Forget Bondi and discover the real Sydney Seaside and be blown away!

For a truly unforgettable Sydney beach experience forget Bondi and head to Bundeena! – Ffestiniog Travel’s long-distance tourists, the Woodroffes, give a rather poetic account of their experience of Sydney’s seaside secret!

Bonnie Vale Beach - © Mr & Mrs Woodroffe
A view of the Pacific Ocean - © Mr & Mrs Woodroffe
Highway becomes level with the sea - © Mr & Mrs Woodroffe
Lunch with a view! - © Mr & Mrs Woodroffe

Bundeena is described as one of New South Wales best kept secrets. Situated within an hour of Central Sydney, this small community lies in the Royal National Park on the water's edge of Port Hacking. The raucous "good nights" from the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and the deafening row from the cicadas, along with a darkening sky brings our first day at Bundeena to an end.

This is Australia's oldest national park, proclaimed in April 1879 and is second only in age to Yellowstone Park, USA. Golden beaches against a backcloth of trees and crags, on which sit some glorious houses. This is the playground of the rich.  Amongst the trees are clapper board houses of many different styles, mostly with tin roofs. Our friends bought their Fisherman's "hut" 25+ years ago  and have steadily renovated it, recently adding a new "West Wing" so that it sleeps 15+ in great comfort.

Before breakfast I followed a path down to Bonnie Vale beach. The weather had perked up and the sea mirrored the deep blue sky. I gazed across the water to Cronulla, with its yachts bobbing at anchor as the small hourly ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena approached. This is the oldest operating commercial ferry route in Australia. Residents of Bundeena wishing to get into the city can take the ferry and catch the train (the station is just up the road from the jetty) into the centre. The trains in this area are all electrified and double deckers.

We took the ferry to Cronulla - a very calm and the views were amazing. The Curranulla, a vessel with only a 3' 6" draft, was specially built for the shallow and often rough waters of Port Hacking.  Passing the large waterfront house owned by the 1960's singer Demis Roussos, we arrived at the pier and wandered up to the town. A bustling Main Street with a definite cafe culture. We stopped off at INC for lunch. The grilled chicken and haloumi burgers are delicious and the "kool school strawberry milk shake" served in a 600ml glass milk bottle was most welcome.

One morning we were woken by a roaring sound that felt like an incredibly heavy rain storm, but it wasn’t rain, just the sound of the wind battering the trees. It is quite alarming - it was gusting at 104 km/hr.

A trip down the Sir Bertram Stevens Highway passes through the National Park. The road cuts, ribbon like, through the park. On either side the vegetation is predominately gum trees. Occasionally these give way to small glades of short green grass, often with a stream meandering by. I am reminded of picnic areas on Dartmoor or Exmoor, though of course the trees are replaced by bracken.  The road twists and turns its way south, following the contours of the land. This is bikers' paradise. Occasionally the road traverses a tunnel of trees, rather like a cathedral nave. The noise of the cicadas percolates into the car even though the windows are closed. We turn left onto the Lawrence Hargrave Drive and suddenly burst out of the trees into the breathtaking vistas of the rollers of the Pacific Ocean rushing onto long curved golden beaches.

At times the road is level with the sea and at other times it rises majestically up to enhance the views for the traveller. We pause at Stanwell Tops, which sits on top of the Illawarra Escarpment, for a "Kodak moment". The wind is too strong for the Sidney Hang Gliders who normally operate from the escarpment edge.

We drive on, passing lovely surfing beaches en route to Scarborough. The section of road between Coal Cliff and Clifton passes over the fabulous Sea Cliff Bridge. This sinuous bridge, built after the old road was closed in 2003 due to regular rock falls, is one of only seven off-shore, parallel-to -coast, bridges in the world.

Scarborough was named after a ship which travelled to Australia in both the first and second fleets to arrive in Australia in 1788-1790. The hotel is the favoured lunch spot and we can see why. The balcony overlooks the garden which in turn overlooks the sea. Lunch is fish of various species and chips. What better surroundings to enjoy it in!

Driving south to Thirroul it is difficult to believe that this beautiful area was and still is the site of coal mining. A track to the Illawarra Coke Company gives testament to this, as well as names such as Coal Cliff and Coledale.

We retrace our route and as we arrive at Stanwell Tops we notice the hang gliders in the sky. We stop and watch as unsuspecting punters are strapped in tandem style and run off the escarpment face. We pass up the offer of having a go! Further on we turn into the Scarborough/ Wombarra cemetery. What a place to finally be laid to rest, with the Pacific crashing below you! Tea at a small cafe before we re-entered the park and then home after a marvellous day.

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