During my first trip to Australia’s Sapphire Coast, there was one location I missed that I vowed I’d return to see someday: Bournda National Park.
It hadn’t made the cut the first time because, well, I didn’t know enough about it to make it a priority. It’s not a place you ever hear about, it’s certainly not on the tourist trail, and it’s too far for Sydneysiders to hit on a weekend trip, or even a long weekend trip.
Looking at a map, I could see that Bournda National Park took up some coastal real estate (which = beaches, which = Lindsay-as-heart-eyed-emoji). Situated between Tathra and Merimbula, I decided it would make for an ideal starting point for our big caravan trip in 2021 (coming from Canberra, we knew we wanted to kick it off somewhere on the NSW South Coast and then head south into Victoria).
So yes! The Caravan Life Diaries began in Bournda – and oh my goodness, I had to be dragged away at the end of our week-long stay.
I absolutely LOVED our time in Bournda National Park, and I still can’t believe that hardly anyone knows about this place.
With beaches, lakes, and walking trails just a few minutes away on foot from the campground, Bournda is a nature lover’s haven.
Here’s everything you need to know about planning a trip to Bournda National Park:
Bournda National Park Camping
If you want to camp in Bournda, which I HIGHLY recommend you do, you should book a campsite at Hobart Beach Campground. It’s a national park campground which, loosely translated, usually means max nature + min amenities.
Hobart Beach + Wallagoot Lake.
Except at Bournda’s campground, there are HOT SHOWERS! That’s a rarity at NSW national park campgrounds, and it meant that we could stay a week here in relative comfort without having to schlep around Merimbula looking for somewhere to shower every couple days. The showers are free and run for 4 minutes at a time (I believe you have to wait 2 minutes between showers).
Campsites are $24.60/night and unpowered. When you book online it tells you the dimensions of each available site, which is super helpful if you have a larger setup to accommodate. There’s a firepit at each campsite and campfires are allowed year-round, as long as it’s not a total fire ban day.
Many of the sites are spaced out and shaded by trees, making it feel as if you’re truly immersed in nature. Most are connected to Wallagoot Lake via a short walking path – it should take less than a minute to get from your site to the lake. To reach the main beach, you can keep following the path along the lake and it will lead you to the ocean in about 5 minutes (depending on how close your site is to the beach).
I also really appreciated the large undercover picnic areas spread throughout the campground, which I utilized for working, working out, and eating. It’s nice to get away from the campsite for a bit and inhabit a different space, ya know?
Where lake meets beach.
Beaches at Bournda National Park
If you’re anything like me, you’re considering a trip to Bournda National Park because you want some quality beach time.
If that’s the case, then there are 3 beaches you should prioritize during your time here.
(Note that Hobart Beach did not make the cut here: despite the campground being named after it, Hobart Beach itself is not that nice and is more or less just a small plot of sand next to Wallagoot Lake.)
This is the main beach at Bournda National Park, and it’s looooooong and lined with beautiful sand dunes. You’ll have no problem finding a sizable section of beach to have to yourself, even during summer.
Bournda Beach is not ideal for swimming due to the rough-ish surf, except for the northernmost strip of the beach which is slightly sheltered with shallow water. There’s even a little sandbar here at low tide.
At the northern end, you can also glimpse the edge of Wallagoot Lake right next to the sand – be sure to walk up the trail and off of the beach to catch the view from above, it’s stunning! This is the start of the Kangarutha Track to Tathra, and how you get to the next beach:
Hidden gem alert! Wallagoot Gap is a semi-secret little beach that’s visible from the walking track and reached via staircase. The beach itself includes a narrow passageway between two cliffs, which you walk through to get to the water.
At high tide, the water comes up between the two cliffs, while at low tide, a sandy beach appears in its place. It’s a beauty no matter when you catch it.
This is one of my favorite spots on the entire Sapphire Coast of NSW – it’s a really special and unique place. Don’t miss it when you visit Bournda!
At the southern end of Bournda National Park you’ll find Bournda Lagoon, which is a quick drive from the campground or about a 45 minute walk via walking track. It’s tucked just behind the sand dunes of Bournda Beach.
This is a great spot for sheltered swimming and paddling, but beyond that: it’s actually super pretty, particularly just before sunset when the light is all glowy and the trees are reflected on the water. There’s a small patch of sand on the edge of the lagoon, next to the sand dunes, where you can sit or lay out.
Bournda National Park Walks
If you want to explore the northern section of Bournda National Park, the Kangarutha Track is the best way to do it.
This 9km walking track runs from the north end of Bournda Beach up to Tathra (making it 18km return if you go all the way and back). We did a small section of it and stopped at Wallagoot Gap as well as another beach further on (which was full of washed up seaweed). You’ll occasionally glimpse partial views of the sea from the track, but for the most part you’re in the bush. I’d call it a relatively easy walk, nothing too steep or strenuous.
Bournda Lagoon Walking Trails
There are several short walking trails that originate at Hobart Beach Campground, which you can find by looking at the park map at the campground. There are trails around and between the various lagoons and lakes in the park: most noteworthy are the 5km return walk from Hobart Beach Campground to Bournda Lagoon, and the 6km Sandy Creek loop track that circles Bournda Lagoon.
As of March 2021 —
A park pass is required for entry into Bournda National Park. Passes are $8/day, which you can either pay for online and print out, or pay for at the park kiosk using cash. Alternatively, you can buy an annual NSW national parks pass for $65 which covers your visit to Bournda National Park.
A campsite at Hobart Beach Campground costs $24.60/night and must be booked in advance online.