Well I suppose I can say my love of the Shire began around 50 years ago when my parents took me and my family on a day out to Audley in the Royal National park.
My memories of this are vague however it must have left a mark on me as this is the place I have called home for the last 30+ years.
This pleasant bush walk starts near Heathcote train station where you will enter the trail next to the Heathcote rural fire services. The moderately challenging track leads through heathland, passing beautiful Karloo Pool a popular swimming and picnic spot. Karloo is approx 2.5km and will take you around 1-1.5hrs) You may be tempted to stop for a refreshing swim in these crystal clear waters however depending on the seasons, these waters can be extremely cold. From here the trail will continue another 2.5km to Uloolo Falls (approx 1.5hrs) Uloola Falls is a popular remote camping site and bookings can be made through National Parks and Wildlife. Uloola to Audley is another 4-5km and can take 2-3hrs depending on your level of fitness. *note these time are only approximate and can vary. Some planning will be required for this walk as there is no public transport at Audley. If you are up for it, you can walk another 5-6km to Sutherland train station via Honeymoon stairs on the western side of Audley Weir.
Upper Kangaroo Creek
a**Definitely experienced bushwalkers only. We started this 12km bushwalk at Waterfall Station on Uloola Fire trail turning off at Kangaroo Creek track. This overgrown track was at first fairly visible and easy to stay on, but eventually totally disappeared making the last 5km trek to Karloo Pools extremely challenging as we bush bashed our way through some very difficult terrain. Once arriving at Karloo Pools we then headed back to Heathcote station via Karloo Track.
Audley to Engadine via Kangaroo creek
This enjoyable walk starts at Audley in the Royal National Park, and passes through some very impressive bushland. There are a couple of tracks from Audley which are rated medium to hard on a gradual rise eventually leading to Ulloola track. From here you will turn right towards Engadine and follow the ridgeline where there are some reasonably good views over the surrounding valley. Like most of these walks it does involve a fair bit of uphill and downhill on pretty uneven grounds so good walking shoes are highly recommended. * Important. Keep an eye out for the continuation of Engadine track on the opposite side of Kangaroo creek. This track will eventually lead you back to Heathcote or Engadine.
The walk begins on the Bullawarring track at the end of Warabin St in Waterfall and is conveniently placed around 1km from Waterfall Station. Located in Heathcote National park, this track has some steep rocky sections in places with some moderately rough bush tracks dominated by towering angophoras, banksias and gymea lillies. Kingfisher Pool is around 2km one way and is a beautiful place to stop for lunch while exploring Heathcote National Park. For those keen enough, this is a great spot for a swim although the water can be quite cool depending on the time of year. Kingfisher also has a camping ground and bookings are required through National Parks and Wildlife. This is basically just a clearing in the bush and campers must carry all their equipment to the campground and be fully self-sufficient. * All waterfalls in the National parks are at their best after a good rainfall and may disappoint when in drought
Bottle Forest-via Karloo+Olympic Pools
Starting at Heathcote train station, this 8km loop takes you down Karloo track eventually arriving at Karloo Pools. Karloo Pools is an oasis in the bush and one of the best natural swimming holes Sydney has to offer. From here we headed downstream along Bottle Brush track to a number of other swimming holes including Olympic Pool. Bottle Brush track is not a defined track and does involve a bit of bush bashing, however it does follow the crystal clear waters along Kangaroo creek making it a very enjoyable walk. The climb out from Olympic Pool along Bottle Forrest trail is quite steep and rough in places passing some very impressive Australian Bushland, eventually leading back to Heathcote.
Definitely worth downloading the AllTrails app. You can then download the "Karloo Track and Bottle Forest Trail Loop" which will assist keeping you on track. Do your homework before heading out on this one. ** I would suggest experienced bushwalkers only past Karloo pools as this track does disappear in many places
Mt Westmacott via Lake Toolooma
This 7km loop trail in Heathcote National Park gives you a wonderful sense of solitude and is the perfect walk for that little escape away from the everyday rat race. The walk passes uninterrupted bushland to the scenic secluded Lake Toolooma.
From here the track can be quite steep at times however you will most certainly be impressed by the views Mount Westmacott (presumed to have been named after Captain Robert Marsh Westmacott, ( 1801-1870).
Scouters Mountain Trail
Scouters Mountain Trail is a scenic short 2-3km walk in Heathcote National park. The trail begins at Heathcote road with a 300m steep downhill walk to Heathcote creek. From this point it is all uphill until you reach the top of the "mountain" overlooking the Heathcote National park. There is parking for up to two cars at the start of this trail however extreme care should be taken pulling into this location on the very busy Heathcote road.
Winifred Falls Trail is a relatively short but scenic bushwalk that takes you to one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Royal National Park. The start of the trail is clearly signposted (“Winifred Falls Fire Trail”) on Warumbul Road, right opposite the parking area. The first part of the trail to Winifred Falls is an easy 10 minutes flat walk however the last 400 meters is very steep. You will pass some beautiful native flora and fauna along the way, such as banksia plants and gum trees.
*Important to note that all the waterfalls in the park do require good rainfall and can disappoint in drought.
National Falls is a very easy short walk from the carpark located beside McKell Avenue in the Royal National Park. This is one of the larger falls in the Park and was the reason for the nearby town of Waterfall being named. (a lot of thought went into that) At the moment all waterfalls in our local parks are looking pretty sad due to lack of rain. I can only imagine how this waterfall would go off after a heavy downpour, from its different levels of cascading falls, eventually dropping over its 30 meter cliff. There are two visible access points for this waterfall near the car park. For those a bit more adventurous, there are steps located around 100m further down the road which will take you to the lower falls. This is where you will appreciate the full size of this waterfall however care should be taken as these steps are not maintained and are not noted on any of the National park signs.
*Serious injury or death can result in careless actions. Barriers are there for a reason. DON'T BE A HERO
Waterfalls in the Park
I believe the best time to enter the National parks is always after a good rainfall as this is when the waterfalls are at their best.
One of the most impressive waterfalls in the park has to be Winifred Falls,
Walk approx 1.5 km on a trail that runs off Warumbal Rd in the Royal National Park, and you will arrive at this very picturesque location, however the last 400 m of trail is quite steep and good walking shoes are highly recommended.
This video covers some of the very unique falls we have in the Royal and Heathcote National parks and its surrounding bushland including, Wattamolla, Kellys, Kingfisher, Madden, Uloola,and Karloo pools,
Otford to Garie
There are a number of world class scenic walks around the Royal National Park in Sydney that will leave you in awe of its beauty. This 12 km walk starts at Otford just off Lady Wakehurst drive and finishes at Garie beach. From the moment you begin you will immediately be hit with spectacular views of the coastline all the way down to Wollongong. And then it just got better.
This walk does require some planning as public transport is not available at nearby locations unless you are prepared to add a few extra kilometres on to your trip.
* Always plan and take sufficient supplies of water and food.... more is better
Garie Beach to Bundeena
Garie beach to Bundeena walk is part of a world class costal track that stretches from Otford to Bundeena. The total distance is around 30 km, however it can be broken up into 3 separate stages Otford to Garie, Garie to Watamolla and Watamolla to Bundeena (each stage approx 10-11km) Planning is required as there is no public transport available with exception for the Bundeena Ferry that will get you back to Cronulla.
Kayaking the Needles
Kayaking the upper reaches of the Woronora River starts from the crossing know as The Needles, heading upstream towards Heathcote Road. I will say it was a little bit on the difficult side getting my kayak down a long steep fire trail to get to the location, however the trip was certainly worth it allowing me to get into areas I would not normally go. * Probably not one I would recommend doing because of the difficult location however you do get a pretty good workout (Pain) at the end, with a long steep climb back out.
Figure Eight Pool
Figure Eight Pool is a naturally formed rock pool located on the coast in Sydney’s Royal National Park.
It is definitely a difficult walk to get there and back with the shorter track distance starting from a car park leading down a track to Burning Palms
Give yourself plenty of time for this walk (approx 4hrs return) and most importantly check the conditions as this rock shelf can be extremely dangerous in rough seas.
Ideal conditions are low tide with flat seas.
** Contact Royal National Park or just call in to the information centre at Audley located in the historic Dance Hall. The staff there will always give you the best advice and go out of their way to make your visit in the park the most enjoyable.
Figure 8 from Above
Wedding Cake Rock
Wedding Cake Rock is a truly spectacular rock platform located along our beautiful coastline in the Royal National Park.
The rock is unstable and has a fence around it for your safety, however there are many spots from where you can get your very own postcard photos.
The walking track to Wedding Cake rock is rough but reasonably well maintained and it may be worth walking those extra 1 or 2km to see Marley Beach.
** Note this beach is not patrolled and dangerous rips and currents are frequent.
Remember to wear appropriate footwear and clothing, and allow at least 1hr each way from Bundeena to the rock.
Winifred Falls in Flood
National Falls Overflows
Maddens falls is an easy walk in the Dharawal national park. The short walk starts on Darkes Forest Road in Darkes Forest across the road from @Appleshack at Glenbernie Orchard (try their local honey...yum)
*Although Madden Falls is just out of the Shire I feel it still deserves its place in "Escape in the Shire"
Kellys Falls, located in the Garawarra State Conservation Area, is a network of walking trails, cascading waterfalls and scenic lookouts.Water cascades over the rocks and drops into a pool, providing a relaxing soundtrack to your lunch at Kellys Falls picnic area, a beautiful spot to get back to nature. From this picnic area, you can walk up to one of four scenic lookouts to take in the views of waterfalls and the rainforest-lined gullies below.
The Illawarra Escarpment Walk is a 17 kilometre trail located near Stanwell Park in New South WalesThis walk, rated moderate, is a combination of 3 tracks starting on the Wodi Wodi Track located at Stanwell Park station.
The Rock is Falling
Thousands of people are risking their lives every year to get that extra special photo for their wall on social media however, did you know this very unique rock is on the verge of collapsing.
Uloola Falls is a pretty spectacular waterfall and campground located in the Royal National Park.
I would highly recommend the walk from Heathcote station to Audley (or the reverse)
2.5km in and the track passes through the very picturesque Karloo Pools
This is a beautiful spot for a picnic and maybe a quick dip, however the water can be a bit cool.
The track then continues for another 3km to Uloola Falls. Caution should be taken as the track almost disappears in spots.
Continue the walk another 4km from Uloola on a mostly overgrown single track and you will eventually arrive at Audley in the National Park.
** Important. Keep an eye out for painted arrows on the ground which will get you back on the track and also have your mobile phone with you as mobile coverage is still available in spots around the park
ps. Take supplies and something warm in case your stay is longer than you expect
The whole of the Sydney Basin was the home to the Tharawal community who were skilled hunters–fisher–gatherers and indigenous people of Australia.
Signs of their culture are still prominent in and around the Shire which will give you a real understanding of just how important they were to this whole region.
One of the best sites to visit is on the Jibbon Headland where you will see artwork engraved into stone dating back thousands of years.
Follow the sign post at the eastern end of Jibbon Beach and you will eventually get to a track which leads you to the site.
Mill Creek MTB Trail
Having done a fair bit of mountain biking over the years, I can honestly say that some of the fire trails and single tracks out here are up with the best that I have seen with such variety that can even challenge the more experienced.
These trails are all around the shire and surrounding areas with many tracks through the Georges River, Heathcote and Royal National Parks.
Loftus has a very exciting and sometimes challenging loop track that winds through the Royal National Park and will give you the feeling that you are a million mile away from anywhere.
Also I would highly recommend a ride through Lady Carrington Drive which is an easy bike trail that follows the Hacking River from Audley.
Definitely a birdwatchers paradise with one of the most spectacular and unusual being a master of mimicking, the Lyrebird.
** Most importantly when you do ride in any of these places do go by the rules and respect the bush and its amazing wildlife.
For those who are keen to get on to the water, we are extremely fortunate to have some amazing waterways to explore, from the Port Hacking River to the Georges and Woronora River.
Each have their own unique features and have an array of amazing wildlife and most certainly will not disappoint the keen bird watchers.
Keep an eye out for Water Dragons along the banks of these rivers usually sunning themselves on the rocks along the waters edge.
I have to say I have paddled these river systems many times and I am still finding something new and exciting each time.
* The Boatshed at Woronora has affordable canoe and Kayak hire and is also a beautiful place to drop in for a coffee or some food.
I was lucky enough to witness this Lyrebird in the Royal National park, put on one of the best mimicking shows I have ever seen in the wild. Listen to this male bird as it tries to attract a female by belting out dozens of different sounds including the sounds of a whipbird, currawong, cockatoo, lorikeet, kookaburra, wattlebird, rosella, robin, rock-warbler, thornbill and many more as well as mechanical sounds that I could only guess.
Python in the Park
aWhat started out as a going for a walk in the Royal to get our minds off these disastrous fires, ended up being a pleasant surprise. Unknowingly, when we stopped to look out over the Hacking river, this beautiful 2.5m Diamond Python was at our feet. More than ever now, please look after our wildlife