There are few cities in the world like Sydney which can boast of having natural waterfalls within their boundaries. Sydney once has hundreds throughout what is now its suburban area but residential development has caused many of them to disappear.
Those which remain, though not of the scale and grandeur of the world’s more spectacular falls like Victoria and Niagara, add a touch of natural beauty to the city and are a picturesque reminder of what the Sydney area used to be like. Strange as it may seem, there is a general lack of awareness and appreciation of Sydney’s waterfalls. The failure or inability of the relevant authorities to provide ease of access to locations which provide the best aspects for viewing and photography, including the valleys into which the larger ones fall, is the major reason for the city’s waterfalls having become Sydney’s most forgotten natural treasures.
Sydney Harbour, Pittwater, Broken Bay, Georges River and Port Hacking are made up of hundreds of bays and inlets formed when the sandstone escarpments of the area were drowned at the time the ice age receded. Into these drowned river valleys flow the Parramatta, Nepean-Hawkesbury, Georges and Woronora Rivers and hundreds of small creeks and tributaries. They often descend from the flat topped ridges and plateaux into the valleys and gullies in a series of pools inter-connected by races, rapids, and waterfalls.
These picturesque watercourses are most common in areas where Hawkesbury Sandstone is predominant, the rainwater runoff having carved gullies and valleys into the softer blocks of the stone over the centuries. This occurs in a belt along the Hawkesbury River from around Brooklyn to the coast, encompassing Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, then south along the northern beaches coastline and west along Sydney Harbour’s northern shores. Royal National Park in Sydney’s south covers part of another large area of Hawkesbury Sandstone which extends northwards to and along the shores of the Hacking, Georges and Woronora Rivers. Between these two large expanses is a narrow coastal strip extending from Coogee to South Head. It is in these three areas that most of the beautiful, picturesque waterfalls and rapids in the Sydney region can be found.
Whilst by no means all of them, those described here are the most accessible. Visiting the more remote falls should not be attempted unless you are fit and agile. The wearing of sturdy footwear is recommended. Be prepared to ford watercourses.
As might be expected, all waterfalls in the Sydney region are at their best after heavy rain, in fact some don’t even flow at other times due to the alteration of drainage patterns through urbanisation. If visiting the more remote waterfalls after rain, be prepared for the soil underfoot to be muddy and slippery, especially if you have to leave a well worn track. Even if you stay on a path, be prepared for sections to have been washed away after a heavy downpour. Everything – the soil, the undergrowth, the trees above – will be wet and slippery.