Macquarie Pass National Park

Macquarie Pass National Park is part of the Illawarra escarpment south of Sydney. It contains a diverse range of habitats and wildlife including several rare and threatened plant and animal species. The steep sandstone ridges and gullies are topped by cliffs, and the park supports heathland, woodland, tall open forest and significant rainforest areas. It is an excellent bushwalking and picnicking area, with spectacular scenery and waterfalls.


Getting there

This park is near...
Sydney (115 km)


Best access routes
Macquarie Pass National Park is 115 kilometres south-west of Sydney, seven kilometres east of Robertson in the Southern Highlands and five kilometres west of Albion Park on the South Coast. The winding Macquarie Pass section of the Illawarra Highway bisects the park. You can also reach the park from Mount Murray railway station, on the Moss Vale to Unanderra line.


Facilities & things to do


Walking tracks


The two kilometre return Cascades Walk starts at the carpark on the northern side of the Illawarra Highway at the foot of Macquarie Pass. It follows the creek for about one kilometre to the Cascades where the water falls 20 metres. It is a delightful easy walk on a fine day and features signs along the way providing information about the park.


For a longer walk, about six kilometres return, try the Clover Hill Road, an old logging trail leading to Rainbow Falls and three smaller falls upstream on the Macquarie Rivulet. This track, unlike the Cascades Walk, is overgrown in places and is only recommended for experienced bushwalkers equipped with a compass.


The Glenview Track leads off Glenview Road, a left-hand turn-off in the middle section of Macquarie Pass when descending. This track is open to walkers only and has several branches which give you the chance to explore other parts of the tall open forest. It crosses a creek that plunges over the Cascades, and you return the way you came.


Picnics and barbecues


A picnic area is provided at the foot of Macquarie Pass on the northern side of the road. There are barbecues at the Cascades and Rivulet picnic areas, which are on opposite sides of the Illawarra highway.




The sheer cliffs and waterfalls of the escarpment provide spectacular scenery. There are panoramic views from a number of locations.


Other attractions


Management tracks in Macquarie Pass are suitable for bicycle riding.


Natural environment

The escarpment rises from the coastal plain to over 600 metres above sea level, and cliffs reach over 100 metres. Much of the Macquarie Pass area is regenerating after past clearing by logging and farming operations. The extensive areas of tall open forest, in particular, are largely products of regeneration. A large clearing remains in the Clover Hill area. The principal stream through the park is the Macquarie Rivulet. This rises on the plateau outside the south-west boundary of the park, negotiates waterfalls and rapids within the park and leaves via gentler flats at the boundary to the east.


Native plants


The park's vegetation consists mainly of open eucalypt forest with areas of woodland and shrub. There is evidence of regeneration of the prized red cedar trees. Macquarie Pass contains considerable areas of cool temperate, warm temperate and subtropical rainforest along the escarpment. Together with Illawarra Escarpment State Recreation Area, it protects examples of the once-extensive rainforests of the Illawarra area. Stands in the park are important as most of the Illawarra's subtropical rainforest has been cleared. A number of threatened or regionally rare plants occur here, many of which are ferns and other species occurring in wet sheltered sites.


Native animals


Macquarie Pass National Park supports a large number of native animal species, including a high proportion of threatened or uncommon species. The area is of regional significance for conservation of the tiger quoll and long-nosed potoroo. The park has a population of the blotched blue tongue lizard, a species which normally occurs on the Southern Highlands and south into Victoria and Tasmania. The rainforests are the most southerly stronghold for a number of native birds that depend upon rainforest fruit for their diet, including the topknot pigeon, yellow-throated scrubwren, green catbird, logrunner, white-headed pigeon and emerald dove.


Swamp wallabies, wombats, bandicoots, lyrebirds, satin bowerbirds, crimson rosellas and grey thrushes are found within the park. Some small native fish and eels live in the creeks, and you might see some of the many reptiles during the warmer months, when they are more active.


The park landscape: geology and landforms


Most of Macquarie Pass National Park is located on the Hawkesbury sandstone Illawarra escarpment and is part of the Sydney-Bowen Basin. Under the sandstone cliffs are seams of Illawarra coal and laterite, and under the lower sections of the park are strata formed by volcanic activity 230–280 million years ago.


Culture & history


Aboriginal heritage
At the time of European exploration the area of the parks was used by the Wodiwodi tribal group who moved seasonally between the coast and the highlands to obtain food. Within a short period only remnants of the original inhabitants were to be found. A number of Aboriginal sites have been recorded, consisting of artefact scatters, rock shelters with occupation deposits and art, and axe grinding grooves.


The land and waterways, and the plants and animals that live in them, feature in all facets of Aboriginal culture – including recreational, ceremonial, spiritual and as a main source of food and medicine. They are associated with dreaming stories and cultural learning that is still passed on today. We work with local Aboriginal communities to protect this rich heritage.


To find out more about Aboriginal heritage in the park, you can get in touch with the local Aboriginal community. Contact the park office for more details.

History in the park
Historic places in the park include a number of tracks, buildings and other structures that illustrate the history of the local area from European exploration and settlement. Nurrewin is a substantial sandstone residence that demonstrates changing land use on the escarpment through the 19th and 20th centuries. The earliest Europeans to visit the area were cedar cutters in the escarpment forests during the early 1800s. Most of the cedar had been removed by 1850. Cedar cutting played a major role in the early development of the district and remaining cedar trees are therefore of cultural interest. Removal of hardwood timber continued on parts of the escarpment until the 1960s. Old roads, remains of cables and other features are reminders of former timber cutting. There are many piles of stone in the Macquarie Pass area from past track formation and paddock clearing.
Road quality: paved


Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of  The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service



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