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Hiking The Royal National Park Coastal Walk In One Day

Hiking The Royal National Park Coastal Walk In One Day

The Royal National Park Coastal Walk (Coast Track) is one of the best hikes in New South Wales. Better yet, it’s located just south of Sydney, making it easily accessible. Despite being highly visited, the Royal National Park remains a hiking paradise. Even on the popular Royal National Park Coastal Walk, you’ll find calmness and tranquillity whilst hiking this trail.

There are many online guides about the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. So why should you spend time reading this one? Well, this guide is probably the most comprehensive guide about the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. Indeed, this coastal walk is often completed as an overnight hike. But, this guide includes detailed information about hiking the Royal National Park Coastal Walk in one day, which includes answering FAQs. We’ll also talk about how to get to and from the start and finish points of the trail, by car, by public transport or by using a combination of both.

Additionally, for those wanting to do an overnight hike or wanting to explore more of the Royal National Park, we also have you covered. After describing the Royal National Park Coastal Walk, we’ll cover information about camping along the Coast Track. We’ll then talk about shorter walks in the Royal National Park. Whilst we’re at it, we’ll also tell you about the most popular beaches and waterfalls in the Royal National Park.

Royal National Park Coastal Walk Sydney Guide

The Royal National Park Coastal Walk is also known as the Royal Coast Track, Royal Coastal Walk, Royal National Park Hike and Bundeena to Otford Walk (or Otford to Bundeena Walk, depending on which direction you walk). It’s one of the best Sydney coastal walks, let alone one of the best NSW coastal walks.

Being Sydney’s most popular national park, you may have done some hiking in the Royal National Park before. Perhaps you did one of the many shorter trails in the Royal National Park. Maybe you’ve just wanted to scope out Wedding Cake Rock or the Figure 8 Pools. These are all phenomenal natural attractions in their own right. But, the experience of completing the entire Royal National Park Coast Track should give you an even higher feeling of elation and accomplishment.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s a fairly gruelling affair. The hike is around 30.5km (including the Jibbon Head Track Loop). That’s without taking three of the main side trails (we’ll discuss details about these side trail options below). Also, you’ll be looking at almost 1,000m of accumulated elevation gain during the coastal walk.

Anyway, to help you get your bearings, we’ve provided an interactive map of the national park below. We’ll then provide the trail specs and a GPS-guided map for the Royal National Park Coastal Walk.

There's plenty of wildlife on the Royal National Park Coast Track. A sea eagle is perched on the rock, with the ocean in the background.

Royal National Park Map

Please find a map of the Royal National Park here.

Check out our Maroubra to La Perouse and Cronulla Walk to Kurnell (Cronulla Coastal Walk) guides

Royal National Park Coastal Walk Stats

  • Type: One-way
  • Distance: 30.5km
  • Time: 6.5–10 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 900m
  • Difficulty: Grade 5
  • Trailhead: Bundeena or Otford Lookout

As graded by NSW National Parks using the Australian Walking Track Grading System

Royal National Park Coast Track Map

Please find a GPS-guided map of the Royal National Park Coast Track here.

Hiking the Royal National Park Coastal Walk: Key Points


Head to the bottom of our guide for details about how to start and finish the hike in terms of parking and public transport options. As recommended by NSW National Parks, we started the hike from Bundeena. Beck had previously hiked from the Otford Lookout to the Figure 8 Pools, so we opted to start at Bundeena, an area she was less familiar with.

The starting point for the Royal National Park Coast Walk is totally dependent on your preference. The NSW National Parks website shows that the hike starts at the end of Beachcomber Avenue, which takes you directly to the Balconies. But, this means you miss out on the wonders of Jibbon Beach and Jibbon Head. So, we recommend including the Jibbon Beach Loop Track as part of your Royal National Park Coast Walk adventure. This means walking from Bundeena to Jibbon Head.

But anyway, Bundeena’s a pleasant and gentle start to a long day’s hike (if you’re doing it in one day). Bundeena itself is a small and quiet community, set atop the Royal National Park. Certainly, we recommend starting the Royal National Park Coastal Walk at Jibbon Beach – a charming and serene bay. Expect a few locals out walking their dogs or paddling in the shallow, calm waters. At the eastern end of the beach, you’ll trade sand for a coastal bush path, via a small assemblage of rocks, heading towards Jibbon Head.

Jibbon Beach, Bundeena. A small bay covered by the shade of the surrounding trees, has calm and shallow waters.
Jibbon Beach, Bundeena

Jibbon Head (Bundeena Lookout)

Also known as Port Hacking Point and Bundeena Lookout, Jibbon Head will present you with your first decent vantage point to enjoy the coastline. Quite soon after exiting the beach, you’ll be hiking along a dense bush track. You’ll hike in and out of areas of bush around Jibbon Head. This includes a more exposed section of the track early on, that gives you nice views of Little Jibbon Beach. Afterwards, the Royal National Park Coast Walk meanders and winds its way along the coast. It eventually spits you out onto an exposed and expansive rock platform area.

This is your first opportunity to explore the larger sandstone formations scattered along this stunning stretch of coast. There will be ample opportunity throughout the hike to explore the similar yet subtly different sandstone cliff walls.

As you follow around the headland, you’ll continue to hike in and out of the surrounding coastal bushland. Sections of this trail are less pronounced, but navigation is simple enough, with the coast to your left. You’ll eventually arrive at Shelley Beach, which signals the end of the Jibbon Beach Loop Track. After enjoying views of this well-concealed beach, you’ll continue on the similarly named Jibbon Track and head towards the Balconies.

Shelley Beach - a quiet, secluded beach is framed nicely but surrounding coastal bushland and heathland. The sky is clear, whilst waves rhythmically roll in onto shore.
Shelley Beach

Jibbon Engravings

Given we had been to the Jibbon Engravings previously, we didn’t complete the small side trail on this occasion. However, this side trail is only a slight detour of the Royal National Park Coast Walk. The side trail probably adds no less than 50 metres and easily re-connects to the Jibbon Beach Loop Track.

So you may as well add on this side trail if you haven’t seen the Jibbon Engravings before. The engravings are restored on an ongoing basis. But, they date back around 2,000 years, thanks to the Tharawal people – the traditional owners of the land.

To see the Jibbon Engravings, at around the time you first catch a glimpse of Little Jibbon Beach, you’ll notice a side trail to your right, heading slightly away from the coast. Soon enough, the side trail transforms into a boardwalk, which takes you onto a purpose-built platform, over the rocks. Besides protecting these Aboriginal sites, the platform provides a great viewpoint for the engravings.

After seeing all of the different engravings, simply descend the steps, and the boardwalk almost immediately guides you back onto the Jibbon Beach Loop Track. You’d then continue towards Jibbon Head (Port Hacking Point) as mentioned above.

On its own, starting and ending in Bundeena, the Jibbon Beach Loop Track, including the Jibbon Engravings side trail is around 4km.

The Balconies

The Jibbon Track slowly peels away from the coast, heading back inland. It’s an exposed track including sections of sand walking. So get ready for your calves to be burning, as well as your skin if you haven’t slipped, slopped, slapped and wrapped! With mostly dry and arid coastal heath by your side, you’ll be glad to meet the coastline once again for a more refreshing and vibrant ambience.

The Jibbon Track ends at a junction that signals the alternate (official) start of the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. At this point, sharply turn left to re-join the coastline, and head towards the Balconies. Otherwise, there’s an alternate trail, for the Wedding Cake gawkers, that cuts further inland, skipping the Balconies, taking you towards the Waterrun.

We shouldn’t talk though! We’ve completed the smaller Wedding Cake Rock out and back trail from here before. But even so, you should at least add the Balconies to this shorter trail, as your first main attraction.

In line with Jibbon Head, the Balconies is an even vaster stretch of sandstone platforms. It’s a playground for nature enthusiasts and geology nerds alike. The whiteness of the sandstone is truly awe-inspiring. It’s one of the major highlights of the entire Royal National Park Coastal Trail.

Following the Balconies, you’ll join another boardwalk that guides you further south. With track upgrades over the last decade, we’ve heard people dismiss the boardwalks as spoiling the adventure and wildness of the hike. But in protecting the land, such infrastructure maintains the integrity of the trail, benefiting the many people who will hike here in the future.

The Waterrun

If anything, the superior tread and traction of the boardwalk makes hiking the Royal National Park Coast Track even easier. You’ll wind away from the coast, and then back towards it, multiple times, crossing undulating terrain. The meandering boardwalk cuts a sharp feature in the landscape, making for epic coastal hiking photography.

Eventually, you’ll descend a series of damp stone carved steps and stepping stones. The Waterrun briefly provides some shade, so stop here for a drink. When hiking on exposed trails, particularly in the warmer months, take any opportunity to rehydrate in the shade.

As you cross the tranquil stepping stones, you’ll have incredible views over the Pacific Ocean, framed by the opposing headlands. The puddles of water surrounding the stepping stones leak over the cliff’s edge. With many people purely walking to Wedding Cake Rock and back, expect this part of the trail to get busy.

Wedding Cake Rock

After ascending the Waterrun, you’ll come across more marvellously bright sandstone rock platforms and cliffs along the Royal National Park Coast Walk. You’ll know you’re approaching the Wedding Cake Rock, as the rock sandstone gets even whiter. Unfortunately, you’ll know Wedding Cake Rock is approaching for two other reasons.

One, sadly, mindless people have graffitied some of the rock platforms leading up towards Wedding Cake Rock. Two, there is a life-sized sign of an emergency rescuer, discouraging you from jumping the fence to stand atop Wedding Cake Rock. Even sadder, are the rescues and even suicides that have taken place here. So no matter what, don’t jump the fence.

What awaits you, from behind an ugly but necessary fence, is an amazingly shaped white sandstone cliff formation. The mystic formation, resembling layers of a wedding cake, has grown significantly in popularity over the last five years. So don’t expect to have this place to yourself. There’ll likely be puddles around. So be mindful of where you place your backpack if you’re keen to take the weight off for a breather during this part of the Royal National Park Coast Walk.

Wedding Cake Rock. One of the main attractions of the Royal National Park Coast Track is the well known Wedding Cake Rock. It's an amazing white sandstone cliff formation, resembling a wedding cake.
Wedding Cake Rock

Marley Head

Following Wedding Cake Rock, the trail should quieten again. For those only doing the Wedding Cake Rock return walk, they’ll miss out on some extraordinary coastal views and hidden beaches a little further south. The next major viewpoint is Marley Head. The boardwalk will lead you onto a rougher trail with loose rock underfoot. Pockets of coastal heathland surround you as you breathe in the sea breeze and take in the aspiring coastline.

Views of the Marley beaches from Marley Head. A rock platform surrounded by coastal heathland is in the foreground, as beaches, bushland and a partly cloudy sky is seen in the distance.
Views of Marley Beach

Marley Beach (West Marley Beach) and Little Marley Beach

To your right, you’ll see Marley Beach (AKA West Marley Beach), with Little Marley Beach seen further in the distance. Following a dirt trail along the Royal National Park Coast Walk, you’ll descend from Marley Head onto Marley Beach. As far as beaches go, this one is hard to beat. A seemingly untouched beach with gorgeous crystal clear waters and golden sand awaits you. The sand walking is challenging terrain for hiking, but your beautiful surroundings do more than enough to distract you.

After sand walking your way across Marley Beach, you’ll ascend out of the beach, and up onto its southern headland. The trail briefly flattens out, before descending once more onto Little Marley Beach. Very similar to Marley Beach, its gorgeous features will provoke a sense of chi.

Little Marley Beach. Turquoise waters, golden sand, surrounding bushland and a mostly clear sky provide a feeling of calmness.
Little Marley Beach

Not long after ascending from Little Marley Beach, there are even more brilliantly coloured sandstone rocks. Oddly shaped and vividly coloured red, orange, yellow and white rock formations protrude from the sandstone floor. If you think the sandstone around Wedding Cake Rock is epic, wait until you hike this part of the Royal National Park Coastal Track!

Dan on a beautiful section of the Royal National Park Coastal Walk (Coast Track) near Little Marley Beach


Soon enough, you’ll be greeted by more boardwalks. Large sections of the boardwalk leading to Wattamolla are downhill. As far as speed hiking goes, Beck and I, taking advantage of momentum, hiked really quickly down these trails, even breaking out into a jog at times.

The boardwalk will guide you to an immense natural swimming hole. Being a small body of water, it’s easily warmed by the relatively long hours of daylight in this part of the world. Expect people having a swim with some of the most amazing views out towards the ocean.

Following further descents, you’ll reach Wattamolla, which brings a definite change of ambience.

Natural swimming hole near Wattamolla. A clear swimming hole is surrounded by rocks and bushland with a mostly clear sky above.

Wattamolla Picnic Area

At Wattamolla, you’ll find a picnic area, a large car park and recently built bathrooms. Expect families around this section of the trail, picnicking or swimming at Wattamolla Beach. In addition, people will do the Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls out and back hike from here, so that’ll explain the extra hikers around.

Wattamolla Dam and Wattamolla Falls

From the Wattamolla Picnic Area are nice views of Wattamolla Falls. After periods of minimal rainfall, as we had experienced, a small waterfall and surrounding trickles will pour over the vertical cliff wall. During drought, it can dry up completely, but after consistent rainfall, it will look more spectacular. There are fences preventing exploration of the top of the falls for obvious safety reasons.

Wattamolla Falls as seen from the Wattamolla Picnic Area. A small waterfall and other small trickles are framed nicely by bushland in the foreground.
Wattamolla Falls as seen from the Wattamolla Picnic Area

There are a few different trails at this point which can be a bit confusing. In the past, there was a trail cutting through the picnic area that would lead you to Wattamolla Beach. As of late 2020, this trail is closed.

Instead, after seeing the waterfall, head across the picnic area on a paved path leading you past the car park and bathrooms. To stay on the Royal National Park Coastal Walk, follow the signs and continue straight, leading away from the car park.

Providential Point

Alternatively, if you’re interested in adding on the Providential Point side trail, instead, after the bathrooms, turn left. On the trail, you’ll immediately be surrounded by bushland and then you’ll enter an exposed grassy area. Turn left in order to access Wattamolla Beach. Continue straight to head towards Providential Point. You’ll arrive at a boardwalk to advance to this additional lookout.

We didn’t add on this side trail as we had visited previously when doing the Wattamolla to Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls return hike. Admittedly, the views from Providential Point aren’t the finest on the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. As you ascend away from Providential Point, your views slightly improve as you get above the bushland. But still, your views of Wattamolla Beach will still be impeded.

From this point, it’s a surprisingly steep hike that eventually flattens out to rejoin the Royal National Coast Walk trail.

Curracurrong Gulley (Curracurrong Cove)

Onwards from Wattamolla, is more of the same – a truly idyllic coastal setting with epic sandstone cliff walls. This stretch of the Royal National Park Coast Track will be one of your favourites. Partly, because there are several gulleys and creeks, creating an array of pristine cascades and one magnificent waterfall – Curracurrong Falls.

But first, you’ll pass Curracurrong Gulley. It’s a fitting preview of what is to come. As you pass this small gulley, you’ll enjoy calm and soothing streams of water, flowing towards and into the ocean. The theme of running water begins!

Curracurrong Gulley. A stream of water winds its way, from a rock landform, towards and into the ocean, seen in the distance, below a mostly clear sky.
Curracurrong Gulley

Then, the trail transitions, again, into a boardwalk, that ascend up and out of the gulley. Despite the gulleys and creeks, the surrounding coastal bushland looks fairly arid and dry at points. With the thought of the astonishing Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls ahead, your pace will lift a notch, as the boardwalk gives you stable terrain to hike on.

Before reaching Curracurrong Creek, you may notice a faint, unmarked side trail leading off to the left. This unofficial dirt trail leads you to the top of Eagle Rock (AKA Eagle Head Rock), where you won’t have views of it, but rather, views of Curracurrong Falls. There are no safety fences and the cliffs nearing the edge of Eagle Rock could be unstable so be careful if you take this side trail.

Otherwise, for views of both Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls, continue past this side trail, via the stepping stones, taking you through the creek. Although, there is the option to explore Curracurrong Creek itself, as it has mini-cascades and falls. But admittedly, I’m always too excited to see Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls, that I don’t explore the creek.

Eagle Rock, Curracurrong Falls and Eagle Rock Lookout

When hiking the Royal National Park Coastal Walk on this occasion, we didn’t go ‘off-trail’ for the best views of Eagle Rock and Curracurong Falls. Having been here before, we were full of adrenaline and so decided to just crack on with the hike. However, strictly following the Royal National Park Coast Walk means missing views of two of the finest attractions on this hike!

To avoid missing out, after climbing out of the creek, the trail briefly heads towards the ocean, before it bends to the right to follow adjacent to the coastline. It’s not very obvious, but at this bend of the boardwalk, is loose rock, coastal heathland and a series of rock platforms creating natural steps, to your left.

If you climb down them, carefully, you’ll be led closer to the cliff’s edge. Around the corner to your right, is a pseudo-cave and rock platforms replicating seats, a safe distance from the cliff’s edge. It’s literally the best seat in the house and a decent spot of shade. Regardless of the volume and size of the falls, any waterfall thundering into an ocean is a rare and special natural phenomenon. And then there’s a rock shaped like an eagle’s head. What more can I say?

Eagle Head Rock and Curracurrong Falls. With tourquoise ocean waters below, and clear sky above, the cliff wall is dominated by a long waterfall poring into the ocean, and a rock shaped like an eagle's head.
Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls

Garie Beach Lookout, Garie Beach & Little Garie Beach

After a short distance, you’ll pass Curra Brooks. It’s yet another beautiful array of cascades, a feature of this stretch of the Royal National Park Coast Walk, which really defines it. Despite the magnificence of the preceding creeks and falls, this set of cascades is still really mesmerising.

After passing through Curra Brooks, you’ll be well over halfway through the Royal National Park Coast Walk. Again, expect the trail to be a little quieter following Eagle Rock. Although, some people will hike to Eagle Rock from the opposite direction (Garie Beach Car Park), instead of starting from Watamolla Car Park. So the drop-off in hikers won’t be as obvious as when you passed Wedding Cake Rock.

What follows is a fairly long stretch of boardwalk, which for this eventful hike, is comparatively uneventful. Of course, the brilliant coastline is always on show, displaying its beauty, whilst the ocean powerfully crashes into the base of the cliff walls. But then, almost out of nowhere, you’ll begin to see sensational stretches of beach. This is Garie Beach, followed by Little Garie Beach. Get ready for a steep climb down a winding collection of naturally carved steps to reach Garie Beach.

Once you’ve reached the bottom, at about 21-22km, it’s time for lunch. Find a shady spot on the beach to refuel and rehydrate! It’s a large beach, so there should be plenty of space. There’s a large car park here, so expect it to be busy on weekends.

North Era Beach & South Era Beach

After some tough sand walking across Garie Beach, you’ll continue on a rough dirt trail, by the shoreline. You’ll then pass Little Garie Beach, with many rocks littered along the shoreline. It’s a tough climb out of Little Garie Beach, up and over the next headland.

It’s hard to believe, but there are equally incredible beach views still to come along the Royal National Park Coast Walk. After reaching the peak of this headland, you’ll set eyes on more glorious stretches of beach. The ocean waters of North Era and South Era beaches are immensely turquoise and spectacular. Among all of the other fantastic viewpoints on the Royal National Park Coastal Walk, this is easily one of the best!

Dan speed hiking towards North Era Beach. More long stretches of turquoise ocean water and golden sand creates one of the best vantage points of the entire Royal National Park Coast Track.
Dan hiking towards North Era Beach

Again, there is a steep descent to North Era Beach. As you reach the bottom, you’ll briefly cross a grassy area. You’ll then continue sand walking across the beach which reaches a grassy hill, taking you to South Era Beach. Both of these beaches are larger than Little Garie Beach, but smaller than Garie Beach. Regardless, the Era beaches are a little harder to reach, so they’re a bit quieter and that’s only a good thing!

You’ll notice a bunch of huts or shacks scattered across the hills, surrounding North and South Era beaches. These are heritage listed, so they are protected against demolition, whilst there are strict rules in terms of modifying them. Luckily enough, one of my best mates’ family owns one of these original stone shacks. So I’ve been lucky enough to stay overnight here and wake up to wallabies and deer at the front door, kindly moaning for some BBQ leftovers!

Burning Palms Beach

Hiking up and out of South Era Beach is one of the toughest parts of the Royal National Park Coast Walk. The naturally carved stone steps seem to carry on for an unfair amount of time. But keep in mind, there are more amazing landscapes and natural attractions that aren’t too far away. In fact, what you’ll find is a complete change of scenery and environment as you pass Burning Palms Beach. It’s like transcending into a tropical rainforest. One minute there’s harsh coastal heathland, the next, palm trees, with their large evergreen leaves.

Burning Palms Beach, with the Figure 8 Pools far in the distance. A beach is framed by tropical looking palm trees. The sky is covered in a light array of clouds
Burning Palms Beach, with the Figure 8 Pools far in the distance.

As a result, Burning Palms Beach feels like a very different beach compared to the Garie and Era beaches. Not only does it seem more tropical, but it seems more secluded and undisturbed. Alongside Marley Beach, Burning Palms Beach is one of our favourite beaches on the Royal National Park Coast Track. If there’s any beach to spend additional time on during this hike, it’s this one!

There are several trails leading onto Burning Palms Beach. You’ll notice the edges of the sand are covered in stripped and fallen palm leaves. They look bare and lifeless, compared to some of the green leaves and surrounding forest. It’s the southern end of the beach that provides a gateway to the infamous Figure 8 Pools.

Figure 8 Pools side trail option drawn on a map
Figure 8 Pools side trail option

Figure 8 Pools

On this occasion, we didn’t venture to the Figure 8 Pools. We had visited previously and given it is a bit of a tourist hotspot, we decided to avoid it. Of more importance though, you really have to perfectly time your visit to the Figure 8 Pools with low tide.

There have been many injuries and resultant rescues that have taken place here, with irresponsible people visiting at any time they please. Visiting at any time other than low tide is dangerous because the waves can easily and unexpectedly sweep you off your feet. With that said, even at low tide, sometimes the swell and ocean conditions are still too rough to explore the rock pools at low tide. So you have to be prepared to turn around and accept defeat if this is the case.

Of course, the Figure 8 Pools are an absolute world-class natural phenomenon. So we encourage you to visit. But this may be better as a shorter hike from the Garawarra Farm Car Park where it’s easier to time your visit with low tide. You could also hike to the Figure 8 Pools from Garie Beach or the Otford Lookout, but these options would be nearly double the distance, and so, harder to time with low tide.

Adding the Figure 8 Pools Side Trail

Timing your visit, whilst doing the entire Royal National Park Coastal Walk is difficult and puts too much pressure on you to get there at a pre-planned time. So, although it’s possible to add on this side trail, we don’t recommend it. But if you really wanted to, you could do the Royal National Park Coastal Walk in reverse, starting from the Otford Lookout, to make it slightly easier to time your hike with low tide.

Keep in mind that getting to the Figure 8 Pools from Burning Palms Beach can take around 20–30 minutes. Then, of course, you might be tempted for a swim and photo. That’s another 30 minutes at least, maybe even an hour if it’s really busy. So with the return walk to Burning Palms Beach, that could be an extra two hours to add on, to an already long day of hiking. So the ball is in your court!

Either way, thanks to Instagram, the Figure 8 Pools, similar to Wedding Cake Rock, have also suffered an increase in visitation, particularly over the last five years.

Palm Jungle

If you skip the Figure 8 Pools, you’ve made a wise choice. You can continue to thrive in the solitude and peacefulness of the actual Royal National Park Coastal Walk. Following Burning Palms Beach, a boardwalk leads you further south, towards Otford. With the stunning coastline ahead of you, you’ll be in awe of the green-topped hills, the rhythmic movement of the ocean and the tropical plants beside you. The boardwalk then transitions into a dirt trail, leading you into the dense Palm Jungle.

If the preceding boardwalk was one of the most picturesque parts of the walk, the less-defined trail steering you through the jungle is one of the most adventurous parts. There’ll be hanging vines, huge palm leaves splayed over the thick and damp forest floor, and various fruits and animal droppings littering the trail. This mini-jungle is full of life. With your legs tiring as you enter the final parts of the Royal National Park Coast Track, the jungle revitalises your senses and provides you with a boost of energy.

Nearing the end of the jungle, you’ll pass some secluded huts. The trail then leads you up a series of stone-carved steps. There are no two ways about it, this steep ascent is tough, even if you’re feeling rejuvenated from the jungle. With your hiking propelling you up the stairs, the landscape again transforms, gently, from jungle to more typical Australian bushland. Although, for the remainder of the hike, your surroundings blend together, like a tropical version of bushland.

Otford Lookout

Once you have climbed out of Palm Jungle, you’re on the home stretch. You’ll likely clock the magical 30km mark nearing the end of the flattened leaf-littered trail. As the trees become taller, you feel truly immersed in the surrounding landscape. Only every so often, you’re reminded that your coast-side, as a mini side-trail opens up to your left, providing sweeping views of the coastline.

As you swing around the final bend, there’s a steep descent to the finish line. You won’t be able to hike here, as you carefully navigate your shaky legs down towards Otford Lookout. It’s a relief to reach the bottom, signalling you have conquered the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. We’re sure you’ll feel a sense of achievement after all of your hard work!

Otford Lookout seen on the Royal National park Coastal Walk (Coast Track). A beach, and some huts, are framed by the surrounding hills, covered in bushland. The sky is mostly cloudy.
Otford Lookout

Royal National Park Coastal Walk in One Day Recap

All in all, the Royal National Park Coastal Walk is one hell of a day hike. It’s physically demanding and strenuous, but its beauty and number of natural attractions provide a great reward for your efforts. Certainly, when it comes to long distance hikes close to Sydney, this trail is hard to beat.

For those wanting some more information about doing the Royal National Park Coastal Walk as an overnight hike, read here. Otherwise, continue reading for all of the other logistical information. Additionally, you’ll find a summary of other great Royal National Park walks and waterfalls to explore below.

How to Get to the Royal National Park For the Coastal Walk

The Royal National Park is located in the south of Sydney. It spreads over a large coastal area, with its southern boundary nearing Northern Illawarra. For Sydneysiders and those living in Wollongong, it’s right on your doorstep.

The easiest way to start and finish this one-way hike is by doing a car shuffle from either end. But if you don’t have at least two people, and the luxury of two cars, you’ll need to consider other options. If you have just one car, you can park in Bundeena at either of the following places.

  • the northern end of Eric Street to include the Jibbon Beach Loop Track
  • the southern end of Beachcomber Avenue to skip this track

Alternatively, you can park at the Otford Lookout if you decide to do the Royal National Park Coast Track in reverse. Keep in mind that it’s a small car park, with only enough spaces for a dozen cars or so.

Either way, you’ll need to use the Royal National Park bus service at the end of your hike to return to your starting destination. Services operate Thursday through to Sunday and tickets are $10AUD ($7USD). Check the timetable to organise your day.

Public Transport

Without a car, you’ll obviously need to use public transport. You can get the ferry from Cronulla to the Bundeena Ferry Wharf. From there, it’s an additional 1.2km to get to Jibbon Beach, or 1.5km to get to the alternate start, suggested by NSW National Parks, at the southern end of Beachcomber Avenue. You’ll then need to walk to Otford train station from the Otford Lookout which is an extra 2km. Even if done in reverse, you’re looking at around 33-34km for the entire day.

If you want to save your legs from those extra kilometres of walking, you can hire a car.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

If you’re using public transport or the bus service, you’ll need to consider those extra costs. Otherwise, parking at Bundeena or the Otford Lookout doesn’t require a parking permit. But if you’re car shuffling, and passing through the Royal National Park, you may need to pay for a day’s pass at one of the crewed offices, if you don’t have a NSW National Parks Annual Pass. You’ll undoubtedly make your money back from a one or two-year pass if you explore NSW national parks regularly.

Facilities on the Royal National Park Coastal Walk

Below, we’ll briefly talk about facilities on the Royal National Park Coastal Walk.

Drinking Water

You will find creek water at various places along the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. Additionally, you’ll find tank water at Wattamolla and Garie Beach. Keep in mind, that all water found during the Royal National Park hike should be treated before drinking.

FYI – there’s no running water at the North Era Campground.


There are flush toilets in Bundeena, Wattamolla and Garie Beach. You’ll find pit toilets at the North Era Campground.

Mobile Phone Coverage

Mobile phone coverage is fairly sketchy along most parts of the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. Trail navigation is fairly straightforward during the hike, but GPS directions may be of help, particularly when you’re fatigued or adding on any unfamiliar side trails. We recommend using our Wikiloc for GPS-guided directions for peace of mind.

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

FAQs About the Royal National Park Coastal Walk

Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about the Royal National Park Coastal Walk.

Where Is the Royal National Park Located?

 The Royal National Park is located in the Sutherland Shire of New South Wales, just south of Sydney.

How Long Is the Royal National Park Coastal Walk?

The Royal National Park Coastal Walk is roughly 30km if you include the Jibbon Head Loop Track at the beginning. Otherwise, the coastal trail is about 26km.

What Is the Royal National Park Coastal Walk Time?

The walk time really depends on many personal factors. Roughly, the walk should take about 6.5–10 hours, if completed in just one day. Otherwise, some people complete the Royal National Park Coastal Trail as an overnight hike.

How Hard Is the Royal National Park Coastal Track?

It’s rated Grade 5 by NSW National Parks, which is the highest grade possible for a bushwalk, meaning it’s classified as a very difficult hike. Other than being physically challenging in terms of distance, personally, we think the hike is moderate to difficult. That’s because trail navigation is fairly simple and the trails aren’t technical.

Should I Walk Bundeena to Otford or Otford to Bundeena?

In Sydney, walking from north to south means the sun is on your back and not shining directly on your face. This is one good reason to walk from Bundeena to Otford. Otherwise, this is the direction recommended by NSW National Parks. It also makes sense to walk in this direction if you’re doing the hike over two days. More on this below.

Can You Do the Coastal Track in One Day?

Yes! But, doing the hike in one day is very physically demanding. Most people hike the Royal National Park Coastal Walk over two days. Please read below for more information about camping for the overnight hike option.

Why Is the Royal National Park Coastal Walk Different to Other Sydney Coastal Walks?

Compared with other Sydney-based coastal walks, the Royal National Park Coast Walk has the most diverse landscapes and terrains. You’ll also find this walk, tucked away in a national park, can be much more serene and tranquil than other Sydney suburban coastal walks.

Can I Swim on the Royal National Park Coastal Walk?

Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to swim at various beaches and creeks. So, pack your swimmers!

Royal National Park Camping (Where to Stay During the Royal National Park Coastal Walk)

For those doing an overnight hike of the Royal National Park Coast Track, you’ll be camping en route. When it comes to Royal National Park Coastal Walk camping, you only have one choice – the North Era Campground. You’ll need to make a reservation to stay at the campground in advance. Head to the NSW National Parks website – North Era Campground page for more information about the campground, including details about booking.

Other Royal National Park Walks

If your fitness levels won’t allow you to hike the entire distance of the Royal National Park Coastal Walk, make a plan to work up to it. This will involve hiking shorter distance trails and then gradually hiking longer distances over time. As part of this plan, consider doing some of the smaller Royal National Park walks. There are many to choose from! Please find a list of other Royal National Park tracks and walks below.

You’ll find many of these trails are just short sections of the Royal National Park Coast Track. But, other walks cover different areas of the national park.

  • Jibbon Head Beach Loop Track
  • Bundeena to Wedding Cake Rock
  • Curra Moors Loop
  • Bundeena to Garie Beach Walk
  • Garie Beach to South and North Era Beaches
  • Wattamolla to Garie Beach
  • Wattamolla to Marley Beach
  • Wattamolla to Eagle Rock (Wattamolla Coastal Walk)
  • Garie Beach to Eagle Rock
  • Palm Jungle Loop Track
  • Otford to the Figure 8 Pools
  • Couranga Track
  • Karloo Pools & Olympic Pool
  • Forest Path
  • Palona Cave
  • Uloola Track
  • Werrong Beach Track
  • Winifred Falls and South West Arm Pool
Dan on a sensational section of the Royal National Park Coastal Walk (Coast Track) near Little Marley Beach

Royal National Park Beaches

Along the Royal National Park Coastal Walk, you’ll see many beaches. These include Jibbon Beach, Shelley Beach, Little Jibbon Beach, Marley Beach, Little Marley Beach, Wattamolla Beach, Garie Beach, Little Garie Beach, North Era Beach, South Era Beach and Burning Palms Beach. By following the Royal National Park Coast Track, you’ll see the best beaches in the Royal National Park.

Royal National Park Waterfalls

During the Royal National Park Coastal Walk, you’d have seen two waterfalls – Curracurrong Falls and Wattamolla Falls. But, there are many other Royal National Park waterfalls to enjoy. Below, you’ll find a list of the other popular waterfalls to chase in the Royal National Park.

  • Curracurrang Falls (a similarly named but different waterfall than the Curracurrong Falls)
  • National Falls
  • Engadine Falls
  • Palona Cave Waterfall
  • Toonoum Falls
  • Uloola Falls
  • Winifred Falls
Eagle Head Rock and Curracurrong Falls are easily some of the best natural attractions on the Royal National Park Coast Walk (Coast Track).
Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls

Getting to Sydney

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.

Hiking Essentials For the Royal National Park Coastal Walk

Make sure to pack plenty of water (+3L) for the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. Carrying that much water in bottles may be inconvenient, so consider using a hydration bladder. Also, you’ll want to take plenty of food. Bring a packed breakfast, lunch and maybe even dinner! Additionally, make sure to wear a hat, long sleeves, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen.

Otherwise, here are some other hiking gear essentials.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Bonus Tips

  • Start early: you’ll have a long day ahead of you doing this hike in one day, so to make sure you finish whilst you still have daylight, set your alarm early!
  • Practice hiking on smaller distance trails: if you’re new to hiking, doing it for the first time on a 30km+ trail will be too demanding. Practice hiking on shorter trails, before giving this one a crack.
  • Things to do at the Royal National Park that’s not hiking: cycle Lady Carrington Drive.

Please leave us a comment below.

We acknowledge and respect the First Nations people as the Traditional Custodians of the land/water that we visited and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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