I originally came across Bouddi National Park on the Central Coast of New South Wales in my perpetual quest to find awesome outdoor adventures that are accessible without a car. Someday I’ll get comfortable driving in Australia… and some year I’ll be able to afford a car. But for now, I’m at the mercy of public transit and friends with motor vehicles, which I suppose isn’t the worst problem to have, now is it?
It may have taken me 3 months to pry myself away from the sensational beaches around my new home in Bondi, but I finally managed to venture further afield last week to explore this gloriously under-touristed pocket of nature.
As a disclaimer: yes, you can reach the campgrounds, beaches, and coastal walk in Bouddi National Park by public transport. However, it will take you multiple transfers between trains and buses (and potentially ferries) that you have to time exactly right if you want to reach Bouddi National Park from Sydney within 4 hours. But more on the logistics later!
First, let’s talk about why Bouddi National Park makes for a fantastic weekend getaway from Sydney (or weekday, if you’re self-employed like I am – Monday camping trips for the win!).
An Introduction To Bouddi National Park
The Central Coast of NSW spans about 30 miles of coastline between Sydney and Newcastle: specifically, from the mouth of the Hawkesbury River to the south end of Lake Macquarie. It tends to conjure up images of idyllic surf spots and peaceful beaches.
Bouddi National Park occupies the southernmost end of the Central Coast. If you want beachfront camping and coastal walks, this place is your jam. There are a few other trails in the park that run inland or to specific beaches from the main road, but the Bouddi Coastal Walk is the park’s crown jewel. You’d be crazy to miss it!
Tip: Download this map/brochure to get your bearings with all the beaches and trails available within Bouddi National Park.
Bouddi Coastal Walk
Putty Beach to Maitland Bay (3km)
The best stretch of the Bouddi Coastal Walk runs for 3km along the coast from Putty Beach to Maitland Bay. Putty Beach itself I found quite underwhelming and probably the least scenic of the 7 or so beaches within the national park, but one thing it does have going for it is the stellar view of the Barrenjoey Headland at Palm Beach.
Much of this trail segment is lined with boardwalk, making it a very easy walk between beaches. The first bit of it, up from Putty Beach, has some cool-looking rock to ogle and a patch of tessellated pavement.
Shortly after these rocks, there’s a sign marking the continuation of the coastal track to Maitland Bay, and a side trail to Bullimah Beach. Do I even need to tell you to take the beach-bound track?
You guys, this one’s now in the running for one of my favorite beaches near Sydney. When I first glimpsed these bright blue hues beyond the boardwalk, my face quickly morphed into the heart-eyed emoji and I spent the remainder of the day’s sunny hours sunbathing there.
The sand at this beach is unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere. It’s a coarse kind of sand, with teeny-tiny purple and white pebbles mixed in with golden sand. Too cool!
Back on the Bouddi Coastal Walk, follow the trail uphill into the bush to reach Gerrin Point Lookout. The views from up here of the rocks below and the beaches in the distance are fabulous.
The rest of the trail from Gerrin Point to Maitland Bay is part-coastal walk and part-bushwalk. It’s a little less dramatic than the previous segment, but still pleasant and worth the effort to reach Maitland Bay Beach.
Maitland Bay to Little Beach (3.5km)
Maitland Bay Beach feels like a little oasis, due to its seclusion. Access between Maitland Bay and the parking lot on the main road is via the very steep Maitland Bay Track (1km one-way). Golden sand and no crowds make this one a classic Aussie beach you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Bouddi.
When I visited in May 2017, the segment of trail from Maitland Bay to Little Beach was partially closed off to hikers so I ended up walking up the Maitland Bay Track and along The Scenic Road (yep, that’s the name of the main road through the national park) to the Little Beach Trail instead. It was doable, but quite hilly and lacking sidewalks on the main road.
If the Bouddi Coastal Walk is open between Little Beach and Maitland Bay when you’re there, you’ll walk across Maitland Bay Beach instead and continue along the trail rather than taking the Maitland Bay Track uphill. Just know that most of it doesn’t actually run along the coast so you’ll be in for more of a bushwalk than a coastal walk.
At Little Beach, you’ll find a few campsites as well as BBQ and picnic facilities for daytime use. This is also a great surf spot if the swell is cooperating.
Mourawaring Moor Trail.
Little Beach to Macmasters Beach (1.7km)
This part of the Bouddi Coastal Track also runs inland rather than along the coast, but it’s still scenic and offers a couple of side trail options with beach views.
From Little Beach, cross the little creek and follow the trail uphill through the trees. Within minutes, you’ll find yourself walking on a sandy maintenance track called the Mourawaring Moor Trail. There are a couple of side tracks leading toward the coast that you can venture down if you have some time. This is what the Second Point Trail looks like:
Macmasters Beach from Second Point Trail.
The Mourawaring Moor Trail will soon deposit you onto Beachview Esplanade, a paved road. Walk a few minutes down the road and look for a dirt track between houses #51 and 53 – this is the Macmasters Beach Walking Track, though it’s not labeled.
This trail leads into Macmaster Parade, though you’ll only be on it for a minute before you take the walking track around house #37 that leads down to Macmasters Beach.
Macmasters Beach is absolutely gorgeous! There’s an ocean pool on the southern end (by the Surf Lifesaving Club) that’s particularly beautiful with the nearby headland reflecting on it.
Camping in Bouddi National Park
Bouddi is one of the few places in New South Wales that offers beachfront camping (at least officially). These campsites book out far in advance on non-winter weekends, so be sure to reserve ahead of time if you’re planning a weekend camping trip.
Little Beach Campground is the most ideally located of the three, I think, because you can walk toward Macmasters Beach in one direction or Putty Beach in the other. It’s open to day trippers during daylight hours, but come nightfall it’ll be quiet. There are bush toilets, picnic tables, and a BBQ. Campsites are $33/night for two people and increase in price as you add more people.
Note: I camped at Little Beach and walked to Macmasters Beach and back on Day 1; then on Day 2, I packed up camp and hiked with all my gear from Little Beach to Putty Beach.
Putty Beach Campground is the most family-friendly of the three, as you can easily drive and park right by your campsite. The sites aren’t right on the beach, but are just a few minutes’ walk from it. This campground is the most built up in terms of facilities, offering flush toilets, an outdoor shower, and drinking water. Campsites are $33/night for two people and increase in price as you add more people.
Tallow Beach Campground is the most remote of the three, requiring a 1.2km walk from the car park. It’s a bit inconvenient if you’re looking to do the coastal walk or other hikes within the national park, but ideal if all you want is to camp in seclusion near a beautiful beach. There’s nothing but a bush toilet here, so bring your own stove if you plan to cook. Campsites are $24/night for two people and increase in price as you add more people.
Getting to Bouddi National Park
Depending on where in Sydney you’re located, it’ll probably take you 3-4 hours to reach Bouddi National Park. The buses that operate around the park are quite infrequent though, so you’ll want to consult Google Maps or better yet the Opal transit app to plan your route. When I was looking to travel from Sydney to Little Beach, I found there wasn’t a way to get there on a Sunday – hence my Monday excursion.
From Sydney Central Station, catch the train towards Newcastle and get off at either Woy Woy (for Putty Beach) or Gosford (for Little Beach).
- From Gosford to Little Beach, take the 64 to the 65 bus, get off near Namatjira Drive and then walk 25 minutes to the campground.
- From Woy Woy to Putty Beach, take the 64 bus to the 59 bus, get off near Beach Drive and then walk 9 minutes to the campground.
- From Woy Woy to Tallow Beach, take the 64 bus to the 59 bus, get off near Beach Drive and then walk 45 minutes to the campground.
Alternatively, you could take the L90 bus from Wynyard to Palm Beach, then the ferry to Wagstaffe, and catch a bus to get closer to the campgrounds – but this route is a bit more tedious so I wouldn’t recommend it unless the train route doesn’t align with when you want to leave.