June 1, 2018
Figure 8 Pools is a natural wonder you have to see for yourself. The photos are great (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.
Why 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 says “hazardous surf conditions”, don’t go. You simply won’t see them and could also get into a world of trouble.
Where to Park Near Figure 8 Pools
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.
While you're coming down from the carpark, through the typical Australian bush, keep an eye out for this amazing tree used to make an Aboriginal canoe. It's right next to the track but you need to know what to look for, or you'll miss it.
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.
How to Get to Figure 8 Pools in Royal National Park
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
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.
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.
At least grab a map.
You know, there are other wildly beautiful places in Sydney to explore…
What to Take
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.
Check out more tips for what to take on a day hike with our cool hiking checklist.
If you want to chill out for a few days in the area, here's where to stay near Royal National Park. Another walk to check out – especially during whale watching season – (no rock scrambling on this one!) is Wedding Cake Rock.
Are There Guided Tours to Figure 8 Pools?
Yes. National Parks has licensed only one tour operator to guide tours down to Figure 8 Pools. (We have not personally tried this tour by Barefoot Downunder). Be aware that this guided tour is tide-dependant. Tours to Figure 8 Pools operate September – May only, and are closed during June-August.