A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published April 10th 2016
Where to stay & what to do
Welcome to Bonnie Vale Camp, the quintessential spot for seaside camping. It lies on the outskirts of Sydney and is the largest campground in the Royal National Park. It has great facilities for accommodation of this kind (I'm talking hot showers!), and is a stone's throw from stunning nature walks, quaint coastal towns, and locations for leisure on the water.
Sunrise over the Port Hacking - a view caught a minute away from bed.
Bonnie Vale is sandwiched between the seaside suburbs of Maianbar and Bundeena, with these spanning the shore of the Port Hacking. You may reach Bundeena via a scenic ferry ride from Cronulla (see timetable here), or a leisurely drive of about an hour through the Royal National Park (see directions here). However you get there, the hectares of bushland and tranquility of the sea will soon have you feeling removed from it all.
Reserve one of the camp's 74 sites for tents or caravans online or over the phone (9542 0648 or 1300 072 757). You may also book in-person at the park's Visitor Centre found at Audley Weir. Sites aren't powered, however facilities are on the fancier end of the spectrum, or at least, compared to other NSW campsites I've stayed at. Adults stay at $14 per night, while children stay at $7 per night.
No fires allowed, which I have to say is one of the pinnacles of camping trips, but you do get stainless steel barbecues so you can still cook up a storm. We were close to one of these, as well as the amenities block. Can confirm hot showers were a-go - they were one of those switches you had to press every 30 seconds, but it's a fair trade-off.
Pleasantly surprised to find the facilities clean, well lit through the night, and with a Palmolive honey & milk wash on the vanity. Not sure if someone left this here or it was a communal donation, but it left us smelling too good for camp. A wash up block, great for dishes, was found on the bay side of the grounds.
Mangroves that made me feel like I was in a watercolour painting - a short walk from the Simpson's Bay side of camp.
What do you fancy waking up to? A panoramic view of the Port Hacking River? Simpsons Bay, with a nearby field of mangroves? The towering canopies of forest?
If you have a preference you may specify when booking. As a coastal location Bonnie Vale treats you to a wealth of outdoor scenery. We chose a site metres from the shoreline of the broad river mouth with views right out to the ocean. It was magical waking up and catching sunrise over the shimmering waters, just a minute's walk from bed.
So you're settled in. What now? The location spoils you for choice with things to see and do. Starting close to your Bonnie Vale home, you have the beach along the Port Hacking. This is great for leisurely strolls, swims, embarking on a kayak adventure, or perhaps even trying your hand at paddle-boarding. You don't get any crazy surf like around the peninsular at Cronulla, but this makes for a more serene seaside holiday.
The vicinity encompassing Bundeena, Bonnie Vale and Maianbar is rich in terms of nature walks. You've probably heard of (or seen on Instagram) the famous Wedding Cake Rock. This can be accessed from Bundeena. Just note the coastal trail toward this is currently being developed, however a 50-minute alternative through the hinterland is still all yours.
Shelley Beach near Port Hacking Point, accessed via Bundeena.
We took a different route, toward Port Hacking Point, via Shelley Beach. This took around 2 hours to come full-circle, and involved plentiful sand-trails, bush-bashing and splashes of mud. Of course, the scenery was worth it - especially the Indigenous rock engravings, and the view over to Cronulla, the familiar shoreline that is our usual hangout, from which we only marvelled at the natural beauty over this side of the river.
Bundeena boasts a relaxed village atmosphere. There are some quaint cafes such as the Passionfruit Cafe, perfect for takeaway seafood to have on the wharf. An IGA and local newsagency will come to the rescue on any supplies you may have forgotten to add to the packing list. If you've travelled by car, it will be all the easier to visit the many other natural attractions across the Royal National Park. Wattamolla is just one.
With great accommodation, leisure options, and natural surrounds, Bonnie Vale is the ideal getaway from the bustling city of Sydney. If you are one who enjoys being by the water, the tranquility of the bush, or simply a change of pace, you'll be delighted by this time away.