Take a day to go sight seeing from Sydney. An hour’s train ride south, a ferry across Port Hacking, off Botany Bay, and you’ll arrive at Bundeena and the Royal National Park. Wide, white sandy beaches, Aboriginal carvings, bush and cliff walks, native flora, whale watching – it’s a great day and well worth the journey.
Getting to the Royal National Park
You can drive to the Royal National Park. But it’s more fun to take the train and ferry.
The train you need is the train from Bondi Junction to Cronulla. You can pick it up at Bondi Junction (of course), Edgecliff, Kings Cross, Martin Place, Town Hall and Central, then all stops to Cronulla.
Cronulla is the last stop so you can happily fall asleep without fear of missing your stop. You’ll probably be too busy looking out of the window though, it has some very pretty sections on the way down the coast.
Coming out of Cronulla station, turn hard left and, staying on the same side of the street, walk back parallel to the railway line. It will take you to an underpass on your left. Go through that.
Then follow the road down to the jetty. The Bundeena ferry comes and goes from there.
It’s a lovely old ferry, still privately owned and run, and many of the people on board will be regulars or Bundeena inhabitants. The rest, like you, sight seeing from Sydney. The drawback is that you can’t use your Opal card here,the ferry is a separate transaction.
Bundeena is a small community in a very privileged position. The town is actually in the park. If you’re driving there is half an hour of driving through natural bush before you suddenly come to this little settlement on the beach.
Historically it was a small collection of fishermen’s cottages and baches owned by locals who lived across the bay. They were allowed to stay when the area was declared a national park and have now grown into a small town, complete with school, library, community garden, church, post office and basic shopping centre.
These days Bundeena is under huge pressure from developers. The locals, while they’ve been able to slow the tide, haven’t been able to stop it completely.
So, year by year, Bundeena is slowly being developed with all that that entails. For now, though, it’s still a charming place to visit.
A sign of the times: there are increasing numbers of Airbnb’s if you’re sight seeing from Sydney or beyond and want to stay for a night or two.
My sister lives in Bundeena, backing on to the Royal National Park. She has renovated what used to be a laundry and garden shed to become a self-contained apartment (the little house), quite separate from the main house she lives in. It has two lovely huge balconies, one off the living area downstairs, one off the bedroom upstairs with views back to the city. The little house is where I stay when I visit and don’t want to go back and forth in a day.
Royal National Park
This is a fabulous park. Because of the Bundeena township , it’s no problem to get food, drinks: water, coffee – whatever you need before going off on a walk.
Then, there are three large beaches – and many smaller ones .Whether you want to swim (all of them), scuba dive (Shelley Beach) or just generally sit around.
Fancy checking out Aboriginal rock art? Well, you can do that quite easily, too. The Royal National Park is on the traditional lands of the Dharawal people and they have left beautiful art for us to appreciate.
The Jibbon engravings are a short, easy walk, either up from Jibbon beach or down from the main park entrance.
The main entrance to the park is at the top of Beachcomber Avenue (where the “You are here” sign is in the photo). Immediately inside the entrance there is lots of information about walks, fora and fauna, things to look out for and so on. And toilets.
What about whale watching? Glad you asked!
June and July are the best months to come whale sight seeing from Sydney. From the area called “The Balconies” (the “i” sign at the top right of the map above) you’re almost guaranteed to see humpback whales migrating north to their breeding grounds in the Great Barrier Reef.
If you’re really lucky you might see one of these 30,000 kg whales breaching – lifting most of its body out of the water in a wonderful arc.
I have to tell you I’ve not seen that. But I’ve seen frisky whales, absolutely, blowing and, dare I say, gallivanting through the water on their way up the coast.
As well as the better known Jibbon engraving and cliff walk, if you go the other way along the coast, north rather than south, there are more stunning walks. They’re relatively level too.
My favourite is along the mangrove swamps and then on to a beautiful sheltered bay.
These mangroves are something else again.
Depending on the tides you might see them as mudflats or in shallow water. They’re spectacular in either setting.
The shallow water allows for beautiful light effects. The mudflat attracts birds.
The park is a bird-watcher’s paradise with over 250 known species of birds that call it home.
Sight seeing from Sydney: flora
Although there are many variations in the park’s flora, sheoaks are one tree you’ll see a lot of.
Don’t think half are dying – they’re brown because they’re male. While the female trees are green, the males are brown year-round.
Scattered around the park in abundance are the beautiful gymea lilies. Just look between the trees, about 2-4 metres up, for the flash of red and you’ll find them. They flower in spring.
The Gymea lily is found only along the coast and bushland of the Sydney basin. It’s spectacular.
Notwithstanding the Gymea lily, bear in mind that most Australian native flowers are really small. So, on your walk through the park, don’t think there’s nothing there. Rather, re-calibrate what you’re looking for/at and you’ll likely see a myriad of beautiful native flowers.