The 14km Forest Walk combines multiple walking tracks into one, leading you from Stanwell Park across the Illawarra Escarpment and back down Sublime Point at Austinmer.
- Views across Stanwell Park and the Illawarra
- Gorgeous flora and vegetation
- Unexpected bat sightings
- Sense of accomplishment
It’s a Saturday and I’m itching to get my legs pumping and fresh air into my lungs after a week of smoky skies from the fires. I throw a bunch of mates into a couple of cars and force them to go hiking with me (after a quick pit stop to grab an essential iced coffee). We drop one car at the bottom of Sublime Point on Foothills Rd Austinmer, all pile into the second car and scoot up Lawrence Hargrave Drive to begin our hike from the Wodi Wodi Track (only two hours after we’d planned to start, oh well).
I’m well acquainted with this southern end of the Wodi Wodi Track, but somehow this time, the incline caught me off guard. Damn this hill is steep. Up, up, up we go. At the top, the rocky track turns sandy and giant frondy plants line the path – I feel like an ant or the daughter from Honey I Shrunk The Kids.
We jump onto the big boulders at the top of the escarpment, admire the view of Stanwell Park and point out the hang gliders floating above the headland across the beach.
So far, so familiar. The next bit is new territory for all of us. We leave the other Saturday morning hikers behind and start our journey along the escarpment. After about 20 mins we stumble out of the dense forest onto a wider fire trail. Hmmm, let’s see where this goes.
Following the trail we pop out at a big sandstone slab, full of beautiful colours. Sweet! Didn’t expect to see this. We round the bend and get a view over a dam and can see back to the coast. I become instantly disoriented. Not exactly where I thought we’d be…hmmmm.
Next thing we know we’re on a huge open dirt road. Wait, a sec. This can’t be right. We whip out our phones and compare the map on the national parks website to where Google is telling us we are. Hmm, right off track.
We scratch ourselves silly as we bushbash down a narrow creek bed and finally make it back to the track! About 800m from where we left it, 4km ago. Nice. We pull up for a delish lunch and realise how much further we’ve got to go. But it’s ok, cause we’re on track now and it’s a beautiful day.
We manage to stay on track for the rest of the hike, passing through gorgeous gum tree forests and even stumble across a bat having a nap on a branch overhanging the path.
We arrive at Sublime Point completely stoked. We peer down at all the blooming Jacaranda Trees scattered across the Illawarra and point out our favourite swimming spots from high above.
Now comes possibly the best part of the walk – passing masses of red-faced go-getters struggling up the ladders of Sublime Point as we bound down them. Mind your step! This path is uneven, incredibly steep and without any railings.
We reach the bottom and wobble with jelly legs to the car we dropped off many hours ago. We wind back along Lawrence Hargrave Drive and drool as we think about the foods we’ll eat as our reward.
What To Bring
- Hiking shoes
- Snacks, lunch and water
- Hiking buddies to lead you back to the right path
- Well deserved swim in the ocean afterwards
- Getting lost
- Bit of bush bashing
How To Get There
You can start the hike either from Austinmer or Stanwell Park (I prefer Stanwell Park so you don’t have to struggle up the hell that is Sublime Point). If you’re coming from the north, there is a small car park just outside of Stanwell Park on the left-hand side of Lawrence Hargrave Drive. This is directly across from where the Wodi Wodi track starts. If you reach Sea Cliff Bridge, you’ve gone too far.
Intermediate – the majority of the hike isn’t too taxing, although it is undulating. However the climb up the escarpment, from either the Wodi Wodi Track or Sublime Point is extremely steep. Sublime Point even has a series of ladders at the top it’s such a steep incline.
Distance Covered / Duration / Elevation Gained
14km (plus about a 4km diversion) / 4.5 hours / HEAPS like 100m
Read more: The 10 Best Short Walks In The Illawarra