Family Days Out - Bushwalking With Kids - Karoo Pools (over age six recommended due to cliff edges and some rock scrambling)
Location: Karoo Pools, Royal National Park. 'It’s hard to believe that something so picture book perfect is less than an hour from our doorstep'
Quick tips for anyone considering this walk!
- 2 hour return walk, but allow extra time for swim and picnic on top of that
- We passed about 50 walkers making their way down to the pool as we were returning, so if you are thinking of going, make the most of the morning and
- Take plenty of water, sunscreen, hats, picnic and snacks
- Check the weather before you go, the track can get boggy
- Use the toilets at Heathcote station before you start the walk, even if you don’t need to
- Take a towel!
The 3 kids are up at the crack of dawn, the bickering has started, it’s the weekend and all hopes of a lay in and a quiet cuppa are dashed... Luckily, we live on the doorstep to one of the best national parks the state has to offer. We choose Karoo Pools for our adventure this time and I strongly recommend it.
What to Take
We rushed around to get ready and made a quick pit stop to the supermarket for supplies and we were off. Loaded down with enough water to cross a desert, snacks, sunscreen and our best walking shoes, we started out on the 40-minute drive from Wollongong to the Karloo Pool Track. We of course forgot towels, we didn’t think we’d need them. Surely the kids won’t want to swim in freezing water and they are fearful of swimming holes and what lurks beneath. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
How to Get There
From our home in Thirroul we headed north on the freeway, turned right at McDonalds in Heathcote and parked at the train station. The track starts across the road from the station. We started the GPS tracker so we could track our steps, pace and distance. Our biggest mistake at this point was not making use of the bathroom facilities at Heathcote station. It would be hours before we would get the chance again.
I’m not Australian and regard Australia flora and fauna with awe and fear. Everything can kill you, right? Brushing past ferns and small palms at the beginning of the track had me worried about all sorts of nasties, then I walked through a spider web and was ready to run back to the safety of the car. After many attempts by my husband to convince me that nothing was crawling on me, he decided it was better that he take the lead and I bravely let him, and the kids, go ahead of me. Someone needs to bring up the rear and make sure the kids are ok, don’t they?
The fear quickly dissipated to awe as the track continued and I relaxed into the awesome walk ahead. Strategically placed logs and natural stone steps along the path helps make the descent to the pools easier. The walk is beautiful. There are enough challenges to keep the kids engaged and get the heart pumping. The rock formations are interesting and were given nicknames by the kids. Hamburger Rock, Scary Bear Cave and Slippery Dip to name a few.
The ground underfoot was stable, but the rocks you have to clamber over are covered in fine sand, so your feet can disappear out from under you if you’re not careful. There had been no rain for nearly two weeks, but we came across plenty of puddles and part of the track was squishy wet clay. Easy to avoid if you keep your eyes peeled.
There are some cliff edges to navigate along the way, but thankfully they are easy to get passed without getting in trouble. After about 50 minutes, the chorus of “are we nearly there yet” started, I give the kids credit for getting that far before asking. The GPS tracker showed me we had already gone 2.3ks, so the kids were re-energised and started to pick up the pace. The descent towards the end of the track get steeper, but we all managed well and enjoyed scrambling over rocks and sliding down on our bums.
We stopped for a moment and could hear running water, walked around the corner and found we had arrived at the pools. We came out of the bush into an amazing rock plateau. Karloo Pool The sight that greeted us made the walk worthwhile. As we crossed a small stream to the main part of the plateau, we came across the main part of the pool. It is breathtakingly beautiful. A rock pool surrounded by hills, tall trees and towering rock formations. The water is crystal clear and you can see all the way to the bottom.
It’s hard to believe that something so picture book perfect is less than an hour from our doorstep. We found a spot of the rocks, took of our shoes and made our way out to a rock platform to dip our toes. To say the water was cold was an understatement! One the kids claimed to have a foot brain freeze! It was the perfect antidote for tired feet after a long walk. I was sitting on the rocks as my kids explored the stream and raced leaf boats over the mini waterfall that trickles into the pool and looked over to my husband who was perched ready to dive in the pool.
No way, I thought, it’s too cold, but in he went and we all laughed at the expletive laden shout as he resurfaced. It was cold, apparently. Tentatively the kids made their way out to the rock platform, shed their t-shirts and bravely jumped into the cold water. I laughed and cheered as they splashed happily. No way are you getting me in the water, I said at the start, but I was secretly a bit miffed that I had no swimmers, as I really wanted to jump in too. Had there not been other people around, I would have stripped to my undies and gone in. The temptation to dive in was too great for my family, despite not having towels or a change of clothes, they just couldn’t resist. Wet shorts would certainly make the climb back up the track interesting.
I am thankful we left so early and made it down to the pool by 9:30am, as by 11am the place was filling up with other walkers and we started to feel crowded in paradise. The kids had finished swimming, picnic eaten and were refreshed and ready to go home. Now to get 3 wet kids and hubby back up the track. Have you ever tried climbing in wet clothes? It turns out to be quite hard. The first part of the return trip was quite tough, lots of climbing up small rocks and tree roots and avoiding other walkers making their way down to the pool. The kids shorts were still damp at this point, so my husband and I had to help lift and pull them along. Thankfully, they were wearing boardies, so they dried out along the way.
The hill starts to level out the further we went and the walk uphill felt easier, either that or the endorphins have kicked in and have given us all a boost. We got a march on and made it back quicker than it took to get done. 53minutes to get back to the start and 218m elevation according to my trusty GPS tracker.
With days out like this so easily accessible, how can you not love living in the Illawarra!?