Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The coast track in the Royal National Park

The two-day walk from Bundeena to Otford in the Royal National Park is pretty famous. I seem to remember reading it is the most popular overnight walk in the country in terms of visitor numbers. I can see why - the scenery is amazing, it is very close to Syndey, and you can use public transport to avoid a car shuffle. We planned the walk for Sunday-Monday on a non-NSW public holiday to make booking a few sites at North Era easier: you need to book a long way in advance if you want a Saturday night.

Day 1: Bundeena to North Era, 18 km

We stayed near Wollongong at Corrimal beach caravan park on Saturday. It was a pretty good park, although we never actually saw it in the daylight. We had some trouble getting through the boom gate at 6am, which almost made us miss the train from Otford. Missing the train would have been a problem, since they only run about every two hours. Still, we screamed into the station just as the train was being announced. A note for future hikers: the ticket machine only takes coins and the fare to Sutherland is about $5. Also FYI the quickest route is up Bulli pass along the Princes Hwy through Helensburgh to Otford.

The train trip from Otford to Cronulla via Sutherland went smoothly, and we arrived at the wharf in time for the first ferry to Bundeena. The ferry trip is beautiful, and was a good start to the trip.

After a short winding walk through the streets of Bundeena we hit the coast track and sat down for some breakfast. We picked a spot near some people doing bootcamp with an amazing clifftop view as a backdrop.

The walk takes in some amazing views, including some chalky-white cliffs before arriving at Marley Beach. The surf looked pretty dangerous at Big Marley so I went for a quick dip at Little Marley (which looked slightly less scary but still not too friendly).

After walking past some more great views, and some amazing coloured sandstone, we reached civilisation at Wattamolla. It is road accessible and is a pretty cool place for a day-trip. There is a lagoon, a huge rock to jump off (if you don't mind a $200 fine), and a beautiful beach. We went for a refreshing swim to escape the heat and humidity and were on our way again.

I went on a mission down to Eagle rock where Curracurrong creek jumps off the cliff into the sea, and was rewarded with a brilliant view accompanied by the crashing thump of waves into the cliff. I think this was my favourite part of the whole walk.

Shortly after the creek, both groups of our party made the same wrong turn up the Curra Moors Track, which is a wide fire trail that heads inland. The coast track is much less obvious at this point, and a sign to Garie beach is conveniently placed behind a large bush where it is only visible after you have correctly made the critical track choice. Em and I, with the benefit of the map, realised our mistake after a few hundred metres, but Tim, Josh, and Andrew ended up doing the complete loop to get back to the track, adding a few kilometres onto the trip. Tim used his finely-honed bush navigation skills (google maps) to get back to the main track.

We eventually all met up at Garie beach, but not before we left a note for Tim on the trail. Garie beach is also road-accessible, and there were plenty of fishermen and surfers about. The break looked pretty mean, and the surfers were all awesome.
Over the hill was North Era campground, which was our comfy grassy home for the night. We were surprised to find we knew our camping neighbours! There is water at North Era, but it isn't flowing much and is of the swampy kind, I'd suggest stocking up at Curracurrong, which has a good flow.

Day 2: North Era to Otford, 8km

We started day 2 with a swim (or two) to cool off in preparation for the hot walking ahead.
We walked past many shacks that date back to the early days of the national park - they have an agreement with national parks that allows them to stay. There are about 200 shacks in the park.

We had lunch in the shade at Burning Palms beach and then entered the coastal (littoral) rainforest section of the walk. There was a tough uphill section as we regained the escarpment, and a great view of Werrong beach. From there it was a fast trip out back to the station where we picked up the cars.

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