Coast Track. Royal National Park.

I’d wanted to walk this track for a couple of years now, but had just never gotten around to it.  NSW National Parks recommend it as a two day hike, unless you’re ‘super fit’ which I most definitely am not.  So this seemed like the perfect challenge.  The official track length (Bundeena to Otford) is stated as 26km, however, actual track markings mark it as 31kms.  You would be excused for thinking that’s not much of a difference, but when you’re heading into your seventh hour and those last 5kms is actually up a mountain, it makes all the difference!

In desperate need of a challenging hike, but only a day to spare, it seemed like the perfect time to attempt the Coast Track in one day.

I downplayed the challenge of it and convinced my sister, Jules, to come along.  Whilst Jules is a walker in the traditional exercise sense, she has never hiked a trail.  So much downplaying was done.  I sold it as a nice hike through the National Park heading south along the coast, starting with the 6.30am ferry across from Cronulla to Bundeena to be on track by 7.00am.  The track starts 1km from the ferry wharf.

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Within about 3kms we reach the first beach crossing.  Except for two of the beaches, the others that we crossed can only be accessed on foot.  They are beautiful beaches backed by rugged wilderness.  Crystal clear water crashes onto clean soft sand marred only by lumps of washed up seaweed.  It is so easy to imagine that we are somewhere remote and far away, and it is really hard to reconcile that we are actually only about an hour from Sydney.

The track is purpose built in a lot of places.  In other places, it is not, and after rain, it is muddy and slippery.  I wouldn’t attempt it after days of rain, unless mud is your thing.  The track can be tough in places, and there is a lot of up and down.

The track follows the coast south.  Across beaches, escarpments, cliff faces, up and down mountains, through scrub and rainforest.  The scenery is simply stunning.  Ocean views that you could sit and stare at all day, rugged coastline and miles and miles of impenetrable bush.

The track is well marked, and relatively easy to follow.  We only lost it twice.  Well once really, as the second time we stood there looking at the marker, and then decided to go up when the marker clearly pointed straight.  Only when we hiked to the top of the hill did we realise that perhaps we were meant to have gone straight down at the bottom.  So back down we go with only ourselves to blame, a reminder of how easily things can go wrong when you start to tire.

Given the length of the track and a limited amount of daylight, we had only stopped briefly during the morning, and had only allowed 20 minutes for lunch.  So by the afternoon, we were both starting to really feel it.

8.5 hours of solid hiking and six blisters later we reached Otford, just as it was starting to rain.  Absolutely shattered but energised with the feeling of having made it, we trudged very slowly back up to the train station.

The Coast Track is the perfect day challenge / adventure.  Superb hiking in a simply stunning setting.  If you can do it on a weekday even better.  We saw only a handful of people the whole day making it feel as if we truly had been somewhere remote.

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I have to say, I was a little in awe of my sister.  Jules absolutely nailed the challenge, and didn’t complain once.  There were a couple of moments towards the end when it could have gone the other way, but I think  the idea of spending a night in the National Park with no food was enough motivation to get her to the end.

There is no better teacher or healer than that of completing a challenge.  My sister learnt that day that she is tougher than she thought, both physically and mentally, and that when we put our minds to something we are unstoppable, especially sisters together!

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