Any sunny Sydney day is a good time to check the tides and head down to the Royal National Park. Situated at the southern tip of Sydney, bottom end of ‘the Shire’, this pearl of greenery, jewel of coast is an explorers paradise.
Many know of the family-friendly beach at Wottamolla (and when I say many, if you’ve ever been down those parts on a summer weekend, you will probably have been turned away from the full carpark), and the cliffside natural beauty of Garie beach, but less know of Burning Palms.
Hence the call to check the tides.
At low tide, you can take an adventure out to the little-known Figure 8 Pools. They don’t exist above water at high tide (believe me, I went searching!), so check a day or two ahead to make sure the timing might work in with your plans as low and high is generally a difference of six hours.
The drive down into the Royal National Park (which used to be named the National Park until Queen Elizabeth II stopped here on her way to Wollongong in 1955), or ‘the Natio’ in Shire-speak, weaves through a hilly expanse of predominantly low-lying green bush and shrub. I point out the green because two times in my memory (1994 and 2002) the Natio was badly burnt in bushfires, turning hectares of the land to cinders and tree carcass, browning the aforementioned hills.
From the Garawarra car park, near the turn-off to Garie beach, you descend into a bush track where the canopy prevents you from seeing the ocean you can hear swirling nearby. That is until about 1 1/2kms on when the trees part to display a high vantage over the beach and coastal tor below.
You’ll likely have surfers pass you, ducking either side of the headland depending on the swell. As you veer right and wander down the path towards Burning Palms beach, you walk under another brief tree canopy, down stone steps and past uninhabited shacks until you reach a cluster of rustic beach cabin accommodation along the northern end of the beach. Dig your toes in the sand, swim, gaze back upward to the sloping valley you just descended, or keep rolling further towards the rocky ledges at the furthest end of the sand.
This is where the area becomes joyously inconsistent. The rock becomes a patchwork of little upturned puddle fields, then a maze of large stones you need to scamper across and climb on and around, then the patchwork of cracks is edged with moss, or backs out along the sea-line, where the restless ocean spurts against it and into the air.
Keep climbing; along the rocks, around the cliffside, and around another, and you will eventually see water-filled holes start to appear among the ledges. Upon closer inspection you’ll realise they are nature’s answer to mini jacuzzis. Welcome to the Figure 8 Pools. Jump in. They are just the right size for you.