7 Stunning Illawarra Walks and Waterfalls to Do This Year
Updated on September 5th, 2020
Adventure Wednesday is really fun when you live in the Illawarra. I only spent a month living in this south coast region, but definitely made the most of my time going on as many of the Illawarra walks and discovering all of the waterfalls I could. Every weekend and one day during the week I tried to tick off a new place.
The Illawarra is the region below Sydney and north of Shoalhaven. What makes this area so special is the large escarpment that follows the coastline in varying distances from the ocean. Because of the varying elevations around this area you get a really awesome mix of landscapes and scenery. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Australia and I’m actually bummed I only spent a month here.
I’ll be back though, and will keep updating this post with all of my favourite south coast walks, hikes and waterfalls.
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My fav Illawarra bushwalks
1. Figure 8 pools
The figure 8 pools are probably the most Instagrammed and popular hiking track in the Royal National Park. Because of this, it can be really busy! So try and visit on a quiet day, like mid-week or when the weather is a bit overcast.
It’s also extremely important you check the tides and go at low-tide otherwise the pools will be hidden.
There are a few trailheads to reach these famous pools. I started from the southern entrance to the national park and although I haven’t tested the other tracks I loved the trail I took and would recommend this one.
There’s a car park in Otford where the hike begins. Soon after you start your walk there will be a fork, keep to the left or you’ll start descending to the beach.
At the next fork stay right, after this, you can’t make any more mistakes. Once you’ve made this turn there will be a couple of trails that lead to viewpoints on your right.
Make sure you take these as the views over Werrong Beach are amazing! Just look at the photo if you don’t believe me. I’ve been loving hiking in Australia after spending so much time hiking in Europe. We may not have the big mountains, but we are so lucky with our coastal and rainforest trails.
Length: 12 km
Time: Allow 2 hours each way plus the time you wish you spend at the pools
Why you should go: My favourite part of the hike was surprisingly not the pools themselves (I was actually really shocked at how tiny they were). I loved the scenery that you pass through – it seems to change 5 times in the 2 hours. You pass shaded bushland of eucalypt, paperbarks and banksias, subtropical rainforest, huge palms, across beaches and finally end up on the rocks. So cool!
2. Wodi Wodi track
The Wodi Wodi track is perfect for those who don’t have a car and still want to do a cool hike. Jump off the train at either Coalcliff or Stanwell Park (Stanwell Park station is one of the trailheads!). The trail gets its name from the Wodi Wodi people who were the original landowners here.
I started the hike at the southern trailhead which is right off Lawrence Hargrave Drive. You’ll see a few cars pulled over here between Coalcliff and Stanwell Park.
There’s a slight ascent to begin with and then the trail starts to descend into a valley until you reach a creek. You’ll cross this creek and start to ascend again before coming out at the Stanwell Park train station.
Prior to heading down into the valley, you’ll come to a Y. If you’re after a longer hike you can take the forest path which is what some people call the Wodi Wodi track. The area is a beautiful mix of dense bushland and rainforest but the path is clear and easy to stay on track.
To get back to your car you can either walk back the way you came or head down to the main road and follow the cycleway. The second option will take you about 25 mins with sweeping ocean views.
There are a few cafes in Stanwell Park that are worth a detour before heading home. I stopped in at Uluwatu Blue for a yummy vego lunch.
Length: 3.5 km
Time: Without stopping you should allow 1 hour 10 mins. In the summer time you’ll not only want to add extra time for photos but also for swimming.
Why you should go: It’s a perfect hike for half a day out. The bushland and the rainforest combo makes for great scenery. You don’t really get ocean views but can see down into the valley from the northern side of the creek. Had it not been winter when I went, I believe a swim would have been a perfect pitstop.
3. Sublime point lookout
If you’re after a challenge and beautiful ocean views this is your hike. This is also a great hike if you don’t have access to a car. You can easily reach the trail from the Austinmer train station.
This south coast walk requires you to hike up around 800 stairs and ascent a few steep ladders before reaching the top.
It’s just over 1 km from the trailhead to the summit and gains 300m in elevation. So even if you have a moderate level of fitness you can take breaks on the way up and it’ll take you about an hour.
This track gets busy on weekends and there can be a queue for the ladders. You may end up getting stuck waiting for a few groups to go up before you can head down.
A lot of locals use this as an exercise track running up and down with weighted vests. Definitely not my cup of tea.
Length: 2.2 km return
Time: allow 2.5 hours to go up and back. Although you will want to leave some time at the top to walk along the escarpment or grab a coffee at the Sublime Point Cafe.
Why you should go: The ladders make a fun adventure – especially if you have kids old enough to climb them independently. The views from the top are gorgeous and there is a path along the escarpment leading northward allowing you to extend the hike. This trail heads all the way to Stanwell Tops so it’s unlikely you will go the entire distance.
4. Clover Hill Falls Trail
The Clover Hill Trail is 30 minutes south of Wollongong on the way inland from Shellharbour. The more you hike around the South Coast/Illawarra region, you’ll come to know the trails as divided by coastal, subtropical or bushland depending on how high up the escarpment you go.
Because of its location halfway up the escarpment, you get a nice mix of bushland and subtropical rainforest. This area is also well protected from the frequent southerly winter winds.
The trail starts in a small car park off the A48. Be sure to get here early in the summer months as there is nowhere to pull over on the main road if parking is full.
The track is easy and shaded up until you get near the river. From the river, the path narrows and becomes steep in parts. You can reach the first waterfall quite easily and the further upstream you go, the harder the trail becomes.
To get to the final waterfall – Clover Falls you will need to scramble up some rocks and along narrow trails. The best way to find where the trail goes is by using Maps.me as it can be confusing in some areas.
Length: 6.6km return
Time: 1 hour to reach Clover Falls allowing for short breaks at the first two falls.
Why you should go: The 3 waterfalls along the river are beautiful and all unique to each other. I loved the adventure of making it to Clover Falls by scrambling up and down rocks and then you are rewarded at the end with a deep swimming hole! Although it was wayyyy too cold for me to swim in the winter months. I’ll just have to go back again in summer.
5. Drawing Room Rock Lookout
Continuing further south and just 10 minutes inland of Berry you’ll find a short 30-minute uphill track that leads to some of the most fantastic views of the coastline and countryside.
From Berry head northwest towards Woodhill. Make a turn up Brogers Creek Rd, a narrow and steep deadend drive. The top of this road is the trailhead to the hike. We had a 4×4, although there were plenty of smaller vehicles at the top.
The trail leads up along a ridge which overlooks a valley to the west and the ocean to the east. It gets dense and bushy with huge unique rocks for the first half which then opens up to a sandy and often full of puddles scrubby area. Make sure to wear proper joggers as the ground is a bit uneven and has almost 200m of incline over 1.3km.
Once you make it to the top the area opens up and you’ll be on top of a plateau made up of uneven rocks which drops away at a cliff edge.
Length: 2.6km return
Time: The total hiking time would have taken us about an hour but allow 1.5 plus time at the top to admire the view.
Why you should go: The view! The ocean is further away than a lot of the hikes up the escarpment, but what makes this one so great is the countryside leading up to the ocean as well as Broughton Peak to the south.
There’s also a really cool rock chair that sits out over the cliff. Now, I don’t recommend sitting in it (although I did). The entire time I couldn’t help thinking that one day the rock will break away leaving whoever is in it to fall to their death. So sit at your own risk.
There are so many waterfalls around the Illawarra region! Seriously, I have a huge list I need to explore. These are just a couple I’ve made it to that I would recommend that don’t require walks or hikes to get to them.
These mid-week adventures have all been made possible because of my new job working as a virtual assistant. Earlier this year I completed a course with Esther Inman – 90 Day VA which has completely changed my life. If you’re looking for a remote career that allows you to get out and explore more you should take a look at this course.
6. Belmore Falls
Belmore falls is huge! Well.. there are two parts to the falls in a deep valley. Halfway between Shellharbour and Bowral is Robertson. A cute little country town that sits on top of the escarpment.
On a side note, you’ll have to stop in at Moonacres Kitchen. Everything about this place is adorable and the food is delicious. It was perfect for warming up on a cold winter day.
From Robertson you should see signs pointing you southward towards the falls.
There are two viewing areas, one on top of the falls and the other looking towards them. Both viewing platforms are right by the road and don’t require a lot of walking. This would be an awesome place to have a drone – so make sure to pack your’s if you own one.
I’m hoping to make it back here to do the hike down into the valley, although when I visited this was closed off.
7. Wattamolla Falls
The actual falls at Wattamolla aren’t spesh-tacular, but what I did love about them is that they fall on to the beach. If you continue over the falls northbound from the car park, you’ll get to another creek crossing.
This area is really cute and has a few tiered falls and a small valley lookout.
Wattamolla is another easily accessible walk from the car park but is also a popular destination for Sydneysiders based on it’s northern proximity in the Royal National Park. It’s only really worth heading here during the week to avoid the crowds.
During whale season make sure you also check out the viewpoint. We were lucky and saw a few whales breaching not too far off the coast.
The unique landscape and ecosystem of the Illawarra and proximity to Sydney is what makes this area so popular. There are so many hikes and bushwalks in the Illawarra to explore, so aim for the busier one’s midweek or during the winter months to help avoid crowds.
If that’s not possible, get to the trailheads early in the day to enjoy the trails and waterfalls to yourself.