There are plenty of reasons why Sydney locals and visitors to NSW might want to access Royal National Park without driving.
For one thing, some city-dwellers do not own cars (there are actually quite a few car-less people in Sydney, including me up until recently) so when you’re struck with that occasional craving for a nature hike, there needs to be a way of using public transport to satisfy it.
Also, locals and tourists visiting the city will find that renting a car for this outing becomes even more pricey when you consider that driving into Royal NP requires a fee of $12 AUD per vehicle. Add that to the hassle of finding a parking spot in a location where car spaces are reasonably scarce, and many of us realise that sometimes it’s just easier not to drive.
We’re incredibly lucky in Sydney to have amazing national parks within an arms reach of the city, and Royal National Park is one that can be easily accessed using trains, buses, and ferries. Rob and I recently did a short hike along the Coast Track, and we managed the return trip from our home in the Inner West entirely via public transport.
If you’re hoping to do something similar, here’s our tips on how to get to Royal National Park from Sydney without a car!
How to get to Royal National Park on public transport or on a tour
There are various ways that you can access Royal National Park using public transport or private tours. I’ll give you five of the best options and then go into detail on the option that we chose.
Option 1: Walk fromHeathcote Station
The trailhead for theKarloo Pools Walking Track is right beside Heathcote Station, which is accessible via trains travelling along the T4 South Coast Line. This super convenient hiking option starts with a half hour walk to Karloo Pools, then you can stop for a swim or continue through the bushland to Uloola Falls. From there, you can either turn back to Heathcote or follow the Uloola Firetrail to get to Waterfall Station for a train back to Sydney.
Option 2: Walk from Otford Station
The southern trailhead for the Coast Track is atat Otford Lookout, which is a 15 minute walk from Otford Station (also on theT4 South Coast Line). You can either follow the Werrong Walking Trail for half an hour to Werrong Beach (a nudist beach) before turning back, or you choose to walk the Palm Jungle Loop which includes Werrong Lookout and Burning Palms Beach.
Option 3: Bus from Sutherland Station
The Park Connections bus takes passengers into Royal National Park from Sutherland Station or Waterfall Station. This is the best option if you want to access spots that are deeper inside the park such as Wattamolla Beach or the Figure 8 Pools. The bus operates on weekends and public holidays, and costs $10 AUD for a single ticket or $18 AUD for a day pass. There are only two departures in each direction daily so make sure you check the timetable and plan your trips beforehand.
Option 4: Ferry from Cronulla toBundeena
The northern trailhead for the Coast Track is located at the town of Bundeena, which is accessible via ferry from Cronulla. After walking from the wharf to thetrailhead at the top end of Royal National Park, you can hike along the cliffs to Wedding Cake Rock or further along the coast to access the secluded Marley Beach, then return to Bundeena via the Big Marley Firetrail.
Option 5: Take a guided tour
If you’d prefer to have all of your transport organised, hop on a full day Royal National Park tour from Sydney. This is obviously the most expensive option, but it allows you to visit multiple locations within the park in a day. The tour also stops off at the amazing Sea Cliff Bridge and visits Symbio Wildlife Park where you can see koalas and kangaroos.
Directions to get to the Coast Track via Cronulla/Bundeena
We chose to go with option 4 this time around. This was because it was a stunning autumn day and we thought the coastline would look particularly awesome while the sky was a vibrant blue (we were correct!). Here are directions on how to hike the Coast Track using the train to Cronulla and then the ferry toBundeena:
Take the train to Cronulla. You’ll need to hop on a train to get from your location in Sydney to Cronulla Station. Trains depart from Central Station on the T4 line approximately every 10-20 minutes throughout the day. The trip takes 50 minutes and costs about $3.65 AUD if you are travelling with an Opal card and avoiding peak hour fares.
Walk to Cronulla Wharf, which is just a few minutes downhill from the train station. Here you’ll find a privately owned ferry company, Cronulla Ferries, that offer a ferry service across the bay to Bundeena departing every hour. You don’t need to book a ticket ahead of time, just turn up and purchase your tickets on board. A ticket clerk will come around and take payment from everyone during the half hour ride. The cost is $7.40 AUD per adult each way, and you can pay by credit card.
Walk from Bundeena Wharf to the trailhead, located at the end of Beachcomber Avenue. Thisuphill walk through the suburbstakes around 15-20 minutes (you can pay for a ride on the Park Connections bus if you’d rather avoid walking this part). At the trailhead for the Coast Track you’ll find bathroom facilities a short ways down the trail. I’m fairly sure that there was no water bottle refill station here, so make sure you arrive with your water supplies sorted.
Find the turnoff for the Wedding Cake Rock Trail which is just a little further along the path. This is what you follow for the rest of your hike! My favourite part was the giant layered cliffs calledThe Balconies that had scenic views along the coast and out to the Pacific Ocean. It looked great in photos and the rocks were a good place to stop and eat some snacks, if you brought food along.
Wedding Cake Rock is further along the track. I have to say, I found this spot to be highly disappointing as it has been surrounded by a very tall fence to stop people from walking out on the rock. In my opinion, a basic wire barricade and some signage would have done the trick, and the aspect wouldn’t have been ruined by the fence monstrosity that now obscures the view.
This is where we turned back to return to Bundeena, but if you still have energy you can continue along the Coast Track to Marley Beach for a swim. This is apparently a really great beach – I’m hoping to make it all the way there next time!