Walking Wollongong’s Gibson Track – Illawarra Bushwalk Guide

The iconic Sublime Point Walking Track in Austinmer has long been a local favourite, and one of the best bushwalks in Wollongong and the Illawarra. Unfortunately this beloved walking trail has been closed due to rockslides for what seems like an eternity. But following an extensive upgrade, the lower section of this amazing bushwalk has been re-opened, which means we can once again enjoy the beautiful Gibson Track! This short best Illawarra bushwalk is the perfect way to take a break and reconnect with nature during a busy week. Breathe deeply among the lush rainforests in the foothills of the Illawarra escarpment.

If you’re inspired to explore more of this incredible landscape, check out our round up of the best Illawarra Escarpment Bushwalks.

(Please note – always check first with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service before planning your visit in case of works, closures or maintenance being carried out on any local and regional bushwalks).

The Gibson Track – all you need know to walk it

  • 1.5 km loop
  • Between 45 mins and 1 hour depending on your speed
  • Trailhead off Foothills Rd, Austinmer
  • Difficulty: Moderate (Many stairs, 2 creek crossings, can be slippery when rainy)
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Accessible by public transport

The Gibson Track is a 1.5 kilometre loop that runs through coastal rainforest in the foothills of the escarpment. Not as famous as it’s near vertical cousin The Sublime Point Track, the Gibson Track has always been my go-to for a short immersion into nature when I need to clear my head. The walk is short enough to fit into a busy day and gentle enough to bring along the little ones. Plus, there are always lots of animals to spot!

During the recent upgrade, more than 170 sandstone steps were flown into the walking track site and manually carried onto the track. They have made a huge difference to the safety and comfort of climbing the lower section of the track.

Well positioned sandstone steps make the climb safe and enjoyable

Getting to the Gibson Track

The trailhead of the Gibson Track is just off the cul-du-sac at the end of Foothills Road in Austinmer. There is always plenty of parking in this residential street. Alternatively, it is a 20 minute, 1.1 kilometre walk up the hill from Austinmer Train Station. (And when I say uphill, I really mean it!)

From the end of Foothills Road you can almost see the signage, it’s just a stroll up a dirt road to the right of the cul-du-sac.

The trailhead to the Gibson Track is easy to find

Nature Lookouts whilst hiking the Gibson Track

The recent upgrade makes for a very enjoyable and easy-going beginning to the walk. Raised boardwalks take you over the thick rainforest floor, and the new stairs are soooo much easier to climb than the old wooden ones. Kookaburras will often announce your arrival as you climb deeper into the forest.

The canopy of the rainforest is almost unbroken, and maidenhair fern grows like a carpet in the shade. The moisture loving Cabbage Tree Palms grow in abundance along the trail. Parts of the track remind me of a fairy-land, with dew drops twinkling in the moss.

Above you may hear the calls of black cockatoo and the magical ‘whip’ call of the Lyrebird. Taking a moment to pause (and catch your breath after those damn stairs) and you might hear a bush turkey scampering through the undergrowth.

Luscious Maidenhair Fern grows in abundance along the shady track

At the top of the stairs you come to a junction where the Gibson Track meets the Sublime Point Track. Currently there are signs and barriers showing the closure of the Sublime Point Track, but keep an eye on the National Parks website for updates.

Turn left to follow the Gibson Track through the foothills

Here the trail becomes more narrow, with vegetation close on either side. It’s a beautiful undulating walk through the ferns and palms – but watch out for leeches! The track itself is clay-heavy mud covered with fallen leaves, so can be slippery in wet weather.

Bracken fern crowds the trail in places

Whether sunny or rainy, this section of track delivers some beautiful opportunities to connect to this ancient landscape. Looking up to the mist-shrouded escarpment can really put things in perspective. The sheer size of the gums here is enough to make my problems seem (a least a little bit) smaller!

Looking up to the canopy above on a rainy day

There is a small creek crossing where we often like to stop for a sip of water and sometimes a snack. My kids like to play ‘leaf races’ if the water is running, and the mossy rocks are fun to hop around and explore. A peaceful interlude, aaaand then a leech check.

The little creek crossing is a lovely spot to stop and meditate for a moment, or look for frogs!

After a little more time in the rainforest, the terrain suddenly opens up into a grassy field. On dry days this is a great picnic spot, (watching out for snakes) though with all the rain we’ve had here on the east coast in past years, everything is very overgrown!

The trail cuts through a grassy field

It’s all downhill for the last leg of the Gibson Track…

On the other side of the field and along a bit you’ll come to a fork in the road. Take the path to the left and head downhill.

Turn left here and head downhill

Here the track widens to resemble a road. There is lots of coal-wash here which can make for rocky footing, especially if you don’t have sturdy footwear. The incline is not too steep, but things can still be a little slippery in wet weather. Checking out the steep drop over the side is a little thrill. At the end of this section of track you’ll see another fork. Stick to the wider path on the right here.

Stick to the right and head down to the gate

This last leg of the walk takes you along a dirt road and past a sweet little causeway. This is like an extension of the backyard for lots of locals, so don’t be surprised to run into Old Mate and his cattle dog down here. The Northern Illawarra might be changing, but it still keeps a lot of its oldschool charm.

When the dirt road runs out you’ll find yourself back on Foothills Road. The last part of the loop is actually along this quiet residential street. I know I said I love the Gibson Track for it’s natural beauty – but I find that this gentle stroll down the road is the perfect way to end the bushwalk. And a good time to check for leeches again!

What to bring on the best bushwalk in Wollongong and the Illawarra?

All the usual suspects:

  • Comfortable, protective shoes. This is always sensible advice, but that being said – I’ve walked the Gibson Track both barefoot and in thongs and never had a worry. It’s rocky in places and squelchy with mud in others, I suppose you take your chances.
  • Lightweight layers that you can take off as you warm up are a good idea. Long, loose clothing to protect you from the sun, insects and scratches is the advice often given – though the fit folk who run this trail wear crop tops and bike shorts and seem to enjoy themselves just as much!
  • Hat and sunscreen – though this track is so shady this is less of a concern.
  • Insect repellent – and salt! The leeches here can be sneaky and numerous!
  • Bit of water and maybe a snack if you have little ones. But this track is short and sweet enough not to worry too much with preparedness. Maybe that’s why I like it so much…

Inspired to explore more?

Why not check out our guide to the best bushwalks for kids in Wollongong and the Illawarra…

Or keep exploring the escarpment with our guide to the best Illawarra escarpment bushwalks…

& Water-babies should check out our top picks for bushwalks with a swim at the end!

We offer our gratitude and deep respect to the lands, waters and skies of Dharawal Country. We stand in solidarity with its traditional custodians, the Dharawal and Wodi Wodi people, whose sovereignty was never ceded.

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