We are four months into our move to Sydney and still have yet to venture out of the Sydney region (our first trip is coming up next week though, so stay tuned!). However, we’ve done two great day trips with gorgeous hikes in Sydney so far. Sydney is bordered on three sides by national parks – Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is to the north, Royal National Park is to the south and the Blue Mountains National Park is to the west. The South Pacific Ocean is to the east, otherwise, I’m sure there would be a national park that direction too since one thing we’ve discovered since moving here is that Australians are very good at preserving large areas of open space, even within the dense City of Sydney.
Royal National Park: Bundeena to Little Marley Beach
Our first day hike was in Royal National Park. We drove to Bundeena, a small town that is surrounded entirely by the park, and met our friends who took the Cronulla to Bundeena ferry after taking the train from Sydney to Cronulla (driving was quicker and allowed us a bit slower start in the morning). We rendezvoused with our friends at the ferry port and then all squeezed into our car to drive a couple blocks to the south end of the tiny town where the Coast track starts.
The Coast track is a 26 kilometer trail that follows the shoreline through the entirety of Royal National Park. There are various segments that can be done as day hikes, or the entire track can be walked in a single, very long, day or split into two days with an overnight at the North Era campground. We chose to do the Bundeena to Little Marley Beach portion of the track for our first foray into the park.
We got a pretty early start and only passed a handful of other hikers on our walk south toward Little Marley Beach. We stopped at a handful of viewpoints for lovely photo ops and marveled at the sheer drop offs at the edge of the cliffs. The hike was relatively flat with only a few short hill sections where you dropped down and then climbed back out of little valleys. I was quite surprised by how different the environment was than most of the coastal areas we had previously walked in Sydney. It was very dry with mostly low scrub brush and lots of sections of the trail were sand. It was dry the day we did our hike, but our friends had warned us that after rain the trails in the park can get quite muddy.
We first arrived at Big Marley Beach. The beach was wide and very exposed, with brilliant white sand and crashing surf. It was enticing to stop and settle there for our picnic, but we had heard good things about Little Marley Beach, so after a quick break to let the kids play in the sand we continued on. Little Marley Beach was only another ten minutes down the track and well worth the extra bit of hiking. The track passes over the headland between the two beaches and the first views of Little Marley Beach are absolutely stunning. The cove is protected from the swell and the waters are calm and turquoise. The sand is also a brilliant white and it reminds us of a beach you’d find on one of the drier islands of the Caribbean.
We settled under the shade of some trees and enjoyed a picnic lunch. Theo splashed about in the water at the little lagoon at the south end of the beach. We dipped our toes in the ocean, but since it was August (winter in the southern hemisphere) both the water and the air were a bit too chilly to entice us for a swim.
On the hike back we passed droves of other hikers and were very grateful for the early start we had gotten. We had enjoyed almost deserted beaches and solitary hiking on the way in, but it seemed that the tour buses had arrived late morning and by midday the trail was crowded with people. At the end of the hike, we drove back down the ferry dock and enjoyed ice creams and playtime at the playground in the center of Bundeena.
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park: West Head Lookout to Resolute Beach
Recently we ventured on another, much more spontaneous, day hike. This time we headed north to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. We drove all the way to the end of West Head road at the very northern end of the park. It turns out a bike race was happening that day and as such we needed an escort through the park to ensure we didn’t run over any of the bikers; however, our escort car blazed up the road and proceeded much quicker and with less caution than we would have on our own.
The hike at West Head can be done a number of different ways. We chose the shortest route, hiking directly from West Head Lookout down to Resolute Beach (with a short detour to West Head Beach) and back. We chose to spend more time playing and swimming at Resolute Beach rather than hiking since we knew Theo’s patience would run short in the backpack. Other options include a loop trail from Resolute Picnic Grounds to West Head Lookout to Resolute Beach back to the picnic area or a diversion to Great Mackerel Beach which is a bit further down the trail from Resolute Beach. Alternatively, you could also take a ferry from Palm Beach to Great Mackerel Beach and do either an out and back hike to West Head Lookout or a loop hike incorporating Resolute Picnic Grounds.
The view from West Head Lookout would have made the trip in itself. The view east looks across Pittwater Bay to the Barrenjoey Headland and lighthouse and out to the South Pacific Ocean. You can also see the northernmost town of the Northern Beaches, Palm Beach. To the north you look across Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River to the northern shore.
The hike is mostly downhill on the way out from West Head Lookout and passes through lush overgrown forest. Numerous creeks cut through the hillside making little gullies and waterfalls. The birds were squawking like crazy too and Theo thought they were monkeys so we spent a good portion of the hike looking out for George (i.e. Curious George).
West Head Beach was a gorgeous little cove and well worth the short, but very steep (legs will burn on the return trip!), detour. We were anxious to reach Resolute Beach though so we only stopped to take a couple pictures and then rejoined the main trail for the last leg of the hike to Resolute.
We were absolutely amazed by Resolute Beach. It is probably one of the prettiest places we have seen yet in Sydney – and it has a lot of strong competition! The beach was almost empty when we arrived except for a group of kayakers who had paddled over from Palm Beach, a couple, and an interesting man who had drawn a design in the sand and was taking self portraits of himself meditating in the middle.
The water was crystal clear, and although it was still a bit chilly this time of year, the air was very warm and we quickly dove in for a swim. I was a bit nervous about sharks also as I’ve read that they are more prolific in the bays than the actual ocean, but the kayakers were splashing about in the water too so I figured at least my chances of getting eaten were reduced by their presence (probably just my own self-assuring logic, but it made sense to me).
After playing on the beach for awhile, exploring the rock pools (tide pools) and eating our picnic lunch we finally packed it up and reluctantly made our way back to our car. Whenever we have a free weekend day we will very likely be making our way back to this pretty spot.