32 km south of Sydney via Princes Highway. National Parks & Wildlife Service South Metropolitan, 02 9542 0648.
Situated on the southern outskirts of Sydney, the Royal National Park is the second oldest National Park in the world. A railway station between Loftus and Bundeena on the suburban Illawarra line provides easy access to the park. Alternatively, a ferry operates from Cronulla near the railway station to Bundeena.
The Visitor Centre is the ideal place for you to begin your explorations of the first gazetted national park in the world. Call in for maps, brochures and information on things to do and see in this special place. Over 150 km of walking tracks give access to the park. Walk the coast for magnificent clifftop views, or experience the diversity of habitats, including heath, rainforests, open woodlands and estuarine systems. Enjoy historic landscapes, picnic in one of the many shady, peaceful areas and stroll to lookouts with spectacular views over the park. Wattamolla, Garie and Burning Palms are among the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Hire a row boat at historic Audley and take a leisurely paddle up Kangaroo Creek. There are kiosks at Garie, Wattamolla and Audley. Bonnie Vale camping ground provides basic facilities (fees apply), though other camping sites are limited, with bookings and permits essential. Learn more about this icon of our national parks on one of the many Discovery Ranger guided walks (bookings essential 02 9542 0649). Park use fees apply.
Beyond the park's southern entrance is the Lawrence Hargraves Memorial Lookout at Stanwell Tops which celebrates Australia's foremost pioneer aviator who launched experimental flying machines here a century ago. Today the lookout is Sydney's most popular launching place for hang gliders. As well as being a viewing platform for the sport, it offers spectacular views south along the Illawarra coast, as do Sublime Point and Bulli Lookouts further south. Bushwalks from Stanwell Tops lead to and through a number of abandoned railways tunnels between Otford and Helensburgh.
Public transport: train to Loftus, walk to park entrance via Princes Hwy and Farrell Ave.; or train to Cronulla, ferry to Bundeena.
Map of Park
There are many waterfalls within the boundary of Royal National Park, all of which can be reached via walking trails which lead deep into the more remote sections of the park where most of them are. Maps showing walking tracks are available from the Visitors Centre at Audley and manned entry points to the Park. Tracks to most falls ford streams so wear appropriate footwear and be prepared to wade through ankle deep fast flowing water immediately after heavy rain, which is when these waterfalls are at the most scenic. The most easily accessed waterfalls in the park are:
Wattamolla Falls: Wattamolla is a popular picnic spot with a pretty waterfall which is a gentle trickle most of the time and a raging torrent after a downpour. Accessed on foot via the Coastal Walk or by car, Wattamolla has a clean, sheltered beach with picnic and barbecue facilities. Behind the beach is a lagoon into which Coote Creek tumbles over the cliff face.
Curracurrong Falls: The most spectacular waterfalls in Royal National Park (there are two of them) in which two creeks flow straight off the edge of the cliff face into the ocean. On a windy day, the strong winds at the foot of the cliffs blow the water back up again, which is quite a memorable sight. The only access is via walking tracks from Wattamolla, Garie or Sir Bertram Stevens Drive. The walk to the falls from each location is around 40 minutes.
Winifred and Anice Falls: The closest falls to Audley are Winifred and Anice Falls. The stepped, 7 metre high Winifred Falls is a 4 km hike from Audley along an at times steep walking trail. Cut down through the bush to the pool below the falls for the best view. A kilometre further along the main walking trail towards Maianbar Road is Alice Falls, on Saddle Gully. South West Arm Creek, which flows over Winifred Falls on its way to Port Hacking, must be forded first and can be quite a challenge after rain when the creek is deep and flowing strongly. The track across the ridge is steep but the 10 metre high falls are worth the climb. They are best viewed from the rock ledge beyond the falls on the eastern side or better still from within the gorge provided you have the energy and patience to find a way down.
Toonoum Falls: A pretty 5 metre high falls alongside Sir Bertram Steven Drive not far from the Garie turnoff.
National Falls: A two-tiered waterfall in which the upper falls drops some 6 metres onto a rocky platform before plunging deep into the valley below via the second falls. A novel feature is the ability to walk into the overhang over which the upper falls cascades, allowing access behind the water as it falls. Located beside The McKell Drive not far from the park entry point from Waterfall, it is these falls which gave the locality of Waterfall its name.
Hundreds of sites have been recorded in the Sutherland district, those within the National Park's boundaries being the easiest to find and access. Middens are visible at Curracurrong Cove and Era and Garie beaches.
Marley Headland: Engravings are visible on the walking track from Bundeena to Marley Head and numerous whales and sea creatures are carved into rock on Jibbon headland. The latter are well signposted with descriptions and interpretations of the art. They are of wobbegong sharks, fish, a whale, boomerangs and shields.
Audley: alongside the road from Audley to Fishermans Bay 100 metres south of turnoff to Costens Bay are engravings a flat rock surfaces scattered throughout the scrub on the ridge. These include a man with a three-pronged head-dress and circles and ovals 20 metres to the north. 130 metres west of the road on the southern edge of a large, level rock surface are two whales facing each other. 80 metres north is another whale in the centre of a large rock surface sloping down to the north. Both sites have commanding views to Port Hacking and South West Arm.
Wattamolla: Sites at Wattamolla Beach have been excavated by archaeologists and show it to have been a specialised fishing site. Between Wattamolla Road and Curracarrang Creek are two kangaroos. On the north side of the camping area overlooking the Wattamolla Inlet is a 1 metre long fish and the remains of human figures that have been defaced by vandals. 50 metres west of the coast road at a point 2.6 km south east of the Wattamolla turnoff are a number of rock faces with carvings. These include 3 male figures, 6 men in a line, and very faint axe grooves.
Curracurrong: The Curracurrong area has 8 rock shelters, some of which have been excavated, revealing evidence of occupation, and two small groups of engravings, both sign posted, are located on a small outcrop at the extreme north-western end of a large rock platform about 150m west of the fire trail. A shelter at Curracurrong is one of the oldest sites found in the Sydney region, showing evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 7,500 years ago.