Being Australia’s oldest national park and the second oldest in the world, Royal National Park really is something extraordinary. Whether it’s barbecuing, fishing, whale washing, bird watching or bushwalking, Royal National Park is perfect for anyone who wants to be outdoor for the day.
The easiest way to get to Royal National Park would be to drive. However, my friend and I wanted to make our day more interesting, so we decided to take public transport instead. To get there, you’d have to change from a train to a ferry at Cronulla train station, which gets you to Bundeena- a beautiful village that is the gateway to the Royal National Park. I had about 20 minutes to quickly catch a glimpse of the only beach in Sydney that can be easily reach by train- Cronulla Beach. Even the short walk there was full of good vibes as overseas tourists don’t often come to this beachside suburb due to its location of being just a little too far from the city.
The ferry dock was pretty much right next to the train station (for the ferry timetable, click here), and the ferry ride took you across Port Hacking, with lots of beautiful houses along the side. Gee, I just wish I lived in one of these houses for the peace and serenity.
Although it was only supposed to be about a 1km walk across the town of Bundeena, it took us a lot longer than anticipated because of its hills. Nevertheless, it didn’t feel like any time was being wasted as we were able to walk excitedly in the middle of the roads- a rare feeling for someone like me who has been a city girl my whole life.
We then walked for about two kilometres or so in the bush. I originally thought that we were going the wrong way, but because of the clearly paved and well-maintained path, I was reassured again and again. I have to admit, I was very pleased with how well they maintained the sand path, and the abundance of signage definitely helped. It goes to show how popular this walk was!
As you reach the actual coastal walk, you’re pretty much surrounded by trees, but the walk has many openings where you can admire the ocean and the cliffs along Australia’s famous east coast. Again, all the paths were in excellent conditions (with anti-slippery material), and along the walk we kept seeing rangers and other workers who were maintaining either the bushland or the paths. I should also mention that every opening were cliff tops that had been eroded by the weather over the years and had been turned into layers of sandstone. With that, there is a very low chance of slipping on the cliff.
Oh, and I forgot to tell you. When my friend and I sat down at one of the openings to have some morning tea, we ended up sitting there for at least a good half an hour. Why? We saw whales! Between the months of June and August every year, I’ve always liked to go to the coast for phenomena like this one, when these creatures migrate up north. On the beautiful winter day, it was very easy to spot them among a sea of calm water. We ended up spotting at least 4 of them!
As we kept walking, we noticed there were gradually more people walking along this path with us. Soon after, we got to the famous Wedding Cake Rock. From years of erosion, this rock had been perfectly formed into layers of white sandstone, resembling a wedding cake. Up until last year, I would always see people’s Instagram accounts where they’d be sitting on this rock. However, around May last year the National Park deemed it unsafe to do so, as the ‘cake’ is merely sitting on the edge of the cliff and could potentially fall off any minute. Nonetheless, I still saw a lot of people climbing over the fence to capture that Instagram-worthy photo.
As we walked a little more, we came could see Marley Beach in the distance, with Little Marley Beach further away. This was when we chose a rock to sit on and enjoyed our lunch. Although it was pretty windy, the breathtaking view of the plunging waves against rocks still make it worthwhile. As we sat, we also saw a group of at least 200 high school kids on their Duke of Edinburgh hike. Gee, why didn’t I get to hike at a place like this when I was in high school?
We stayed at Marley Beach for ages as it was unbelievably quiet there. Being deemed as one of the most hazardous unpatrolled beaches in the national park, I’m guessing this was probably why nobody was in the water, but still, its over 30,000 square metres of sand dunes is magnificent to look at. It’s such a shame that most people turned back after seeing the Wedding Cake Rock, but in my opinion, that rock was the least exciting part of the walk. Oh, the power of social media…
Because the waves were so constant, whoever had walked here earlier in the morning had already had their footprints washed out. We then decided to make a trail of our footprints to the other end of the beach and back. This was something I loved doing as a child, and boy does it not get old. It was a beautiful and indescribable feeling to be the only ones standing on that beach, whilst there were groups of people not too far away taking photos of a boring rock that everyone had raved on about.
If you didn’t want to make the 4.4km walk back to Bundeena, you could take the Big Marley Firetrail back to Beachcomber Ave in Bundeena. We however couldn’t resist the temptation of spotting whales on this beautiful winter day, so we decided to take the same trail back.
As our day trip ended, we were able to admire the sunset and twilight, which is hands down my favourite part of the day. At just an hour south of Sydney, we’re lucky to have this beautiful national park that allows us to walk on fairly flat grounds the whole time. Next time, I’ll try and walk the overnight hike along the whole of the Great Coastal Walk.