by Ruby Bisson
Pigeon House Mountain, 2.5kms (from Sydney: 3 hours & 30 minutes)
For an incredible 360 degree view of the Australian landscape and coastline, this is definitely a must. Pack a picnic and plenty of water; take the coastal route when driving and your day will be the perfect balance of beach and bush scenery. The entry into the forest is on a dirt road and this extends for a few kilometres. It’s a little rocky but it doesn’t get worse. Also, don’t assume this hike will be easy because of the length. The climb consists of many ladders and stairs, and the first kilometre is a steep incline. The view and sense of accomplishment is well worth it, I assure you! If you’re staying in the area for a couple of days, I strongly advise looking up the multitude of other hikes in the area.
Other places worth visiting: The Colo River in the Blue Mountains. I hiked and camped to the North of this fresh water river and swam and had a bonfire and cooked pasta and ate a lot of carrots. We ventured in with only a compass and a map, something I do not advise doing unless you are with someone trained in map reading and first aid.
Kentlyn Falls, Campbelltown (from Sydney: 40 minutes)
Nice and close to my home town, this place is easy to get to and never flooded with people. It’s a local spot, so you won’t find it if you look for waterholes on the internet. To get there you need to drive to the end of Georges Road in Kentlyn. It is a no through road with a roundabout at the end. Park off to the side and take the narrow track on the right, not the wide, driveway-like road- it will get you nowhere. It’s an easy walk (except for when you have to walk back up) on a clear track. You’ll be there in no time at all.
This is a great place to bring a bunch of friends and jump off the waterfalls with. I’ve built fires in winter and gone early in the mornings with warm cheese and bacon rolls and a best friend and it has been perfect.
Mermaid Pools, Bargo.(from Sydney: 1 hour & 15 minutes)
This place is an old favourite of mine and I have many fond memories here. Again, you need to drive along a short dirt road to arrive at the parking area. It’s only about 30m, but the terrain isn’t great. Don’t take your Mercedes!
This is a beautiful walk which leads you to a big waterfall you can stand under. Along the walk, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and swim in small pools and waterfalls. Whenever you encounter a fork in the road, take the path closest to the water. It will allow you to stop and swim regularly and will ultimately lead you right to the waterfall and the rope swing (which is the best thing!). The other path will take you up pretty high, so you have an aerial view of the landscape. If you bring camping gear you could easily continue hiking beyond the big waterfall and explore the tracks further.
In summer the weather temperature is perfect and again, it’s the best place to take a group of people and an aqua duck to relax on the water with.
Macquarie Pass Jump Rock, Albion Park.(from Sydney: 1 hour, 45 minutes)
At the bottom of Macquarie Pass, after driving through Albion Park there will be a car park on the left and right hand side of the road. For the jump rocks, park on the left and walk down the dirt road for a bit. I wouldn’t suggest following the dirt road with your car, as it is private property and the gate can be locked at any time.
After walking about 400m, you will see a little creek in the distance and a house just afterwards. There’s a photographer’s gallery there and, if open, they will happily welcome your visit. On the right ride of the dirt road before the creek you will see a track with a big log over it. Follow that for about 30-40 minutes and you should arrive at the waterfalls. This walk can get quite difficult in terms of making your way over obstacles. This is more for the adventurous type. Keep your eye out for lyrebirds! I’ve seen a few on my walks.
You will know you’re almost there when the creek crosses your path and you are forced to go around a big rock that’s on your left. There are waterfalls and a 6m and 11m jump rock. The 11m jump is on the sloped rock at the top and isn’t for the feint hearted.
On the other side of the road you will come to a built walk to a large waterfall. This is very short and very accessible. The only downfall is that there isn’t much in the way of swimming. The flora is magnificent along the way.
Bundeena Cliffs, Bundeena (from Sydney: 1 hour)
If you’re going to venture out to the National Park I suggest you do so early to watch the sunrise. It is absolutely magnificent and I’ve been in the presence of a dancing pod of dolphins and friendly whales. You can walk out to the cliffs or continue on the walk down the coast (which continues all the way to Otford- a beautiful 28km walk). There are secluded beaches along the way and places to camp, but you have to prepare and leave early. Pack a picnic and bring a book, it’s nice to listen to the waves crashing up against the cliffs. This is not for those afraid of heights- there is no barrier or protection from the edge.
Wattamolla is near Bundeena, so if you’re visiting the cliffs just for the view, head down to Wattamolla afterwards (10-15mins away), where you can swim at the beach and jump off an 11m platform. I’ve taken hammocks out to the trees by the water here and read a book. It’s peaceful and very beautiful.
This is all in and around the Royal National Park. You drive through it on the way to Bundeena. There are picnic areas, cafés and you can hire canoes for a day and explore coves and even venture out to the ocean.
Burragorang Lookout (from Sydney: 1 hour)
Out past Picton, an old town used to live under this now water catchment area. Unfortunately, it is illegal to walk down to the water and fines do apply. It’s a beautiful view which doesn’t require any walking. There are picnic tables and a play equipment for kids.
Other places worth visiting: Stanwell Park
All images by Ruby Bisson.