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Escape in the Shire

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.

Audley Loop via Uloola Falls + Kangaroo Creek

This 13.5km loop walk began with a steep climb out from Audley along Wattle Forest track, taking me up to Uloola Track. From here, it was an easy walk along Uloola Track, having a stop off at a rocky outcrop with great views overlooking the National Park, eventually continuing on to Uloola Falls. Uloola falls is a popular area for bushwalkers and is suitable for basic camping with toilet facilities available. I then took Karloo trail for another 3km to get me to one of the most popular destinations in the Royal National Park, Karloo Pool. My return trip took me along Kangaroo creek, via Bottle Forest "track" (not trail), getting me to the junction of Engadine track and eventually taking me back to Audley. ** Important to note that Bottle Forest track is almost non existent due to extensive storm damage and requires a high level of experience to navigate.

* Correction (incorrect info given in video) Bottle Forest "Track" runs along Kangaroo Creek. This is an almost non existent track for “Experienced bushwalkers only” Bottle Forest "Trail" is a separate well defined trail that can lead you down to Kangaroo Creek and on to Bottle Forest "Track"

Bullawaring track via Heathcote Creek

This is a beautiful walk in Heathcote National Park that follows Heathcote creek along Bullawaring track. Our walk included a small detour to Lake Toolooma. Lake Toolooma was dammed up on Heathcote creek in 1906 to supply water for the steam engines at Waterfall station. We then continued along Bullawarring track dropping in to some of the pools along the way including Kingfisher pool. This track passes by some stunning bushland including large Gymea Lillies and impressive Grass trees, eventually getting us out to the Pipeline trail. Heading south we exited the Pipeline trail at Mirang fire trail where we began our gruelling 2km steep climb getting us back onto a service trail for around 3km, leading back to the start. I would rate the full trail as hard but can easily be reduced to an out and back rewarding trip to Kingfisher Pool

Mountain Biking the Pipeline Trail

I decided to take on the challenge of riding a pretty average Pipeline trail in Heathcote National Park to check out some of the pools affected by the heavy rainfalls we have encountered around Sydney. This is a non-technical trail that is graded as difficult due to some steep climbs along the way. My ride started at Heathcote, taking advantage of a closed Heathcote Rd getting me down to the start of the trail. This ride follows a pipeline access track through Heathcote National Park with many opportunities along the trail to access some of the beautiful pools, including Elbow Pool, Mirang Pool and one of the most popular for campers, Lake Eckersley. Pipeline trail is approx 10 km one way, however I did make a detour to Lower Pipeline trail getting me to the spillover for Woronora Dam. Having committed myself to this ride without much thought that it would end up being a gruelling 30 km loop, I will have to admit that on return I was pretty much wasted. ** Correction Lake Eckersley is one of a number of pools that are on the Woronora River. Elbow Pool and Mirang Pool are pools belonging to Heathcote Creek that eventually flow into Woronora River and are not fed by Woronora River/Dam.

Lady Carrington Drive

Come with me on a "Nature journey" as I explore the beauty Lady Carrington Drive has to offer.

Curra Moors Loop Trail

Curra Moors loop track is one of the Royal National Park's stunning walking tracks where bush meets the sea, with dramatic sandstone cliffs and spectacular coastal views including the iconic Eagle Rock. The track will lead you through woodlands of Scribbly Gums and Angophoras before opening up to a large variety of low lying native vegetation. Spring is the perfect time to walk this track as it explodes with colour displays from our native flora, attracting nectar loving Honey Eaters, Eastern Spinebill and swarms of bees. Also keep an eye out for our precious wildlife, including snakes and echidnas that frequent these locations and are more commonly seen during warmer weather.

Winnell's Wander - Barden Ridge Loop

Barden Ridge loop via Winnell’s Wander is an 8.5 km loop trail that takes you through some very impressive bushland around Woronora River. This walk passes by lots of large Gymea Lilies and Grass trees and follows the Woronora river upstream from The Needles. Important to note that the walk definitely requires a bit of orienteering and I strongly recommend downloading the AllTrails app to help keep you on track. One of the best bushwalks in the Shire. Experienced bushwalkers only

Lady Carrington via Walumarra Track + Forest Path

We started our walk entering Lady Carrington from Waterfall, turning off at Walumarra Track. Walumarra Track to Bola Creek is a 9.3 kilometer moderately trafficked out and back trail that features a great forest setting. We then continued our walk along Forest path, which is one of the oldest walking tracks in Royal National Park. The Forest Path is a pretty 4.5km loop bushwalk along the Hacking River that is a relatively easy walking track, passing through beautiful lush rainforest with dense groupings of Cabbage Tree Palms and Gymea Lilies

Upper Kangaroo Creek

**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.

Lower Kangaroo Creek - via Olympic Pool

Another great day out bushwalking Bottle Forest track along the very picturesque Kangaroo Creek in the Royal National Park. This 10km walk began at Heathcote on Parklands Trail, turning off at Bottle Forest trail and eventually getting us down to Kangaroo Creek. From here we followed a somewhat disappearing Bottle Forest track along Kangaroo Creek to Engadine Track junction, eventually taking us back to Audley. I would rate this walk as medium as it does involve a bit of bushbashing due to the track disappearing in a number of spots. Definitely a walk for experienced bushwalkers only. * Note this walk was 10km one way with a car waiting for us at Audley

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.

Engadine Lagoon - Barden Ridge Loop

Engadine Lagoon to Barden Ridge is a 7.5 km "loop trail" that follows Woronora river upstream from the Needles crossing.

Thankfully we picked the perfect day to take my small inflatable raft, allowing us the added bonus of cruising around Engadine Lagoon.

Also Important to note that although AllTrails name this a "Loop Trail", the track does totally disappear beyond the Lagoon and involves a fair bit of unpleasant bushbashing to eventually get you back on track.

Kingfisher Pool

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 track-via Karloo

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 Forest track to a number of other beautiful swimming holes. 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 at 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. *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).

Cape Baily Trail

What a great way to start of the New Year with an 11km walk starting at Cape Solander on the Cape Baily track walking to Wanda Beach. Cape Baily Track, locate on the headland of Kurnell in NSW, is a 6.4 km moderately trafficked trail that takes you out to Cape Baily Lighthouse and back. We decided to continue our walk from the lighthouse taking us past Voodoo point, the very scenic Boat Harbour Aquatic reserve and finishing at Wanda Beach in Cronulla. This is an excellent trail with lots of photo opportunities along our beautiful coastline.

Menai Bushland via Mill Creek

This location has been my home for more than 35 years and is an area I have become very familiar with from my years of mountain biking. It maybe be worth checking out

This will help get you familiar with the area before venturing out onto any of the single tracks As always know your limits and do your homework before heading out on any of these trails

Barden Ridge Bush Track

Barden Ridge Bush Track is an 8-9 kilometer moderately trafficked loop trail located near Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia. The trail does disappear in a number of places and requires a fair bit of orienteering. There are also many offshoot trails that can cause you to lose your bearings For this reason I highly recommend downloading the AllTrails app or similar, to help keep you on track.

Woronora River - Dam to Needles

Woronora River, from Dam to Needles, was a two day adventure that involved hiking, rafting and a fair bit of swimming, through some of the beautiful pockets of waterways situated along the upper reaches of the Woronora River.

Still Creek - Bangor

Still Creek is a moderately trafficked 9.5km loop trail located near Bangor. We began our walk along a fire trail off Beaumaris Drive following the early stages of Still Creek. This trail offers a number of options that will lead to different locations around Bangor and Illawong, however I recommend following the trail along Still Creek eventually leading down to Woronora River. Great trail to do after a descent rainfall adding to the runoff along Still Creek. Note the trail is rated as moderate and is guaranteed to give you a good cardio workout with some descent climb outs.

Sutherland to Waterfall - Station to Station

Sutherland to Waterfall is a 19km walk which began at Sutherland station. We entered the Royal National Park along Rawson parade tramline, descending into Audley on the very picturesque Honeymoon steps. Crossing the historic Varney bridge over the Hacking river, we then climbed the escarpment via Uloola track, eventually arriving at Uloola Falls. The last leg of this walk was a 6km trek back along Uloola Trail to Waterfall station where we took the lazy train ride back to Sutherland. Great walk with only one descent climb out from Audley

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

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

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

Woronora Dam @ 100% May 2022

With the rain continuing to fall and the Dams at 100% capacity, I figured it was time to get on the mountain bike and check out the rare sight of an overflowing Woronora Dam spilling into Woronora river

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

Madden Falls

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

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.

Illawarra Escarpment

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.

Goondera Dam

My understanding from information given to me is that Goondera Dam, built around 1920, was a purpose-built railway dam for locomotive steam engines at Waterfall. This reservoir is similar to the dam built at Lake Toolooma on the western side of the highway in Heathcote National Park. The dam wall is around 3-4m high and approx 50-75m wide. The reservoir is mostly choked with reeds now with lots of frogs around so be aware of the odd Black Snake. Note the walk is very overgrown and a fair bit of bush bashing was required.

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

Indigenous History

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

Mountain Biking

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

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