Royal National Park

The Royal National Park, Established in 1879, Royal National Park is the world’s second oldest national park – after Yellowstone in the USA.

Only 32 km from Sydney, the Royal packs incredible natural diversity into a relatively small area. It offers riverside picnics, great surf beaches, clifftop & heathland walks, rainforest,  cycle tracks, and much more.

For the photographer it offers unlimited opportunities. Beautiful sunrises, coastal landscapes, clifftop headlands, misty rainforests, waterfalls and bushland views. Photography can be combined with hiking, camping, boating or cycling but most photographic locations can be accessed from the various car parks by a short walk.

In July 2006, this park was added to the National Heritage List.

Special Photographic Features

For the last year as a personal project I have been taking a photo a day, mainly early morning images within the Royal National Park.  Living in Bundeena my daily commute to Burwood offers  unlimited opportunities to capture the grandeur of the Royal.


Bundeena, a small village within the Park, lots of beaches, trees and ocean landscape.  The Bundeena ferry is the iconic image, great sunrises from Hordens & Jibbons beaches.  A short walk from the top of Bundeena takes you to the ocean coast which  offers great coastal landscapes of  high cliffs with views south to Wollongong and north to the city.

The iconic image – the Bundeena ferry “Curranulla”

Sunrise from the coastal cliffs know as the balconies

Early morning shot from Hordens Beach

Bonnie Vale

Bonnie Vale is the Royal National Park picnic area, in Bundeena. It offers nice riverscapes over Port Hacking. Low tide offers nice images of the sand banks.  The swamp at the rear of the picnic area  offers great bird life and sometimes the local deer. If you take the track to Maianbar though the camping area there are nice shoots of the clear waters of the basin and mangrove trees

Bonnie Vale at low tide


Maianbar is a small village to the west of Bundeena.  A great location for the early morning sunrise, and the summer sunset.

Sunrise over the small creek in Maianbar


Wattamolla is south of Bundeena. All within a short walk from the car park Wattamolla offers ocean landscapes, lagoon shoots , a small waterfall and weir.

Wattamolla Headland


Garie my favorite sunrise location, in winter the suns rises behind the northern headland and in summer rises out of the ocean. The are great images to be taken looking towards the northern headland a favorite place for rock fisherman. Between May and July whales can be seen along the beach.  There are sand dunes, the historic YHC hostel, bird life and the beach huts to the south.

Fisherman at Garie

Golden Sunrise

Pink glow

Early morning dolpin


The main picnic area, has some great locations, the historic boat shed, the old timber bridges. Some great shots can be captured on foggy mornings around the weir.

Old boat shed taken at night

Hacking River at Audley

Lady Carrington Drive

A short walk from the southern entrance to Lady Carrington Drive takes you into  beautiful rainforests. Great images can be taken on misty mornings.

Cabbage tree palm , Lady Carrington Drive

Night Photography

Some sections of the Royal National Park are closed at about 8:30pm and open at about 05:30am
These areas are Bonnie Vale, Garie and Wattamolla.
Wattamolla is a great location to capture the full moonrise. In winter the full moon rises directly over the lagoon and has risen before the area is locked up for the night.

Special Equipment

  • Normal safety needed when walking along the cliff tops and edges.
  • Beware of rough dangerous seas
  • Snakes are around in most places during the summer including the cliff tops
  • Beware of ticks in the heavy bushed areas
  • Beware of leeches in the rainforest and wet areas

Best Time of The Day

Catch the sunrises along the eastern edges of the park, then as the sun gets higher  move towards the rainforest areas and waterfalls to catch the filtered light.
Catch the sunsets from the higher areas and western edges. Sunsets are also good from the Bundeena wharf, and Gunyah Headland looking back over Port Hacking.

Getting there

The quickest way to explore the park, is by car. The northern entrance to the park is a few klms from Sutherland.  You can also access the park from Waterfall and Oftord in the South. You can also travel to Bundeena by Ferry from Cronulla.
An access fee is require if you enter via a car. If you are only going to Bundeena or Maianbar this is not required. This is paid to the R.N.P as you enter.
It is also possible to walk the length of the park from Otford to Bundeena.


There is a camping area (unpowered sites only) in Bonnie Vale, and a number of B&B’s and homestays in Bundeena and Maianbar.

Author Bio

Graham Grocott

I live in Bundeena Australia, which is a small village south of Sydney. It is enclosed by the Royal National Park , the Pacific Ocean and the Port Hacking river. The area provides unlimited opportunities to take photographs. I have a website and I am a member of the Sutherland Shire Amateur Photography Society. My wife and I have been going to Bali for several years where we spend most of time traveling and taking pictures.


  1. Donald Goldney August 20, 2010

    Garie beach — from a recent shoot there, i walked to the right and came across a tiny little beachw ith g reat rocks and surf, how do i uplaod a photo??

  2. RossandCher Brighouse August 30, 2010

    Great Guide — Great guide, Graham, and some awesome camera work. Thanks for sharing.


    R & C

  3. David Haworth October 17, 2010

    well done — Very good guide Graham. For people outside the park that get enthusiastic an $85 annual park sticker from the Audley weir office is a better idea than $12 entry if you are planning a few visits. Garie beach is a stunner with great rocks in the middle and at the south ends. I’ll be working at the Pharmacy in Bundeena first week Nov.. pop in and say hi. Great shots in the guide.
    Here’s one of my Garie ones showing my mate Malcolm at work!

    • Graham Grocott October 17, 2010

      thanks David,
      Great shot of Malcom the rock -photographer, looks as dangerous as rock fishing.
      We will be with David R. in Nov so can’t drop in.

  4. Graham Grocott November 11, 2012

    2012 update – The YHC hut at Garie is no longer there is burnt down a few years ago and I don’t think it will be rebuilt.

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