The Ultimate Guide to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is steeped in Aboriginal history and culture and a haven for flora and fauna
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is steeped in Aboriginal history and culture and a haven for flora and fauna | © NJphoto / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Susanna Smith
8 October 2020

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a spectacular jewel of green space on Sydney’s northern edge. It is a place steeped in Aboriginal history and culture and a haven for Australian flora and fauna. Here are the top things to do, with tips and recommendations to help you get the best out of your visit.

Get your bearings at the Kalkari Discovery Centre

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The Kalkari Discovery Centre is a good starting point for any visit to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The centre has maps and information on the flora and fauna of the park and the Aboriginal history of the area, and friendly volunteers are on hand to answer questions. The Kalkari Centre is the starting point for the Kalkari Discovery Trail walking track, a short, accessible path through the bush where you can put your newfound knowledge of local plants and animals into practice. You can also take the Birwanna walking track from the centre to Bobbin Head, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch or a coffee break in the café.

Get out and about on Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park’s walking tracks

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Bush walking in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park down to Flint and Steel Beach, north of Sydney,
© Emma Neems / Alamy Stock Photo

Visitors to the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park are spoilt for choice when it comes to bushwalking, from the short accessible Kalkari Discovery Trail to long multi-day treks that go beyond the park. The Basin track and Mackeral track showcase some of the best features of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park via a relatively short and easy walk that includes the rock engravings at the Basin Aboriginal Art Site and stunning views over Mackerel Beach. America Bay walking track is a moderate walk past Aboriginal engravings toward a picturesque waterfall overlooking stunning America Bay, while the family-friendly Salvation Loop will take you through the wetlands area of the park. Information on the many walks in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park can be found at the visitor centres and online.

Discover local culture on the Aboriginal Heritage Walk

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The Aboriginal Heritage Walk is a 4.5km (3mi) loop that includes several artistic and cultural sites of the original owners of the land. You will come across Red Hands Cave, with its red ochre handprints, early in the walk. Follow the track further to see stunning rock engravings that have been carved into the sandstone. The track also features a traditional occupation shelter, where people stayed to keep warm during the winter months. The inhabitants of West Head were tragically decimated by a smallpox outbreak within a year of the arrival of the first fleet, so take some time to reflect here and pay your respects.

Chill out by the water at Bobbin Head

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Apple Tree Creek picnic area in Ku Ring Gai Chase National Park just north of Sydney, Australia
© Chris Jones / Alamy Stock Photo

Bobbin Head is the perfect waterfront spot to enjoy a picnic, barbecue or meal in the on-site restaurant or café before taking on a bushwalk or casting out a fishing line. You can hire a runabout boat from Empire Marina Bobbin Head or check out the Bobbin Head Information centre for maps on bush walks and other attractions in the area. If you don’t want to venture too far, the mangrove boardwalk behind the picnic area is a great place to spot some of the park’s many bird species.

Wake up in nature at the Basin Campground

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If you can’t fit everything you want to see at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park into one day, set up camp at the Basin Campground and wake up with waterfront views over Pittwater. The campground is a great base from which to further explore the park via the Basin track and Mackerel track walks and to view the Basin Aboriginal Art Site. It is also a good spot for swimming, cycling and spotting wildlife such as kookaburras and swamp wallabies. The Basin Campground is car-free and access is either via the ferry from Palm Beach or a long walk down a steep track. If you prefer not to carry heavy camping equipment, Ecotreasures camping service will set up everything you need for a relaxing experience.

Appreciate ancient practices at the Basin Aboriginal Art Site

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The Basin Aboriginal Art Site is one of the best examples of traditional rock engraving in the park. The site can be found along the Basin track and is best viewed in the early morning or late afternoon light when it is easier to see the delicate outlines of animals and humans engraved in the rock face. If you’d like to delve deeper into the history and culture of the traditional owners of the park, consider booking a place on an Aboriginal Cultural Tour of the Basin with Guringai Aboriginal Tours, whose guides have in-depth knowledge of the area.

Explore historic Barrenjoey Lighthouse

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The historic Barrenjoey Head Lighthouse marks the entrance to Broken Bay and Pittwater on the Hawkesbury River. NSW, Australia.
© Operyourap / Alamy Stock Photo

Barrenjoey Lighthouse stands proudly at Sydney’s most northerly point, Barrenjoey Head at Palm Beach. The lighthouse was built from local sandstone in 1891. You can reach the site via a short, easy walk along the Barrenjoey track; the views of Broken Bay, the Central Coast and back across Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park are well worth the walk. If you happen to visit between May and September, bring your binoculars to help you spot whales migrating along the coastline. Home and Away fans will recognise Barrenjoey Lighthouse from the Summer Bay set.

Wine and dine waterside at Akuna Bay Marina

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Akuna Bay is a great spot to indulge in a leisurely waterside lunch, get out on the water or enjoy a laid- back picnic. Book a table at the Shed to experience quality waterside dining, or bring your own picnic or barbecue lunch to eat in the well-equipped picnic area. The pristine waters of Akuna Bay beg to be explored and you can hire a boat, kayak or stand-up paddleboard to get out on the water and fully appreciate the beauty of this place.

These recommendations were updated on October 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.