EXPLORE // Sea Cliff Bridge Walk
A Cruisy Coastal Stroll Across An Illawarra Icon
If you’re looking for a leisurely family-friendly walk with spectacular views, then we reckon you should hit the Sea Cliff Bridge Walk.
It’s easy to access, is nice and short [no whinging!] and we mentioned those views and super Insta-worthy.
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know.
Family Friendly :: An easy, mostly level walk, suitable for the whole family.
Easily Accessible :: Yep, from car, train or bus.
Dog Friendly :: The walk is a leash-on dog-friendly walk. If your pup needs a run, the closest off-leash area is at the north end of Stanwell Park Beach a short drive north of the bridge.
Stairs :: There are no stairs, but it’s worth noting there is an incline from both the Rube Hargrave and Coalcliff car park/stations if you choose to start your walk from either location.
Time :: The bridge itself is just 665 metres long so the 1.3km walk will take you only 30 minutes round trip or a little longer if you stop for some snaps.
Okay, ‘nuff talking….let’s do the walk.
The Sea Cliff Bridge has become an iconic landmark in the Illawarra.
The bridge hugs the sandstone cliffs of the Illawarra escarpment linking the northern suburbs of Coalcliff and Clifton. The dramatic, winding bridge with the stunning coastline as its backdrop has created a place that people flock to from Sydney, Wollongong and beyond to see.
Driving across the bridge is an experience in itself but walking the bridge is not to be missed.
At its highest point, the bridge reaches 41 metres above ground, and with the pedestrian path overlooking the ocean side, you’ll see some heart-stopping views of the water below.
HOW TO GET TO THE BRIDGE
Three small car parks service the bridge.
A limited number of spaces suited to wheelchairs or prams are on the south end of the bridge.
A little further south there is another car park at Rube Hargrave Park.
Coalcliff Beach car park is just past the northern end of the bridge.
Coalcliff Train Station is the closest station to the bridge. It includes a steep incline from the train station to the bridge and walking from Coalcliff car park and station will add an additional 10-15 minutes to your walk.
Bus stops are located on either side of the Sea Cliff Bridge. The number 2 bus provides services Monday to Saturday [not available on public holidays] from Wollongong to Stanwell Park.
STEP BACK IN TIME
As you walk along the bridge, you can see parts of the old road along the inside of the cliff. The unstable, crumbling sandstone rock face made the road unsafe and it closed in 2003.
Looking at it now, you’ll be glad to be standing on the bridge!
The new bridge cost $52m and was opened in 2005 bringing the northern suburbs back together.
The name Coalcliff is a literal description of the surrounding area which, you guessed it, contained coal. The Coalcliff Colliery Co had a jetty which stretched out into the sea in the area below the bridge. It housed an underground coal mine which was tunnelled through the cliff face and exited onto the jetty where the coal was transported by boats known as colliers. The jetty was closed in 1912 but the mine continued to operate until 1991.
You can still see some remnants of the old jetty below the bridge at the southern end.
TAKE IT EASY
This walk is leisurely, more slow-mo than high-impact.
The bridge never really feels busy with visitors but you’ll notice that almost everyone stops for photos. Expect to navigate around people and stop for some snaps of your own.
At the south end, looking north, you’ll see the green hills of the Royal National Park sloping into the ocean below. This rugged stretch of coastline has seen its fair share of storms over the decades, but don’t let the rain put you off. Rain [maybe not hail] or shine, the bridge and views are spectacular. Put your rain jacket on and bring an umbrella because the colour palette of the cliff rocks and ocean changes dramatically in the rain.
Ocean mist and fog rush up the cliffs. If the rain is heavy, you can expect to see a flurry of small waterfalls cascading down the cliff face and into the ocean below.
This is not a nature walk in the traditional sense, but there’s a lot to see if you look hard enough. It’s an ideal location to spot humpback whales migrating south between May and November, and if you’re very lucky you might see a much rarer Southern Right Whale which has been seen along the coast in recent years.
The area is also home to sea and land birds, including a local pair of White Bellied Sea Eagles who frequent the northern end of the bridge. If you have a pair of binoculars, this is an excellent spot for budding twitchers or little pirates who want to catch a glimpse of something exciting in the ocean below.
You can also visit the rock platform via Coalcliff Beach for excellent fossicking fun.
MAKE IT LAST
If you have some adventurers in the fam or your group of mates, you might want to go below the bridge.
A steep rocky path goes down to the area below the bridge. This would be best for older kids and adults. You can access the path towards the north end of the bridge, by the Norfolk Pine trees.
Take care to check the tides first as full tides can bring waves up onto the rocks. The scale and enormity of the bridge are really on show at this level and it’s a great spot to sit and take in the ocean views away from the traffic above.
GOOD TO KNOW
While it might be tempting to scale the cliffs at the south end to get the perfect Instagram shot, it’s not worth the risk. The cliffside is very unstable, particularly after the recent rains and locals know only too well that rescues from this location are not uncommon.
WHY WE LOVE IT
This is such a unique place, historically and geographically, and it’s a firm favourite for filmmakers too with car ads, films and even rock legends using the bridge as a backdrop!
Midnight Oil filmed a version of their Rising Sea single on the Coalcliff rock platform at the end of 2021.
Bring your swimmers!
There is a stunning ocean pool at Coalcliff with a smaller kids’ pool, perfect for all ages. If after all that activity you need some sustenance, then the beautiful newly refurbished Imperial Hotel at Clifton is moments away. With no bookings required, great food and more outstanding views, it is well worth the visit.