The second-oldest national park in the world, the Royal National Park is the oldest national park in Australia. Dependent upon what source you use, some claim the oldest is in Mongolia, dating back centuries and others claim that Yellowstone National Park in the USA is the oldest. The National Park as it was originally named was proclaimed on 26 April 1879, and became the Royal National Park upon a visit form Queen Elizabeth in 1955.
I have seen photos for many years and had a deep desire to visit. I noticed this summer in particular that the Figure of 8 pools have been an Instagram sensation. It wasn’t however the Figure 8 pools that attracted me but the Coastal Track with its panoramic clifftop sections and variations in heathland scrub and eucalyptus forests. I would have loved to walk the entire 26 km and camp overnight but it would take half a week or more with an 8 year old and a 2 year old. Instead I etched out chunks of the walk to do in pieces and as it turned out was for the better.
We booked a house in Bundeena. There is not a lot of choice as it is limited by the surrounding park and most houses are not available to rent but it was spacious enough in a private part of town that was peaceful when the local Bowlo was not in full swing. (Across the road from our house) We have a covered deck and a BBQ for carefree and easy meals. It was a lovely escape for the long break over Easter. It was not cheap – the equivalent of what we pay for a summer mansion further up the coast in January but that’s a whole other story.
I had mapped out morning and afternoon walks – that a two year old could do. As there was some rain on our first day in the morning I was reluctant to set off on a couple of hours walk if there was a change in the weather for the worst.
Flat Rock Creek:
This is a 15 minute walk to the creek and back to the car. It is a lovely spot but would have been much more enjoyable on a hot day lying on the rock and enjoying the coolness of the creek as it flows over the rock. Master two preceded to fall in and had to walk around without pants for the reminder of the morning and very wet shoes. Can you miss this one? Sure… there are other places but it is pretty and it is so quick why not?
This is a beautiful place but like a lot of places within a stone’s throw from Sydney expect crowds. And quiet big groups of people. This is the half way point on the Coastal Trek and there are camping grounds, BBQ facilities and toilet blocks at this point. The bay is protected by cliff faces on either side that run for about 300 metres before meeting the beach.
The beach is like a spit and has a lagoon behind it being fed of fresh water from a waterfall. The waterfall is a popular jump location and you will see loads of children and adults jumping off the rock to the water below. Just 32km from Sydney, the park is a great spot for weekend barbecues, picnics and a day spent swimming at the river or beach.
is an easy track from the Wattamolla carpark area and has a lovely view of the bay as you head out to the point. The track is easy and accessible with the only eroded areas being in the point itself where it also gets a little slippery in wet conditions like we had. At no point will you have difficulty passing people or finding the path. It is well signed and lots of vantage points for photos and enjoying the view.
Garie Beach & Governor Game Lookout:
there is a carpark at both and easy little strolls from the car to each of these but magic views from the lookout.
The Forest Way Track
This walk was by far the standout of all the walks we did over the weekend. The entire track is 4.4km and through very pretty rainforest with nice big wide paths. I find the wider the path the easier it is to get kids walking but that might be just mine. We just turned around at a point we felt comfortable with as the entire 4.4km would be fine on a weekend when that was all you were doing but by the stage we got here we had already walked 15km’s in the previous few days.
Jibbon Head – short route!
There is a long route but this about doubles you’re walking time and after a soft stand start I was not able to do both. Once again, if you hadn’t been walking already earlier that day it would be easy to do the longer route. Master two had fallen in the creek earlier and his shoes were still wet so the beach was a good for this walk. This walk is great for kids. There are Aboriginal carvings, there are bridges and elevated paths. A nude beach provides opportunity to answer many questions you may have been avoiding for some time!
There are several clearings of grassy patches for snacks and rests. Master Two does need snacks and rests! I was in desperate need of doing a wee and had to resort to doing a bushie. (This is an Australian term for wee in the bush. Bush is the outdoors I guess) So here I am with my strides down and slithering in front of me is a red bellied black snake. Only a baby but regardless I was not a fan of potentially being bitten on my privates by a snake. Never mind, obviously I lived. Master two did the vast majority of this walk in bare feet out to the point. At this point I put him in the back pack to carry him. It is a very pretty walk hugging the cliff edges. You will see plenty of idiots trying to get the perfect Instagram photo hanging over the edge of cliffs etc. Entertaining in the least.
Bungoona Path is a nice flat walk (wheel chair accessible) for your entry or exit into the park. The lookout shows the vast amount of lush green landscape that has been put aside for the National Park. You need to take a moment and realise this is 32Km from Sydney. A world city and there is not just this but several parcels of land surrounding the city. It makes it more special that we are surrounded by all this clean open space.
The Gibraltar Rock is an easy 20 minutes stroll from the car. Like Flat Rock Creek you will live if you miss this t it’s a nice easy stroll to keep up your sleeve for the beginning and end of a day when you just need to get out.
It’s not all bushwalking
Bundeena is not all bushwalks. There are some lovely beaches that are gentle and calm for kids. They are clean and uncrowded. The park near the town is best to be avoided during the day when loads of visitors arrive on the ferry. We took a drive down the coast which was one of the prettiest drives. The cliff tops are amazing and the hang gliders are great fun to watch especially for boys. We had booked lunch at the Scarborough Hotel and I can highly recommend it. The food is not to die for but the location is amazing and the lawn and space for kids to run around is wonderful. Sometimes the joy of havig the kids entertained is all you need.
Get down there. We still have plenty of exploring to do as there is more to see.
Hiking/ bushwalking recommendation
I will recommend the best website and app that I can find in relation to walks around Sydney. I’m a big believer of experts doing what they day and I am by no way as experienced as these guys in relation to walks. The site very clearly rates the walks. Moderate and under 2 hours is what you will be restricted to with kids.
The cover more than just the Royal National Park. I will add that in the middle of the National Park you will drop in and out of coverage. I am with Telstra because it has more coverage in rural areas than anyone else and at times I had no coverage. I highly recommend that you purchase the app and download the walks you want to do before you set off. This way you always have a map and instructions what to do. Click here for more information.