Sydney has tons of beaches that are perfect for getting some R&R, but if you really want to get away from the city and spend a day soaking up clean air, gorgeous ocean views and lapping up sea waves New South Wale’s (NSW) Royal National Park is where you should head.
Located forty minutes’ drive from the city (along the Princes Highway) the Royal National Park is easy to get to via car. I’ve visited twice in the last month – once with friends and another time with my husband.
Highlights of the park include Wattamolla Beach and picnic area. This is where you come to hang-out with friends. You can swim in clear sea waters at one end or a natural pool at the other end which is fed by the sea via a ravine that flows alongside the rocks and trees. Here people jump off two rock levels into the deep pool. You’ll find groups of friends and families chilling and picnicking on the sand or drinking and having a Barbie at the free barbeques by the car park.
Just down the road is the beautiful Garie Beach which is my favourite. Encompassed by steep, rocky green scenery Garie Beach is not only beautiful but it is less popular than neighbouring Wattamolla therefore the two times I’ve been there it’s been practically empty. Complete with crashing white waves big enough to mess about it but not too big they threaten to take you out in a very unflattering manner, Garie is perfect for a romantic afternoon with your lover. It’s by far one of the best beaches I’ve visited in NSW so far.
Jibbon Beach and Shelly Beach in the small village of Bundeena Drive are also idyllic and quiet compared to Wattamolla. At Bundeena Drive you can do the Bundeena Drive to Marley Walk. I think most people start the walk at a carpark past Shelly and Jibbon Beach, however we started it at Jibbon Beach which added another 3km to the already 3.5 km walk.
We walked along Jibbon Beach, past the Jibbon Beach Aboriginal engravings, past Shelly Beach and along the Jibbon Beach Head Trail to The Balconies (for excellent ocean views) to the White Wedding Cake Rock. The walk isn’t particularly hard but there is a bit from Shelly Beach to The Balconies where you are walking inland at a slow accent on soft sand which can make it feel like an uphill struggle at times, especially in the heat. It’s just bush walking essentially so there isn’t anything spectacular to look at. Watch out for the snakes as well, my husband nearly trod on a long one.
The White Wedding Cake Rock was fenced off when we went and from what I saw through the metal railing I wasn’t massively impressed. It’s not recommended to swim at Marley Beach because of strong riptides so we headed back at this point. Fortunately, on the way back there was a short cut at the road between the long walk from Shelly Beach to The Balconies so we cut back down this road straight back to the town. It was 35 degree heat and we’d run out of water so this short cut was a relief!
Unless you love a good, long walk I’d recommend stopping just past Shelly Beach, that way you’ll still see some lovely ocean views – where you can look out for whales – but won’t have to do the long bush walking. We also saw some nude swimmers along this part of the route so keep a lookout for some nudies!
What I haven’t seen but would love to is the Figure 8 Pools – naturally formed rockpools found between coastal headlands and reached via a rocky, winding, downhill walk. You can only go at low tide which we missed. You can dip your feet or swim in the figure eight shaped pools.
All the attractions are easily reached by car – we hired a car from No Birds for the day – along a road that runs through the park like a central vein. I did see a bus in Bundeena Drive but I’m not sure how easy it would be to do the park via public transport. Also, apart from a shop and café on Audley Road at the beginning of the park there is nowhere to buy food and drink.