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Bundeena to Marley Head - Day Hike

Home > Sydney > Escape the City | National Parks | Nature | Outdoor | Walks
by ThomasB (subscribe)
A French traveler and artist currently exploring Australia. I enjoy bushwalking, discovering the local culture and arts. Subscribe for hike and cultural activities ideas.
Published August 9th 2012
Better stray in the bush than too close to these cliffs
A great way to escape Sydney, travel by train and boat, revel in the colours of the bush and walk on the edge of a cliff all in one day, is to hike from Bundeena to Marley Head. Pack a picnic and some water, as there are not facilities on the trail, a pair of comfortable shoes and a hat on sunny days and get a bowl of fresh ocean air (see bottom of the page for useful information).

The cliffs near Marley Head - photo by author
The cliffs near Marley Head - photo by author

Cronulla is a nice town, one hour South of Sydney. Not being in too much of a rush, we enjoyed a quick bite in one of the many eateries in downtown Cronulla before heading towards Gunnamatta Bay to catch the little green and yellow ferry to Bundeena. The ferry was lively and full of hikers set to explore the northern shore of the world's second oldest National Park on that sunny Sunday morning. We enjoyed a quiet crossing and a good look at the opulent villas lining Simpson Bay and lounging above the small Bundeena Beach. The town was pretty quiet as we made our way towards the trailhead, enjoying the architectural features of some of the villas on the way.

The Bundeena Wharf - photo from
The Bundeena Wharf - photo from

The first part of the hike was really easy, as Beachcomber Road Service Trail is large and well maintained. We had to abandon it, however, and wade our way through a pretty muddy path once we reached the campsite at the end of the road. Hopping from a patch of reasonably dry earth to the next while trying not to get knocked off by the low-lying branches slowed our progression to a crawl and, every now and again, gasps marked near misses in the slippery mud.

Costly, sensitive shoes need not apply - photo by author
Costly, sensitive shoes need not apply - photo by author

We finally reached Marley Head Service Trail and resumed our hike under a bright sun, enjoying the view of the green bush blanketing the view all the way to the distant cliffs and thin azure band of ocean. The path got a bit rockier, turning orange and beige with sandstone as we walked South, finally reaching the coast. We enjoyed our lunch on the high battlements of proud cliffs that the relentless blue tide below sometimes managed to pierce, opening the smooth, yellow form of a beach. Scrubs of vegetation hanged willy-nilly on slabs of stone as mocking seagulls fought against the gushy coastal wind.

The view is truly beautiful - Photo by author
The view is truly beautiful - Photo by author

We then started to retrace our way towards Bundeena, hugging (not too) close to the cliffs as we followed the Coast Track through a maze sandstone looking like some gigantic, abandoned bee hive cut open by the wind.

The Coast Track - Photo by author
The Coast Track - Photo by author

Here and there, the rock was painted with red and ochre mineral deposits that probably inspired the particular Aboriginal art, so striking was the resemblance.

Who said sandstone was boring? - Photo by author
Who said sandstone was boring? - Photo by author

Further away, we came across a cliff, so white and smooth it looked like it was made from cakeicing and would crumble as soon as we would set foot on it. Fortunately enough for us, it held as we reveled in the view of distant cliffs turning yellow as the sun began its descent in the West.

Some parts of the canvas were left blank by Nature - Photo by author
Some parts of the canvas were left blank by Nature - Photo by author

We started walking again, lost track of the track at some point and ended up lost amid the vegetation. After a short wade through the brittle and fragrant bush, we managed to find the path back and pursued our return trip down a small gully and then back up on the ridge.

We reached Bundeena just in time to get a coffee on Brighton Street and see the Bay flare up in the setting sun while waiting for the ferry that would bring us back to Sydney.

Bundeena Bay in the setting sun - Photo by author
Bundeena Bay in the setting sun - Photo by author

Useful Information

Where : Royal National Park
Length : 11km – 3h30
Rate : Moderate – Mostly flat, a few muddy areas, climb 274m

Cronulla train station is just under an hour from Central station, on the Eastern Suburbs/Illawarra Line (adult return fare : $9.60). Exiting the station, make a left on Cronulla Street and cross under the tracks to Tonkin Street. Take the second road on your right, just after the "Cronulla & National Park Ferry Cruises" sign. Follow the road to the small pier to take the half-an-hour ferry to Bundeena (See timetables - adult 1-way fare : $6.10, cash on the boat).

From the Bundeena Pier, make a left on Loftus street. Seize your last opportunity at public restrooms before making a right on Bournemouth Street. Make a left on Reef (third street on your left) then an immediate right on Beachcomber Avenue. Following Beachcomber will bring you to the trailhead, behind a grey metal gate.

Keep right on Beachcomber Road Service trail, pass the Coast Track sign and reach the campsite at the end of the service trail. The path will get narrower (and usually muddy) for some time, until you reach the larger Marley Head Service Trail. Make a left and follow the Service trail until you reach the cliffs and the Coast Track. Follow along the cliffs, on the Coast Track, to the Bundeena Lookout and then to the crossing with Beachcomber Road Service Trail. Make a right to retrace your step to the trailhead and to Bundeena.
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Why? To escape the city and bushwalk
Where: Bundeena, Royal National Park
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Well written Thomas..I think I am stalking you! he he he I've been there, not all the way though. It's my back yard. L:)
by Lexa T (score: 3|1070) 3766 days ago
Sounds brilliant! Can't wait to try it :)
by melis (score: 1|11) 3764 days ago
Hey .. A great post and i love the view from top.. Do you think this is something i can do with a 2 yr old ?
And not to mention the fact that both my husband & I are not really into hiking & trekking ..You could classify us as beginners.. :)
by bhava (score: 0|2) 3400 days ago
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