Royal National Park
The Royal National Park is the second oldest national park in the world. It is easily accessible from Sydney and is popular for picnics, walking and other recreation. The picnic areas within the park are largely at Audley, next to the Hacking River. The boatshed and Visitor's Centre are there too. However, there are many other picnic areas within the park, and many other areas to explore.
This is general guidance how to get in to the park. The park itself is large, so check your plan your itinerary carefully, especially if you are not driving, to ensure you can get to where you want to be. Information on accessing specific destinations within the park is contained within the destination information, below.
You can drive or walk through the park at any time, but the picnic areas close at sunset and people staying late will be ejected by the private security employed in the park.
Sydney Trains has services from Bondi Junction and the city (Kings Cross, Martin Place, Town Hall, Central and Redfern stations) to Loftus, Engadine, Heathcote and Waterfall stations which are on the western perimeter of the park. From each of these stations you can access several signposted bushwalks. Given time, you can even walk between them. At each of these entry points there are shops to purchase food and drinks. However it is not straightforward to access Audley, the main picnic areas, or the coastal areas of the park from these access points. The services run to these suburbs at 30 minute frequency and take 45 minutes for the trip.
To access Audley from Loftus walk east from Loftus following the tramline and the 45 minute easy walk to Bungonia Lookout over the river and Audley. Consider it you want to walk down the hill to Audley (or more to the point, consider if you want to walk back).
To access Audley from Waterfall, follow the Uloola track for 3 hours to Audley passing Uloola falls, follow the signs from the station carpark.
NSW Trainlink runs hourly services from Bondi Junction or Central to Otford on the southern boundary of the park. This is an access point to the southern end of the coast walk. It is a 10 minute steep uphill walk from the station to the park boundary at Bald Hill, it is signposted. It is about an hour walk to Werrong beach (nudist) or two hours to Burning Palms beach from this point.
Sydney Trains runs services to Cronulla where you can change for a ferry to Bundeena. This is an access point to the northern end of the coast walk. The trains run every 30 minutes and the ferries run every hour. Don't expect them to connect. Turn left out of the exit to the station, and then left through the railway underpass to get to the ferry. It will take about 5 minutes' walk. It is 15 minutes walk from the ferry wharf at Bundeena to the park. You will need to know where you are going, and consult a map.
Topographic maps of the park can be viewed online at the New South Wales Lands Department . Bundeena has a nice beach by the side of the wharf, and nice cafes. It is not strictly speaking within the park, but it is surrounded by it.
Loftus Tramway Museum runs hourly trams from Loftus station to the top of the hill at Audley every hour on Sunday. From the end of thr tramline there is a 1km sealed path to walk to the lookout at the top of the cliff. It is a steep 30 minute walk down to the main picnic areas at Audley. The tram line is only about 2km long, and it is possible to walk the length of the tram line from Loftus the days the tram isn't running.
You can drive into the park at Audley, at Waterfall and at Stanwell Tops. Follow the signs from the Princes Highway. A entry fee applies for all cars taken into the park. Sometimes there are attendants at the gated entryways selling entry tickets. Even when these are not on duty you are expected to pay. Rangers check cars for displayed tickets in the parking lots. You can buy tickets from the Visitor's center and the kiosks. You do not have to pay if you are just passing through the park and do not stop. There are parking and picnic facilities within the park.
There are well developed roads to get around by car within the park, and these can be used to access the walking trails and the major picnic areas. There is plenty of parking at the main picnic areas.
Cycling is permitted on the trails but not the tracks unless marked (trails designed for ranger or fire access by 4wd, tracks are narrow, with steps, designed for walkers). Bicycles can access many trails that are closed to cars. The main sealed through roads through the park are steep and hilly, with many bends, and with cars that invariably exceed the speed limits and advisory corner speeds.
There are still many areas of the park can only be accessed by walking.
Maps of the park are available for purchase from the visitors centre in Audley, or many map and bookshops around Sydney. Individual brochures for the walks and beaches are available at no charge. Detailed topographic maps are viewable online at the NSW Lands Department .
The Bungoona Lookout is easy to access, paved path walk, suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. The view over the Hacking River valley is impressive.
Flora and Fauna
Stay safe. Carry enough water for your trip, water is not usually available in the park, and what water there is is often not safe to drink. Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Although the park is not of the scale of other Australian National Parks, it is still possible to become lost.
The park is one of the best places to do day walks from Sydney. You can walk along spectacular sandstone cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with views to the north to Sydney or to the south to Wollongong. Alternatively you can walk in the river valleys behind the headlands. There you will find tall rainforest trees such as the Lilly Pilly Acmena smithii or the fragrant Celery wood Polysias elegans.
Some of the walks are described on the park web page 
A comprehensive list of the walks available, and details of the routes can be obtained from the Visitor Centre.
There is no swimming in the river at Audley.
The historic boatshed adjacent to the Audley picnic area has row boats, canoes, and kayaks for hire. From here you can paddle around the picnic areas and clearings of Audley. If you want a bit of a longer jaunt, load your boat or canoe with water and snacks, and head upriver. The right fork is a wider clearer trip up Kangaroo Creek, see sandstone cliffs, turtles and birdlife in an easy 1hr paddle. Take the left fork under the timber bridge to head up the river proper. How far you can get depends on recent rainfall and how overgrown with reeds the river is at the the time. You can probably count on a good 2 1/2 hours of paddling to reach the limit of canoe navigation. This fork is probably not as scenic, and a bit harder going, but after 45 minutes you can count on having the river to yourself, with the consequent increase in wildlife spotting opportunities if you are quiet. There are some muddy landing spots upriver you can stop at if you are keen, on the right of the river it is inaccessible except by canoe. Private craft are not allowed in the river. Swimming is not allowed near the picnic areas at Audley, but there are a few nice spots to jump in after you have been canoeing for a while upriver. Update - Private craft ( canoes & kayaks )are allowed. The boat rental operator has put up signs saying they are not allowed, but on checking with Park Rangers, this is not so, March 2012.
You can use a mountain bike in the park on trails (wide roads with a barrier to prevent access by cars) except where signposted. Pick up the brochure on cycling in the park from the Visitor's Centre.
Kiosks and Take Away
The new cafe at Audley is a delight. Well prepared food on the deck overlooking the clearing and the river. It is open from 8am for breakfast, and if the sun is shining you may not feel like going anywhere for a while. There is a kiosk at Wattamolla beach and at Garie beach usually open on weekends during peak times. Nice for an ice cream on a hot day, but don't rely on them being open for camping supplies as they seem to close up if the business isn't there.
There is a selection of coffee shops and take away places at Bundeena. There is a coffee shop and take away at Otford outside the park's southern boundary. On a sunny weekend you will likely find an ice-cream van or two at Bald Hill, near the southern exit of the Coast/Cliff Walk.
The park is an excellent place for a picnic.
There are free electric barbecues provided at Audley, Wattamolla, with many picnic tables provided. There are still some fireplaces left for wood fires
There are picnic tables at regular intervals along the roads through the park.
Whatever you want to drink, bring it with you. Water for the walk or beer for the barbecue.
Although the streams run clear through the bush and look refreshing, they are not recommended for drinking without boiling. There isn't a single stream in the park that can be relied upon to be running without recent rainfall.
There was a fire at the Garie YHA in 2010, and it is unlikely to reopen.
National Parks and Wildlife Service, Farnell Avenue, Audley Heights, ph +61 2 9542 0648 (fax 02 9542 1420). Contact the NPWS on 13000 72757 for camping permits if you intend to camp in any of the campgrounds. Camping elsewhere in the park is forbidden.
Visit the Sydney Tramway Museum , open on Sundays and some holidays, just adjacent and North of the park turnoff from the Princes Hwy at Loftus. You can enter the tramway going south on the Princes Highway, but if you are heading south, follow the Princes Highway and take the Uturn bay at the Farnell Avenue turnoffSutherland.
Travel south along the coast road via the new Sea Cliff Bridge. A bridge built over the sea by the cliff edge, just south of the park and Stanwell Park.
Travel further south along the highway, and in around half an hour you will be in Wollongong.
Heathcote National Park is just to the west of the Princes Hwy, and without the coastal vistas or development of the Royal National Park. If you are looking for a natural landscape with walks, less people and no cars, then consider a bushwalk here. As you will have to park outside of the actual park, there are no admission fees either.