Jewel of the Northern Illawarra // Mt Mitchell, Stanwell Park (NSW)

Highlights:

  • A beautifully hidden trail so close to Sydney
  • Immense lookout from the cliff tops
  • ‘Hole in the Rock’

Maybe you’re looking to escape the daily grind. You’re searching for a quick escape from reality, but have a bucket load of responsibilities, commitments and not much time. You’re dreaming of an adventure that’s easy to get to, doesn’t take too long, but gets the adrenalin going with fresh mountain air to fill those lungs, and picturesque views to entice those eyes. A sneaky short adventure awaits, deep in the coastal bushlands, a hidden jewel can be found, the best kept secret of the Northern Illawarra.

Stanwell Park, located north of Wollongong, NSW, and south of Sydney’s Royal National Park, is nestled in bushland, with a quaint coastal village feel. Here you can find Mt Mitchell, which, surprisingly is only a 4km return hike. But don’t be fooled by the short distance! It’s a medium to hard walk with about one hour of steep ascent. Plenty of rocks (and opportunity to slip on your backside!), along the way. The walk traverses up the cliff edge with fairly narrow and overgrown paths. There is no fencing, so care should be taken, leave the kids at home for this one!

You’ll find there is no signage to guide you up to Mt Mitchell, with all sign posts making no mention of it. Start at the Wodi Wodi track head on Lawrence Hargrave drive. You’ll see a sign ‘Wodi Wodi Track’ with an old wooden stairwell. Take this track to start with. About 20 minutes into the walk, you’ll come across another sign post where the path splits off into two directions – one the ‘Forest Walk’, and one the ‘Wodi Wodi Track’ (again no mention of Mt Mitchell). Take the Forest Walk path.

From here the path will take you through tall gum trees, with plenty of birds and lizards about. Much of the paths are rocks and boulders to navigate, as well as the 250 metre ascent involving steep steps cut out into the mountain (apparently to make it easier, it’s questionable!). Once you reach the top, you’ll see a rock platform and what I call a ‘hole in the rock’. A careful walk around this, and you’ll be right on the cliff edge with amazing views to the north, south and east. You’ll see the popular Stanwell Park beach, home to hang gliders, the Coal Cliff railway track and bridge surrounded in majestic bushland. Great opportunity for photos before making your way back down.

Essential Gear Required

  • Food & water
  • Sun protection
  • Binoculars
  • Camera

How to get there

The easiest access point, is to start at the entrance to Wodi Wodi track head, on Lawrence Hargrave Drive. This is about 1km south of Stanwell Park shopping precinct. Parking is roadside only, with limited space, so if you don’t find a spot, you’ll need to park at the shopping precinct and walk about 1km along the road to get to the start. Be super careful, as this road is unforgiving, and very busy.

Activities

  • Hiking
  • Photography
  • Bird watching

Skill Level

Competent & Intermediate walkers with at least average fitness. It’s a medium-hard walk with a 250 metre elevation, along cliff faces, with no fencing

Distance / Elevation

Approximately 4km long with a 250 metre elevation gain