Shelly Beach snorkel and surf
Beautiful little beach round the corner from Manly. You can snorkel or scuba dive right off the beach. The reef is shallow enough for a great snorkel so you don’t need to scuba but it’s great place to get more experience scuba diving if your doing your PADI or need a refresher. You will see wobbegong. There is a great restaurant called the Boat House on the beach open until 3pm to refuel after your sea safari. Get the quinoa and coconut bircher for breakfast and the Bucket of Prawns for lunch.
There is also a right reef break for surfers called ‘Fairy Bower’ which generally works when the Manly swell is 4ft or bigger with a southerly wind. You can swim out from the beach following the rocks to the right or walk over the rocks and jump in. Best at high tide as it can get very shallow on low tide.
As the first place Captain Cook would have seen as he sailed into Sydney it is no wonder he wanted to stay. This beautiful little village is perfect for coast walking, swimming and sundowners. Walk the South Head Heritage Trail along the coast to get panoramic of Sydney and take a swim on Camp Cove. Take a picnic, or Watson’s Bay Beach Club offers a great spot for sundowners. The afternoon tea at Dunbar House is delicious over looking the bay, or for a special breakfast. There are often events at Robertson Park such as wine festivals.
Gordon’s Bay is a secluded little beach where you can escape the Coogee crowds. It is also home to the Gordon’s Bay Underwater Nature Trail which is on the northern side. About seven hundred meters long you can scuba dive the trial with the deepest part 12 metres, with good visibility you can also see the trial from the surface. The underwater nature trail is made up of submerged drums linked by a chain. Plaques are attached to the drums with information on the underwater sea life. You will see star fish, cuttlefish, blue gropers, lots of sand rays, Port Jackson sharks and wobbegong sharks if your lucky!
One of Sydney’s best kept secrets. Beware once you visit this idyllic spot you will never want to leave. Only an hours drive from Sydney you would think there would be crowds of people but even in the summer you share the water with only a handful of people. Sleep out under the stars on one of the little beaches, stay in a riverside house or even a water boat. The houses and beaches are only accessible by boat or kayak. If you have a motorboat license you can ask for the boat to be left with you and spend your days fishing, jet skiing, bouncing along in an inflatable tube and exploring the river. Many of the houses also have kayaks available.
Erskine Creek at Jack Evans
Only an hour and a half from Sydney you feel a world away from the city in this gorge with nothing but forest for miles and bird song for your morning alarm. Its also extremely accessible we left Sydney late morning and were back in work the next day for 9am. But if you have more time this is the perfect place to come with good friends and a book for some wild camping where you will be surround by nature.
Spend a day winding your way through the magical rock ravines of the Blue Mountains on your inflatable vehicle. The start point is just 2 hours from Sydney at the Bushfire Station at Mount Wilson. From here follow the signs down into Wollangambe river and jump in! The current will float you down stream past beautiful pools and high rock walls. If your brave enough you can scramble up the high canyon walls for high rock jumps, check the water depth first! The exit point it a small sand beach. From here you can follow the track all the way up to the Fire trail, then turn right onto the fire trail and follow it back to where you started.
Time 3 – 4 hours
What you need:
Lilo or inflatable mattress
Wetsuit: the water is always cold even in summer
Trainers or wettest boots: There are some parts you need to climb over some rocks
Royal National Park
Lower Kangaroo Creek Swim Safari
Park at The Royal National Park Visitor Centre and then follow the path over the large wooden bridge. Turn right following the track marked Robertson’s Roundabout up into the forest. There will be a right turn after 80m sign posted for Engadine, after this take another right following the sign for Kangaroo Creek. From here you will wind your way through the forest and down some metal steps to Kangaroo Creek. Then its time to get your snorkel and start your swim safari. We saw turtles, eels and lots of fish. Just remember whatever you bring with you is going to get wet! Although in most parts you can stand, there were stretches along the swim where you can’t put your feet down so this is only for confident swimmers. The creek winds its way back downstream to the car park.
Time: 2 hours
What you need: Snorkel or goggles (optional), Dry bag
Wattamolla Creek Dam
Wattamolla beach is a beautiful spot all by itself but if you are adventurous you can get away from the crowds at the beach and find the beautiful waterfalls and secluded pool nearby. From Wattamolla car park take the left track, not the track that leads to the beach, which winds its way up through the forest. It is about 1 km from the car park to the falls. The path will lead you to Wattamolla creek. Once here turn to the left and there will be a brick wall creating a small pool. Over the wall are the beautiful waterfalls and if you follow them down you will find the secluded pool.
Figure 8 Pools
See these are part of the Royal National Park hike or take a day trip. The easiest way to access the pools is by driving to Garrawarra Fram carpark and following the Burgh Ridge track through the eucalyptus forest down to The Coast track. Walk south to Burning Palms Beach and then across the beach to the south end. Here you will need to scramble across rocks for 1 km to the pools where you can jump in for a refreshing swim. The pools are only accessible at low tide so make sure you check the tides before you set off. Burning Palms Beach is a great spot for a picnic and you can surf too, so don’t forget your board! There isn’t any food or water at the beach so make sure you bring everything you need.
Time: 3 hours
What to take:
Water – there is no freshwater so make sure you take lots
Activities: wild swimming, hiking, surfing
Royal National Park Over Night Hike
Time: 2 days
What to take:
Water – if you have a water purifier you can refill at the streams along the way
Distance: 26 km one way
Activities: wild swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, snorkelling
This is a beautiful way to see the world’s second oldest national park. Known to the locals as ‘Nasho’, the Royal National Park Coast Trek is a bucket list experience. The walk can be done in one day but I would advise taking at least two, or more if you have time! You can whale watch or bird watch from one of the stunning look outs, camp on beautiful beaches where your footprints will probably be the only ones in the sand.
You aren’t technically supposed to camp in the park apart from the official group at North Era, but it’s so beautiful I think the NSW government can forgive us. Just remember – leave only your sandy footprints. We just walked until we found somewhere we liked and set up camp for the night. Wattamolla beach is a beautiful spot with trees for shade, a coastal lagoon and protected bay for swimming. The snorkelling is excellent here and so is the fishing especially at night so bring your rods. Curracurrang Gully is another beautiful spot to spend the night, it is 2 km on from Wattamolla. There is small sandy beach and protected water for swimming.
Make sure you include the Figure 8 Pools in your hike. They are a bit of a detour but worth it! We left our packs on Burning Palms Beach and made our way across the rocks. Its 1km worth of rock scrambling so make sure your wearing supportive shoes and have good balance. Access is from the south end of the beach and is only safe at low tide.
From Burning Palms Beach make your way up through the Palm Tree Jungle to Otford. Its a beautifully shady walk but very steep so make sure you have plenty of water.
Route starting from Sydney centre:
Train: T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line to Cronulla (1 hour)
Ferry: Cronulla ferry to Bundeena (30 minutes). Cash only.
Walk from Bundeena jetty to the start of the Coast Trek and begin your adventure.
Train: Otford station T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line to Central (1 hour)
Snowy Mountains: fun in sun or snow
The Snowy Moutains are a playground for a mountain lover. A little bit further than the other Wild Sydney spots but included because it can be done in a weekend if you don’t mind the 5 hour drive. The mountains offer fewer and shorter runs than in neighbouring New Zealand but are still a lot of fun and can get some good powder. If you can be flexible its worth keeping an eye on the Snowy Mountain forecast with your bags packed so your ready for when the powder hits.
Once all the snow has melted swap your snowboard and skis for two wheels and make use of the fantastic mountain biking on offer. If you thinking it doesn’t sound like much fun getting to the top don’t worry the ski lift is converted to a ‘bicycle lift’ to get you to the top of the runs. If downhill isn’t your thing, there are trails for all abilities through the mountainous country side past lakes, streams and forests. If you can go during the week there are some mid weeks specials available.
Some of the best scuba diving you will find in NSW and in our opinion Australia. Before you even get to the dive site if your lucky you will spot dolphins and turtles on the boat trip. The first dive takes you down to watch grey reef sharks gliding back and forth along their feeding galley. Next you will dive Fish Rock. The cave is 120 metres long, one of the largest ocean caverns in the southern hemisphere, and home to hundreds of species. As you enter the cave you will see wobbegong sharks lazing at the entrance, be careful not to step on them! Painted crayfish tentacles will wave in your torch beam from nooks and crannies as if beckoning you into the darkness. In season you will find giant cuttlefish lay their eggs in the cave and the huge males can be found flashing their lights. Exiting the cave into the aptly named Aquarium will leave you wide eyed. Silhouetted in the opening are thousands of bullseyes, gorgonian coral fans, trumpetfish, black cod and many more. We had an attempted torch theft from a thrifty octopus, fed and stroked an eel and we saw a sting ray gliding about. It was magical!
The dive boats leave from South West Rocks, we went with South West Rocks Dive Centre who offer free Nitrox for divers and the chance to do your Nitrox certification as part of the dive at no extra cost. They also have dorm room style accommodation onsite.