The Munmorah State Conservation Area (Munmorah National Park) 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. Certainly, you’ll want to visit the Munmorah State Conservation Area to explore stunning natural attractions such as Lake Munmorah, Snapper Point, Frazer Beach as well as the Pink Caves (now closed) and Rainbow Caves.
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 National Park. You’ll be able to check out world class nature without the crowds (for now anyway!)
UPDATE: on the 29th of July 2022, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) permanently closed access to the Pink Caves. Please respect the wishes of NSW NPWS and do not visit this area. This article was written well before the closure was announced.
Looking for other places to explore nearby? Check out our Top 4 Walks in Lake Macquarie guide.
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Munmorah State Conservation Area (Munmorah National Park)
Our guide will unearth the highlights of the area which include the increasingly popular Pink Caves (now closed). 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 (Moonee Beach Trail). Plus, we’ll reveal the lakes, lookouts and beaches worth exploring, including Lake Munmorah, Snapper Point and Frazer Beach.
Munmorah National Park 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. 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.
This beautiful part of the world can be enjoyed any time of year. To explore Munmorah National Park in cooler temperatures, visiting outside of summer would be ideal. But if you’re all about optimal swimming conditions, then summer might be better suited for your visit to Munmorah’s sensational beaches such as Frazer Beach. So get your crew together, jump in the car and make your way to Munmorah!
FYI – the Munmorah State Conservation Area is also known as Munmorah National Park, Munmorah State Recreation Area and Lake Munmorah State Conservation Area.
Highlights of Munmorah State Conservation Area
- Lake Munmorah
- Wybung Lookout
- Frazer Beach
- Snapper Point Lookout
- Moonee Beach Trail (includes Pink Caves and Rainbow Caves)
- Catherine Hill Bay
Lake Munmorah, AKA Munmorah Lake, is actually a lagoon that forms part of the Tuggerah Lakes. In addition, Lake Munmorah is the name of the suburb just north of the lagoon itself. Of course, as part of your trip to the Munmorah State Conservation Area, you’re free to visit the suburb and lagoon itself. But, if you’re on a tight schedule, we recommend just visiting the peaceful and serene lagoon.
Lake Munmorah is indeed a large lagoon. We think there are two great spots along the edges of Lake Munmorah, that are worth exploring. First, the boardwalk between Tom Burke Reserve and Colongra Bay Reserve is a great place to admire Lake Munmorah. The shared paved path provides lovely views of the calm lagoon. Second, Elizabeth Bay Park, AKA Elizabeth Bay Picnic Area is another nice spot to enjoy views of Lake Munmorah. Certainly, these are the two spots to soak in the quaint and still lagoon.
After checking out Lake Munmorah, we recommend going to the Wybung Lookout, AKA Munmorah Lookout. 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 with 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.
Frazer Beach makes for a perfect lunch stop. Basically, as you approach Frazer Beach, you’ll pass the Palms Picnic Area. Then, you’ll arrive at a huge car park at Frazer Beach, where there are plenty of picnic tables. We decided to have lunch on one of the picnic tables overlooking Frazer Beach – just wow, sensational views!
There are some amazing rock pools located to the right of Frazer Beach. Indeed, when people mention Munmorah State Conservation Area rock pools, they’re usually referring to the rock pools at Frazer Beach. We wish we had more time to explore these. But admittedly, after throwing down lunch, we were keen to crack on with hiking the Moonee Beach Trail to find the incredible Pink Caves.
We were so keen to find the Pink Caves, 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° coastal views. Plus, it was a unique vantage point for the adjacent headlands and associated beaches.
So, for epic views of Frazer Beach, check out Snapper Point Lookout. This is where you’ll be headed next!
Snapper Point Lookout
Snapper Point is one of the highlights of Munmorah National Park. 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 blowholes 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.
At Snapper Point Lookout, there is a decent-sized car park. Just mere 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 Snapper Point Lookout, we headed slightly inland to begin the Moonee Beach Trail; the gateway to the Pink Caves.
Modified Moonee Beach Trail
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 12km (extra distance includes visiting Pink Caves and Rainbow Caves)
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 115m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Moonee Beach Trailhead
Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated this trail
When it comes to Munmorah State Conservation Area walks, you can’t beat the Moonee Beach Trail. Keep in mind, that the usual Moonee Beach Trail doesn’t involve exploration of the Pink Caves and Rainbow Caves. This is all part of our Modified Moonee Beach Trail.
Anyway, the car park for the Moonee Beach Trail is tiny. There’s probably enough space for half a dozen cars at most. Click here for help with finding the car park.
Highlights of the Modified Moonee Beach Trail
The Moonee Beach trail is an easy to walk fire trail with a gently 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. 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.
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 and low swell. In fact, you should only be visiting the Pink Caves during low tide and low sell for safety reasons.
Luckily, the rock platform terrain is flat and quite easy to navigate at low tide. 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!
For many years, this amazing natural attraction, known as the Pink Caves or the Munmorah Sea Caves, remained barely known. Perhaps once a hidden gem for locals, we’ll hold ourselves partly responsible for spreading the word about this spectacular location.
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 the 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 and low swell. 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.
If the Pink Caves wasn’t enough for you, there’s yet another cave to check out. As mentioned, 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 on 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 onto the beach.
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 Rainbow Caves is another spot that should only be explored during low tide and low swell. Because we had prioritised the Pink Caves, the tide has already come well and truly in when we 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.
Find out more: Ghosties Beach Caves (Rainbow Caves) – The Ultimate 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.
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.
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!
Catherine Hill Bay Beach
Catherine Hill Bay Beach is a glorious white sand beach. Indeed, Catherine Hill Bay Beach has been voted one of the best beaches in Australia on multiple occasions. This won’t surprise you when you visit. The large beach is genuinely stunning and deserves a visit as part of your Munmorah National Park trip.
Catherine Hill Bay Pier
As mentioned, during the modified Moonee Beach Trail, you’ll enjoy exquisite views of Catherine Hill Bay, which include views of the Catherine Hill Bay Pier. This old coal-loading wooden jetty sits high above the calm ocean water and flat rocky platforms and pools. Certainly, the Catherine Hill Bay Pier is an attraction that deserves further exploration. From Catherine Hill Bay Beach, you can visit the old wooden jetty. By doing so, you’ll get unparalleled views of the historical Catherine Hill Bay Pier.
Munmorah State Conservation Area (Munmorah National Park) Recap
After reading this guide, 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 the 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 or weekend trip.
How to Get to 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.
Munmorah Camping Options
When it comes to Munmorah State Conservation Area camping (Munmorah National Park camping), there are plenty of options to choose from. We’ve handpicked the best Munmorah camping options below.
Catherine Hill Bay Camping
There aren’t any campsites or campgrounds at Catherine Hill Bay specifically. Alas, if you’re searching for Catherine Hill Bay camping options, you won’t find any! Thankfully, there are other camping options near Catherine Hill Bay.
Catherine Hill Bay Caravan Park
There are no Catherine Hill Bay Caravan Parks, just as there aren’t any campgrounds or campsites at Catherine Hill Bay. The closest you’ll get to a so-called Catherine Hill Bay Caravan Park is Ingenia Holidays Lake Macquarie. Located just north of Lake Munmorah, the Ingenia Holidays Lake Macquarie campsite is a highly-rated campsite, that’s well-positioned for exploring the Munmorah Conservation Area.
Other Lake Munmorah Camping (Lake Munmorah Caravan Park)
You’ll find other Lake Munmorah camping options. Central Coast Holiday Parks (Budgewoi Holiday Park) is the other most highly-rated caravan park in the area. Located on the southern shores of Lake Munmorah, the Budgewoi Holiday Park is a stellar Lake Munmorah camping option. Although it’s not named the Lake Munmorah Caravan Park, the Budgewo Holiday Park is the closest caravan park to a Lake Munmorah Caravan Park!
Frazer Beach Camping
Other than the Lake Munmorah camping options mentioned above, the Frazer Beach Campground, AKA Frazer Campground is another stellar choice for camping. As opposed to other Lake Munmorah camping options, Frazer Beach camping brings with it a whole other level of remoteness, relaxation and serenity. Being perched opposite Frazer Beach, the basic amenities campground is our first choice for camping at the Munmorah State Conservation Area.
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.
Of course, we are big fans of the great outdoors and love a spot of camping. But, we were exploring Munmorah State Conservation Area during our honeymoon after all. So we splurged a bit when it came to accommodation in nearby 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.
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.
Five Hiking Gear Essentials
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
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.
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 & Information
- Make it a day trip or a weekend 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. Otherwise, you could combine a day trip in Munmorah with a day exploring any of the other great walks in Lake Macquarie.
- Other places to see at Munmorah National Park: Tea Tree Picnic Area and Lookout and Birdie Beach are other great places to visit. We’ve also heard Birdie Beach camping isn’t a bad shout – that’s assuming, you don’t mind a nudist beach!
- Munmorah State Conservation Area isn’t dog friendly: better leave pooch behind on this occasion.
- NSW National Parks Munmorah Office: for your information, the national park office is located at 1 Blue Wren Drive, Wybung NSW 2259.
Have you been to the Munmorah National Park before? Let us know in the comments section below.