11 Best Walking Tracks in Royal National Park

Last updated: September 17, 2021

Looking for new walks to do in Sydney’s Royal National Park?
We have outlined 11 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.

Top 11 Royal National Park Walks:
Walk Distance
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 Bundeena to Wedding Cake Rock 7 km (return)
6 Wattamolla to Eagle Rock 8 km (return)
7 Bundeena Drive to Marley Walk 8 km (return)
8 Palm Jungle Loop Track 10 km (circuit)
9 Waterfall to Heathcote Walking Track 11 km (one way)
10 Otford to Figure 8 Pools 12 km (return)
11 The Coast Track 26 km (one way)
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Top 11 Royal National Park Walks

The Royal National Park has evolved into 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 11 of the best walking tracks in the Royal National Park.

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.

Winifred Falls Trail in the Royal National Park
Winifred Falls Trail

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. This 4.4km trail connects with Maianbar Road.

Winifred Falls Trail
Distance: 2 km (return)
Time: 1 hour
Grade: Easy
Starting point: Map

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 in Royal National Park
The Forest Path in Royal National Park

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)
Time: 1.5 hours
Grade: Easy
Starting point: Map

3. Karloo Track to Karloo Pools

With the starting point next to Heathcote train station, the 5km return walk to Karloo Pools is one of 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.

Karloo Track to Karloo Pools
Karloo Track to Karloo Pools

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)
Time: 2 hours
Grade: Moderate
Starting point: Map

4. Jibbon Beach Loop Track

Starting at the Bundeena ferry wharf, the Jibbon Beach loop track is an 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.

Jibbon Beach Loop Track
Jibbon Beach Loop Track

One of the highlights is a modern boardwalk with a viewing platform from where you can have a closer look at those 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)
Time: 2 hours
Grade: Easy
Starting point: Map

5. Bundeena to Wedding Cake Rock

Wedding Cake Rock is a unique landmark in Royal National Park, and although it is now fenced off, it is still a beautiful natural sight to visit.

A scenic coastal walk, starting from Beachcomber Avenue in Bundeena, leads to this landmark with various other pretty sights to enjoy on the way, such as The Balconies and The Waterrun.

Wedding Cake Rock
Wedding Cake Rock

The 7 km return walk is one of the most enjoyable coastal walks in Sydney, with beautiful ocean and cliff views to enjoy from start to finish.

Read more about this coastal adventure in our guide to the Wedding Cake Rock walking track.

Bundeena to Wedding Cake Rock
Distance: 7 km (return)
Time: 2 hours
Grade: Easy / moderate
Starting point: Map

6. 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.

Wattamolla to Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls
Wattamolla to Eagle Rock and Curracurrong Falls

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 in for a picnic.

Wattamolla to Eagle Rock
Distance: 8 km (return)
Time: 3 hours
Grade: Easy / moderate
Starting point: Map

7. 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.

Bundeena Drive to Marley Walk
Bundeena Drive to Marley Walk

Towards the end of the walk, you have the choice between two beaches. 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)
Time: 3 hours
Grade: Moderate
Starting point: Map

8. 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.

Palm Jungle Loop Track to Burning Palms Beach
Palm Jungle Loop Track to Burning Palms Beach

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. Please do check the tides beforehand if you’re planning to visit the pools.

Palm Jungle Loop Track
Distance: 10 km (circuit)
Time: 4 hours
Grade: Moderate
Starting point: Map

9. 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.

Waterfall to Heathcote Walking Track
Waterfall to Heathcote Walking Track

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)
Time: 4 hours
Grade: Moderate / hard
Starting point: Map

10. 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.

Otford to Figure 8 Pools in the Royal National Park
Otford to Figure 8 Pools

Before you leave, be 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)
Time: 6 hours
Grade: Hard
Starting point: Map

11. 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 complete at least once in your life.

The Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford
The Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford

While it’s certainly possible to do this track in one day, some people prefer to turn this into a two-day hiking adventure with one night camping.

There are several camping grounds along the way where you can set up your hiking tent and stay overnight. The most obvious spot is North Era, which has a large campground with basic facilities.

The Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford
Distance: 26 km (one way)
Time: 1 or 2 days
Grade: Hard
Starting point: Map

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.

1. Train

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.

Map with train stations at Royal National Park

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.

2. Car

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 need 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.

 

Best walks in Royal National Park

 
 
4 Comments
    • That’s right, thanks Nic. And with a train station in Otford, the Coastal Track is very easily manageable with public transport.

      Reply
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