Last updated: November 20, 2023
The Palona Cave Walk is a hidden gem in Royal National Park, taking in beautiful rainforest scenery, a large cave, and a small cascade waterfall.
This family-friendly walking trail is one of the lesser-known walks in the Royal National Park, but it has a lot to offer.
Keep reading to find out more about this exciting bushwalk, its highlights, and how best to get there.
|Palona Cave Walk:|
|Distance:||5 km (return)|
|Grade:||Easy / moderate (uneven surfaces)|
Short video of the Palona Cave Walk:
How to Get There
The trail to the Palona Cave starts from the Forest Path car park on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive (see map location).
There is space on both sides of the road to park your car, but the parking area on the southern side (opposite the trailhead) is larger and perhaps a bit safer.
To park your car in Royal National Park, you will need to pay the $12 entry fee (per vehicle per day), either at the booth where you enter the park or at one of the pay machines.
The walking track to the Palona Cave is relatively easy, but the second part of the track can be a bit rough and somewhat overgrown.
Solid hiking shoes are recommended, and bring a bottle of water, especially on those warmer summer days. The walk can be completed in under two hours, including browsing time.
If you’d like to extend this walk, it’s recommended to return via the Forest Path walking trail, which equates to an extra 4 km of hiking.
Lady Carrington Drive
Once you’ve parked your car, you can find the trailhead of the Palona Cave Walk behind the locked gate.
This is the southern end of Lady Carrington Drive, and is also the starting point of the Forest Path when going anti-clockwise.
This section of Lady Carrington Drive is very pleasant, with a wide path to walk on and surrounded by beautiful trees. It’s a peaceful environment and a great start to the walking track.
Be mindful though that Lady Carrington Drive is also a popular cycling route, so it’s recommended to stay on the left side of the path.
Approximately 800 metres into the trail, you will see the junction with the Forest Path, a beautiful trail that follows the shores of the Hacking River.
As we mentioned above, if you do have time, it’s a great idea to include the Forest Path on your way back to the car park.
From the Forest Path junction, the walking track continues along Lady Carrington Drive for another kilometre before arriving at the turn-off to the Palona Cave.
The above image shows the signpost of that turn-off, but it is very easy to miss because the sign faces the opposite direction and is slightly hidden behind trees.
The sign doesn’t actually say Palona Cave. Instead, it is signposted as simply “Limestone Cave”, which makes you question whether “Palona Cave” is the official name for it.
The trail to Palona Cave is a lot narrower and more challenging to navigate than Lady Carrington Drive. It looks and feels like a genuine bushwalk with a few overgrown sections.
About 15 minutes into this trail, you will see rocky outcrops and cliffs appearing in the distance, which means you’re getting closer to the cave.
Palona Cave is less than 1 km from Lady Carrington Drive, so it won’t take too long to get there.
When you arrive, you will notice that the cave is quite large, with lots of space to explore the cave itself and its surrounding scenery.
Continue walking around the cave, along Palona Brook, and you will find a small waterfall. This waterfall doesn’t seem to have an official name, so we’ll just call it Palona Falls.
It’s a small cascade waterfall, but if you’re unlucky, you may not even see it at all. The waterfall is ephemeral, which means that it isn’t always there during periods with no rainfall.
We were there following a relatively dry week, and luckily, the waterfall was there. And while there wasn’t much water flowing, it was still a pretty sight.
Once you’ve finished exploring this beautiful area, it’s time to retrace your steps and make your way back to Sir Bertram Stevens Drive.
The Palona Cave Walk is included in our list of the best walking tracks in Royal National Park. Read that list for more great hiking ideas.