Figure 8 Pools are one of those natural wonders you have to see for yourself. The photos are breathtaking (yeah, it’s a hashtag: #figure8pools, check out the pics below) but nothing compares to submerging yourself in those crystal ocean pools. You’ll be surrounded by the bush, cliffs and infinite sea. But where are they and how to get there?

There’s one really important thing you also need to know about Figure 8 Pools before you even get in the car. Read on to find out.

Where are the Figure 8 Pools?

The Figure 8 Pools are on a rock ledge south of Burning Palms Beach in Royal National Park, Sydney. You can’t drive directly to the pools. The quickest way to get there is via a steep 3.5km walking track that winds down more than 100m to the ocean. It will take at least one hour to walk there, including a 15 minute scramble over rocks.

After a swim, you’ll need to walk back up that steep track to your car, so make sure you maximise your time in the pools to make the walk worth it. And if you remember only one thing, it’s to visit Figure 8 Pools at low tide.

Low tide? Yes, low tide.

At high tide the entire rock ledge is underwater. You can only access Figure 8 Pools when the tide is less than 1m. This is at low tide or perhaps an hour or two each side of low tide depending on the swell. I’ve met many disappointed people trudging back up the track with no hashtag-able photo. Sad but true. Like the Grand Old Duke of York in reverse, they walked right down to the bottom of the hill and walked back up again.

Save yourself the heartache; check the tides before you go. And even if it is low tide, check there are no dangerous surf conditions forecast, like a big swell. If the Bureau of Meteorology (‘BOM’ to the cool kids) says “hazardous surf conditions”, don’t go. You simply won’t see them and could also get into a world of trouble.

The nearest carpark to get to Figure Eight Pools is at Garawarra Farm, off Garie Road. (Enter “Garawarra Farm Carpark” in Google Maps).

You could also park at Otford Lookout, Lady Wakehurst Drive, Otford. This means a longer and steeper walk through the Palm Jungle, an awesome section of the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. Totally worth it if you have more time and want to make your day more of a bushwalk.

Directions to Figure 8 Pools from Garawarra Farm

3.5km walk

Garawarra Farm Road, off Garie Road, is unsealed dirt with a few potholes but don’t worry, there’s no need for a 4WD. As you drive into the carpark at the very end of the road, you’ll see a locked gate in front of you. On the other side there’s a walking track on the left with a sign saying “Garawarra Farm”. Follow this track east, all the way to the bottom of the hill, and along Burning Palms Beach.

Near the base, you’ll come out from the trees into the open, with stunning views to the south over Burning Palms Beach. Figure 8 Pool is at the base of that second headland. Keep going straight down the track until you meet the Coast Track, turn right and continue to Burning Palms Beach. When you are on Burning Palms Beach, turn right (south) and continue on the rocks around the first headland. Figure 8 Pools are near the second headland, right near the water’s edge. You will need to scramble over rocks to reach them.

We meet heaps of people near Figure Eight Pools in Royal National Park asking “Do you know where Figure Eight Pools are?” Download this map and tell your mates, “I know where Figure Eight Pools are”.

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Leaving Garawarra Farm car park. There are warning signs – literally – so heed them. And notice how the landscape changes from this typical Aussie bush to coastal heathland.

Leaving Garawarra Farm car park to walk to Figure 8 Pools

Getting closer! See those people at the front? They’ve stopped at a track intersection. Don’t turn left, keep going straight ahead.

Looking down to Burning Palms Beach. Figure 8 Pools are near the base of that second headland.

Directions to Figure 8 Pools from Otford Lookout

7km walk

From Otford Lookout carpark, walk north along the Royal National Park Coastal Walk. After about 2km you need to turn right, east, off the fire trail onto a walking track. Follow this track all the way down the hill through Palm Jungle to Burning Palms Beach. Enjoy the view from Werrong Lookout on the way. Turn off the Coast Track to Burning Palms Beach. When you are on the beach, turn right (south) and continue on the rocks around the first headland. Figure 8 Pools are on the second headland, right near the water’s edge. You will need to scramble over rocks to reach them.

How to Get to Figure 8 Pools by Public Transport

8km walk

Catch the train to Otford on the Illawarra line. Check train times here. Exit the station on the eastern side. If you are travelling from Sydney you get off the train on the correct side. Walk up the stairs on the southern end of the station and turn left after you walk through the gate. Walk up the hill for 50m and take the first left into Station Rd. After 200m follow the road right into Fanshawe Rd. These roads might not be signed and aren’t sealed roads. At the end of Fanshawe Rd you come to the intersection with Lady Wakehurst Drive. This is the main road through Royal National Park, please be careful of traffic. Cross the road and turn left to Otford Lookout. Follow directions from Otford Lookout, shown above.

How to actually find Figure 8 Pools

Figure 8 Pools are like a little circular sinkhole in the rock. Over time, two of the sinkholes have merged and grown to make a large figure eight shape. You may spot other smaller figure eights, but there’s only one main one. It is nearly 4 metres long and over 1 metre across. It’s close to the sea, kind of in line with the ‘point’ of the headland. This position allows awesome views to the north and south.

A photo posted by Matty Small (@mattnotsosmall) on

A photo posted by Nat (@natsupernova) on

A photo posted by Tarryn Cooper (@tarryncooper) on

Image: Time Out Sydney

Figure 8 pools Royal National Park

2017 UPDATE

With great popularity, comes great crowds.

Most people leave the city behind to escape the crowds, but with the current popularity of #figure8pools, things are still crazy busy. The Burning Palms cabin community have sometimes counted 1000 visitors in one day and say even mid-week is a problem. National Parks have upped safety warnings, given the number of people ignoring basic advice. For now, Figure 8 Pools is not the serene, soul-refreshing experience you may be hoping for. If you are going to go, at least grab a map.

You know, there are other wildly beautiful places in Sydney to explore…


A day trip to Figure 8 Pools is one of the best ways to spend a summer day in Sydney. Remember you have a steep bush walk and rocky scramble to reach it, so wear shoes and take your thongs or sandals in a bag. There are no shops down on the beach so take plenty of water and whatever food you need. You might be lucky and get mobile phone reception when you are down by the water, but don’t rely on it. You won’t have reception on the walk down or up. Remember to wear a hat and sunscreen and enjoy your adventure.

About

Ian Wells grew up in the southern suburbs of Sydney surrounded by Cronulla surf beaches, Port Hacking River and Royal National Park. He developed a love of the outdoors from an early age. After nearly a decade of travelling the world he returned home to realise his own backyard was as extraordinary as the places he‘d seen. With the advantage of local knowledge and a vision of authentic and environmentally sustainable adventure he founded Sydney Coast Walks in 2009. He also co-hosts a new podcast This Hiking Life with his wife Tara Wells.



Wild Earth
  • Rafael Paz

    Hey Ian, do you know if there’s a way to 8 figure pools by public trasportation? I’m struggling to find how to get there, but unfortunately without success!

    Cheers
    Rafael

    • Ian Wells

      G’day Rafael,

      Yes mate, there is a train station at Otford, only 1km (all distances are approximate) from Otford Lookout (mentioned in the blog post above). Otford is on the blue Illawarra line. If you are coming from Sydney, you exit the train on the Eastern side of the station (if you are coming from Wollongong, cross the overpass to the eastern side). Walk up the stairs that lead away from the station (not the ones that cross the train line) and turn left at the top. After 50m on this footpath turn left onto a dirt road called Station Rd. Follow this for 200m and turn right into Fanshawe Rd (also a dirt road). At the end of Fanshawe Rd is Lady Wakehurst Dr. This is the main road through Royal National Park. Cross the road, turn left and Otford Lookout is 100m on your right. From here follow the “Directions to Figure 8 Pools from Otford Lookout”.

      Enjoy!

      Cheers,

      Ian.

  • Kevin

    Hey Ian
    Wondering what length of time either side of low tide, is the pool still accessible. Will it be ok an hour or so before the low tide time?

    Thanks
    Kevin

    • Ian Wells

      G’day Kevin,

      That’s hard to say mate because every tide is different. An hour before and after low tide should be fine, depending on the height of that particular tide. It’s always better to get there before low tide than after so you know it will appear.

      Cheers,
      Ian

  • kdliss

    Be aware that this is wilderness area. Burning Palms Surf Life Savers see many first-aid needs, such as wounds and scratches, when people slip off the rocks and cut their skin at the sharp edges and shells.
    There is no walking track from Burning Palms to the pools, and that is good so – the attraction of the area. It is 500m rock hopping – sometimes it’s slippery, sometimes, you need to use your hands. Please don’t ge washed away, by suddenly emerging waves. It’s not a Bondi Beach walk – and we don’t want that here. No problem for an outdoor enthusiast, a mountainere, an experienced bush walker – however, if you get excited about that trip hazard off the carpark, maybe not a way for you! As usual in wilderness, know you capabilities, know the point of turning back – don’t insist to get there if it is above your capabilities. Everyone is different – I made it barefoot and with 80 years old (fit) people – but it’s not accessible by wheel-chair.

    • Ian Wells

      G’day kdliss,

      You make some good points. I’d just like to clarify this is not technically wilderness area. It’s an untracked part of a national park.

      Thanks for your helpful advice.

      Cheers

      Ian

  • Karen

    I went on the hike (my second hike in my life time) and this is what I learnt:

    1. Once you see the path that splits between the beach and another track, go to the beach. My group decided to walk on the track instead and ended up 30 minutes away on the wrong path and had to do a u-turn.

    2. After you reach the end of the beach, you will see the rocks. Keep your closed shoes on. I went bare feet and it took twice as long for me to get there (and don’t wear thongs, it is dangerous and it’s very easy to slip).

    3. The hike back up to the carpark was deadly so bring at least 2L of water. I don’t want to turn you off, but at this point in time, you’ll be thinking that the Figure 8 Pool wasn’t worth the hike. You will feel incredibly exhausted and drenched in sweat.

    • Ian Wells

      G’day Karen,

      Good advice. Very challenging hike for your second one ever! Hope you feel it was worthwhile now.

      Cheers,
      Ian

  • Jane Murray

    Hello there, just a few things to be aware of, as someone who has a family shack at Era. People need to be aware to take ample food and water (2L at least). Some walkers have no idea how far it is and don’t carry essentials- food, water and sunscreen. Lots of people are coming down the track unaware of the tide as well, it’s pretty dangerous to get around during King Tides over christmas, today I had to advise a whole group of people that they may not be able to get around due to the tide, its quite dangerous. Also there are no toilets or water at Burning Palms, and the shack owners can’t cater for the large amounts of people coming down the tracks, as you are aware we have to take all our things down in packs as well. There are two portaloo toilets at Garrawarra farm (So if you plan on going, a roll of toilet paper might be good to take) People need to PLEASE pick up your rubbish, as it is a National Park (we take our rubbish up the hill and to our bins at home). Friendly advice from a shack owner at Era. 🙂

    • Ian Wells

      Thanks Jane, great advice.

      For those of you who don’t what “a shack owner at Era’ is read Cabin Open Day. The cabins are a unique, priceless asset to Royal National Park and the annual open day is a fascinating insight into recent history.

  • Hayley Parsons

    Hi Ian
    Are you able to access the Figure 8 pools by walking down ‘Coast Track Path’. Shows up on maps as a labeled path but can’t really zoom in enough or get a street view to see what it’s like, or find any info on the park’s website. It connects Garawarra Farm Rd and the Royal National Park Trail, kind of cutting through the middle of the Palm Jungle Loop. My maps makes it an option, and it seems a fairly flat and easy walk down all of Garawarra Rd, making it a smaller walk for the steep stuff!
    Thanks!

    • G’day Hayley,
      The part of the Coast Track Path that runs east, down from the intersection of Garrawarra Farm Road and The Cliff Track (as shown on Google Maps) no longer exists. You’re right, it would be a shorter walk for the steep stuff, but it was probably too steep to maintain. It would have been extremely difficult.

  • Bronessa Smith

    Hi All, every man and his dog knows about this place. Used to be quiet secluded and protected, now the beach is covered in rubbish etc. and least of all people not knowing how to swim or aware of any dangers from the rocks and the surf, recent reports and massive surf conditions people have been swept off the rocks from getting too close to the edge and not listening to low tide instructions. People have cuts and gashes all over them, broken ankles etc. I don’t think this is for everyone. I went down recently with my daughter and husband as they had never been but I had over 15 years ago as part of the surf club and we took precautions. We noticed the massive surf and high tides and were careful. Not to mention the car park being ful and no parking. This is not a patrolled beach, it’s open water and and takes a huge effort to get a chopper in to find missing people. I am not saying not go, I sm just saying be careful, take water, and possible first aide kit if not surf aware. Good luck.

    • Ian Wells

      Well said Bronessa. We’re trying to help people enjoy Figure 8 Pools safely. It’s a shame people were injured yesterday, we’re all thankful it wasn’t more serious. Let’s hope others take more care.

      P.S. Some news channels reported a ‘rogue wave’ was to blame. It was not a rogue wave, it was a “set”. If you are reading this and don’t know what a set is, sit back from the waters edge and watch the ocean. You will notice bigger waves break regularly in sets. Look out for them, don’t turn your back on the ocean and you won’t be surprised by them. Cheers.

  • youcantryreachingme

    2 months on from the holidays and drama, is this place still seeing huge crowds on weekends?

    • Ian Wells

      Yes, there are thousands of people there on the weekend. The car park at Garawarra Farm is overflowing and there are cars on the main road for 100m either side. You would be lucky to get near the pools themselves.
      It’s still absolutely worth a visit, just choose your time wisely.

      • youcantryreachingme

        That sucks. Known about this place for years, but never visited and always planned to :/

        • Ian Wells

          Find an early morning low-tide midweek, outside of school holidays, with no dangerous surf conditions and it’s still awesome.

  • Ivie Frost

    Hello, I was wondering if the pools were safe to travel to in June? Since it will be winter. Thanks!

    • Ian Wells

      Absolutely they’re safe to travel to in June, Ivie. Keep in mind these two things:
      1. Ocean swell is usually bigger in winter so ensure you check the weather report for “hazardous surf conditions”. If big surf is forecast, don’t go.
      2. After heavy or sustained rain the steep section of the track can be very slippery.
      Come back here in a week to download our free map of the walking route to Figure 8 Pools.

  • Tien Nguyen

    Hi – I am wondering if there is any public transport or buses to figure 8 pools. Thanks

    • Ian Wells

      The closest train station is at Otford, Tien, on the Illawarra line. It’s an 8km walk to Figure 8 Pools from the station. There are no busses. Exit the station on the eastern side. If you are travelling from Sydney you get off the train on the correct side. Walk up the stairs on the southern end of the station and turn left after you walk through the gate. Walk up the hill for 50m and take the first left into Station Rd. After 200m follow the road right into Fanshawe Rd. These roads might not be signed and aren’t sealed roads. At the end of Fanshawe Rd you come to the intersection with Lady Wakehurst Drive. This is the main road through Royal National Park, please be careful of traffic. Cross the road and turn left to Otford Lookout. Follow directions from Otford Lookout, shown above.
      FYI I’ve added these notes to the main post above. Thanks.

    • Jade Luu

      Hi Tien Nguyen,
      I saw your Vietnamese name on this side to asked about the 8 pools. I’m from America and I’m going to Sydney on October 2017. I would like to going there, so if you been there before, do you have any advice or information please!
      Minh cung la nguoi Vietnam
      Cam on ban Tien Nguyen

      • Tien Nguyen

        Hi Jade,
        Yeah i planned to go – bought the ticket but my brother and cousin had some issues so we didnt go – but it seems like an amazing place. I dont know much about NSW but if you come to Melbourne maybe i know a bit more as i live here.
        Chuc ban chuyen di that tuyet voi 🙂
        Cheers,

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