Summary: Duffys Wharf Track and the Slades Trail can be combined into a loop; a fantastic little hike that descends to Duffys Wharf on Cowan Creek and back up to Slades Lookout.

Starting at the end of Booralie Road and marked by a rusty gate, I’m not feeling too upbeat about the Duffys Wharf track – especially after the very uninspiring Duckholes Trail a few days earlier. Still, there’s no-one around, meeting my objective of exploring some less-frequented walks in the area.

I head down the Slades Trail, and after 100m veer right onto the Duffys Wharf Track. It’s very pleasant walking, with ferns, grass trees and eucalypts along the trail, and a small stream running alongside. There’s even the occasional cascade along the trail.   

I’m beginning to enjoy this trail, as it descends gently to Cowan Creek.

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After about a kilometre, the Duffys Wharf Track narrows from a firetrail to a bushwalking track. It crosses a small stream, which joins the main creek running down the left-hand side of the track.

A bit further down, just after a metal sign explaining the history of Duffys Wharf, the track crosses to the other side of the creek via a series of sandstone blocks.

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The sandstone blocks continue past a section of mangroves – the ground is dry but it’s getting close to low tide. Then, almost magically, Cowan Creek comes into view. There’s been not even a glimpse of Cowan Creek, until you go round the last corner to be greeted by an expanse of water.

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On the opposite side of Cowan Creek is the Warrimoo Track, which goes from North St Ives to Bobbin Head. Duffys Wharf, constructed in the mid 1850s by Peter Duffy to load timber, is about one kilometre upstream from Bobbin Head.

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The wharf was also known as Sledgehammer Inlet because of its shape. Today, there are only a few rocks remaining from the old wharf.

What is still visible are thousands of crushed shells; the grassy hill above the rocks is  a giant Aboriginal midden.

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There are now a few people who seem to be locals gathering below me, so rather than returning the same way, I figure I can probably just head directly up the spur to the lookout. There’s not much undergrowth, and my map doesn’t show any cliffs (although you’d generally expect a lookout to be on the edge of a cliff!). Unlike the trail down where there was never a view of Cowan Creek, there are filtered views of the water below.

I’m taking a pretty direct line up the spur to Slades Lookout; the only potential obstacle as I near the lookout is large sandstone outcrop. It proves fairly easy to clamber up.

Slades Lookout is at the top of the sandstone rocks – it was named after William Hermon Slade, a second-generation Australian who was born in Sydney in 1879 and served on the Ku-ring-gai Chase Trust from 1933 to 1949. There is a very distinct engraving of a bird (an emu, goose or large waterfowl) right at the edge of the rock platform, which has been considered a fake as it seems to have been cut by a metal tool [Sydney Rock Art].

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Almost directly underneath the emu/waterfowl is a less obvious engraving of a lizard.

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The views from the lookout aren’t great, but you get a glimpse of the Bobbin Head marina on Cowan Creek.

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From the lookout, it’s only about a 15 minute walk back to the road, via Slades Trail (a firetrail) and Duffys Wharf Track. It’s been a great little walk – much more interesting and varied than I expected!

0.0km End of Booralie Road (166m asl)
1.5km Duffys Wharf (5m)
2.2km Slades Lookout (170m)
2.8km End of Booralie Road

More information on Duffys Wharf Track and Slades Trail

To form a loop as described, there is a short off-track section up the ridge (from Duffys Wharf to Slades Lookout). If you’re comfortable navigating off-track, return the same way via the Duffys Wharf Track, and take Slades Trail to the lookout.

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