Safety in NSW National Parks – it’s beautiful but could be dangerous

I don’t have a car so sometimes I make a day trip to NSW National Park by taking public transport. This is what I learned by visiting different parks and checking news on those areas.

If the NPWS office is open, feel free to visit them. Tell them your plan and they may provide suggestions. Some route may get closed, so check NPWS website or ask the office beforehand. There’s been once that a staff in NPWS office asks me whether it’s okay for me to leave my phone number to them. They also ask the estimated time I am planning to leave the park, as well as other questions. They did call me to make sure I’m fine. After I left the park, I called them to ‘sign off’ so they don’t need to worry for me unnecessarily.

After I left, I check the news on that area and I could understand what makes the staff concerned. Almost every year, people went missing or passed away due to dangerous rock fishing. They also recommend not to wear a grey jacket (something bright instead) on the road for safety reasons (it’s a park in a remote area with no pedestrian path). I feel the staff in NPWS are kind, nice and warm.

Checklist before visiting

  • Plan your route. Some of the national parks have poor mobile phone coverage, so it’s better to have a map (paper or electronic) which works offline. (e.g., MAPS.ME)
  • Check NPWS website for alerts. (eg, route closed, maintenance)
  • Basic timing and navigation device such as watch and traditional compass, just in case if the mobile phone was dead.
  • Check weather on WillyWeather – including wind speed. It’s scary to walk under the tree with strong wind.

Extra things to check for coastline

  • Dangerous coastline does not necessarily have a warning sign.
  • Understand what is rip current. Foreign visitors cannot identify the risk and contributed a large proportion of drowning incident. Don’t be a statistic.
  • Check tide and swell on WillyWeather
    • Tide – what’s the time for high & low tide? is it rising or falling?
    • Swell height – the higher, the rougher
    • Swell period – the longer, the more powerful

Things to aware

  • Some national parks have no street light. I don’t have a car so I always leave before sunset.
  • Plenty of water and food. Running out of water could be risky.
  • Route may get closed, damaged, or ‘too challenging/dangerous to get through’. Make sure you have plenty of time to leave the park by original route before sunset.
  • Ask the local – there’s been once that a local resident told me to beware of brown snakes near Zig Zag Railway.
  • Some roads may not suitable for pedestrians, and it’s not necessary a highway. Walking on the Pacific Highway in Munmorah is scary, but walking on Wards Hill Road from Killcare Heights to Empire Bay is suicidal.
  • If you see a memorial on the coastline, it means someone have passed away there.
  • On some of the coastline environment, Wybong Head, for example, is dangerous on the rock platform. Most people do not come back alive after being washed into the sea in Wybong Head without lifejacket or angel ring. It’s not just about the swimming skill, it’s about staying afloat for hours in cold water, in rough sea, expect someone will see the victim and make a successful call to emergency service under poor mobile phone reception, and expect the rescue service will show up, and lucky enough to locate the victim.
  • It could be hard to climb back to the headland due to the coastline and underwater terrain.
  • Unexpected waves – this happened on the famous Figure 8 Pools

Stuff to bring

  • Compass
  • Watch
  • Phone & power bank – loaded with the offline map
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses & hat
  • Water & Food
  • High visibility vest (for a long walk on the road)
  • Lifejacket (for high-risk coastline)


  • There is a fee for parking the vehicle in national parks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *