The Coast Track - That Epic Hike You Must Do In Sydney

The Coast Track – That Epic Hike You Must Do In Sydney

Put on your hiking shoes and escape the city of Sydney into the scenic wilderness. The incredible Coast Track in the Royal National Park promises an adventure of a lifetime.

The city of Sydney is the gateway to a deluge of natural sights and attractions. Outdoor adventures await in the National Parks that are easily accessible from the city such as the famous Blue Mountains, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park or Royal National Park.

One of the highlights of my time in Sydney was definitely the hike along the Coast Track in Royal National Park, the second oldest national park in the world. It was also one of the things I was greatly looking forward to, because of the description I’d read on NSW’s National Parks website.

The Coast track simply must be walked at least once in a lifetime. You’ll walk along cliffs, beaches and escarpments, taking in magnificent ocean views and the rugged beauty of Royal National Park’s coastline as you go.

I was sold on that. I completed it with my sister in early January, with the summer sun beating down our backs.

The Coast Track: My FIRST overnight hike, ever!

The Coast Track runs for 26 kilometres from Bundeena to Otford. The extremely fit can complete it all in one day, while the rest can have an overnight stop in the North Era campground. Obviously I fall in the latter category.

I have to set the record straight before I go on: the Coast Track is my first ever attempt to do a hike with an overnight camping stop, and I learnt heaps on what not to do for my next hiking trip – I’ll get to this in a bit. There isn’t any potable water source along the track so I brought along three litres of water all for myself. I also carried along a Kathmandu two-man tent that I bought on sale in Tasmania. My sister carried her own water and all the food, mostly ready-to-eat because we couldn’t be bothered to bring a stove to cook.

Sydney to Cronulla

Instead of travelling straight from Sydney to the start of the hike, my sister and I spent a night in Cronulla, a laid-back little beach town just a hour away from Sydney by train. The short ferry ride from Cronulla to Bundeena, the starting point of the Coast Track, costs AUD 6.40 (SGD 7.20). From Bundeena Ferry Wharf, it was about a kilometre walk along the road till we hit the park entrance. That was the beginning of the Coast Track.

Here’s a breakdown of the route:

Day 1: Bundeena – Marley Head – Wattamolla – Curracurrang – Garie – North Era Campground
Day 2: North Era Campground – Burning Palms – Otford

Day One: Bundeena to North Era Campground

To reach the North Era Campground, we had to cover 18 whole kilometres the first day. It wasn’t long heading south from Bundeena before the amazing view came before us: cliffs, gorgeous deep blue waters and the endless horizon. It was glorious; I wanted to dive straight off the cliff into the sea but I held back knowing there will be plenty of beaches to come.

True enough, mid-afternoon came along with two beaches at Marley Head – Marley and Little Marley Beach. My sister and I spent some time on the latter swimming and having our lunch. By this time, everyone I had chatted with along the way had unfailingly wished me all the best in reaching North Era by nightfall. They all remarked what a bloody long way to go that was.

But come on, we still had to stop for the beaches, right?

From that stop it took about four hours or so to reach Wattamolla, and as we inched closer, cursing the sun and weight on our backs, we began to hear the noise, the music, the chatter… Damn, it was like a party was up ahead and hell yeah we would like to just invite ourselves, thank you.

Lo and behold, it turned out to be the very happening Wattamolla Beach, also accessible by car which explained the crowd. By that time, I was hot and sweaty under the thirty degrees heat, and there was nothing quite like throwing my gear in the sand, and jumping into the cool water. It felt phenomenal.

As we continued on from Wattamolla, we got lost right after Curracurrang and ended up making a detour right back to the carpark at Wattamolla beach. I still have no idea how that happened. The trick to not getting lost is to get closer to the coastline at Curracurrang Cove, walk through the rocks and shrubs and go downhill. Keep an eye out for the helpful marking sticks.

After another four hours of more solid walking, we descended to Garie Beach. The sun was already out of sight, but there was a little bit more walking to do before reaching North Era. We managed to make it to the campground just before it got dark. I swear to god I had never been happier than that very moment when I caught sight of the patch of green dotted with tents that is the North Era campground.

Night in North Era Campground

That day, we managed to reach the campsite around 8pm, when we began the track around 10am – you do the math. I felt like a champion as I pitched my tent. We ate some food, cracked some light sticks and descended into a night of restless sleep. Sleeping in tents wasn’t as comfortable as sleeping on beds, that’s for sure.

Day two: North Era Campground to Otford

The next morning, we woke up at sunrise and trudged the remaining 8 kilometres to Otford Railway Station with our significantly-lighter backpacks. We were definitely not on the track right at the start, jumping across rocks along the coast as the sun went up till we reached a point where it was not possible to carry on without risking our lives. So we took an uphill climb through the bushes above in search of the right trail. I was terrified that I might step on snakes at this point, given that some people had come across snakes on this track. It didn’t happen, thank god. We eventually found the right trail once again. Part of this morning walk involved an excruciating steep climb somewhere in the Burning Palms forest to get to Otford.

I can’t describe how it felt to finally reach the train station. I was truly exhausted (and in need of a shower) and at the same time I felt fully alive and well. I survived the Coast Track; I survived my first overnight hike.


  • On getting lost: My sister and I got lost quite a number of times along the track, but never too far because it is a coast track – follow the coast heading south and you’ll be fine. Carry a compass even, it might help. If you find yourself heading too far inland, you will get the sense that you are in the wrong trail. Head back, look for the right trail, and seek help from the friendly humans around if you’re lucky enough to find one.
  • Weather: If you don’t enjoy a hike in the hot summer, you can tackle it during the months slightly outside of December through February.

Tips for the first-time hikers

  • This is basic but I’ve learnt this the hard way: Never forget your shoulders when applying sunblock, unless you want crispy brown skin that will make you look like a human snake shedding skin in a few days’ time.
  • Use a proper backpack, preferably a mid-sized one that can fit your tent, and with waist straps. My journey would have been much more pleasant if I had a more suitable backpack and if I didn’t have to lug the three kilograms tent in my hands the whole way.
  • Put on a pair of seasoned hiking shoes. Never hit a trail with a pair of new shoes (I didn’t do this of course but I did have problems with my hiking shoes).
  • Water purification tablets might come in handy, lest you run out of water. This happened to my sister, and our friendly tent neighbour saved the day by giving us a tiny tablet to make it safe for consumption. The purified water tasted a little funky though.
  • This is important: Bring a hot, strong male companion along who will willingly carry the tent and all the supplies to demonstrate his unwavering masculinity. This would be highly ideal.

The Coast Track is for the adventurous!

During the Coast Track, I spent too much time cursing myself for deciding to go through with it rather than spending my time comfortably in Sydney. This is mainly due to the combination of the weight of my gear, my shoes, my backpack that didn’t have proper support, the unrelenting sun…  Otherwise it would have been great.

The sceneries we passed by are incredible, and so were the beaches. You’ll need a certain level of fitness and mental strength to go through 28 kilometres under the sun, but it’ll definitely be worth it. Almost every hike I’ve done so far is worth the exhaustion, and though I wouldn’t have said it back then, I can safely declare this now:

The Coast Track in Sydney is to be walked for all you adventurous people out there.

Contributed by Hey Explorer

About Author

Dina Malyana

Dina is one who is constantly dreaming of elsewhere. Her favourite days are those spent traversing across the globe with a backpack, chasing every sunset. Find her on Instagram @dinamalyana.