A relatively short walk to a (very) popular natural rock formation in the Royal National Park, an hour south of Sydney.
If you’re after crowds of people taking selfies, this is the walk you need to do! Actually, it wasn’t too busy on the very hot, 40-degree day I picked to visit the Figure Eight Pools (or Figure 8 Pools). It was a weekday, which would have helped. There were about ten people around the pools, but a local I spoke to on the nearby beach said on some days there could be hundreds of people visiting. There are over 14,000 photos on Instagram alone that have been taken at the pools, which have become a “social media sensation“!
I’ve walked past the Figure Eight Pools many times: the Otford to Bundeena coastal walk is one of my favourite summer walks. But I’ve never taken the time to make the short detour around the rocky headland to see this attraction, so today I’m taking the most direct route to the pools. The return trip from the Garrawarra Farm car park is about 6.5km, mostly on good tracks. It’s well sign-posted, as it heads down the Burgh Ridge towards the coast.
After about a kilometre, Burning Palms Beach can be seen below.
Despite being accessible only by foot, Burning Palms Beach has a Surf Life Saving Club that was formed in 1939 and patrols the beach every Sunday and public holidays from the last weekend in September to the end of April each year (the beach has a permanent rip at the northern end).
The track so far has been in the shade, as it descends fairly steeply through the forest. After the first kilometre it gets more exposed. You can see one of the rock platforms that must be traversed, and there’s another warning sign about safety at the pools. There’s been a number of injuries from waves sweeping over the rocks, including 70 people injured by a freak wave in 2016. The pools should only be accessed around low tide, and avoided when there is a high swell. (At high tide, the Figure Eight Pool is underwater, and inaccessible.)
Another 600m along the steel track (1.8km in total from the carpark), past a few weekender cabins and the Surf Lifesaving Club, and I’m on Burning Palms Beach. Looking back up the beach, you can see most of the cabins that were built as weekenders between 1930 and 1950, before the area was gazetted as a national park (there are 28 cabins here, 20 at Little Garie and 95 at South Era). The National Parks and Wildlife Service has unsuccessfully tried a few times to have the cabins removed. For some time there was a policy of removing the cabins on the death of the owner, or if rent fell into arrears. However, in the 1980s the communities sought and achieved heritage listing with the National Trust of Australia and a moratorium was placed on cabin demolition. With the cabins now recognised as “the largest and most intact groups of vernacular coastal weekender cabins remaining in NSW” it’s likely the current structures are here to stay.
From here there’s no marked track to the Figure Eight Pools, but it’s simple to find… follow the beach to the rocks at the end, then follow the base of the cliffs around the headland.
It’s about an hour before low tide and there’s no problem walking across the rock platforms – but it’s easy to see how dangerous it would on a rising tide or during a heavy swell.
It’s just under a kilometre from the end of the beach, around the first headland and across a rocky bay to get to the Figure Eight Pool (total distance, 3.2km).
Figure 8 Pool is one of a number of rock pools on the large rock platform, formed by twi circular sinkholes merging. It’s much smaller than I expected, but is very beautiful. It would be a great place to spend an hour or two, if you could find a time where it wasn’t over-run with people! I’ll try and re-visit very early one morning when the tides are right!
From here, I re-trace my steps back along the coast and up the ridge to the car park. There’s a couple of rangers at the top, explaining to a group of tourists that they really need to take water and to be equipped for a 2-hour bushwalk…
|Location||Start (and end) Garrawarra Farm car park in Royal National Park|
|Grade||Easy. Some rock-scrambling along the coast. Total 280m ascent.|
|Season/s||All year – but must be within ~1 hour of low tide to access pools|
|GPS Route||Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.|