This was The Big One. A route through the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, that many people do over two days, taking a leisurely pace and camping overnight at North Era campground before covering the final stretch suitably rested and refreshed. None of that for us.
As word got out that we were going to take all 30km of beautiful coastline on, in just one day, we attracted a few other adventurers; keen to enjoy the stunning scenery, push themselves and lay claim to the ‘coastal path in one day’ bragging rights.
Having run out of water on a much shorter 16km hike the previous weekend we made sure we were all well prepared. Water, lunch, snacks, sweets and trail mix. Homemade no less!
We met at Bondi Junction in time to catch the 0615 to Otford, timing our arrival perfectly to grab a coffee and a second breakfast at The Otford Pantry on Lady Wakehurst Drive just as it opened. Suitably caffeinated we started on what would turn into a 9 hour epic hike through some of the most amazing scenery we’ve ever seen.
One of the most amazing things about this walk is the range of environments and habitats you pass through. Starting in gum forest, descending through palm forest, across many golden sandy beaches, over heathland plateaus and finishing on sandstone smooth rock. Within each of these are some mind blowing vistas that hide around corners and crack you over the head as they come into view. I genuinely heard curtailed ‘wooows’ and whispered ‘jeeeeeez’ as people came round the corner and laid eyes on the folds of headlands and crashing waves that unravelled in front of us all.
There’s only one spot on the whole stretch for re-stocking supplies that’s guaranteed to be open and that’s Garie Beach. This is roughly one third into the hike, so you still need to be strategic with your food and water for the longer stretch beyond.
Arriving at Garie, everyone was glad of the rest. The sun was making the going hot and dusty and we were glad to shrug off our packs and grab a cold drink in the shade.
Leaving the tuck shop at Garie we knew we were on our own. If anything went wrong now, it was a long way up onto the ridge to join the road or a long trek back to Garie. A quick check of the distance covered and the distance to go left us confident we’d make the last ferry in Bundeena. We just had to keep up the pace!
As we walked, the sun climbed higher and higher into a deep, blue sky. Shortly after Garie Beach we entered an area of short, heathland scrub and the welcome shade started to disappear. Extra sun cream was slapped on, bottles of water were pulled from bags to be kept close at hand and those with hats pulled them low to shade squinting eyes. It had only just turned into Spring but it was already testing with full packs and walking boots. If you’re tempted to do Otford to Bundeena in one day, it’s best tackled in Spring or Autumn.
We’d walked parts of these trails before in shorter loops, but once we moved north of Garie Beach we were in virgin territory and it didn’t disappoint. We stood mesmerised on top of waterfalls, sank deep into deserted beaches, pulled off hot walking boots to wade across deep, cool creeks where they spilled out of the hills and emptied into the churning ocean.
We could fill pages and pages about each of the views and sights that made us stop and exclaim ‘How is this only an hour from Sydney?’, but the best advice is to get out there and do it. Sure, you can make Otford to Bundeena a far more leisurely two-dayer, but setting out to do it in one day adds an extra dimension.
Nine hours, 30 kilometres, 14 litres of water and a metric tonne of trail mix later, we stepped onto the sculpted sandstone near Wedding Cake Rock and knew that we were close to the Bundeena ferry.
As luck would have it, we made the 5pm ferry with minutes to spare. We slumped into the wooden seats of the beautiful ‘Crunella’. As she ambled out onto Botany Bay bound for Cronulla, we watched the sun slowly sink into the hills. A fitting end to an epic walk with some equally epic people.
Take a look at Jamie’s GoPro footage from the day on Vimeo