History of the Royal National Park
The Sydney Royal National Park is a protected national park that is located in the region bordering the Sutherland Shire and the northern Illawarra, 29 kilometers south of the city of Sydney.
The park was founded by Sir John Robertson and officially proclaimed on April 26th, 1879, making it only the second ever national park in the world, after California’s Yellowstone. It was the first ever national park to feature the words ‘National Park’ in its name.
When the park first opened in 1879, early developers chose to replace the terrain of mudflats and mangroves with exotic trees and grassed parkland. This development took many years. Early on, the park was also largely inaccessible to the public, so a railway line diverting from Loftus on the Illawarra line was constructed to convey passengers. Later on, this railway line was discontinued and a tram museum was established at Loftus; the former train line now being serviced by vintage trams which once operated the Sydney network.
The Royal National Park features three settlements; Audley, Bundeena and Maianbar. The towns of Bundeena and Maianbar existed prior to the park’s establishment, while Audley was established in around 1900 to act as a service for visitors to the national park. It serves solely this purpose, and is not a populated suburb, unlike its larger counterparts Bundeena and Maianbar.
The national park was visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 during her Australian visit, and adopted the name ‘Royal National Park’ upon her visit that year.
In 1975, a walking track known as the Wallamurra Track was constructed to assist in environmental education needs and as a supplement to the park’s walking tracks. The venue is a popular destination for school excursions and other groups concerned with environmental education.
Bushfires have occurred at the Royal National Park several times in its history. Notable occurrences have included fires in 1939, 1994 and the 2001 Black Christmas bushfires. Despite this, the park’s bushland has regenerated well and as of 2008 there remains little evidence of such fires having ever taken place.