Curracurrong Falls in Royal National Park used to be one of Sydney’s most scenic hidden gems, relatively unknown outside of the bushwalking community. It has become much more popular since Australia closed its international borders and Sydneysiders flocked to local national parks to satisfy their wanderlust.
Of course, the sudden popularity didn’t make Curracurrong Falls any less spectacular. It is a very special waterfall – one of only three waterfalls in Australia that empty directly into the ocean. The other two are located in Waterfall Bay in Tasmania and on King George River in WA.
According to Wikipedia, there are only 47 such waterfalls in the world. The only two I have seen are the Sterling and Bowden falls on Milford Sound in New Zealand. But while New Zealand’s falls empty into the narrow sound, Curracurrong Falls drop straight into the Pacific Ocean.
So why did Curracurrong Falls used to be a hidden gem? Well, because you pretty much have to know that the waterfall is there in the first place before you can see it. The falls are concealed by the cliffs and you need to approach the edge of the cliffs in a couple of strategic locations to get a decent view. And those views are entirely worth it.
The falls are fed by Curracurrong Creek and drop 82 meters from the top of the cliff towards the churning surf below. It is actually two waterfalls in one – the creek splits into two streams as it flows over the edge of the cliff.
If one waterfall, even a twin one, is not enough, there is another smaller waterfall 200-300 meters away from Curracurrong Falls – Curra Brook Waterfall that also drops into the ocean. The best view of both falls is from the top of Eagle Rock. Curracurrong Falls are closer to the rock and Curra Brook waterfall is seen in the distance.
How do you get to Curracurrong Falls?
Curracurrong Falls are located along the 26 km Coast Track in Royal National Park, near the famous landmark – Eagle Rock. You can only reach the falls by a 2-hr hike either from Wattamolla, from Garie Beach or via Curra Moors track.
Garrie Beach to Curracurrong Falls Walk
Technically, the trail is known as Garie Beach to Eagle Rock, but since the falls are located at Eagle Rock and because I find them far more interesting than the rock, Garie Beach to Curracurrong Falls seems like a better name for the track.
I was introduced to this walk by my friend Gaiti who is alway on the look out for scenic walks that involve any kind of stairs.
Track at a glance
- Distance: 7.7 km return
- Grade: 4 because of the steep ascent from the beach to the headland
- Walking time: 3-4 hrs
- Amenities: There are bathrooms at Garie Beach and a kiosk that opens on weekends
Garie Beach to Eagle Rock track can’t be accessed by train, so we drove to the National Park and parked at Garie Beach car park. While there were quite a few cars parked in the lot, there were hardly any people around, only a few surfers out among the waves and a couple of fishermen on the beach.
The hike starts with a stroll across the expansive Garie Beach towards the towering headland. Like most beaches in Australia, Garie beach is home to silver gulls and crested terns, one of which was so nonchalant that I was able to walk right up to it.
Garie Beach to Garie Beach Lookout
At the northern end of the beach your way is blocked by an almost sheer wall of the headland and this is where the track becomes quite strenuous. It climbs the endless succession of the beautifully-hewn sandstone steps quickly ascending 105 meters via a 510-meter track. I have to admit, I needed quite a few ‘photo’ stops to catch my breath during the climb, while Gaiti cruised through it, slowing down only to wait for me.
Garie Beach Lookout
The climb ends at Garie Beach Lookout that gives panoramic views of Garie beach, forest-covered undulating headlands of Royal National Park, and the blue-green expanse of the Pacific Ocean. This view reminds me of the sweeping vista of Port Stephens from the summit of Mt Tomaree.
Garie Beach Lookout to Eagle Rock Lookout
The longest (2.7km) part of Garie Beach to Eagle Rock track meanders along a metal boardwalk through the coastal scrub across the headland. In July, many shrubs were in flower and gigantic shoots of grass trees towered over the scrub. There was so much new life to discover that I could’ve spent half the day on this section alone.
And all this emerging life was set against the dramatic backdrop of the rugged coastline and the bright blues and greens of the ocean. In the shallows, near the foot of the cliffs, the water was brilliantly blue-green. In Russian, we have a term for exactly this colour, literally translated as “colour of the sea wave”.
Before reaching the Eagle rock lookout, the trail crosses a gully with Curra Brook Creek running along the bottom. If you are not prone to vertigo, you can scramble to the edge of the cliff here and see the creek tumbling over the lip of the cliff towards the ocean. From this vantage point, you can only see the top of this waterfall, but you can see it in its entirety from Eagle rock. This is not Carracurrong falls, however, but Curra Brook falls.
Carracurrong Falls and Eagle Rock
You get the first view of Carracurrong falls from an unsignposted Eagle Rock lookout further down the trail. From this lookout you can see the cliff face formation known as Eagle Rock in the context of the surrounding landscape. The formation looks amazingly similar the the shape of an eagle’s head, complete with an eye socket. Although from the anatomical perspective, it would’ve been the bird’s nostril.
Most people pause on this flat clifftop to enjoy the view of Eagle Rock, but if you inch your way to the edge of the cliff, you will see the entire drop of Carracurrong Falls. A word of warning: the falls are visible only from the edge of the cliff and you need to be VERY careful approaching the edge of a 100-meter high cliff. Rockfalls are not common, but they do happen.
Secret Undercliff Lookout
There is a very picturesque secret lookout for the falls, but it is difficult to find unless someone shows you the way. I will try my best to explain how to get to it.
Follow the boardwalk towards Eagle Rock until the boardwalk turns away from the coast towards the creek crossing. Get off the boardwalk here and continue walking straight towards the creek line. There is no defined path, but what you want to do is to scramble down some rocks towards the creek so you are just below the cliff top. Then veer right, hugging the side of the cliff to the lookout.
If you can’t find this spot, don’t worry, you can get a good view of the falls from Eagle Rock.
Continuing on the trail, we soon came to a creek crossing with stepping stones over its narrowest part. This is Carracurrong creek that feeds Carracurrong Falls.
Once you cross the creek, it is a short walk to Eagle Rock itself. You are level with the rock here, so the rock is not visible from the trail. But there is a small rough track that ducks into the bush from the main trail and emerges on the clifftop next to the top of Eagle rock. Here, if you face south, towards Wollongong and approach the edge of the cliff (with caution!) you will get an amazing view of Carracurrong falls, and the smaller Curra Brook waterfall in the distance.
As you watch Curracurrong Falls, remember how unique these falls are, you will not find another waterfall like this in Sydney or even in all of Eastern Australia. While it’s not as epic as the 268-meter high Wallaman Falls in Queensland, it is very scenic.
On particularly windy days, Curracurrong Falls seem to defy the laws of physics and flow upwards rather than down, like in this video taken from the ABC News helicopter. It would, of course, be quite dangerous to be on the clifftops in gale-force winds like that.
Return to Garie Beach
The return journey follows the same trail back. And just as we were thinking that the top highlights of the day were behind us, we spotted a Humpback whale incredibly close to the coastal rock shelf. We watched it go into a dive as it raised its tail above water before disappearing for a few minutes. Royal National Park is one of the best places in Sydney for whale watching from the shore.
After that little bit of impromptu whale watching, we re-traced our steps to Garie beach stopping to photograph the multicolored flowers now and then. By the time we reached Garie beach, our feet were getting tired, so we opted for a barefoot stroll along the beach stepping in and out of the waterline.
Is Garie Beach to Curracurrong Falls track worth it?
So, was Garie Beach to Eagle rock track worth it? A resounding yes! Even after seeing a large part of Royal National Park’s coastline, I found this track to be absolutely spectacular. And Curracurrong falls are the best hidden gem of Royal National Park. I am genuinely surprised why the falls are not better known among the Sydneysiders. In my opinion, they are much more spectacular than the famous Wedding Cake Rock near Bundeena. In any case, Curracurrong falls are a must-see for any nature lovers in Sydney.
Each time Gaiti and I venture into the epic nature, we reproach ourselves for not doing this more often. So my post-covid resolution is to take at least one outdoor adventure in Sydney every couple of weeks.
How to get to Garie Beach
Unlike the southern and the northern ends of the Coast Track, Garie Beach can’t be accessed by public transport. The easiest option to reach Garie Beach is to drive.
Drive: Garie beach is just under 54km from Sydney CBD and the drive takes just over an hour. Parking is available at Garie Beach Picnic area, although during the summer months it fills up quickly.
Shuttle: If you prefer not to drive, Park Connections offers shuttle service between Sutherland Station and Garie Beach, as well as other destinations in Royal National Park.
Wattamolla to Curracurrong Falls Walk
Inspired by the spectacular walk form Garie beach, I decided to explore the track from Wattamolla side. The falls are exactly as far from Wattamolla as they are from Garie Beach – 3.6 km or about 2 hr walk. But the trail is gentler walking from Wattamolla, the ascends and descends are spread over a larger area.
Track at a glance
- Distance: 7.2 km return
- Grade: 3 – Moderate track
- Walking time: 3 – 4 hrs
- Amenities: Bathrooms at Wattamolla car park
Wattamolla is one of the most popular picnic spots in Royal National Park, so it gets quite busy on the weekends and public holidays, even in winter. But on the trails, the crowds thin out. In terms of facilities, Wattamolla is geared towards the picnickers. There are wooden tables and benches, BBQ facilities, a good and clean toilet block and two car parks. If you are planning a picnic, you will need to bring all your food and water. There is a kiosk here but it opens only on weekends. Water is available at Wattamolla, but it needs to be filtered prior to drinking. There is also no mobile reception here, so prepare for a digital detox for a day.
There is a big map installed at the lower car park which is very handy for orienting yourself in the area. It shows where you are along the coastline, where you can hike to and the local scenic spots. Before you start the track to Currawong falls, check out a few scenic spots at Wattamolla. There are Wattamolla falls, Wattamolla Lagoon and Wattamolla beach.
Wattamolla falls are nothing to write home about, but since you are here, you may as well have a look. They start with some lovely cascades that can be reached by a 5-minute walk from the lower carpark, at the start of Wattamolla to Little Marley beach track. The main waterfall is a single drop fall that empties into Wattamolla lagoon. You can see and photograph it by following the signs to the lagoon from the lower car park.
Although if you are really interested in photographing Wattamolla falls, it’s best to visit the lagoon in the afternoon when the sun has moved lower in the sky and the falls are uniformly shaded. In the middle of the day, the sun falls across the falls creating too much contrast.
Tucked away from the powerful surf, Wattamolla lagoon is a popular swimming destination in Sydney. It is quite large and sheltered with a white sandy beach on one side and forest on the other. You can reach the forested side of the lagoon via a short walk from the lower carpark. It is also a good spot to see the waterfall. However, to reach the beach side of the lagoon, you will need to walk across the Wattamolla beach.
Wattamolla lagoon flows into the ocean across Wattamolla beach. The beach at Wattamolla is not great for swimming unless you are a very confident swimmer. There is a sharp drop of about 5 meters from the shore. Which is another reason why the lagoon is so popular.
To reach the beach, follow the signs past the toilet block and the upper car park, and across the grassy clearing. The trail to the beach leads you along a set of stone steps and the views from the trail are quite inspiring.
At low tide, you can explore the rock formations alongside the cliff that frames the beach. But be careful walking on the slippery rocks.
Wattamolla Beach to Providential Point Lookout
From the beach, turn left and walk across the grass clearing for a few meters until you reach the signposted walk to Providential Point Lookout. The trail starts on a metal boardwalk and immediately ducks into the forest. After the initial flat walk, it starts to climb towards the cliff top and about halfway up the cliff you reach the lookout. It’s actually a double lookout both with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the coastline of Royal National Park. Providential Point is the southern headland framing the bay, Wattamolla Beach and Lagoon.
Providential Point Lookout to Curracurrang
From the lookout, keep following the trail up and once you reach the top of the cliff, you are on Coast Track. From here, the track follows the coast along a metal boardwalk all the way to Curracurrong Falls. If you are visiting in late winter, like I did, the headland will be dotted with wildflowers in various shades of yellow, purple and red.
Among the bushes, New Holland honeyeaters and Little wattlebirds chase their lunch and each other while Welcome swallows chirp while flying at a break-neck speed above your head. Occasionally a White-bellied sea Eagle would soar overhead. As you walk along the clifftop, lookout for a small brown bird – it’s a Rock warbler that occurs only in NSW. And if you are lucky, you can spot Humpback whales as they cruise past the park’s coastline on their epic migration between Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef.
As you walk along the cliff top, you come across two picturesque coves where the water is shallower and appears deep blue-green from your high vantage point. There are plenty of rocky perches to sit on with your feet dangling 80 meters above the ocean and enjoy the view.
Once you reach Curracurrang cove and a little creek crossing you are halfway to Curracurrong Falls and Eagle Rock. This cove is a lovely spot to have a break and have your lunch or a snack.
Aboriginal heritage of Curracurrang
Strangely, this cove and the creek that runs along the gully here are called Curracurrang while the falls 1.8 km away and the creek that feeds them are called Curracurrong. Both names, no doubt, originate from the language of the Dharawal people who lived in the area and Curracurrang and Curracurrang are probably related words. Maybe they are feminine and masculine versions of the same word (like an animal’s name)?
Royal National Park has a rich Aboriginal history. There are at least 8 rock shelters in the Curracurrang area. Some of them show evidence of Aboriginal occupation up to 7,500 years ago.
Detour to Curracurrang Falls
The Curracurrang creek area hides a gorgeous secret – just a few hundred meters away from the main trail and the coast there is a tranquil swimming hole fed by Curracurrang Falls.
To find Curracurrang Falls, follow the faint trail that leads into the bush alongside Curracurrang Creek. The trail may appear disused and overgrown, but that’s part of its charm.
The walk along the creek takes you through a beautiful patch of palm-dominated littoral rainforest, under a huge rock overhang with signs of human habitation (probably around the 1930s) and finally brings you to a swimming hole with crystal clear water and a waterfall cascading down a sandstone outcrop.
The swimming hole is incredibly inviting. It’s easy to get into via natural rocky steps and it is deep enough for a proper swim. Best of all, you can swim underneath the waterfall surrounded by the beautiful forest and hardly any people around.
Curracurrang Cove to Curracurrong Falls
From the cove, continue following the track south. Soon the trail starts to climb a headland, but it is a gentle climb, nothing like the near-vertical ascent from Garie Beach. You won’t know when you have reached Eagle Rock, because it is not visible from the trail. You are walking at the same level as the top of Eagle Rock.
You will know that you have arrived when you reach Curracurrong creek – it runs across the headland and feeds Curracurrong falls. This creek is broader than Curracurrang cove creek (confusing, I know!). For comparison sake, Curracurrang cove creek that you reach first walking from Wattamolla is signposted and has only a couple stepping stones, while Curracurrong creek is unsignposted and has 9 stepping stones across.
So, once you reach a creek with 9 stepping stones across, you have arrived at Curracurrong Falls. If you are visiting on a weekend, that’s where all the people will be!
The viewpoints for the waterfall are the same as if you’d walked from Garie Beach. One of the best vantage points is the top of Eagle Rock. There is an unsignposted trail leading to the rock from the main track, just before you reach Curracurrong creek. Another good viewpoint is on the other side of the creek, along the cliff tops. As I mentioned before, the falls can only be seen from the edge of the cliff on either side and you need to be very careful approaching the edge of a 100-meter high cliff.
You could also get quite an interesting perspective from the top of the falls looking down. Walk along Curracurrong creek to the edge of the cliff and if you are not prone to vertigo lie on your stomach and watch the water plumet 82 meters to the ocean.
You have a couple of choices for the second leg of your hike. You could return to Wattamolla by re-tracing your steps. Or you could continue to Garie Beach, the distance is the same in either direction. With a bit of planning, you could time your walk to arrive at Garie beach in time for the shuttle pick up that would take you back to Wattamolla or to Sutherland station (more details on the shuttle below).
How to get to Wattamolla
Like Garie beach, Wattamolla can’t be reached by public transport. But you can catch a private shuttle from Sutherland if you are catching the train.
Drive: Wattamolla is just under 50km from Sydney CBD and the drive takes just over an hour. There are two car parks at Wattamolla, although during the summer months it fills up quickly. There is a $12 fee to enter the National Park that you will pay on the drive down.
Shuttle: If you prefer not to drive, Park Connections offers a shuttle service between Sutherland Station and Wattamolla, as well as other destinations in Royal National Park.
Best time to visit Curracurrong Falls
A sunny winter day (between June and August) is the best time to visit the falls. The trails from Garie Beach and Wattamolla run along the top of the headland, exposed to the warmth of the winter sun. Spring and Autumn can also be good if it is not too hot. If you do decide to take one of these walks in 30+ degree heat of Sydney summer, make sure you have plenty of water with you, wear a hat and use sunscreen to avoid the inevitable farmer’s tan look.
In terms of the time of the day, early morning is always best for trail walking. But if you are a keen photographer, you will want to photograph Curracurrong Falls in the golden light of the late afternoon. Of course, then, you run the risk of running out of daylight for your walk back to either Wattamolla or Garie Beach.
More scenic walks in Royal National Park
- Forest Path in Royal National Park – a Tranquil Rainforest Track
- Hidden gems on Bundeena to Marley Beach walk, Royal National Park
- Lady Carrington Drive Walk: rainforest and lyrebirds
- Birds and Waterfalls of Curra Moors Loop Track in Royal National Park
- Secret swimming hole on Kangaroo Creek, Royal National Park
- Curracurrong Falls – Everything you need to know about Sydney’s most unique waterfall
- Karloo Pools and Uloola Falls – A beautiful walk in Royal National Park
- Werrong Beach – the best-kept secret in Royal National Park
- The Adventurous Palm Jungle Loop Track in Royal National Park
- Bulgo Beach – a unique fishing shack village in Sydney
What are your favourite escapes in Sydney? Share your thoughts in the commnets below.