The Royal National Park is widely considered the first or at least second officially established national park in the world together with the Yellowstone National Park. Spread out over an area roughly the size of a middle sized town, it invites weekenders and day trippers to enjoy the best of both worlds, the rainforests and the coastal flora of the Australian Eastern Seaboard. Less than one hour from both the Sydney CBD and Wollongong a trip here rewards you with beautiful unspoilt nature, fantastic views, and lots of native wildlife.
We visited the Royal National Park one sunny winter afternoon, to have a bit of a walk and to enjoy the stunning views. Our first stop brought us to a little place called Audley, which is headquarter to the national park’s administration and management, a popular historic excursion destination for Sydneysiders, and generally a very welcoming place on earth.
You can instantly sense the attraction of this little place – the Hacking River and the Kangaroo Creek flow together here and the abundance of water makes Audley a sanctuary for a number of birds and other wildlife. Previous generations have set up a boat shed here – great for a romantic tour on the water with your lover. Standing on the wide lawns that are ideal for picnics, we can hear the guests of the nearby dance hall and café with its wide terrace and delectable menu.
Cockatoos and other birds are surprisingly tame and fearless. Great for taking pictures!
But there is not time for us to linger, this time we want to go all the way to the coast to catch the fresh sea breeze on this sunny afternoon. Equipped with a map by the friendly national park staff we drive on towards Wattamolla lagoon, probably another 12km drive from Audley.
At Wattamolla we park the car at one of the overflow parking spots. It is not extremely busy in the middle of winter, even on a beautiful sunny Sunday like this one, but there are quite a couple of groups and families enjoying the same spot as us. Clearly, in summer it will be hard to find a remote spot in this beautiful little pocket of the park.
And rightly so, as Wattamolla lagoon is simply gorgeous. From an easy accessible viewing spot you have the whole lagoon spread out right in front of you, clear, sparkling and refreshingly green. In the distance, there is a strip of soft white sand, the ocean beach. To the sides, the dense forest, occasionally interrupted by small beaches. Next to the viewing area there is the rocky bed of a small stream and its waterfall, feeding into the lagoon.
If you are game you can climb a bit around the rocks, they are not slippery, and enjoy the gargling sounds of the fresh water. The lagoon really looks like paradise, so inviting for a swim in summer.
We decide we want to explore the area a little bit more. There is a walking track that follows the lagoon all the way to the coast. It is also the way to access the strip of beach that we can now look at from above.
We continue our walk and dive deep into the Australian forest, past banskias, shrubs and ferns. Considering the traffic on this walk it is not exactly what you would call “off the beaten track”, but still very rewarding. The glimpses of the lagoon are painfully beautiful, the water so clear and emerald green.
From the viewing platform we look on, closing our eyes and breathing in the fresh air, while the mild winter sun tickles our noses. Yes, this is paradise on earth.