Our guide, Adam (or Adzy, as he likes to be called), blames Instagram for the droves of people making their way to the Royal National Park these days. The pool’s naturally-made Figure 8 pools are the big draw, with people hiking and bouldering down there for that perfect Instagram snap. I’d be lying if I said the photos alone hadn’t made me want to go there. Not specifically for that “Instagram-worthy” photo, but because it seemed like such a unique experience.
Barefoot Downunder is the only company licensed to operate in the Royal National Park. Sure, you can make your way down there yourself; you don’t really need a guide. But I was happy that Adam was there to guide us, and here’s why: It can actually be pretty dangerous down there if you don’t know how to read the water. We saw countless people wipe out on the slick stones when the waves pounded into them.
The weather had been unpredictable our first three days in Sydney, but the fourth day was perfect—low 70s, sunny, a nice breeze. It took us about an hour to make our way down to the water—down a perfect path, along the beach, over boulders (which is so much fun; I love the challenge of figuring out which route to take; it’s kind of like putting puzzle pieces together), before finally getting to the smoothed-out rock formations where the pools are.
Adam told us that some days, it simply isn’t possible to get all the way down there safely, but we lucked out. He lined us up by the pool, keeping a close eye on the waves, letting us know when it was safe to slide in for our Instagram-worthy photo, warning us to back up when an especially rough wave was coming in, giving us tips on how to keep on our feet when a wave hit us (turn your back, lower your center of gravity). No one in our group fell, but we saw plenty of others bite it, often with phones and cameras in hand.
The water was freezing, but ridiculously clear and a stunning shade of blue-green. It was cool to get that photo, sure, and it’s amazing to think that these pools were formed over thousands of years just by the erosion caused by the waves. It was even better to venture a little closer to the water’s edge, where the waves surged and pummeled the rocks. There’s something so exhilarating about a powerful ocean. I felt the same way when witnessing Queen’s Bath in Kauai.
We were down there for maybe an hour before heading back to put our shoes and clothes back on, have a snack and a drink of water, sustenance for the much more challenging hike back up to the parking lot—uphill all the way. Despite the slow pace we followed, I was a sweaty, tired mess by the time we finished our hike, but it was totally worth it, and it was definitely my favorite thing we did in Sydney.
When Adam dropped us back off in the city, he recommended Spice Alley, which he said has some of the best dumplings in Sydney—and dumplings sounded so tasty that we decided we must have them, even though we had our Mr. Wong leftovers to eat that night. I wouldn’t say they were the best dumplings I’ve ever had, but they definitely hit the spot, and it was a really cool area—strung with red lanterns, and at least a dozen different food stands offering a variety of Asian specialties.
On our walk back to our Airbnb, we decided that some post-appetizer, pre-dinner gelato sounded just delightful. We stopped at this charming gelateria called Anita, then walked through Chippendale Green, a charming little square surrounded by funky buildings, an interesting sculpture in its center. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
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