Werrong beach is one of Royal National Park’s hidden gems. It lies along the southern end of the famous Coast Track and while the side trail leading to the beach is signposted, it can be easily missed especially by those heading on the Palm Jungle Loop Trail.
In fact, my friend and I only discovered Werrong Beach because we took the wrong turn off from the fire trail. And what a lovely discovery it was. While Werrong beach is one of Sydney’s nudist beaches, in winter it is absolutely deserted. It is a stunning wild beach peppered with driftwood and framed by the towering walls of the escarpment.
To reach Werrong beach, you have to follow a steep but very picturesque track from the escarpment to the sea level.
Werrong Beach Track stats
- When to go: Winter is the best time to visit
- Distance: 4 kilometres return
- Walking time: 2- 2.5 hrs
- Level of difficulty: Hard
- Start Point: Otford Lookout
- End Point: Otford Lookout
How to get to Otford Lookout
Drive: It takes just over an hour to drive to Otford look out from the city center along Princess Hwy/A1. Here is the location on Google Maps.
Train: Catch a train from Central to Otford, then walk up to Lady Wakehurst Drive. Cross the road and walk about 500 meters north, following the signs to Royal National Park and Coast Track. There is another lookout to the south, but that’s not the one you want for Werrong Beach. The walk from the station via Beaumont Road Fire trail is quite steep, so the adventure starts as soon as you get off the train.
Walking Werrong Beach Track
The trail starts at the beginning of Cliff Track at Otford Lookout and immediately ducks into the tall eucalypt forest. It meanders along the cliff tops over a narrow and rocky forest path. Most of the time you can glimpse the vivid blue of the ocean between the gnarly trunks of Red Gums. In winter, the giant flowers of Gymea Lily erupt from their grassy base and shoot towards the crowns of the gum trees.
This is a beautiful part of the walk and a good spot for bird watching if you can take your eyes off the trail – the rockier parts of the track take some navigating and you will want to look where you put your feet.
Keep an eye out for the sign for Werrong Beach turn off, it’s not far. The trail splits a little as it approaches the sign and if you are walking along the lower arm, you may just walk past it. So here is the location on Google Maps.
Straight after the turn off the trail starts a steep descent through lush coastal rainforest, dominated by cabbage tree palms and giant ferns. The forest here is quite dense with mighty trunks of fallen trees spanning across deep crevices that cut through the side of the escarpment. It brings to mind images of primaeval forests of Conan Doyle’s Lost World.
After about 30 minutes of climbing down the winding trail you come to an opening in the forest and a small pond. The still water of the pond creates such a perfect reflection that for a moment it is difficult to tell which way is up and which way is down.
Shortly after leaving the pond, you begin to catch the sound of breaking surf and after a particularly steep and muddy twist in the trail the beach is suddenly revealed.
Werrong beach is unexpectedly beautiful. Tucked in at the bottom of a towering escarpment and framed by two forest-covered cliffs, it has a distinctly wild feel to it. Weathered driftwood is scattered among the massive boulders that mark the line between the grassy slope and the sandy strip of the beach. The sand is peppered with multi-coloured pebbles polished by the elements. Eroded sandstone mounds rise out of the shallows here and there.
Looking back at the escarpment, the beach is even more spectacular. A small creek meanders along the v-shaped fold in the slope, its beginning lost in the thick carpet of rainforest somewhere half way up the slant of the escarpment. It is hard to believe that you are only an hour away from Sydney’s city centre. The beach feels like it is a world away from any civilisation.
As you relax on the beach, keep in mind that it is a designated nudist beach, so expect to see people behaving ‘naturally’. Though in the colder months when the water is not warm enough for swimming, you might find the beach completely deserted.
The climb back to the top of the escarpment is quite steep and will take between 30 minutes and one hour, depending on how often you stop. There are plenty of photogenic distractions along the trail that provide a good excuse to stop and catch your breath.
Once you are back on the Cliff Track you have a few options for what to do next, depending on how you feel.
If you’ve had enough climbing and exploring, return to Otford lookout and walk another 500 meters to the Otford Pantry cafe (22 Lady Wakehurst Drive) for a snack or a milkshake. It is open only on weekends and public holidays between 8 am and 4.30 pm.
Another Beach Track
If you would like to take another relatively short and steep track, head to Bulgo beach from the unnamed lookout 500 across the road from Otford Pantry Cafe. At Bulgo, explore the rustic village of fishermen shacks and have a dip at the rock pool. Check this post for details of Bulgo Beach Track.
Bird watching in the eucalypt forest
If you prefer to do some gentle exploring over mostly flat ground, walk along the Garawarra Ridge Track – the main track that your turn off from to go to Werrong Beach. Garawarra farm is 5 kilometres away, but you can walk through this beautiful section of the eucalypt forest for as long as you like and turn around once you had enough. After about a kilometre, this trail turns into a soft wide fire trail that is almost entirely flat. This trail is excellent for birdwatching and wildflowers.
Forest and swimming hole track
Alternatively, you could combine the walk to Garawarra farm with the track to the stunning Figure 8 pool, one of Sydney’s most famous natural attractions. There are a few things to consider however, before visiting Figure 8 pool. For starters, it gets very very crowded, so much so that the magic of the site is completely lost behind the crowds. And it can also be quite dangerous to walk onto the rock shelf if the weather conditions are not appropriate. Check the level of risk for any given day on the National Parks website.
Challenging coastal track
And if you are really fit and looking for a serious challenge, combine Werrong Beach Track with the challenging Palm Jungle Loop Track. Check this post for details for Palm Jungle Loop Track.
Tip: If you do end up walking to Garawarra Farm either via the easy fire trail or the hard Palm Jungle Loop Track, you could take a shuttle back to Otford. The shuttle service is operated by Park Connection on weekends and public holidays. One way ticket is $9. Check the schedule here.