What are the Figure 8 Pools?
The Figure 8 Pools are a natural geological formation in Royal National Park, about half an hour south of Sydney. The pools are actually sink holes in a rock shelf: some are ovals, and some are perfectly shaped like a figure 8! I saw some photos of these pools on Instagram, but had zero clue that they were in Sydney. It wasn’t until a read an article called ‘Social Media Obsession Risks Lives at Figure 8 Pools in Sydney’s Royal National Park’ that I realised they were so freaking close to me!
Now, that article is foreboding and basically calls out people like me for making unsound decisions, but I couldn’t help it: as soon as I knew the pools were accessible, I HAD to visit them!
How to SAFELY visit the Figure 8 Pools
Safely being the key word here. From everything I’ve read, it seems like most people who get injured here do so because they ignore logical advice. Don’t be that person. I mean, really, how embarrassing would it be to have your face blurred out in an article slamming you for being dumb? Exactly. Now, follow my advice to avoid that!
Pay attention to the tides. If you only take away one piece of advice from this article, this should be the one! Check out the tide schedule on the Bureau of Meteorology website to learn when low tide hits on the day you plan to visit. This is super important, because they pools are literally underwater the majority of the day. The shot below is the difference after a small wave at low tide, so you can imagine how much worse it gets!
Give yourself plenty of time. Once you sort out when low tide is, plan your journey accordingly. When I last went, low tide was at 7.23am, meaning I had to leave Bondi really early to give myself enough time to (1) drive to Royal National Park, and (2) actually complete the hike. The trail is moderately difficult, and takes about 45-60 mins, depending on fitness levels and how long you stop to take photos (uh, A LOT). Give yourself extra time in case you get lost.
Download directions. Royal National Park has shoddy cell service, so save directions to your phone or print them out. Bonny and Nat from Checkin-Out have outlined some easy-to-follow directions here.
Keep an eye on the ocean. Seriously, the waves are WILD! Even at low tide, a shocker of a wave will often come crashing through. Don’t turn your back on the ocean for more than a few seconds, and be prepared to brace (and probably get totally scraped up) if/when an enormous wave comes.
Bring a waterproof phone/camera. If you have one, definitely bring some kind of photo-taking device that’s waterproof (mostly because of the comment above i.e. the ocean is unpredictable). This place is phenomenal, and you’ll definitely want to capture your memories here!
Wear good footwear. Ok, so I actually saw a couple surfers make this journey barefoot and carrying surfboards, but they’re totally cray, so don’t do what they do. The trail is rocky, sometimes muddy and definitely slippery, so wear shoes that will get you through those conditions (sneakers or hiking boots, for shiz).
Is it hard to get to the Figure 8 Pools?
Yes and no. It’s definitely not easy. As I mentioned above, it’s about a 45-60 minute hike, down a 100 metre decline. Once you make it to sea level, you’ll find yourself climbing around boulders and trying not to fall on the slippery rocks. The worst part though? The walk back to the carpark. It’s pretty much all uphill, and it’s tough! You’ll definitely get your exercise in for the day, that’s for sure! Could you do it if you’re out of shape? Probably, but not enjoyably. I saw some people struggling on their way to the pool; I can only imagine how much they hated their life on the uphill hike back!
Are the Figure 8 Pools overcrowded?
Again, yes and no. I’ve seen photos of the pools with hundreds of people in the shot, which makes me so claustrophobic that I could literally scream (rage blackout). The pools are getting more and more popular with each Instagram post (guilty), meaning that flocks of tourists and locals are making their way over to see them. That said, I’ve been twice and had the whole place to myself (well, shared with one other couple and a couple of fishermen). The trick to getting uncrowded photos of the Figure 8 Pools? GO EARLY. I mean it, really, really early. I left my apartment by 5.45am both times, which is an ungodly hour for many people. I LOVE mornings, so it works for me. From there, I drove 45 minutes to the park, hiked 45 minutes to the pools, and was the first person there (besides the fishermen I mentioned). One other couple showed up around the same time, and we were basically alone to swim and have a photoshoot (obviously).
By the time we left the pools (around 8am), other people were starting to arrive. As we hiked back to the carpark, we pass dozens of tourists heading to the pools: 92 to be exact! It went from four people to 92 in the span of 30 minutes! So, if you’re considering sleeping in for just a few extra minutes, don’t. Do everything you can to beat the crowd! Also, I’d recommend avoiding days where low tide hits in the afternoon. The best way to think about it is: the more inconvenient it is, the less people will do it. Low tide at 2pm on a sunny Saturday? EVERY SINGLE tourist is going to be there with their selfie stick.
Are the Figure 8 Pools worth the trek?
Yes, yes and YES! It’s such a unique geological formation to explore, and they’re really beautiful!