Living on the northern outskirts of Sydney it will take me three hours, two trains and a ferry to reach Bundeena (on the South side), but as I’ve never been there, it is definitely worth the effort. I only hope the rain holds off.
Waiting for my connection at Central station to Cronulla, I watch the screen scrolling through the suburbs my train will pass through and realise how little time I’ve spent South of Sydney. While I recognise place names, I have never set foot in most of them. That must change.
I alight at Cronulla with thoughts of the riots, over ten years ago now, passing through my head. This area is quite foreign to me and I follow a young, bare-footed, wetsuit clad man carrying a well waxed board off the train. He walks towards the beach and I turn left towards the underpass and the Tonkin Street Public Wharf.
Underpasses often are dark and smelly places and I approach the tunnel warily, but am pleasantly surprised. This one is fully tiled and decorated with artwork by local high school students.
The steady stream of people coming towards me indicates that the Bundeena ferry has arrived. A few people, some with backpacks and walking boots and one with a bike wait for the return journey. I chat to a woman who has lived in Cronulla for three years. This is her first visit to Bundeena.
She tells me that this is Gunnamatta Bay, one of many bays in Port Hacking. I am again acutely aware of how little I know about these parts. At least now when I hear weather warnings for Port Hacking, I will know where it is.
Bundeena has close to 2000 residents and is bounded by Port Hacking and the Royal National Park. Road access is through the park. For me, the ferry is part of the adventure. Standing outside in the bow of the ferry, the air is nippy and others retreat inside. I stay, enjoying the freshness and wind in my hair.
Fancy double storied waterfront houses with old stone boatsheds line the shore. Hundreds of boats and yachts are moored in the bay. A catamaran sets out for a day on the water. A cormorant comes up for air nearby and then dives underwater again.
Jibbon Head Loop
I hope to do the Jibbon Head Loop and a Heritage Walk. At Bundeena Wharf, I carelessly start walking without checking the map and soon have to retrace my steps to the newsagency to get a brochure on the Heritage Walk. The woman at the Newsagent is very helpful, but has no brochure. Fortunately, I have printed a map.
But I want to do a bush walk first. I walk past the shell of the RSL which was burnt down about 18 months ago. A notice on the fence updates the community about what is happening regarding the rebuilding. There is a strong feeling of community here. Cockatoos appear to be nesting in one of the old gnarled eucalypts. They are making quite a ruckus.
A large glass fronted house with a lift to the upper level dominates the street front. Around the corner is an older single story fibro cottage. This community, like many others, is changing.
I follow the path to Jibbon beach. The city and Kurnell Refinery are clearly visible across the water. Children play in the water. Someone has a kite. The distinctive call of a whip bird cuts through the sound of water lapping on the shore. The sand squeaks beneath my feet. Bird footprints intermingle with human ones on the shore.
At the end of the beach I follow the track into the bush. My presence startles a wattle bird feeding deep in the foliage of a banksia. Large bushes are covered in flannel flowers. I pass signs to a ‘nudist beach’ (apparently it isn’t really) and head for the Aboriginal engravings. There’s a viewing platform and with the help of signage I can make out a kangaroo and a mythical figure.
Other carvings are less distinct. Continuing on towards the point, I wonder about the wisdom of doing this bushwalk alone. There are few people around and the track is uneven. Rain has been threatening but is holding off for now. I sit and drink in the view for a few minutes.
In June or July whales migrate, but today only a large container ship and a few fishing boats are out at sea. As I set off again, vague feelings of anxiety return. No one really knows where I am and the path is not entirely clear as I walk through a changing landscape.
Through thick bush, along the edge of a cliff face and across open areas. The track is at times very muddy and I’m pleased to have worn boots. A few spring blossoms brighten up the grey day. The now sandy path makes walking difficult.
A flash of blue catches my eye. The pretty coloured bird settles on a branch. I must look him up in my bird book when I get home. Another otherwise dull bird has a bright yellow patch on his wing. And what I think is a fairy wren flies very close to my feet across my path. Whip birds follow my progress, but remain hidden. This is a bird watchers’ paradise.
It is half an hour since the last signpost and I start to worry again. Where is that turn off? What if I’ve made a mistake? Oh no there it is. I feel silly for worrying unnecessarily. I am sorry to leave the quiet peacefulness of the bush for suburbia once more.
There are white ribbons tied to fences. I wonder what they signify. Later I confirm my suspicions. The ribbons are a reminder of the role domestic violence played in the recent death of a local woman. Even a beautiful and peaceful place like Bundeena has its problems.
The weather has turned and I’ll leave the Heritage walk for another day. Instead, I want to savour the memory of the sea, the bird and the bush. There’s time for a quick bite before starting my long journey home.
Returning to Bundeena recently when staying in Cronulla for a couple of nights, I found that not much has changed. The RSL has been rebuilt as the Bundeena Community Services Club and smaller old cottages may have made way for larger modern homes. The village has a lovely community feel with locals greeting each other in the street and chatting to visitors as they pass.
The two hours between ferries allowed for a brisk walk along the beach to the Aboriginal Carvings which are rather weathered and some are difficult to make out. There’s time for a drink at a local cafe and a short walk along the shoreline where a couple of sculptures pique my interest.
Bundeena is 29km South of the Sydney CBD
Plan your trip at transportnsw.info
Link to Jibbon loop walk.
Link to HeritageWalk map.
There are markets and an art trail on the first Sunday of every month.
There are some very interesting rock formations a bit further along the coast towards Wattomala. I think they are called Wedding Cake rocks but looked more like feta cheese. Worth a look at but I believe they are now fenced off as they are quite fragile
I have heard about them and will have to get there another day. Thanks. Joanne
Hi, Wedding Cake Rocks are now closed to the public because there is a concern they will collapse. I used to live in Maianbar which is on the riverside just around from Bundeena. It’s a lovely part of the world. Love the idea of your blog. I do a similar thing in my hometown of Wollongong. Keep on adventuring! https://oldchookenterprises.com/2020/06/03/snapshots-from-wollongong-wollongong/
Thank you for that update, Robyn. I’ll take a look at your blog.
Thank you Jo
Bundeena used to be one of our favorite picnic places to go to with small kids. Even on a sunny winters day there would be a beach out of the wind for kids to splash in the water and built sand castles.
There is a lovely village atmosphere and lots of bush walking around in the “Royal”
Yes, Yvonne, I had a real sense of community there. Jo
I feel I was walking with you. Jo you are so descriptive. One lesson learnt is notify someone, anyone, where you are heading for.. So peaceful.
Yes Marie. I will take that advice. I’m not sure I had mobile reception….Jo
Beautifully done Jo. One doesn’t need anything else but your blog to feel the appeal of Bundeena. I want to go there now!
Thanks so much Georgia. Do visit, I am sure you will enjoy it. Jo
I did the same walk as you on my own just a couple of months ago. While a gorgeous walking experience, there were times when I felt vulnerable. There was, I thought, not enough signs to enhance walking confidence.
I’m going back tomorrow to walk in another area of the Royal National Park. We’re so lucky.
Yes, Frances, we are lucky. Like you I felt a bit anxious on my own but it was a beautiful walk.
Great post! Just to clarify that the nude beach you passed is called Little Jibbon and has been used by local nudists for several decades. It’s also promoted as such on the official Bundeena webpage.
Thanks for the clarification Tim. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post.
As a Bundeena resident, I can tell you that the tourist pattern has changed during Covid. You wouldn’t be alone on the track these days, even in winter months! Our home is on one of the main tracks to the coast track.
Wedding Cake Rock still hasn’t fallen into the sea and is only a small landmark on a beautiful walk.
The burnt out club is now rebuilt and open. It’s not only a watering hole, it’s also venue and meeting place for a number of local groups.
The white ribbons are still around, but not so many. Ours is now very frayed and will soon need replacing. The park opposite the shops has a mosaic wall beside the playground, which features scenes from the children’s book that Tina Kontozis wrote. White ribbons are embedded in this mosaic mural. Tina is remembered in her work and the love expressed for her by local children.
We love our home. There is so much here to see and to love. it is a little part of peace, art and love.
Hello Helen and thank you. I wrote the post a while ago now, and really appreciate your update as it may be a while before I return. Your love for Bundeena shines through. Thanks again.
What a lovely post! Thank you! 🙂
Pleased you enjoyed it, Eliza