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The Ultimate Coastal Experience: Otford Lookout / Bald Hill Lookout / Sea Cliff Bridge / Coalcliff Beach

Home > Sydney > Day Trips | Escape the City | Family | Fun Things To Do | Walks
by Lucy Y.Y. L (subscribe)
Somewhat skilled photographer. Full time tea drinker, reader and part-time napper. Follow adventures at instagram.com/discoverutopia/
Published January 11th 2016
Walk upon one of NSW's favoured coasts
stanwell park beach, stanwell tops
Stanwell Park Beach from Stanwell Tops


Bald Hill Lookout, Stanwell Park
Bald Hill Lookout, Illawarra Range


The sounds of turbulent waves crashing into the rocks, frequent spritzes of sea salt and the whiplash of the breeze hitting the skin may sound tumultuous but in congruent with the panoramic views of the ocean, cliffs and beach, this is almost a utopia to experience. Lying on the south outer edges of the Royal National Park and located northmost of Wollongong, the coastal sites offers the most picturesque perception which is contrasted against the forested cliffs, overlooking the ocean. Following Lady Wakehurst Drive and Lawrence Hargrave Drive, named after an Australian aviation pioneer which permits both cars and walkers on the scenic coastal road, the drives connects popular coastal sites for easy and reachable travel.

Essentials for Hike
Essentials for Hike


Coming off of Otford Station and merging through the flora filled vegetation where the early morning had brightened the vibrant greens, we were directed by three, good-natured locals (all at different occasions and asked if we were lost, how so very kind of them!) to Otford Lookout. Walking on the narrow footpath of Lady Wakehurst Drive, we soon emerged to a pelagic panorama where the waves softly doused the beach and the wind brushed the greenery. With only less than 30 minutes into the coastal walk, I was immediately astounded by the scenery and serenity of the lookout; the sound of a few cars and the chattering of cyclists passing through did not disturb the experience.

otford lookout, illawara
Otford Lookout


otford lookout, illawara
Otford Lookout


Pleased with the scenery of the lookout, we began our trek back onto Lady Wakehurst and Otford Road to oversee Stanwell Tops which is alternately known as Bald Hill Lookout or Bald Hill Headland Reserve. Staying close the road, we climbed through fallen branches, twigs and the distant rumbling of cars, the thirty-three minute walk with heightened streets (yes, again!) led us to the stunning lookout. Speckled with people on Stanwell Park Beach, curving cliffs and mountainous-height escarpment, this is only one of the few lookouts that offers a view of the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge.

stanwell tops
Companion overlooking Stanwell Tops


This, by far has been my favourite view of all of my hikes which is in equal place with the views offered by the Sea Cliff Bridge. Taking a worthwhile thirty minute break of photographing, sitting and simply enjoying the lookout, we descended and turned to our new observation location, Sea Cliff Bridge. Arriving at Helensburgh Station and boarding the train to Coalcliff Station, which took approximately ten minutes, we tapped off and turned right, descending down Lawrence Hargrave Drive. Near the bottom of the drive, we took the left where signs directed us to the pedestrian access of the Sea Cliff Bridge.

view from sea cliff bridge
Coacliff cliffs from Sea Cliff Bridge


Perfect for all people, the level of the ground is flat and will be suited to your level of fitness. People with dogs, families with strollers, friends and couples were seen enjoying the oceanic perspectives. The width of the lane was quite spacious and if you are taking photographs, it is safe to stand on the edge of the fence as it will protect your body but it the height is enough to lift the camera/phone to your desired position. We walked further until satisfied and once we passed the 'curves' of the bridge, we turned back and started our walk to our last planned coastal site, Coalcliff Beach.

sea cliff bridge, walkway
Sea Cliff Bridge, Walkway


Being so impressed, I knew the beach of Coalcliff would not disappoint me as it is a beach that is juxtaposed to forested cliffs. Passing Leeder Park, there were many tanned beach-goers and surfers both on land and in the water. Reaching the bottom of Leeder Park, there are segregated pools for safe swimming and shallow children's pool which is surrounded by large rocks and cracks in the ground, hence Coacliff Beach being a semi-rock pool site. There were people sun baking, children splashing in the water and others sitting by the pool.

coacliff beach, rock pools
Coacliff Beach


Wanting to go across the water break that separates the rock pools from the beach itself, the current from the water break was slightly fierce and choosing which rocks to step across requires pre-thinking. Nonetheless, I managed to enjoy the view of the beach from the rocks and watched the waves gently crawling towards the shore as it loses force. From there, my companion and I sat in silence and enjoyed our last moments in the oceanic site. The overall views and perspectives from each site was absolutely delightful and simply breathtaking.

cliffs at coalcliff
Waves near Coalcliff cliffs


For those seeking parking in all these places, there is available parking right behind Otford Lookout and if it is full, there is also parking spaces opposite of Otford Pantry (22 Lady Wakehurst Dr); requires 600m walk to the lookout. At Stanwell Tops/ Bald Hill Lookout, there is also available parking situated behind the actual lookout. At Sea Cliff Bridge, you may park your vehicle at the Northern/ Southern end of the bridge or perhaps park on Lawrence Hargrave Drive near Leeder Park, this also applies for Coalcliff Beach. There are bathroom facilities at Otford Station, Bald Hill Lookout and also at the ends of the Sea Cliff Bridge (Leeder Park). To summarise, a day well spent with terrific lookouts and extraordinary views of the ocean!

stanwell tops, bald hill lookout
Stanwell Tops: Sea Cliff Bridge & Stanwell Park Beach


ALTERNATIVES: Take the family to see the animals of Symbio Wildlife Zoo (7-11 Lawrence Hargrave Drive) or hang glide at Bald Hill Lookout/ Headland Reserve, check it out here

TIPS: Water bottles and reapplying sunscreen is a must! (I made the careless decision of forgetting to apply sunscreen on my arms). Be careful when researching Stanwell Tops Lookout, it is different to Stanwell Tops even though Google Images may agree; they are NOT the same. My companion and I decided to walk from Bald Hill Headland Reserve to Stanwell Tops Lookout which required walking in narrow paths which were VERY close to the roads, I would highly not recommend walking; it can be quite dangerous (if you are visiting, take a vehicle). After the thirty minute walk, we arrived at Stanwell Tops Lookout which overlooks the coast but is slightly covered by greenery. There is another platform which would give a better view but that was closed off since the grounds were unstable and the platform may collapse any time. Here is a picture of Stanwell Tops Lookout, you can decide whether it is worth visiting:

stanwell tops lookout
Stanwell Tops Lookout (Longview Crescent)


Don't let Google confuse you-
What you're most likely searching for: Bald Hill Headland Reserve, also commonly known as Stanwell Tops
Other lonesome lookout (not as popular nor does it offer great view): Stanwell Tops Lookout at Longview Crescent

Another tip, if you're travelling by train, you need to PLAN the day ahead. Otford to Coalcliff trains (by train) arrives at one hour intervals on weekdays, by weekends they are by two hours. Plan your day accordingly to your schedule, you don't want to be waiting for a two hour train that'll only be five-ten minute train ride.
Whole day resulted in approximate 20 500 steps
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Why? To forget about the responsibilities from the city and talk to the ever so laid back and friendly locals
When: Anytime - check whether hard rainfall/weather will close sites
Where: Northern Wollongong
Your Comment
Thank you for your colourful article and great pics. It would be helpful to have a summary at the end of the article which briefly outlines the destinations and distances between them. We will be attempting this one.
by maree (score: 0|3) 1471 days ago
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