The Sea Cliff Bridge lookout located in Clifton, Illawarra just south of Sydney, remained a fairly well-kept secret until it exploded on social media in 2020. Prior to this the lookout was relatively unknown to tourists and you may have encountered maybe only one or two other people on the hike up to the secret lookout. Now however it has become an increasingly popular place to go to get that ‘Instagram shot’ and during my time there I probably came across thirty people.
Despite it becoming more well-known now you still must exercise extreme caution when you are here. This is an unofficial lookout and rock fall and mud slides are extremely common. Several people each year die here at the lookout because the earth beneath them literally crumbles and they fall to their death, so you go at your own risk. Read on for all the information you need for a safe and enjoyable time at the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout.
If you don’t want to read the full article, or additionally want to watch a video of how to get to the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout, watch the video below!
What is the Sea Cliff Bridge?
The Sea Cliff Bridge is a suspended bridge on the Lawrence Hargrave Drive which makes up part of the Grand Pacific Drive. The Grand Pacific Drive is one of the most scenic roads in Australia and connects Wollongong to Sydney. Sea Cliff Bridge was built in 2005 in response to the unsafe conditions that the previous road was subjected to. Rock falls and mud slides would often happen, meaning road closures and road blocks were frequent – sometimes even the road would be closed for several months at a time! So Sea Cliff Bridge was built to prevent these problems occurring.
Sea Cliff Bridge is 665 metres long and meanders along the coast line next to the cliffs in a serpentine shape. Many people choose to walk across the bridge (there is a pedestrianised pathway on the side of the bridge closest to the ocean) or simply just drive across, but to really appreciate the beauty of the bridge you need to see it from above. At the ‘secret’ lookout you can get perfect aerial views of Sea Cliff Bridge winding around the cliffs and you don’t even need a drone to get these shots! These are really some of the best views in the entire Illawarra/Woolongong region. Plus it is only a 10 minute hike!
Where is the Sea Cliff Bridge?
The Sea Cliff Bridge is located about 70km south of Sydney CBD and 20km north of Woolongong, between the villages of Clifton and Coalcliff. It lies not far past Royal National Park, which is Australia’s oldest National Park and the second oldest National Park in the world (after Yellowstone in the USA)!
There is so much luxury accomodation near to Sea Cliff Bridge and you can really make a weekend out of it by visiting The Royal National Park, Stanwell Tops and Sea Cliff Bridge lookout. Check out the amazing hotel options on Booking.com that I definitely recommend, as well as the airbnb options below:
How to get to Sea Cliff Bridge Lookout:
You will find the Google maps location of the Sea Cliff Bridge Lookout here.
Please note if you ask the locals for directions to the lookout most of them will not tell you where it is and will often advise against going as it isn’t deemed safe. Therefore it is important to know what you are looking for before you set off.
If you are driving:
Sea Cliff Bridge is located 1.5 hours drive south of Sydney.
The lookout is located on the southern end of Sea Cliff Bridge, so if you are coming from Sydney you’ll get to drive all the way across the bridge before you get to the entrance to the lookout. As you come to the end of the bridge you’ll see signs for parking. There is a lay-by on the right where you’ll often see a couple of cars parked. However it can be a bit dangerous to pull over here (plus when I went the cars parked here had parking tickets on them!) but just 100 metres past this you’ll see designated roadside parking for about 15 cars on your left (the side nearest to the ocean). The road bends to the right so just be careful when crossing the road or pulling out.
This is the most convenient place to park as it is very close to the entrance of the lookout. If all these spots are full, further along about 300 metres down the road you’ll find a larger car park on your right by the Clifton School of Arts.
If you are driving north from Wollongong, Sea Cliff Bridge is about a 40 minute drive.
Whilst most people prefer to drive to Sea Cliff Bridge, it is also very easy to get here by public transport. The nearest train station to the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout is Scarborough.
If coming from Sydney, get the train from Central or Town Hall. You’ll want to get on the South Coast Line, heading in the direction of Kiama. Make sure the train stops at Scarborough as some trains miss this station out. Sometimes you can even get the train straight from Bondi Junction to Scarborough, just check the timetable before. From Sydney the train takes about 1 hour 20 minutes to Scarborough.
Beware that trains are not very frequent and run roughly once an hour. if you come on a Sunday however trains are EVERY 2 HOURS so it is imperative you check beforehand so you don’t waste lots of time waiting! You can find the train timetable here!
You can use your Opal card on this route. Off-peak the journey will cost you less than $4, during peak times it can cost around $7-8.
When you get off the train at Scarborough Station, cross over the bridge to your left and you’ll be on the main road. Walk left down the main road for about 25 minutes. It is one straight road (flat/slightly downhill walk) to the start of the Sea Cliff Bridge.
Alternatively you can get off at the stop earlier – Coalcliff, but it is an almost 1 hour walk to get to the entrance of the lookout from here. If you get off at Coalcliff you will walk along the whole of the Sea Cliff Bridge, whereas if you get off at Scarborough you will be nearer to the entrance of the lookout and won’t actually walk across the bridge much. You could always get off at one station and then get the train back from the other so you can experience walking along the bridge!
Where to find the entrance for the secret Sea Cliff Bridge Lookout?
The entrance for the walk to the lookout is not sign posted at all. The most important thing you need to look out for is the ‘Sea Cliff Bridge’ sign located on the southern end of Sea Cliff Bridge, on the side closest to the mountain (see above left picture). It is located just infront of a lay-by where a couple of cars are often parked. If you are going northbound (eg: driving from Wollongong or walking from Scarborough Train Station), you’ll see the sign easily as it will be in the direction you’re going, just before you get on to the bridge.
If you’re going southbound (eg: driving from Sydney or walking from Coalcliff train station), you won’t see the sign until you go past and look back. You’ll probably see a couple of cars parked first on your right though, which are actually parked right next to the sign. Try to park in the designated parking spaces on the left about 100 metres down on the ocean side – from here you’ll just need to cross the road to where the other cars are parked (be careful as the road is on a bend!) and you’ll see the ‘Sea Cliff Bridge’ sign.
Next to the ‘Sea Cliff Bridge’ sign you’ll see enough space for a couple of cars to park, and then you’ll see a clearing in the bushes. Yes this is the entrance to the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout! No sign, nothing – just a hole in the bushes. You might be a bit creeped out at first as you go through the bushes, but the view is definitely worth it!
How to get up to the Sea Cliff Bridge Lookout
Once you are inside the bushes you’ll want to head up and right on the dirt track for the majority of the walk. Look out for the yellow marks someone has kindly painted on the trees – these will lead the way and keep you on track. Don’t worry if you don’t spot them though, as it isn’t too difficult to find the way as the path has been well trodden. There are a couple of different routes you can take but all lead the same way, so long as the majority of the time you are bearing right and going uphill. Note you will need to scramble to get up to the top as the path is quite steep! Luckily there are lots of trees you can hold onto to help you up, and also in some parts some very kind person has attached large black hoses onto trees which you can use to help pull yourself up.
How long is the walk up to the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout?
Surprisingly the hike up to the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout is very short – 10 minutes if that! You probably won’t believe it when you see pictures of how far up the viewpoint is, but it genuinely will take most people 10 minutes or less to climb. The walk up is of course though, quite steep.
Where is the best place to take pictures at the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout?
Once you emerge from the bushes you’ll see a tree with blue graffiti on and you’ll hear the ocean on your right below you. Follow the path to the right and you’ll see three or four viewpoint areas where you can take some really beautiful photographs. Please please be very careful as the ground can be very loose. Don’t go too near the edge – many people have lost their lives this way.
What should I bring on the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout walk?
- DEFINITELY wear trainers or hiking shoes. I am always one for hiking in flip-flops (or ‘thongs’ as the Aussies call them), but this is absolutely a walk you don’t want to be wearing them for. You really need sturdy shoes on this walk.
- If you will be bringing a bag (ie: you came on public transport and can’t leave your bag in the car), try to bring a backpack. If you have a handbag or a shoulder bag it will most likely get in the way (there will be points where you have to use your hands to climb up), so a backpack is just much easier.
- Bring water, especially on a warm day.
- At some points on the way down where the path is quite steep you might have to shuffle down on your bum, so probably best not to wear your favourite white dress.
Should you bring children to the Sea Cliff Bridge Lookout?
I absolutely would NOT advise bringing children up to the Sea Cliff Bridge Lookout. Not only is the viewpoint very hazardous but it is quite a steep climb. Surprisingly I did see a couple of families as I was completing the walk, and the children were quite nervous especially heading back down the mountain as it is very steep.
How much does it cost to visit the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout?
The lookout in unmanned (remember it is an unofficial lookout) and is free to visit.
What time of day is best to view the Sea Cliff Bridge from the lookout?
Mornings until mid-afternoon are a good time to go to the Sea Cliff Bridge lookout as you’ll get sunlight in your pictures. Any later than mid-afternoon and the sun goes behind the mountains in the west. The pictures will still look good though, so don’t worry if this is the only time you can visit. There are no gates here or anything so technically it is open 24 hours a day. However just be really careful to not be here when it is raining or has recently rained as the land will be incredibly muddy and slippery. Also make sure you are not here if it will get dark soon. The path down will be incredibly tough if you can’t see – you definitely don’t want to be doing this walk after hours. Plus the sun sets behind the mountains so you won’t be able to see the sunset from here.
Other nearby places to visit:
If you will be doing a road trip or having a weekend away, you can combine seeing the Sea Cliff Bridge with several other beautiful places.
Royal National Park is just north of Sea Cliff Bridge and has some really lovely spots, in particular the Figure 8 Pools.
Heading further south past Sea Cliff Bridge you can visit the city of Wollongong. Further south still you can head to the quaint seaside town of Kiama, famous for it’s blow hole and rock pool. I managed to see all these places within two days so it is totally possible to see them all on a weekend away or a couple of day trips from Sydney.
If you will be continuing your journey down south instead of heading back up to Sydney you can head to Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay after Kiama.
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