Find yourself in a perfect scene of rivers, bushlands and birds in Audley, Royal National Park, just an hour’s drive south of Sydney.
One of the things I love most about living in Sydney is how easy it is to escape the city. You only have to drive an hour or so before being greeted by the overwhelming beauty of natural Australia.
Case in point: the Royal National Park. It’s just shy of an hour’s drive from the centre of Sydney, making it the perfect day trip for overworked urban dwellers looking to get back in touch with nature.
This is where the RNP delivers, with bountiful bushland for exploring, an impressive stretch of stunning coastline and an abundance of wildlife to spy on.
One of my favourite places in the RNP is Audley. Here’s why.
A mere six minutes from the Princes Highway turnoff, Audley is always my first stop in the RNP. When I see that quiet, leafy scene by the Hacking River, I know I have officially left the city.
I always make a point of driving past the first parking area and crossing over the quaint wooden bridge, just so I can wander back over it to the other side. Yes, just for the whimsy!
It’s a bonus that the Audley Dance Hall Cafe brews a good coffee and boasts a brunch menu to rival the Eastern Suburbs (the French mushroom omelette and Haloumi & Mushroom burger are personal favourites). The Cafe’s outdoor table settings feature fresh Australian wildflowers and provide the perfect spot to watch the early morning dew melt.
There are a couple of great walks that depart from Audley on both sides of the river. There’s the Bungoona Path, an easy 1.8 km trail up to the Bungoona Lookout that departs from Reids Flat (on the left of the river when you first drive into Audley). It’s a great walk to do if you haven’t packed your hiking shoes but still want to feel just a tad intrepid.
Across the whimsical bridge, there’s the 11 km (one-way) Uloola Track that cuts through the RNP all the way to Waterfall. I’ve only done part of this walk, but the start of the track is certainly promising and I’d love to tackle the entire hike one day.
I have an entire album of bird photos on my computer that I’ve snapped in Audley. It’s a great spot to spy on some native Australian birds. I could leave it at that, but that would deny me the chance to ramble on about my love of birds for half a page (which is probably one of the main reasons I started this blog, to be honest – to give my bird ramblings a home). So let’s get stuck in.
The grassy patch in front of Audley Dance Hall Cafe is a great spot to see cockatoos sleeping in the trees or frolicking on the ground.
Along the water’s edge you can watch moorhens navigate the reeds with their spindly legs.
If you commit to one of the bushwalking tracks, you might spy a kookaburra hidden in the trees.
Most of the time I just wander around the river and smile at all the different types of birds, but occasionally I ramp up the adventure factor and hire a kayak at the Audley Boatshed. You can paddle just around the river bend (yes, that is a Pocahontas reference – if you’ve ever shared a canoe with me you’ll know I simply cannot hold a paddle without singing the entire soundtrack) to Kangaroo Creek. It’s worth it.
I’ve still got plenty of places to explore in the RNP, including the Coastal Track, which has been on my escape hitlist for a while now. What would you put on your list of favourite escapes in Royal National Park?