Last updated: December 21, 2020
We have outlined 10 of the best walking tracks, from short and scenic bush trails, to challenging multi-day hikes.
Established in 1879, the Royal National Park is Australia’s oldest and the world’s second oldest national park.
Originally named National Park, it was officially renamed in 1955 after Queen Elizabeth II passed through on her way to Wollongong during her historic 1954 Australia tour.
From scenic lookout points and pretty waterfalls, to isolated beaches and beautiful walking tracks, this 15,000 hectares large park has something for everyone.
|1||Winifred Falls Trail||2 km (return)|
|2||The Forest Path||4.5 km (circuit)|
|3||Karloo Track to Karloo Pools||5 km (return)|
|4||Jibbon Beach Loop Track||5 km (circuit)|
|5||Wattamolla to Eagle Rock||8 km (return)|
|6||Bundeena Drive to Marley Walk||8 km (return)|
|7||Palm Jungle Loop Track||10 km (circuit)|
|8||Waterfall to Heathcote Walking Track||11 km (one way)|
|9||Otford to Figure 8 Pools||12 km (return)|
|10||The Coast Track||26 km (one way)|
Top 10 Royal National Park Walks
The Royal National Park has developed itself as one of the most popular national parks in Sydney. One reason for that is that this national park is home to various beautiful walking tracks, some very short, others much more challenging.
To help you find a suitable walk, we have compiled a list of the 10 best walking tracks in the Royal National Park.
>> Top 25 best hikes in and around Sydney.
1. Winifred Falls Trail
The Winifred Falls trail is a short but scenic bushwalk that leads to a pretty waterfall on the South West Arm Creek. It’s also a great location to have a picnic and go for a swim if weather permits.
The first part of the trail is an easy 10 minutes flat walk, before it turns into a bushwalk with some steep sections, surrounded by banksia plants and gum trees.
You can get the best views and photos of the waterfall if you walk a bit further downstream around the pool. There are several rock platforms surrounding the waterfall where you can relax and take in the beauty of this spot in the Royal National Park.
The trail doesn’t have to end at Winifred Falls. The South West Arm Pool is about 300m further away downstream, a large and deep pool that is great for a quick swim.
You can also continue the Winifred Falls trail into the other direction, going though bushland with a couple of small waterfalls and creek crossings on the way. This 4.4km trail connects with Maianbar Road.
|Winifred Falls Trail|
|Distance:||2 km (return)|
2. The Forest Path
The Forest Path is a pleasant 4.5km bushwalk along the Hacking River in the Royal National Park that loops around Forest Island.
With start and finish on Sir Bertram Stevens Drive, this relatively easy walking track guides hikers through beautiful lush rainforest.
The Forest Path first opened in 1887 to allow for easy access to the trees in this forest. For decades, the Forest Path was used to accommodate logging in the area. Public controversy and pressure ultimately led to the ban of logging in the 1920’s.
Apart from a short period during the second world war, the walking track has since been used for recreational purposes only.
|The Forest Path|
|Distance:||4.5 km (circuit)|
3. Karloo Track to Karloo Pools
With the starting point next to Heathcote train station, the 5km return walk to Karloo Pools is one Royal National Park’s most popular walking tracks.
And for good reason, beacause Karloo Pools is one of the best and most beautiful natural swimming holes in the greater Sydney area.
If you’d like to continue hiking after visiting Karloo Pools, the Karloo Track continues to Uloola Falls, a small yet pretty waterfall located an extra 2.5km further away into the bush.
Uloola Falls is perhaps not as scenic as Karloo Pools, but the track itself is very enjoyable. So if you do have the time and energy, it’s highly recommended to visit both of these spots.
|Karloo Track to Karloo Pools|
|Distance:||5 km (return)|
4. Jibbon Beach Loop Track
Starting at the Bundeena ferry wharf, the Jibbon Beach loop track is a rather easy coastal and bush trail past Jibbon Head, Port Hacking Point, and Shelley Beach.
The walking track not ony offers some pretty amazing ocean views, there are also well-preserved Aboriginal engravings to discover along the way.
One of the highlights is a modern boardwalk with a viewing platform from where you can have a closer look at these engravings.
Dating back 2,000 years, The Jibbon engravings are an impressive display of respect the Tharawal people had for the land as well as for the animals they shared the land with.
|Jibbon Beach Loop Track|
|Distance:||5 km (circuit)|
5. Wattamolla to Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls
A scenic coastal walk starting at Wattamolla leads to Eagle Rock, one of the most iconic landmarks in the Royal National Park that strongly resembles an eagle’s beak.
What’s more, next to Eagle Rock is Curracurrong Falls, one of the very few waterfalls in the world that actually flows directly into the ocean.
When the winds are strong the water from Curracurrong Falls can often be seen being pushed back up, which makes for a pretty spectacular sight.
For the best views of both the waterfall and Eagle Rock, find the trail that leads down towards a rock overhang, a great spot to settle down for a picnic.
|Wattamolla to Eagle Rock|
|Distance:||8 km (return)|
|Grade:||Easy / moderate|
6. Bundeena Drive to Marley Walk
Also known as the Marley Track, the 8km return trail between Bundeena Drive and Marley Beach spoils bushwalkers with creek crossings, fresh water pools, lookout points, scenic bushland, and secluded beaches.
One of the highlights along this track is a set of small waterfalls that run into a pool also known as Deer Pool. When the deer population in the Royal National Park was much higher, this pool was a popular spot for them to drink.
Towards the end of the walk, you have the choice between two beaches. Big Marley beach in the north is a 400m long south-facing beach with bright yellow sand, protected by a large dune area.
Little Marley beach further south is similar in nature but much smaller. Please be mindful though that these isolated beaches are not patrolled.
|Bundeena Drive to Marley Walk|
|Distance:||8 km (return)|
7. Palm Jungle Loop Track
Starting in Otford in the southern part of the Royal National Park, the Palm Jungle loop track is a challenging circuit trail, taking in enormous cliff tops, beautiful secluded beaches, thriving rainforest, and scenic coastal views.
Located roughly halfway the walking track, Palm Jungle is a section of cooler rainforest with an abundance of cabbage tree palms and other tropical plants.
You can include the famous Figure 8 Pools in this walk by doing a detour from Burning Palms beach. As mentioned above, please do check the tides beforehand if you’re planning to visit the pools.
|Palm Jungle Loop Track|
|Distance:||10 km (circuit)|
8. Waterfall to Heathcote Walking Track
The bushwalk between Waterfall and Healthcote includes the Karloo Track and the Uloola Track, with several highlights along the way, such as Karloo Pools and Uloola Falls.
What’s great about this walking track is that there is a train station at both ends of the walk, so you can use the train to travel back to your starting point.
This walking track is an alternative way to visit both Karloo Pools and Uloola Falls, if the Karloo Track (see number 3) is perhaps a bit too short.
You can start this walk either from Waterfall or from Heathcote, but if you want to save the highlights for the second section of the walk, it’s best to start in Waterfall.
|Waterfall to Heathcote Walking Track|
|Distance:||11 km (one way)|
9. Otford to Figure 8 Pools
This hike has become more popular in recent years with all the hype around the Figure 8 Pools. While the pools are a great sight, the walking track from Otford Station to the pools via Burning Palms Beach is also very enjoyable.
To get to the Figure 8 Pools, you will need to do an extra track from Burning Palms beach. It’s a great addition to an already great walking track but it does get rather steep.
Before you leave, make sure to check the tides as otherwise you may not even see the Figure 8 Pools by the time you get there, let alone swim in them. The tides will need to be low and without any dangerous swells.
If you’re short on time and you really just want to see the Figure 8 Pools, you can also park your car at Garawarra Farm Carpark which is closer to the pools than Otford is.
|Otford to Figure 8 Pools|
|Distance:||12 km (return)|
10. The Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford
One of the most iconic walking tracks in Sydney and New South Wales is the 26km long Coast Track between Bundeena in the north and Otford in the south of the Royal National Park.
Bushland, secluded beaches, boardwalks, huge sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, natural water holes, this challenging hike is a true adventure that you should try to do at least once in your life.
While it’s certainly possible to do this track in one day, most people would prefer to turn this into a two-day hiking adventure with one night camping.
|The Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford|
|Distance:||26 km (one way)|
|Time:||1 or 2 days|
How to Get to Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is located just south of the Sydney CBD, and can be easily accessed by train as well as by car.
The T4 train line runs along and through the Royal National Park, stopping at several stations from where you can start your walks.
Some of these train stations are, from north to south, Loftus, Engadine, Heathcote, Waterfall and Helensburgh.
The Otford train station however, in the southern part of the Royal National Park, is on the South Coast Line that goes via Helensburgh.
Use the tripplanner website to plan your visit to Royal National Park.
Parking anywhere in the park costs $12 per vehicle per day, which can be paid at the ticket booths or at one of the many coin and card operated pay machines. If you’re just driving through, you don’t actually have to pay.
Royal National Park has two main entry points along the Princess Highway, and one entry point at Otford in the southern end of the park.
Use the Loftus entry point to visit Winifred Falls, Bundeena, Jibbon Beach, Wedding Cake Rock and Wattamolla.
Use the Waterfall entry point to visit the Forest Path, Burning Palms, Figure 8 Pools, North Era Campground and Garie Beach.
Use the Otford entry point to visit the Otford Lookout, Werrong Beach and the walking track to Figure 8 Pools.