Figure 8 Pools - Royal National Park
Travel Update: Most destinations are open — check the official websites and read our crucial BEST TIME tips below to help you AVOID CROWDS (Travel with at least 15% off | booking.com)
The famous and popular Figure 8 Pools are safely accessible around low tide only! The tides and swell must have a low level without strong wind to enjoy the amazing pools without an accident. Many people got injured by sudden waves just for a perfect selfie. Check Official National Park Website - Alerts
Update Feb 2019: Safety First! A young international student got washed off the rocks on Monday 25th. 9 people died in the Royal National Park along the coast since 2016. Don't come here during high tide. Check the National Park Alerts first and the wave status. Two young men got hit by an extreme wave and one drowned. Want to be on the safe side? Book a tour with the only licensed tour operator for Figure 8 Pools (these guys are excellent): Figure 8 Pools Photography & Hike Tour from Sydney (via Viator - TripAdvisor Experience)
Tide Times and Swell (Safety)
Again, it's only safe to be at Figure 8 pools during low tide, low swell and without very strong wind or storm! What you should know:
- What does low tide mean? Like in most other coastal areas, you'll experience two tidal cycles over the course of one lunar day. Which means, each day there are 2 high tides and 2 low tides. However, due to park opening times (read below) you can only be there during one of the two low tide periods on a single day. Plan your visit accordingly: Garie Beach Tide Times and Heights.
- When to arrive at Figure 8 Pools? Plan to be at Figure 8 Pools about 1-2 hours before the lowest tide time. Example: Low Tide at 3 p.m. means you should arrive between 1 and 2 p.m. You need to take into account the drive from the park entrance to the parking lot (about 20 minutes) and the hike from the parking area to Figure 8 Pools (another 1 ½ hours or less). Read below for more details.
- Is it always safe during low tide? No! Keep in mind, that even at low tide it can be dangerous during critical ocean conditions when big waves reach the rock shelf. Check the official Figure 8 Pools Risk Forecast. When it's set to 'Extreme', don't go. You'll find the same information at the visitor centre when entering the park. However, we went despite of a 'High Risk' forecast (one level below extreme) and it was fine. But still, we were very careful. Disclaimer: We are not responsible for any injury, death, or consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided here. This is just our experience!
Opening Times (Royal National Park)
You can only get to Figure 8 Pools, when the park is open of course. The opening times are from 7 a.m. to 8.30 p.m (Visitor Centre from 8.30am to 4.30pm daily. The only day when it's closed is on Christmas Day). However, the park can be closed at times because of severe weather conditions or fire danger. Also, plan your way back: You have to hike back to your car and after that, drive back to the entrance/exit. That's a total time of about 2 hours. If you stay too long and get back too late, you might be stuck in the park. They always close the gates at 8:30 p.m.
Getting to Figure 8 Pools
To get to the Garrawarra Farm car park it’s a long drive through the park on sealed roads, only 1.5 km is gravel.
Space is limited, and you are not allowed to park the car somewhere else. The entrance fee is 12 $ per car if you don’t have a multi or annual park pass for NSW. The gate closes at 8.30 pm and opens at 7:00 am. The hike to Figure 8 takes a maximum of 1½ hours, and the trail is 3.5 km long one way. No worries the trail is well marked, and there is no need for a map.
Avoiding the Crowds
The park is mostly super busy during the summer holidays (mid-December to January) and weekends as well. There is a lot of traffic, and the car parks fill up soon. Come early in the peak season; the car parks get closed when they are full. Traffic jams occur pretty often at this crazy time of the year.
The area around Sydney experiences hot summers with average daytime temps of almost 30°C and mild winters with an average daytime temp of about 20°C. There isn’t a wet or dry season, but droughts happen more often nowadays. On average rain occurs throughout the year with more precipitation from January to June with its peak in March.
- From May to November you may spot whales along the coast.
- The Visitor Center at Audley is open daily from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm.
- From July to November more than 700 different plants are in bloom on the plateau.
We arrived 2 ½ hours before low tide and enjoyed the stunning walk through the forest, along with a boardwalk until we reached Burning Palms cabins and beach. The cottages were built between the 1920s and 1940s on privately owned land. The cabins became part of the park in 1966. They are still without electricity, and there isn’t any access by car.
After passing the beach, you walk and climb over rocks for about half an hour. Some rocks can be slippery. Keep distance to the cliffs because rockfall can happen always.
Watch the sea and waves first if you can already continue walking. You can’t miss the pools on an exposed rock platform it’s always busy. Don’t turn your back to the sea it’s treacherous as huge waves can flood the rock shelf and pools seconds later.
We visited the natural rock pools on November 17 on a weekday. Low tide was in the evening, and only 30 to 40 people were around the pools. Some of them were queuing for a bath and perfect selfie at the most popular pool in shape of an eight. In our opinion, it’s a great spot, and the hike to the coastal rock shelf is spectacular but not worth to risk your life! On the way back to our rental car we spotted a swamp wallaby which is common inside the park.
What to Bring and Wear
- Proper shoes not flip flops
- Hat and sunscreen
- Enough water for each person as there isn’t any place to fill up the bottle
- Picnic or snack
- Bath clothes and towel
The Figure Eight Pools are part of the Royal National Park the second oldest National Park in the world after Yellowstone. The park was established in 1879 by NSW Premier Sir John Robertson. The park is the traditional country of the Dharawal.
The Royal National Park provides more than 150 km of hiking trails.
- The most popular hike is the epic two days 26 km long coastal walk. The walk offers spectacular views, nature, beaches, and spots for swimming. Booking is essential for the North Era Campground for the two days hike. It can be done in one, but it’s not a loop trail.
- The Palm Jungle Loop trail also starts at the Garrawarra Farm car park. The trail is 10 km long and takes around 5 hours. If you prefer to do a longer hike combine this one with the Figure Eight, it’s just a short detour.
- From the Garrawarra Farm carpark, you can get to North Era 2.3 km one way and to Garie Beach 3.7 km one way.
- The Wedding Cake Rock is a popular fragile rock formation which is fenced now for safety reasons. The trail starts at Bundeena in the north, and it takes maximum an hour to get there. If you are into hiking, continue to Marley Head.
Bonnie Vale Campground offers 74 campsites with all needed comfort located at the north end of the park. It has showers, toilets, BBQ, picnic tables and drinking water. The campground is very popular bookings within 12 months in advance are possible. Here the gates are locked from 8 pm to 7 am. Bonnie Vale Campground Booking