hiking speed.

A bird takes flight in a partly cloudy sky. Waves roll in, breaking on the sand and crashing onto the rocky platform seen in the foreground.
The northern end of Moonee Beach, en route to the Pink Sea Caves.

Once you arrive at the rock platform, you’ll pass by beautiful rock pools. They’re deep enough for a swim if you’re interested. But this would only be safe to do so during low tide. In fact, you should only be visiting the Pink Caves during low tide for safety reasons. The last thing anyone wants is herds of tourists hurting themselves here and needing to be rescued. Unfortunately, this has already happened time and time again at the Figure 8 Pools in the Royal National Park!

Luckily, the rock platform terrain is quite safe and easy to navigate. You’ll soon arrive at a slight bend in the rocky cliff face. As you turn the corner, you’ll first set eyes on the cave. You’re almost there!

Pink Caves

Beck and I can’t believe how little information there is online about the Pink Caves. For such an amazing natural attraction, it’s barely known. Perhaps a hidden gem for locals, we’ll hold ourselves partly responsible for spreading the word on this spectacular location. We’ve written about them on a couple of websites, including Weekend Notes.

Beck is dwarfed by a large gap in the rocky platform, stained by a vibrant pink colour. She observes the water levels drop from a safe distance inside a cave.
The incredible Pink Sea Caves found in the Munmorah State Conservation Area.

Essentially, the rock platform beginning at the northern end of Moonee Beach continues all the way up until the cave. This is where you’ll find a thick split in the rock platform. It’s quite a large gap on the water’s edge but narrows as it meanders its way into the cave.

Once you’re inside the cave, you’ll hear the thunderous crash of the ocean penetrating the gap and curious echo that follows. But as the whitewash settles and water levels drop, what is exposed is an amazingly bright pink rock on the inside of the walls of the split rock platform.

We were truly taken aback by the vivid colours. You’ll be left mesmerised and wanting to stay and experience it for hours! But just remember, it’s only really safe to be in the cave during low tide. So don’t stay too long, particularly if the tide is coming in. Afterwards, rejoin the Moonee Beach trail so you can crack on with the rest of the day’s activities.

For the most comprehensive guide on the Moonee Beach Trail and how to find the Pink Caves, check out our guide here.

Rainbow Caves

If the Pink Caves wasn’t enough for you, there’s yet another cave to check out. Admittedly, this will add (another) detour onto the Moonee Beach trail. But we’re guessing you don’t mind squeezing in another cave!

The Rainbow Caves are located at the southern end of Ghosties Beach. So with that in mind, once you’re back onto Moonee Beach, you’ll need to continue southwards on the beach. This would be instead of re-joining the fire trail, where you initially entered on to the beach.

A rough guide on the highlights of the extended Moonee Beach trail.

You’ll follow a bend at the southern end of Moonee Beach which will take you onto Timbers Beach. Before you know it, you’ll be strolling onto Ghosties Beach with the imposing but irrepressible cliff face staring back at you. Very obvious is the creamy sandstone with orange ripples scattered horizontally and vertically over the cliff face. As you get closer, you’ll notice the large vertical opening in the cliff wall. It’s actually an opening to a cave.

The clear sky is vibrant blue. A tall but narrow slit in the roughened sandstone cliff creates an opening. Whitewash from the rolling waves create disturbance.
Rainbow Caves, Ghosties Beach.

The Rainbow Caves is another spot that should only be explored during low tide. Because we had prioritised the Pink Caves, the tide has already come well and truly in when we had arrived. So we had to just admire from the shore. That was great in itself! Again, for a bit more detail on exploring the Rainbow Caves, check out our comprehensive extended Moonee Beach trail guide.

Catherine Hill Bay

Visiting Catherine Hill Bay is a fantastic way to finish the day. Admittedly, Beck and I enjoyed great views of Catherine Hill Bay Beach from extra exploration beyond the Moonee Beach trail (see map above) before seeing the Pink Caves. So we didn’t visit the town itself. But you should! It’s a historical heritage-listed former mining town with much charm and character.

If you’re keen to check out the unofficial viewpoint that we did, listen up! Once you arrive at the northern end of the Moonee Beach trail, instead of continuing on the flat rocky platforms to the right for the Pink Caves, you’ll head straight up a rocky trail. This takes you above and past the Pink Caves. You’ll continue adjacent to the coastline and even slightly inland. The trail will eventually lead to this decent vantage point over Catherine Hill Bay Beach. From here, you’ll be able to see the old coal-loading wooden jetty, calm ocean water and flat rocky platforms and pools.

An old wooden jetty stands proudly in a clam ocean. The sky is mostly cloudy. Ripples in the rock pools in the foreground remind you of the ongoing ocean activity despite its calmness.
Catherine Hill Bay Beach.

SIDE NOTE: To see even more pink caves, from this viewpoint of Catherine Hill Bay, you’ll need to slightly backtrack. Afterwards, you’ll essentially head towards the ocean down some uneven rocky terrain. Make sure to take care as you near the water’s edge. As you veer to the right, you’ll see a large semi-circular bay. A feature of which, are small cave openings that litter the cliff face. Similar to the main Pink Caves, you’ll notice vibrant pink coloured rocks unearthed as they’re left exposed from the water levels dropping.

Accessing views of Catherine Hill Bay and more pink caves.
Accessing views of Catherine Hill Bay and more pink caves.

On a hot day, Catherine Hill Bay would be perfect for a dip after hiking the Moonee Beach trail. So add it to your list. We wish we had!

Munmorah State Conservation Area Recap

After reading this day itinerary, you may be thinking that the Munmorah State Conservation Area is all about the Pink Caves. Well, there’s no denying that the Pink Caves are the main drawcard. They’re a phenomenal natural attraction, which is no overstatement. But, we hope you take time to visit all of the other highlights on offer. With numerous stunning beaches, epic coastal lookouts and other caves to explore, Munmorah is an excellent choice for a day trip.

Dan stands silhouetted by the opening of a sea cave. The sky is partly cloudy. The ocean rushes through a large split in the rock platform.
Looking out from the Pink Sea Caves.

Getting to Sydney

Flights: Of course, you’ll need to fly to Sydney to do this trip from abroad. If you’re travelling to Sydney from overseas, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search.

Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. If you’re interstate, subscribe to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts to and from other states. You can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.

Getting to/from Munmorah State Conservation Area

Munmorah State Conservation Area is in Lake Macquarie on the Central Coast. From Sydney, it’s a 1.5-2 hour drive. From Newcastle, it’s approximately an hour.

To explore the Munmorah State Conservation Area, you’ll need a car. There are no public transport options for accessing this park. Using RentalCars.com is a fantastic search engine for finding the cheapest car hire. It’s what we use to hire cars in Australia. The park consists of many unsealed roads. But when dry, they are fine to drive on with a 2WD. Feel free to use our link to find the car you’re looking for.

Accommodation

For Beck and I, exploring Munmorah was the final day of a small honeymoon trip. So we actually drove back to Sydney after checking out this area. Otherwise, we would have considered camping at Frazer Beach Campground or the Freemans Campground. The Frazer Beach Campground has probably the better location being situated right on the beach. However, Freemans isn’t too far away from Birdie Beach and has superior facilities.

The rest of our trip was based around the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie. Of course, we are big fans of the great outdoors and love a spot of camping. But it was our honeymoon after all. So we splurged a bit when it came to accommodation in nearby Lake Macquarie.

Dan and Beck walk down a small and narrow wooden jetty towards a glorious sun setting over a calm lake.
Lake side views from Squid’s Ink Motel, Lake Macquarie.

For stunning accommodation right on the lake that’s also great value, we recommend Squid’s Ink Motel. We were thrilled with the small private jetty on site which provided stunning views for sunset. The owner was super friendly and even upgraded us to a better lakeside room free of charge. The room was small but it was just right for our one night stay here.

A sunset ligers on the horizon. Viewed from a motel window, tables, chairs and plants cover the outdoor area.
Lake side views from Squid’s Ink Motel.

When searching for accommodation, we always compare Booking.com and Airbnb.

There are ripples in the aqua toned water. As the ocean calms and drops, the lower pink colour of the rock is exposed. Seaweed surrounds the rocks.
More of those stunning pink rocks seen among the Munmorah State Conservation Area coastline.

Local Supplies

To get the most out of the day, bring a packed lunch and plenty of water and snacks. Our go-to grocery stores when travelling in Australia are Aldi and Woolworths. They will cover all the basic requirements.

Total Costs

  • Accommodation: $90AUD/night ($67USD) for two people
  • Petrol: $20AUD/person ($15USD)
  • Food: $10AUD/person ($7USD)

= $55AUD/person ($41USD)

If you add a nights accommodation around the Lake Macquarie area, expect total costs to be about $75AUD/person ($41USD). If you decide to camp, that’ll knock down the costs to around $40-45AUD/person ($30-33USD) for a day trip.

Five Hiking Gear Essentials for Munmorah

For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With.

Two pairs of hiking boots, a backpack and a red and black flannelette shirt lay on top of one another on a white sand beach with the ocean's waves blurred in the background.
Exploring Ghosties Beach.

Trail Navigation

Trail navigation can get a little bit tricky if you’re exploring in and around the pink caves. So consider downloading an online map before you set out. We recommend using our Wikiloc for GPS guided directions if you want to thoroughly explore the Pink Caves and also check out the Rainbow Caves.

For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during the hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.

Bonus Tips

  • Check the tides: The Pink Caves should only be explored during low tide for safety reasons. Same goes for the Rainbow Caves. But even then, the Rainbow Caves may be best left for experienced divers when it comes to exploring deep inside the cave.
  • Make it a day trip: Although there is a bit to see, if you’re up for a long day of exploring, this itinerary is certainly doable in a day from Sydney or Newcastle. It’s probably better to attempt in summer when the days are longer.
  • Or make it a weekend trip: Combine a day trip in Munmorah with a day exploring any of the other great walks in Lake Macquarie.

Have you been to the Pink Caves before? Let us know in the comments section below.


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