Great Southern Walk

Come on an amazing journey along the south coast from Sydney to Wollongong.

Royal Coast TrackThis 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 was on public exhibition in late 2022. The amendment was finalised in February 2023.

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.

Great Southern Walk map

In 2022 and 2023, we will undertake investigations and assessments for new track sections and proposed campsites.

The design and environmental assessment of the proposed campsites are underway. Works to construct new sections of track or upgrade existing sections in each national park and state conservation area are also underway. Please check the current alerts for individual areas for the latest information and track closures.

This project is expected to be completed in 2024.

We are committed to conserving the ecological integrity and biodiversity of our national parks and reserves and providing sustainable visitor use compatible with the conservation of natural and cultural values.

The Great Southern Walk will allow visitors to explore and experience one of the most stunning coastlines in the country in a sustainable manner. Right on the doorstep of Sydney, this walk will make it easier for a range of visitors, from inexperienced walkers and guided groups to experienced independent walkers, to experience the thrill of achieving an overnight trek in the bush. Limits on numbers, and modest facilities, will ensure that environmental sustainability is maintained.

This walk complements the important work we have been doing to make national park experiences more accessible to everyone, including the upgrade of the Royal Coast Track, restoration of the Bonnie Vale campgrounds, improved facilities at Wattamolla, new whale watching facilities at Cape Solander platform and, coming soon, a new visitor and education centre at Kamay Botany Bay.

Improved camping in Royal National Park is supported by the community, as demonstrated by the popularity of the Bonnie Vale campground and in feedback received during the public exhibition of the draft plan of management for Royal National Park.

A new campground that will provide camping platforms, basic hiker huts, amenities, and camp kitchen is being explored for the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area to provide new recreational opportunities for visitors. An amendment to the plan of management was on public exhibition in late 2022. This amendment was finalised and published in February 2023. Detailed assessments and stakeholder consultation will be carried out to ensure any new facilities are low-impact and sustainable.

The proposed walking tracks in the Illawarra will benefit local communities by creating new linkages and recreation opportunities. The project will deliver new missing linkages to join Royal National Park to the Illawarra walking tracks networks. Improving camping in Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area is also needed to support the overnight multi-day walk. The Illawarra Section is consistent with the Illawarra Escarpment Walking Tracks master plan.

Illawarra escarpment walking tracks master plan

We manage our national parks and reserves to protect their unique values and provide for sustainable visitor use and enjoyment. This includes providing visitor experiences and, where appropriate, new visitor facilities, including tracks and trails.

We are undertaking the appropriate planning and environmental assessment to ensure that the new facilities, either during construction or during operation, will have minimal environmental impacts – whether to biodiversity, Aboriginal sites, heritage sites or recreational values.

This walk will encompass existing tracks with a limited number of new linkages (around 3 to 4 kilometres) in the southern section of the walk, including both on and off park. In addition, care has been taken to avoid unnecessary impacts. For example, new campgrounds proposed for Wattamolla and Garie in the Royal National Park are located in disturbed areas with necessary services already in place.

The Maddens Plains area of the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area has been proposed as a new walk-in campground site for the Great Southern Walk as it offers a suitable location to support overnight options for walkers on the track. Environmental and cultural heritage assessments will be conducted before any construction takes place.

There will be no change to existing access to the national parks that form part of the Great Southern Walk. Access to existing walking tracks will be unaffected though there may be temporary closes as we improve and maintain the walking tracks. Once the new walking track links in Royal National Park and Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area have been completed, they will open for use.

Access to the Bonnie Vale campground will be unaffected by this project – you can continue to book sites online.

Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area tracks will be subject to progressive closures to enable upgrades to sections of the track. These will be locally notified and updated on the National Parks and Wildlife website.

During the past decade, we have consulted with the community on the management of our national parks and on planning documents that inform this project:

  • Royal National Park draft plan of management (2021)
  • Wattamolla master plan (2017)
  • Kamay Botany Bay National Park master plan (2019)
  • Kamay Botany Bay National Park plan of management (2020)
  • Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area plan of management (2018) was amended in February 2023 to enable the establishment of accommodation (campground) as part of the Great Southern Walk. This amendment was on public exhibition in 2022.
  • We routinely engage with Registered Aboriginal Parties on works that may affect Aboriginal sites, such as upgrading the Royal Coast Track and the remediation of Bonnie Vale campground.

This webpage will be the main source of information and will be regularly updated as the project progresses. Questions and feedback are welcomed at any time by completing the online form below.

We will circulate project newsletters to our stakeholders. If you're interested in receiving this newsletter, please complete the online form below.

We will manage the planning, construction and establishment of these new campsites, ensuring all environmental and related considerations are carefully handled.

An Expressions of Interest (EOI) process was released in late 2022 to find a suitable delivery partner to help run the guided walking and manage the new camping experiences using the new facilities. Royal National Park has a long history of using delivery partners to provide recreational experiences, such as the Audley Boatshed, the Audley Dancehall Café, the Royal holiday cottages and the Bonnie Vale kayak operation. This enables us to utilise people who are subject matter experts in their industry to design and deliver activities that best suit what the visitors want. It also allows us to get on with managing our visitors and conserving the natural and cultural values of the national park. This EOI will have no impact on visitor access to the Royal Coast Track. Walkers will continue to be able to use the Royal Coast Track.

National Parks and Wildlife Service will continue to own the new facilities.

The Expressions of Interest was open from 19 November 2022 to 30 January 2023 via the NSW Government eTender website. Submissions are currently under review.