From central Sydney to the south coast city of Wollongong, approximately 85 kilometres south of the CBD, there are two main routes you could drive. The most direct being the F6 freeway taking around an hour and a half or there is the picturesque slower route via The Royal National Park (the second oldest in the world) and Grand Pacific Drive crossing the engineering feat that is the Sea Cliff Bridge – a recipe for the perfect Sunday drive.
So, it was on a Sunday a friend and I found ourselves heading to Wollongong via this route. The northern entrance to The Royal National Park is off the Princes Highway near Loftus and although there is a park entry fee to stay, we told them we were driving through and not stopping, which we were so we were waved through 😉 The Royal National Park is the worlds second oldest after Yellowstone in the USA and was formally proclaimed a National Park in 1879. However, it wasn’t until 1955 that the ‘Royal’ was added after Queen Elizabeth’s Australian tour in 1954.
The first main stopping point of interest in the park is Audley, a favourite picnic spot for Sydneysiders. Located in a valley on the Hacking River, it’s here you’ll find the Historic Audley Boat shed. Established in 1893, rowboats, canoes, kayaks and aqua bikes can be hired by the hour or day.
The scenery changes as you travel through a variety of terrain from the heathland with low lying shrubs to rainforests on the valley’s floors with the most stunning Australian wildflowers included.
After about an hour of the ever changing scenery, the exit from the park brings you to Bald Hill at Otford, with a most impressive view. Several families, day trippers and bike riders stop her for an ice cream, chat and picture taking of the Sea Cliff Bridge and the City of Wollongong hugging the coastline.
Directly below Bald Hill is a small community of shacks located on Bulgo beach. The community was established during the 1930’s depression era and the only access in and out was via a steep path up and down the hill and many of the shacks still standing today are owned by the descendants of the original community.
Located on Lawrence Hargrave drive, linking the northern communities and suburbs of Wollongong, the Sea Cliff Bridge was opened in 2005 after a large rockfall and closure of the original road in 2003 at a cost of A$52 million.
Stretching 665 metres and jutting out into the Tasman Sea, the bridge, winding its way along the coastline has a cycleway, pedestrian path and 2 lane road and its a fitting end to a Sunday drive to Wollongong.