Recently I was reminded of how many natural wonders can be found in my own backyard. This is what the many professionals in the Parks & Leisure industry are passionate about and work tirelessly to protect and develop. Enjoy the scenery!
Neilsen Park, Sydney Harbour National Park © David Finnegan
A recent article on Concrete Playground - Five National Park Natural Wonders to Discover Near Sydney – reminded me of the plethora of national parks in my ‘local’ area. Such generous offerings also caused me to consider the amount of work that goes into protecting such pristine environments. I’m thankful anew for the thousands of hard-working individuals and organisations in the Parks & Leisure industry that make it possible for us to enjoy such incredible landscapes in our own backyard.
Take a look at some of the inspiring National Parks of Sydney – and do some research to find out what’s in your local area.
VIA CONCRETE PLAYGROUND
In Sydney, you needn't travel too far to find some truly natural wonders. Our national parks are filled with not only pristine beaches and adventurous walking tracks, but also magical sites. We're talking spots of awe-inspiring beauty that, at one glance, will carry you out of the ordinary. On this list alone — which is only the tip of the iceberg — there's a waterfall surrounded by rare wildflowers, a lookout affording epic views of Pittwater and the Central Coast, a spectacular bay where you can see ancient rock art, giant-sized moving sand dunes and a canyon dotted with cascades, creeks and golden wattle. All you have to do is jump in your car (or on a train) and make tracks.
West Head Lookout, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
WEST HEAD LOOKOUT, KU-RING-GAI CHASE NATIONAL PARK
There's no shortage of extraordinary vistas in Sydney, but West Head Lookout is one of the best. This mind-blowing spot gives you panoramas to the south over Pittwater, east over Barrenjoey Head and north to Broken Bay. Smack bang in the middle of it all is Lion Island, backdropped by the Central Coast's uncrowded beaches. You could easily spend a day here, so it's a good idea to pack a picnic. To add some art, take a wander on the Aboriginal Heritage Walk, along which is Red Hands Cave, where you'll see ancient works by artists of the Guringai nation. Idyllic Resolute Picnic Area is nearby, too, as is the stunning and secluded Resolute Beach. West Head Lookout is a one-hour drive from the Sydney CBD, just off West Head Road.
America Bay, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park
AMERICA BAY, KU-RING-GAI CHASE NATIONAL PARK
America Bay rolls a few wonders into one: the majestic Hawkesbury River, waterfalls, wildflowers and Aboriginal artworks. It's on the western shore of Pittwater's West Head and, to get there, you follow a one-kilometre-long walk, which follows a ridgeline before descending to the bay. You'll pass through bloodwood, scribbly gums and banksias, then hit a flat, rocky area, which gives you incredible views over America Bay and the Hawkesbury. It's here that you'll find the waterfall and can spread out your picnic blanket. On the way back, take a slight detour to see some ancient artworks, engraved into a sandstone shelf. You should be able to make out a female figure with a whale, surrounded by sea life.
Maddens Falls, Dharawal National Park
MADDENS FALLS, DHARAWAL NATIONAL PARK
Most Sydneysiders have heard of Katoomba and Fitzroy Falls, but how about Maddens? This beautiful, yet lesser-known, natural wonder is about 60 kilometres south of the Sydney CBD in Dharawal National Park. Getting there is pretty straightforward — follow the signs to Maddens Falls Carpark. Then, take the easy, one-kilometre-long walking track, keeping an eye out for native birds, including honeyeaters and red wattlebirds, and an ear out for local frogs. The falls are surrounded by lush greenery and, in spring, wildflowers, such as acacias, river roses and seldom-seen fern-leaf grevilleas.
Bouddi Coastal Walk, Bouddi National Park
BOUDDI COASTAL WALK, BOUDDI NATIONAL PARK
To see several of the Central Coast's wildest and most beautiful beaches, take the Bouddi Coastal Walk. This eight-kilometre adventure hugs the coastal edge of Bouddi National Park, beginning at Putty Beach in the south and ending at MacMasters in the north. Stop by lookouts affording sweeping ocean views and rest at rainforest-encircled picnic spots. If it's low tide, see if you can spot the shipwreck of the PS Maitland at Maitland Bay. If you're keen to extend your visit, camp overnight at Putty Beach or Little Beach. It's also possible to split the trail into short sections, namely Putty Beach to Maitland Bay (three kilometres), Maitland Bay to Little Beach (3.5-kilometres) and Little Beach to MacMasters Beach (1.7-kilometres).
Stockton Sand Dunes, Worimi National Park © John Spencer
STOCKTON SAND DUNES, WORIMI NATIONAL PARK
The 4200 hectares that makeup Stockton Sand Dunes form the biggest system of sand dunes in Australia. Some are as high as 40 metres. You'll find them in the Worimi Conservation Lands, about 190 kilometres north of the Sydney CBD, just beyond Newcastle. Adding to their beauty is their stunning location, foregrounded by Stockton Beach — which, at 32 kilometres, is the longest beach in New South Wales — and backdropped by 1800 hectares of forest. While you're there, consider a beachfront horse ride, a sandboarding session and/or a visit to Tin City, an 11-shack off-grid village that appeared in Mad Max (1979).
Always plan ahead for any trip to national parks to ensure you have the best and safest experience. Check for park alerts, take care along any tracks as not all are signposted and there may be fragile native plant and animal communities nearby and ensure you bring proper gear and plenty of water. Find more information on park safety here.