Short on time but itching for a quintessential Australian adventure? Hiking to the North Era Campground is the perfect surfing weekend getaway and its only 2 hours away from Sydney.
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.
- Barrels with no lineup
- Camping beachside
- Views up and down the South Coast
- Exploring beaches that feel largely untouched by humans
‘I won’t be there long, but I want the full Aussie experience’
My mate from Canada called to let me know he’s dropping by Down Under.
He wanted me to organise a few adventures for the two of us, and most importantly, he wanted to surf. He’d been practicing his pop up in the kitchen, itching for some salt water spray and the next set.
The full Aussie Experience? I promised him awesome swells and a camping trip.
Then an idea hit me – why not combine the two into one epic Australian adventure in The Royal National Park less than two hours drive from Sydney?
Read more: Surfing the Royal National Park
Hiking With Surfboards in Tow
With our boards freshly waxed, we arrived at Garie Beach carpark. It’s a beautiful, pristine beach, and – honestly – we contemplated chucking in the adventure there and then, and just surfing Garie. But there’s something far more epic about carrying your boards to your own personalised beach – and we came here for the epic. If the Aussie Experience is to be anything, it must be epic!
North Era beach is two kilometres south of Garie Beach. The walk winds along a well defined trail, past the little community of beach shacks at Little Garie Beach before heading steeply up over the headland.
Read more: Staying Safe on Coastal Rock Platforms
It was as we were slogging it up the stairs in the heat that we started to doubt whether the surfboards were a real good idea – we definitely could’ve swum at Garie and saved ourselves the effort.
My guess is you’ll face these doubts too. I’m warning you, so you can persevere. Trust me – it’s worth it. And the views from the top are worth it too; you can see the southern coastline unravelling all the way to Wollongong.
Just Us, Our Boards, and the Ocean
North Era campground is a great expanse of flat grassland that shoulders right up to North Era Beach. As soon as we arrived, we knew the surfboards were worth it. Packs down. Wetties on. Shredsticks at the ready. We hit the green room. No lineup. Just us.
We set up our tent closest to the beach, falling asleep to the soft lullaby of the waves.
And the waves greeted us again in the morning. We surfed again – because we didn’t carry these boards for nothing – before exploring further south along the Coast Track.
This area is home to so many birds and animals that you just don’t find around Sydney. I don’t blame them – I’d choose to live here too. The locals came out and welcomed us tourists, and that feels an essential aspect of the Australian Experience. We were surrounded by Rockwarblers, lapwings, cuckoos and even a kestrel.
In the arvo, we packed up camp and started back to Garie beach. Up and over again. I won’t lie and say the slog gets easier, but gee, it’s satisfying knowing you’ve done something epic. We surfed at our own private beach, camped by the waves, explored Australia’s beaches in their natural rawness and beauty – and all in under 36 hours!
Tick ‘Aussie Experience’ off the bucket-list.
North Era is an unpatrolled beach, meaning there’s no lifesavers and no red and yellow safety flags. You should only enter the water if you are a strong, confident, and experienced swimmer. For patrolled swimming, swim at Garie Beach.
The hike up and over the headland between Garie and North Era is steep but well-defined. You’ll want water – especially carrying a board!
Distance / Duration
The walk from Garie Beach to North Era is around 1.6km / 1 hour each way