Royal Coast Track (NSW)


Overview

A classic New South Wales overnight hike, the 26 kilometre Royal Coastal Track (also known simply as The Coast Track) explores the stunningly beautiful and rugged coastline of Royal National Park - the oldest National Park in Australia, and second only to Yellowstone in the world.



Starting at the park's northern end in the village of Bundeena and finishing at the settlement of Otford, the Coast Track is famous for being home two of the park's most Instagrammed locations - the precarious Wedding Cake Rock and the Figure Eight Pools.



While Wedding Cake Rock and the Figure Eight Pools attract the mass audiences, they are just the beginning. For those looking for a deeper engagement with the park, the Coast Track offers an incredible wealth of other scenic wonders, from sheer coastal cliffs, waterfalls, pristine beaches and even waterfalls pouring over the edge of sheer coastal cliffs.



The high percentage of kilometres along coastal cliffs means this is an outstanding walk for whale watching during the whale migration season. This is complemented by wallabies and even feral deer sightings being some of the terrestrial fauna visible along this walk.



For a 26 kilometre trail, the vegetation types vary wildly too; while mostly consisting of coastal heath, the track also includes everything from pockets of Eucalypt forest to an extended stretch through palm-dominated littoral rainforest.



Being so close to Sydney, the trail's popularity had been its undoing in recent years with the track becoming severely eroded in places. Recognising the value of the Coast Track and the raising of the bar in recent years by projects like the Three Capes Track and Frenchmans Cap in Tasmania, NSW Parks and Wildlife have invested $9 million in upgrading the Coast Track, with most of the walk now being under boardwalk. The result is a faster and easier journey than it was previously, but also one that is environmentally more sustainable. Combined with the ever-changing scenery, the result is a walk that lives up to its world class ambitions, and serves as a benchmark for the quality of an overnight trail in Australia.


Our Royal Coast Track Adventure (2019)

Alissa and I completed the Royal Coast Track in July 2019, starting in Bundeena on 7th July and finishing in Otford the next day. Being an overnight hike with only one designated campsite at North Era, our itinerary was decided by default, and our decision to walk north to south was governed by the fact the northern end is closer to Sydney and thus facilitates and earlier start and that the second day's shorter distance was more conducive for our return journey back to Sydney and then onwards to the Blue Mountains.

Being Insta-famous due to Wedding Cake Rock and the Figure Eight Pools, the Royal Coast Track is a very busy walk, particularly in its northern half and close to the walk's entry points. In spite of the high visitor numbers, the overall experience is surprisingly wild and has a feeling of remoteness in spite of its close proximity to Sydney.

While there are some online guides for the walk on Wildwalks and it appears in written publications, the fact most of it is on boardwalk makes it very straightforward. As a result, we did not refer to any guidebooks while doing the walk. We would however highly recommend downloading the interactive Avenza map app offered by Parks and Wildlife which can help walks figure out how far they have left to walk for the day.

One of the walks major strengths is the fact that it can be walked with public transport at both ends. At the Bundeena end, trains from Sydney run to Cronulla and a short ferry ride drops walkers off at Bundeena. The ferry is definitely recommended, as it provides a scenic cruise through Port Hackling that is a great start to the day. From Otford, the the train station provides train services back into Sydney. Note that Otford has limited facilities and it is best to ensure your Opal card is topped up prior to starting the walk. Non-Sydneysiders doing the walk can arrange for luggage storage at Central Station for a fee.

Camping along the track is only permitted at North Era campground. The campground needs to be booked in advance and can be done online. Compared with the quality of the track, North Era is a fairly lacklustre campground, with soggy ground, overgrown trails to the toilet, no water and creeks that have precarious makeshift crossings. Considering it is a paid campsite, the lack of facilities were something of a disappointment, and I hope that the future improvements to the campsite will bring it up the standard of the walking.

Due to the lack of water at North Era, walkers need to consider carrying extra water in for the walk. Nevertheless, the creeks in the park do not flow from farmland and it is possible to fill up from creeks at many points along the walk. As always, I recommend treatment of water to prevent illness just in case.

Being at the lowest end of length for a multi-day walk, overnight walks are sometimes treated as their own category and/or feel like they are somehow less important than a really, 'meaty' multi-day adventure. Doing the Coast Track, the walking is so good that we never felt like it was a lesser walk than a long multi-day, as the variety and quality of scenery made for an engaging experience from start to finish. Sydneysiders are lucky to have such an outstanding walk so close by, and I would have to say that the Coast Track is both a benchmark for an Icon/Great Walk-style overnight hike, as well as being an overnight I would consider a contender for one my favourite multi-day walks in Australia.

The Sections

 Royal Coast Track (NSW) - Bundeena to North Era

Day One of Sydney's most famous overnight hike, this day on the Royal Coast Track explores the northern half of Royal National Park from Bundeena to North Era. Starting with a ferry ride from Cronulla, the day's walking features sheer coastal cliffs, wildflower-filled heath, idyllic beaches and several waterfalls. An outstanding day of hiking, this is a benchmark for a day of coastal walking on a multi-day hike...

 Royal Coast Track (NSW) - North Era to Otford

Day Two of Sydney's most famous overnight hike, this day on the Royal Coast Track explores the southern half of Royal National Park from North Era to Otford. Starting at North Era, the track passes through small cabin communities before the side trip to the famous Figure Eight Pools. Passing through the Palm Jungle littoral rainforest, the trail finishes along coastal cliffs and eucalypt forest before descending to Otford Station...


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