OK, Sydney is an amazing city, but damn there’s a lot of tourists.
This is the reason we were so excited to get away to the the Royal National Park just south of Sydney. The goal was to see the Figure 8 pools, which I’d found on Instagram (as per usual – you can find out how helpful I find Instagram for planning adventures here). I predict the popularity of these pools is about to explode, so get to them as soon as possible!
I feel like there are a lot of incredible places in Australia that we don’t get out and see, partly because of misperceptions said places are really difficult to access, too far away from urban centres, or there isn’t enough information available for people to feel confident or capable of their abilities to reach them safely.
The Figure 8 Pools are a perfect example of such a place – they’re only an hour or south of Sydney and just a six kilometre roundtrip walk away, yet hardly any Sydneysiders we spoke to had even heard of them.
Disclaimer: I dislocated my shoulder on this adventure and it taught me a truckload. Three people recently were winched to safety after a rogue wave swept across the rock ledge. If you plan on going to the Figure 8 Pools I urge you to read it. To me this was not a difficult hike, but you will require a reasonable level of fitness and experience on trails to comfortably complete.
So, my mission today – an easy how-to guide to reach this beautiful place that anyone can follow:
- Plan when you’re going. This is imperative because once you’ve picked a day you need to time your arrival around the incoming low tide as this is when the pools reveal themselves. I’d recommend arriving around 90 minutes before the point of low tide hits because you’ll get to enjoy them for the maximum amount of time and safely swim. The waves crashing over the rock face just add a hint of drama! When googling to find tidal information, the location of reference is Burning Palms Beach – just click here.
- Now you have an arrival time, you can plan the rest of your journey. Walking to the pools takes approximately an hour at a reasonable pace, so next up factor that into your schedule.
- Google maps your route, see how long it will take to get there, and again, factor this into your schedule. I personally often have issues with Google Maps when heading out on trails as I have ZERO sense of direction and often feel anxious I don’t have the right location selected. For this track all you need to do is input “Garie Beach Road” – I promise! Once you reach the turn-off for Garie Beach Road, immediately to the right you will see a dirt road called “Garawarra Farm Road”. Drive down it for 1.5 kilometres and you’ll reach the Garawarra Farm Road car park. Yew! In my opinion, the hard part is now over. It’s also reassuring to know you won’t often lose reception in the Royal National so most of the time help if required is just a call away.
- Next up, head down the Burning Palms Trail. This is quite a steep but easy*, clearly marked track (*not so easy on the return jouney) and takes you all the way down to beautiful Burning Palms Beach. At this point, we ditched our running shoes and hid them near the sand dunes. NB – if you have delicate feet, probably keep your shoes on as the terrain does become a little rocky and sharp.
- Walk along the beach. You’ll reach an area that for some reason reminded me of the elephant’s graveyard in the “The Lion King”, sans elephants and instead featuring a mix of large, intricately patterned boulders. Some are a little sharp and/or unsteady, so just be careful. There’s no rush. Or, if you want to avoid the rocks completely, look towards the grassy ridge immediately behind for a half-hidden track you can run along.
- Next, you’ll reach a rock ledge featuring shallow rock pools, waves crashing spectacularly over its edge. The power of the ocean in full flight here is pretty awe-inspiring. Enjoy it here for a moment AWAY from the edge. Safety first people!
- From here, you hit another jumbled expanse of rocks and weatherbeaten cliff. Stick to the cliffside to make better time. At the next headland are the pools…
- …And before you know it, you’re here! I don’t think I need to tell you twice what to do once you’ve arrived…
MORE INSIDER TIPS
- Take a picnic lunch and water. The walk home is strenuous because there’s a a brutal uphill section so you’ll be glad for the extra fuel. We learnt this the hard way.
- Pack a couple of plastic bags and take your rubbish with you. This part of the world is so beautiful and even the smallest amount of litter looks ridiculously out of place. What makes Australia so insanely beautiful is how pristine it is. Don’t be the d*ckhead that leaves anything behind.
- There is a $12 fee to visit the National Park – bring cash or pay via card at the Visitor’s Centre. If you’re not feeling quite sure of where you’re heading you can also speak with the helpful staff here.
- I probably shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t forget bathers!
- Take a camera and/or make sure your iPhone is fully charged. If you have a waterproof case for your phone or a gopro, take it! Trust me, when you get there you’ll want to take so many pictures of this natural wonder.
- Leave early, rather than later. I have read people have lost track of time and attempted to leave as the tide was snapping at their heels. Apparently injury was narrowly missed.
- Be really careful on the rock ledges. The waves are obviously spectacular, but also really dangerous and horrifyingly, people have died in Sydney as recently as August 2015 from being swept off rock ledges. Be safe. The perfect shot is never worth putting your life in danger.
Any questions? Have you been to the Figure 8 Pools? And what did you think? Let me know below…