The park is bounded on the north by Port Hacking and on the west by the railway line to the south, while to the east are 21km of surfing beaches and an almost unspoiled cliff-fringed coast. The Hacking River flows through almost the whole length of the park, a sandstone plateau with a covering of heathland and deeply indented valleys.
On the upper course of the river there are still patches of forest. In spring the park is carpeted with flowers.
Before the arrival of European settlers the area was occupied by the Dharawal tribe, who have left rock drawings as evidence of their presence. The area was declared a nature reserve in 1879 and was renamed the Royal National Park in 1955 on the occasion of a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. The felling of timber ceased in 1922.
There are walking trails from all railway stations (Royal Park, Loftus, Engadine, Heathcote, Helensburgh, Lilyvale, Otford, Waterfall). Ferry service over Port Hacking between Cronulla and Bundeena.
The Royal National Park was devastated at the turn of the year 1993-4 by one of the worst bush fires in the history of Australia and almost completely destroyed; but only a few months afterwards there was evidence that Australian bush vegetation had in the course of centuries adapted to the frequent fires. Grasses whose seeds had been hidden in the earth grew again; plants and shrubs sprouted again, in striking contrast to the lunar landscape around them; and trees budded as if there had never been a fire.
The park has remained open during the period of regeneration, and the facilities for visitors are being steadily re-established.
Campsite at Bonnie Vale and to the northeast, bush camping with permit is allowed. There are good roads through the park, with picnic spots and viewpoints. Good facilities for water sports (fishing, boat hire) and walking.
There is a visitor center at Audley, with exhibitions and rest area.