A wildlife photographer and blogger, I spend my free time finding and photographing wildlife in different parts of the world. Check out my blog at www.thewildlifediaries.com
Published August 18th 2016
From the summit to the sea
Werrong beach track Only an hour south of Sydney, Werrong beach trail in Royal National Park is a challenging track that starts with stunning coastal views and ends at a beautiful secluded beach. It is a mini adventure out of the city and a perfect alternative to a weekend gym session.
When to go: Any time Distance: 4 kilometers return Walking time: 1hr 30 min -2hr 30 min Level of difficulty: Hard
It lies along Palm Jungle Loop track and can be done as a side track before continuing to Palm Jungle or for a shorter adventure, you could take the Werrong beach track by itself and spend some quality time on the beach.
The trail starts at the beginning of Cliff Track at Otford Lookout and immediately ducks into tall eucalypt forest. It meanders along the cliff tops over relatively flat ground and soon comes to the sign-posted turn-off to the beach.
Straight after the turn off the trail starts a steep descent through lush coastal rainforest, dominated by cabbage tree palms and giant ferns. The forest here is quite dense with mighty trunks of fallen trees spanning across deep crevices that cut through the side of the escarpment. It brings to mind images of primaeval forests of Conan Doyle's Lost World.
After about 30 minutes of climbing down the winding trail you come to an opening in the forest. Here the rain water has collected into a natural pond. The still water of the pond creates such a perfect reflection that for a moment it is difficult to tell which way is up and which way is down.
Werrong beach is unexpectedly beautiful. Tucked in at the bottom of a towering escarpment and framed by two forest-covered cliffs, it has a distinctly wild feel to it. Weathered driftwood is scattered among the massive boulders that mark the line between the grassy slope and the sandy strip of the beach. The sand is peppered with multi-colored pebbles polished by the elements. Eroded sandstone mounds rise out of the shallows here and there.
Looking back at the escarpment, the beach is even more spectacular. A small creek meanders along the v-shaped fold in the slope, its beginning lost in the thick carpet of rainforest somewhere half way up the slant of the escarpment. It is hard to believe that you are only an hour away from the busy city centre. The beach feels like it is a world away from any civilisation.
As you relax on the beach, keep in mind that it is a designated nudist beach, so expect to see people behaving 'naturally'. Though in the colder months when the water is not warm enough for swimming, you might find the beach completely empty.
The climb back to the top of the escarpment is quite steep and will take between 30 minutes and one hour, depending on how often you stop. There are plenty of photogenic distractions along the trail that provide a good excuse to stop and catch your breath.
Bulgo beach track
If you feel like an extra challenge after returning to Otford lookout, you could take another track all the way down to sea level. From the look out you can see a smattering of rickety shacks on the beach below. This is the fishing community of Bulgo – one of the few shack villages remaining in Royal National Park.
To get there follow the Lady Wakehurst drive south towards Otford train station until you come to another lookout opposite the Otford Pantry café. From here an unsignposted track leads down from the escarpment. The track is not as steep as the one leading to Werrong beach, though it is not as dramatic either.
You emerge from the track right in the middle of the fishing village. One look at the shacks is enough to realise how old this village is. Most of these shacks date back to 1920s when some of the coal miners from the nearby pits decided to settle here.
To the south of the village, there is a tidal rock pool. It is not visible during the hide tide, but if you find yourself on the beach when the tide is low, you'll have another opportunity to dip your toes or to go for a swim during the warmer months.
If you are walking back to the train station, do not be tempted to take Domville Road from the cafe – it will be a very long walk. Instead, walk a few meters up Lady Wakehurst Drive to Beaumont Road and follow it to the train station. This is likely the road you took from the station when you arrived.