Haven’t got time in your busy schedule for a getaway but itching for some adventure? Matt shows us exactly why this 6.5km day hike in the Royal National Park is the best way to spend your day off.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Dharawal Nation, the traditional Country of the Dharawal people who have occupied and cared for this land for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Amazing coastal views
- Swimming holes depending on tide and swell
- Surfing if you’re keen to trek your board in
An Easily Accessible Section of the Coast Track
The coastal track in the Royal National Park, an hour south of Sydney, is one of the best hikes in the state. The whole trail stretches for 30km from Otford in the south to Bundeena in the north. It’s possible to walk the entire track over two days, camping at North Era campground (booking essential) or for the adventurous and fit, it can be walked in one day.
However, not everyone has a whole weekend to camp out or the desire to speed hike 30km in one day. For anyone who wants to take their time and enjoy some of the more scenic stretches of the coast track, the hike from Garie Beach to Semi Detached Point is a great option.
Starting Point – Garie Beach Car Park
This walk starts at Garie Beach car park (it’s $12 to park all day, or free if you already have a NSW National Parks permit). Garie is a beautiful, wild beach bookended by two towering headlands. Garie North Head to your left and Thelma Head to the right. The walk heads south over Thelma Head, but before you dive in, there’s a small snack kiosk on the edge of the car park that sells sambos, ice creams, and drinks. Well worth a visit.
The trail heads out onto the beach and snakes along the bottom of some impressive cliffs. Be aware during big surf and high tides, it may be too dangerous to get across this path.
Read more: Off Track in the Royal National Park (NSW)
At the end of the path you pass some of the old shacks that dot the grassy hillside between Little Garie and Semi Detached Point. These were originally built during the Great Depression and were used to manage grazing and timber collection for years. The government at the time tried to remove them, but many families who own the huts resisted, and thanks to their efforts, they’re still in use today.
Sprawling Views Down The Coast
From the top of Thelma Head you can see the coast stretching out before you. North Era, Mid Era Point, Era, and then Semi Detached Point. Further still you can make out the Sea Cliff Bridge and on a clear day, the industrial areas of Wollongong.
Read more: Surfing the Royal National Park
The route to Semi Detached Point is straightforward and easy to follow. On a hot day, there can be very little shade so make sure you carry a decent amount of water and snacks. When the surf’s small enough there are natural plunge pools in the rock platforms on the southern side of Mid Era Point. Perfect for cooling off hot feet.
Read more: Staying Safe on Coastal Rock Platforms
Semi Detached Point itself is an outcrop of rock, jutting out into the Tasman Sea. The perfect place for whale watching during the Humpback migration (between April and November) and spotting the numerous White Bellied sea eagles who hunt in the area. Once you’ve had your fill of the panoramic sea views, you can retrace your steps back to Garie Beach car park (and probably another snack).
- Hiking shoes
- Money for parking and snacks!
- Binoculars during whale season
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
How To Get There
Garie Beach is located in the Royal National Park south of Sydney. It’s accessible from either end of the park by car, but has no public transport links. The beach has a large car park, which requires a $12 fee to use, unless you have a NSW National Parks pass.
This is a straightforward and well marked route most people will be able to enjoy. The path over Thelma Head does get steep in places but has recently been refurbished with stone steps and several sitting areas for resting.
Elevation gain / Distance covered / Duration
Elevation is around 200m, most of which comes from going up and over Thelma Head / 6.5km out and back / a few hours depending on your speed and how long you take for snack breaks