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Sydney's Underrated Outdoors: Why You Shouldn't Miss Royal National Park

Sandwiched right in the middle of the cities of Sydney and Wollongong in NSW Australia lies Royal National Park, an underrated stretch of land filled to the brim with unique nature and untamed beauty.

By: Aaron Hagen + Save to a List

From the 26km Coastal Track to the cliff lookouts with oddly shaped rock formations where whales can often be spotted, Royal National Park is still a bit of an unknown location even though it is so close to the vibrant metropolis of Sydney. It is actually Australia's first National Park, established in 1879. It was the second National Park to be declared in the world at the time, the first being Yellowstone National Park. Even with all of this, it would seem to me that the Blue Mountains to the West of Sydney get all the limelight and nobody talks about Royal National Park. Well I'm here to tell you why you can't miss the natural beauty of this amazing National Park!

Just a quick 1 hour train ride south from Central Sydney will land you in this beautiful national park, where nature lovers can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and explore some of the most beautiful tracks and coastal lookouts that the east coast of Australia has to offer!

There are a couple of unique landmarks that Royal National Park boasts, places where Mother Nature seemed to have a little bit of fun creating, as these spots all seem to resemble some interesting shapes. You will have a hard time believing that these were not formed by the hand of man, but rest assured, the sights all over Royal National Park are not to be missed for any outdoor loving visitor in New South Wales. 

Wedding Cake Rock

Mother Nature must have been hungry at the time, because this rock formation looks eerily similar to a big slice of cake (as the name suggests). A quick 4km hike from the town of Bundeena will take you to this remarkable landmark, which is arguably the crown jewel of Royal National Park. 

When you combine the dramatic drop off the ledge of Wedding Cake Rock with a classic sunrise/sunset, you get a combination that will be hard to top. The sweeping views of the crashing waves along the rocks below, the saturated colors of the sky in the background, and this oddly shaped rock make for the perfect nature escape from Sydney.

Figure 8 Pools

Again, it seems a little odd that there would be a rock formation so perfectly carved out to resemble something. Somehow the rocks formed a small crevice in the shape of an "8." The figure 8 pool can only be uncovered during low tide, so you must check the weather and wave reports for the day before heading out for this trek. 

Believe me, you do not want to be out here during high tide. The waves come crashing into the rocks and it's a very dangerous place to be. The National Parks Service has put out many warnings about approaching the area during high tide, do not take these warnings lightly as incidents have occurred from the tides. 

(shot on GoPro) ^^

With all that being said, when it is timed correctly the water will be crystal clear, and it makes for a perfect photo op for any of you aspiring photographers out there. It truly does not seem as if it is real.

Coastal Track (26km from Otford Station to Bundeena)

This incredible trek involves sweeping coastal views, lush forests, secret swimming spots, pristine beaches, seasonal wildflowers of all sorts, and even some whale watching when they're in the area. 

It is often done in about 2 days, with an overnight stop at the North Era campground. But for those who are pressed on time or just looking for a good old fashion trekking challenge, then it can absolutely be knocked out in a day if started early enough. 

Along this 26km trek you will experience a wide variety of landscapes such as forests, beaches, coasts, jungles, headlands, and so on and so forth. The diversity of this track is part of what makes it so special. It throws all sorts of little challenges and points of interest at you, which just adds to the fun!

The Australia midday heat is nothing to mess with (especially in the summer) so be sure to bring a sunhat, sunscreen, and as much water as you can stuff in your rucksack. 

Some typical stops along this trek would include; Eagle Rock Lookout, Garie Beach, Wedding Cake Rock, Curracurrang Cove, Wattamolla.

Bonus: (Nearby) Sea Cliff Bridge

This is not actually a part of Royal National Park, or any relation for that matter. Yet, it's a can't miss coastal bridge that offers some epic panoramic views (especially from the "secret overlook"). It showcases a winding bridge built up above the crashing waves along the coast and rock formations. This is probably one of the more famous bridges in Australia outside of the Sydney Harbor Bridge of course, but when you explore the area from atop the secret spot (as seen in my picture) you will soon see what all the hype is about. Just a quick drive/train ride from Royal National Park can get you here, as it is only about 20 minutes away!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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