Wattamolla to Little Marley Beach walk in Royal National Park has it all: a forest swimming hole that looks like an infinity pool, a particularly colourful section of clifftop rocks, and perhaps the prettiest beach in the park. And at 7 km for the return walk, the trail is shorter than most other coastal walks in Royal.
Part of the famous Coast Track, it follows a section of the coastline from the Wattamolla picnic area to the secluded Little Marley Beach. And if you can’t get enough of the dramatic coastline, you can continue for another kilometre to Big Marley.
The trail at a glance
- Distance: 7km return (or just over 9 km to Big Marley Beach)
- Time: 2.5 – 3 hrs
- Grade: Easy
Wattamolla Carpark to Wattamolla Dam
The trail starts at the northern end of Watteamolla car park by crossing the creek just above Wattamolla Falls. At first, it’s a dirt trail that ducks into the forest on the other side of the creek. If you visit early in the morning, you are likely to see some interesting birds. We spotted a gorgeous Fantail cuckoo on our last walk.
Soon the trail joins a boardwalk, and less than a kilometre from the start, Wattamolla Dam comes into view. It’s not the most secluded swimming hole in Royal National Park – it’s right by the trail, but the water is still like a mirror, and the retaining rock wall makes it look like an infinity pool surrounded by forest.
Wattamolla Dam to Little Marley Beach
After the dam, the trail continues along the boardwalk through some coastal heath until it emerges on top of the cliffs, where it remains all the way to Little Marley Beach.
This first section of the clifftop is the most picturesque part of the whole Wattamolla to Little Marley beach walk. Well, apart from the Little Marley beach itself. The erosion shaped the rocks along this stretch into the most wonderfully artistic shapes, and the exposed sections of the rock are incredibly colourful.
This area of is particularly striking after a few days of rain when these multicoloured rocks are surrounded by equally multicoloured puddles. Some of the puddles stretch all the way to the edge of the cliff and trickle down like tiny waterfalls.
There is a nice rock shelter along this section that can be reached by a faint side trail running towards the edge of the cliff. It’s a beautiful spot for a break and a snack.
The benefit of walking the trail early in the morning is that, first of all, the trail and Little Marley are deserted even on a busy summer Sunday. And also because you are much more likely to encounter the park’s wildlife.
On our last walk, we watched a Peregrine falcon catching cicadas and returning to the same patch of cliffs to eat them. She was completely unfazed by us, which meant we got to watch her for a while.
We also spotted some adorable Emu wrens, a Beautiful firetail (totally deserves its name), and the elusive Heath wrens, as well as some of the park’s more common birds.
As you continue towards Little Marley, you’ll see a beach from the trail. This is actually the Big Marley. Little Marley is not visible at this point. It’s tucked in behind a headland.
When you finally do catch a glimpse of Little Marley wedged between two headlands cloaked in lush green vegetation, it looks like a lost paradise. And it feels this way, too, once you get down onto the sand.
There is a very picturesque creek, lined with rocks and driftwood, that runs across the southern end of the beach. If you are the first person of the day to walk onto Little Marley, you might just find yourself in paradise.
But be careful if you decide to go for a dip. Little Marley is not a safe swimming beach. There are strong rip currents, and the beach is unpatrolled.
Little Marley to Big Marley Beach
If you want to go a little further, Big Marley is only 20 min away. There is an even prettier creek running across Big Marley among epic sand dunes. It’s a very unusual landscape – a mini desert by the sea, with a creek running through it towards a lagoon.
And yes, you guessed it, it’s a good place to see cool birds. The last time we visited, we spotted a little Black-fronted Dotterel in the creek and, on another trip, a family of Black swans in the lagoon.
I love Marley and Little Marley beaches so much that I’ve written a guide to things to do on Marley Beach that includes a visit to Little Marley.
If you still have a lot of energy left, you could visit Deer pools – a lovely swimming hole with a little waterfall 1.8 km away. To get to it, first, follow the Little Marley Fire trail – it intersects with the Coast Track (Wattamolla to Little Marley trail) between Big Marley and Little Marley beaches.
Then when you come to the intersection with Marley Track running to the right, follow it to the pools. This addition will make the overall return walk 12.8km.
Otherwise, head back to the Wattamolla car park and relax either at Wattamolla Lagoon or on Wattamolla Beach, which, unlike Little Marley, is perfect for swimming.
Wattamolla carpark is located at the end of Wattamolla Road, off Sir Bertram Stevens Drive. The entry fee is $12 per vehicle. If you visit frequently, you might like to invest in the NSW National Parks Pass. For $65 per year, it gives you entry to all NSW National Parks apart from Kosciuszko.
There are two car parks at Wattamolla. But keep in mind that I’m Summer, on busy weekends, the carpark can fill up as early as 9am.
If you don’t want to drive and worry about parking, you can catch a Park Connections shuttle bus from Sutherland train station. Check their website for the current schedule.
More Nature Adventures in Royal National Park
- Royal National Park: Walks, Beaches, Waterfalls and Swimming Holes
- Things to See and Do on Marley Beach, Including a Visit to Little Marley
- Winifred Falls Trail – A Short Trail to a Pretty Waterfall
- Wattamolla to Little Marley Beach walk in Royal National Park
- Wattamolla to Curracurrong Falls Walk, Including a Tranquil Hidden Gem
- Garawarra Farm Carpark to Burning Palms Beach Track
- Otford to Burning Palms Beach: Palm Jungle Loop Track
- Bulgo Beach – a unique fishing shack village in Sydney
- Forest Path in Royal National Park – a Tranquil Rainforest Track
- Hidden gems on Bundeena to Marley Beach walk