In London, they say you’re never more than a few meters from a rat. In Sydney, you’re never more than a few kilometres from some breathtaking hiking. In fact, one of the best things about living here, aside from smashed avo, is the plethora of bush walks available. Between the Royal National Park, Kur-ring-gai National Park and the Blue Mountains, you could hike every weekend for years and never cover every trail. Now while there are many tracks I’d urge you to try, this story’s about what you definitely shouldn’t do.

On a sunny spring day, five girls went hiking. Consulting my favourite hiking website, I picked a track in Mackerel Beach. A short ferry ride from Palm Beach, this trail had everything we wanted: a challenging bushwalk with spectacular ocean views and a secluded beach half way for swimming.

Our first mistake was not checking the ferry timetable. FYI, on weekends it doesn’t leave until 9am, so my remarkable achievement of getting everyone up to Palm Beach by 7.30am with military precision was utterly pointless.

The view from Mackerel Beach. Photo by Manon Lapierre @ptitemanon29

The next mistake was winging it on the directions. We disembarked the ferry and randomly decided to turn left. After twenty minutes, some inane chit-chat and a massive sign declaring: “THIS IS NOT A FOOTPATH” we started to think perhaps we’d gone the wrong way. We found some locals and asked for directions. They instructed us to cross the beach and scramble across some rocks before reaching a sign post that would guide us.

“Scramble across some rocks” – the beginning of the end.
Photo by Manon Lapierre @ptitemanon29

We now know that by “scramble across some rocks” she meant precisely three rocks. What we did was climb and jump across three hundred rocks before realising that perhaps we’d (once again) gone the wrong way. At this point, we were huddled on a gigantic rock like a herd of gormless seals; the ocean on one side and a cliff edge on the other. We hadn’t seen another human since the beach and all we could see ahead was more rocks. Idiotically, we decided to keep going…

When scrambling becomes a logistical nightmare.
Photo by Manon Lapierre @ptitemanon29

After ninety minutes of lifting each other onto rocks and grabbing plants to swing onto others (which is apparently really dangerous) we finally reached a small beach and a footpath signposted “MACKEREL BEACH – 20 MINUTES”.

Basically, we had taken a 2-hour life-risking, logic-defying detour instead of walking for 20 minutes. This is when we made our first sensible decision – to follow the footpath back to Mackerel. There, we found the original sign-post…three rocks away from the beach.

To be fair, it could have been worse. We actually got what we wanted: a challenging walk with spectacular ocean views. And as an unexpected bonus, some dolphins followed us for the entire ferry ride back. Not bad, all things considered.

The view from the actual track…
Photo by Ruby Mann @Ruby23Mann

If you’d like to hike in the area, minus the calamity…

Choosing a Hike:
Ferry Timetable:
Ferry Prices: $16.20 Adult Return, $8.10 Child Return

About The Author


A determined adventurer lacking any sense of finesse, grace or natural ability. Actually, let me amend that... A determined adventurer lacking any sense.

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