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Royal National Park

Home > Sydney > Beaches | Day Trips | Escape the City | National Parks | Parks
by Emma Jane Explores (Emma Caldwell) (subscribe)
I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Published May 15th 2017
Sorry, TLC I'm definitely chasing waterfalls
Just a short drive south from Sydney lies the spectacular expanse of the Royal National Park. This park is the second park in the world to be given the name National Park, the first being Yellowstone. That gives you a bit of an idea about just how impressive this coastal stretch is.

Royal National Park
The cliffs at the Royal National Park


On one of the last Saturdays of summer, I jump in my old bomb of a car and hit the road to check out what I've been told is a picturesque and vast adventure where the Australian bush meets the sea. It's an easy drive from my home and on a superb sunny day like today, the urge to roll the windows down and sing along to road trip playlists is too strong to deny.

Sea water hitting the cliffs
Sea water hitting the cliffs


In just over an hour I'm pulling into the entrance to Wattamolla Beach. It costs money to park here and wouldn't you know it, the Royal National Park isn't yet up with the times, so I need cash. Luckily, the lady at the entrance writes me up a ticket with the promise that I'll pay for it later I mustn't forget though, as if it's not paid in fourteen days it becomes a $100 fine. Jeez, that's steep.

The beach
Looking through the trees at the beach


Lots of sun-seekers have had the same idea as me, and the carpark is full. First stop is to head up to the lookout area to catch some views of the waves hitting the craggy rocks and look back over towards the beach. The path is a little muddy, and I'm cursing my decision to wear my white Converse shoes but I press on nonetheless. A fairly easy 15 minute bushwalk later and I'm standing at the lookout, hearing the roar of the surf crashing against the cliffs. The water is blue and aqua and looks inviting from up here, but down below me those waves are brutal. Other people are climbing further up the cliffs, but I'm lugging a DSLR and a tripod, so I'm content to stay put and watch the water explode up over the rocks for a while.

The waterfall at Wattamolla
The waterfall at Wattamolla


Wandering back through the overgrowth, I drop my tripod off at my car and head towards the famous 10 metre rock to see if I can catch some daredevils jumping into the water. The rock sits behind a fence saying "Do Not Cross" but hordes of young travellers seem to pay it no mind as they scale the midriff height barrier and find themselves face to face with the cliff face. I sit and watch for a while as their bravado vanishes and they mill around the jumping off point with uncertainty. I'm equal parts sad and relieved that I have not brought my bathers, nor an Instagram assistant to hold my stuff and film me while I jump.

Paddling at Wattamolla
Paddling at Wattamolla


After discerning that the now cautious tourists are not going to commit to the 10 metre jump, I wander along the boardwalk towards the beach. I stop for a while to watch some guys flying a drone, a couple of paddlers and plenty of sunbakers as they relax on the sand. I turn back towards the rock just in time to see one gutsy swimmer take the plunge with a running jump off the rock. He's swiftly followed by another couple of guys who all surface backslapping each other for their bravery.

The beach itself is stunning at Wattamolla. The sand is a golden hue and the blue sea water is only separated from the freshwater creek by a sand belt. I can definitely see myself heading back when summer returns with a good book and a sunbed for a day of relaxation.

On my way back to my car, I am alarmed by a huge lace monitor that crosses my path. It seems to be seeking some food and is drawn to the meaty scent of a barbecue a little further up the path. It pays no attention to me as I snap away and slowly stalks its way towards the food scraps. I've never seen anything like that in the wild before!

A lace monitor comes out to say hello
A lace monitor comes out to say hello


I have about another hour before the park will start closing up and I head to the neighbouring Garie Beach for some more beachside strolling. The beach here is a surfer haven, the waves are crashing on the golden sand as the beachgoers start to pack up for the day. The beach is patrolled but by this time the lifesavers are putting away their gear and the one little canteen on the beach is closing. I go for a quick walk along the beach, which at this time is much less busy. Again, I rue not bringing my bathers and for not knowing this place was here until summer was nearly over.

Garie Beach
A lone umbrella marks the end of the day


I hop in the car to head home, catching glimpses of the beach from the winding road back up the hill. I've barely scratched the surface of this incredible part of New South Wales, so I'll definitely be coming back here to explore some more.

Please note: It is illegal to jump off the rocks into Wattamolla Lagoon, due to a number of injuries sustained by jumpers. Jumpers can be fined $300.
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Why? Beautiful coastal walks and scenery
When: 7am - 8.30pm
Phone: (02) 9542 0648
Where: Royal National Park, NSW
Cost: $12 for car entry
Your Comment
A stunning area, Emma - sounds like you had fun!
by Elaine (score: 3|4044) 126 days ago
It is an amazing national park! Check out Burning Palms beach too, one of my absolute favourites :)
by Chloe Doyle (score: 3|1205) 127 days ago
Currawong Flats is my favourite family picnic area ... close for the boat or bike hire to explore the park more
by Kate Blake (score: 2|690) 126 days ago
I love the Royal National Park and used to go to Wattamolla beach myself. Beautiful place.
by Romy Page (score: 2|308) 126 days ago
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