This 67-kilometre walk from Kamay Botany Bay National Park, through Royal National Park and into the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area will take visitors through stunning coastal landscapes and places of national heritage significance.
Featuring dramatic coastal views, a range of stunning natural environments and opportunities to stay overnight, this new walk has an abundance of experiences for individuals, couples, groups and families.
What is the Great Southern Walk?
In June 2021, the NSW Government announced the Great Southern Walk, a 67-kilometre track extending from Sydney's south to the Illawarra.
The Great Southern Walk will incorporate existing walking tracks through the Kurnell peninsula, the iconic Royal Coast Track and tracks through the Illawarra Escarpment, with some new connecting tracks in both Royal National Park and the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area and upgraded tracks in Kamay Botany Bay National Park.
The Sydney section of the walk will start at Kamay Botany Bay National Park at Kurnell, crossing the peninsula to Cronulla, through Royal National Park from Bundeena to Bald Hill and then through the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area. Camping is already available at Bonnie Vale campground, while new small sustainable camp locations will be provided at Wattamolla and Garie. A mix of camping platforms, basic hiker huts, amenities and camp kitchen are proposed.
The Illawarra section of the Great Southern Walk will link from Bald Hill and Stanwell Park, adjacent to the southern entrance to Royal National Park, and through the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area to the Southern Gateway Centre at Bulli Tops. Locations are being explored for an overnight opportunity.
New South Wales's coastal national parks between Sydney and Wollongong are some of the most popular in the state, with high visitation and diverse environmental and cultural values. We aim to provide sustainable access to these parks for a range of visitors. This investment will enable visitors from independent walkers to small, guided groups to experience Sydney's southern coastline and the Illawarra Escarpment.
What can visitors expect?
This walk allows visitors to immerse themselves in a multi-day walk along the Sydney and northern Illawarra coastline.
Accommodation will be available at both new and existing campgrounds. Bonnie Vale campground, which has welcomed campers for decades, offers powered and unpowered sites and upgraded amenities.
Two new campgrounds are proposed for Royal National Park at Wattamolla and Garie, where camping platforms, basic hiker huts, amenities and camp kitchen are proposed. Both sites have water with sewage treatment systems upgraded in 2018 to cater for the existing high day visitor demand in these sites. These sites also have previously disturbed areas suitable for small campgrounds.
A walk-in campground and basic hut accommodation are proposed to be built in the Maddens Plains area of the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area. The proposed campground site would support walkers on the Great Southern Walk, and the design of the infrastructure will be subject to environmental and cultural heritage assessments. An amendment to the current plan of management is required and is currently on exhibition for public comment. The amendment also includes the closure and rehabilitation of the Austinmer Camp. The site receives little use, has been subject to antisocial behaviour and has impacted nearby residents.
What's special about this walk?
This new walk will provide visitors with an iconic experience on the NSW south coast, including the ability to camp in our coastal national parks. Visitors will be able to enjoy the national parks and conservation areas along the coast south of Sydney:
- Kamay Botany Bay National Park is Dharawal Country. The land is important to the Gweagal people of the Dharawal language group and other Aboriginal family groups with an association of Kamay (Botany Bay) such as the Bidiegal (Bidjigal) and Gadigal peoples. The Kurnell side of Kamay Botany Bay National Park is significant for its association with HMB Endeavour and Lieutenant James Cook, who arrived on these shores in 1770. This park is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register, and the Kurnell Peninsula is registered on the National Heritage List for its natural and cultural values.
- Royal National Park is located on the southern fringe of Sydney. It is Australia's oldest national park and one of the busiest in New South Wales. Royal National Park has recently seen a significant and sustained increase in visitors coming to enjoy the beaches, sandstone cliffs, wetlands meet grassy woodland, rainforests, coastal heathland and eucalypt forests, lagoons and waterfalls, especially on sunny weekends and holidays.
- The Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area contains the most extensive area of rainforest in the Sydney basin. It forms a crucial natural corridor between Royal National Park and the South Coast. The area is an important refuge for species affected by environmental disturbances such as development and bushfires. The Wodi Wodi Aboriginal people occupied these lands for 20,000 years. More recent colonial heritage can also be found, including buildings, portals, rail tracks, and other features from former farming and coalmining.
This walking track will complement the important work we have been doing to upgrade infrastructure within these parks, including the Royal Coast Track, reopening of the Bonnie Vale campgrounds, improved facilities at Wattamolla, the new Cape Solander whale watching platform and the upcoming upgrades at the Kurnell area of Kamay Botany Bay including a new visitors centre.