The suburb hidden deep within a national park

Royal National Park 23 February 2006. Photo by Andrew Meares asm smh news SPECIALX 2222

Royal National Park 23 February 2006. Photo by Andrew Meares asm smh news SPECIALX 2222

It shares a postcode with bustling Cronulla but the mysterious community of Bundeena feels far removed from its well-known neighbour.

Surrounded on three sides by the Royal National Park and bordered to the north by Port Hacking estuary, Bundeena is the only mainland suburb in Greater Sydney that does not directly adjoin another suburb.

A white settler laid claim to the area, which is located due south of Cronulla on the other side of the estuary, in the 1830s. When premier John Robertson created the Royal National Park all around it in 1879, the settlement was effectively frozen in place.

Today, it's home to a rag-tag group of about 2000 people who have chosen nature and serenity over the inner-city buzz. There's a small supermarket and a doctor's office and Bundeena residents commute to work along a winding road through the national park or catch the hourly ferry across the estuary to Cronulla.

"The population is quite diverse," says Wendy Hewitt of Century 21 Beachside.

"We have people who have lived here for a long time and raised their families here. Then we have their children starting to buy Bundeena properties because they love the area as well."

She adds: "We're also getting an influx of professional people. They're coming from the city and are looking for a healthier lifestyle. Maybe they've started raising children, or they can work remotely."

There's also a small but growing group of wealthy buyers picking up second homes in Bundeena.

"People want to have a holiday home here because they will actually use it," says Hewitt. "If they're living in the eastern suburbs or the inner west, they can be here on a Friday afternoon without having a long drive. When they get here, it's like they're on holiday."

Business analyst Joe Heady and his partner, a creative director, moved from the CBD to Bundeena this week after impulsively purchasing a house near the water.

"We weren't planning to buy anything just yet, but we love it here," Headey says.

"It was an opportunity to buy a house with a garden but not be too far from work. The city is on the doorstep if you want it, but there's a small-town feel, which is quite rare around Sydney."

Both Headey and his partner say they will spend about an hour commuting in each direction to their jobs.

Price was also a key consideration for the couple: large family homes with water views in Bundeena can still be purchased for under $1 million. "A similar house in Cronulla would be double the price," says Hewitt.

Retiree Lynda Mulder, who worked in the fashion industry, and her husband, a former engineer, have owned a series of properties in Bundeena over the past 30 years. At the time they retired, the couple also owned properties in Darlinghurst and on the lower north shore. But they chose to consolidate in Bundeena.

"We could have gone wherever we wanted, but we just love the place," says Mulder. "It's so close to the city but you feel so far away. It's like being in Queensland."

For Mulder, it's Bundeena's tight-knit feel that appeals most. "There's a very small primary school here and children love going to it because it's so personal," she says. "All the teachers know all the kids' names, they know the parents."

The quiet is another plus. "In Darlinghurst, unless you wear earplugs you can hardly get to sleep at night with the sirens and the traffic and the screaming and the yelling and the God knows what."

Living in Bundeena isn't completely trouble-free. "It's essential, really, that you have a car," Mulder says.

She adds: "And more and more tourists are coming to the area to do some of our beautiful walks through the park. We haven't got enough parking spaces and public toilets for when we get the thousands of tourists coming on Australia Day and at Christmas. I think a lot of the residents in certain streets are finding it a bit bothersome."

But Hewitt points out that council zoning means Bundeena will never have buildings higher than two storeys. "It's not like other Shire suburbs where you've had this rampant development," she says.

"Wherever you want to go in Sydney, there's traffic. But people come to Bundeena and say, 'This is heaven.'"

This article has been amended since publication.

This story The suburb hidden deep within a national park first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.