It’s possible to do a bushwalk along the length of Middle Harbour Creek, in Sydney’s north, from St Ives to Forestville. This Middle Harbour Creek circuit covers most of Middle Harbour Creek’s length, combining multiple bushwalking tracks to form a loop. The bushwalk that goes up one side of the creek, and back on the other. There are many places you can start the bushwalk; I’m doing the loop from St Ives at the Founders Way, where the Pipeline Track (a maintenance trail) which follows a water pipeline down to Middle Harbour Creek.
After a short distance I leave the wide maintenance road, turning left onto the Bungaroo Track. (Bungaroo is thought to be an Aboriginal name for either Salt Water Turtle or ‘running water’.) The narrow bushwalking trail is generally fairly quiet, as it descends into the valley to Middle Harbour Creek.
Once the Bungaroo Track reaches Middle Harbour Creek, I turn left and head upstream. A rough trail follows the creek close to the bank, before reaching the Stepping Stones; as well as providing a means to cross Middle Harbour Creek, this crossing is the tidal limit of Middle Harbour Creek and the place where Governor Arthur Phillip camped in 1788. Upstream from here is Maddle Harbour Creek, and downstream is Middle Harbour.
On the other side of the narrow creek the Middle Harbour Track heads further upstream, and the Governor Phillip Walk goes downstream. I take the Governor Phillip Walk which follows the water quite closely, passing some small cascades and a large rock overhang, before reaching the junction with the Davidson Track. (The Davidson Track, aka Pipeline Track, follows the water pipeline up to Frenchs Forest.)
The Governor Phillip Walk is easy and pleasant walking, with a couple of lookouts over Middle Harbour. The waterway is getting a bit wider, and there are a few kayaks on the water (you can get up to the Stepping Stones in a kayak at high tide). There’s also a few sandy beaches, although the water quality isn’t great and I’d be reluctant to swim here, especially after rain.
There’s a small diversion up and across Carroll Creek, which also has a series of stepping stones to cross the shallow creek.
From the other side of Carroll Creek, the trail becomes the Lyre Bird Track as it retraces the other side of Carroll Creek back to Middle Harbour Creek. It continues along Middle Harbour Creek, with the forest changing from eucalypts to more open casuarina trees.
As it reaches the Forestville Bend, the Lyre Bird Track becomes a wide service road (closed to traffic). The “creek” is now a lot wider here then where I crossed it using a few stepping stones less than two hours ago. It’s also a lot busier along this section, with many people doing the very easy walk from the end of Davidson Park along the river.
The Lyre Bird Track ends at Davidson Reserve, a park and picnic area that stretches along Middle Harbour. At the end is Roseville Bridge, which is where I’ll cross the creek/river to return on the opposite side.
From Roseville Bridge there’s a view back over Davidson Reserve, and of the grey mangroves (the most common mangrove found within intertidal zones across Australia) which grow in estuaries that have a mix of fresh and salt water.
There’s no signage on the other side of the bridge, but an indistinct track under the bridge (near the middle) goes down to the Two Creeks Track. The start of the track is quite damp and ferny, with a sign marking Marjorie’s Glen. There are no records of who “Marjorie” was, which is perhaps fortunate as the creek is now infested with weeds and a sign warns of pollution after rain. If I was Majorie I would probably want a different spot to be named after me.
The Two Creeks Track follows Middle Harbour Creek quite closely, through mostly eucalypt forest. There’s a small diversion to cross Moores Creek, which is also the junction with the Little Diggers Track that goes up to Roseville. Access tracks to Ormonde Road and Wellington Road provide acces to this fairly busy and popular section of the walk.
After the access track to Ormonde Road, the Two Creeks Track gets a bit rougher as it climbs above Middle Harbour Creek and heads inland to cross Gordon Creek. There’s no longer a bridge over Gordon Creek (a timber bridge, built in the 1920s, was demolished in 2008 after becoming unsafe). Just after the site of the old bridge and sewer pipe that runs across Gordon Creek, there’s a junction with the Gordon Creek Track. The Gordon Creek Track descends to Gordon Creek, which it crosses by way of sandstone stepping stones.
On the other side of Gordon Creek there’s a wide trail up to Barrie Street in East Killara… and a bushwalking track that I take, which continues down Gordon Creek and then along Middle Harbour Creek. The track is narrow and a bit overgrown, but fairly distinct. Although I manage to take a slightly wrong turn that results in me losing the trail, and bushbashing a little with the help of my GPS map to get back on track. Last time I was here (less than two months ago) doing the much shorter Barrie Street loop, there was lots of fallen trees. Since then new tracks have been formed by bushwalkers around these obstacles, and progress is a bit quicker.
Just before reaching Lockley Point and an access track up to Koola Avenue (East Killara), there’s a nice grotto with a small cascade formed by Northern Creek.
From Lockley Point, the track is called the Lockley Track – and it gets very rough. There are sections were the track is obvious – but often the track is almost non-existent. Fortunately the undergrowth is not too thick, and navigation is simple as I’m just following the creek upstream. It’s generally easier to just push on through the scrub than to spend time trying to find a trail.
The trickiest section is just before the end, where I need to detour up Rocky Creek, which is crossed just below a small cascade. According to my detailed (STEP) map, crossing Rocky Creek is impossible at high tide or after heavy rain. The water is very shallow but the rocks are extremely slippery, so I take my shoes off and cross very slowly and carefully.
The track on the other side is much more distinct, and it’s only a few hundred metres to the bottom of the pipeline. Now I just have to ascend the Pipeline Track back to my starting point, with the maintenance trail following the large water pipeline.
It’s been an interesting bushwalk, and surprisingly varied, from casuarina and eucalpyt forest to pockets of semi-rainforest and large rock overhangs. The return leg on the westerm side of Middle Harbour Creek is generally less busy, and a more challenging walk (especially between Gordon Creek and the Pipeline Track).
0.0km Pipeline Track trackhead (Hunter Avenue) 0.2km Turn left onto Bungaroo Track 1.8km Stepping Stones (Governor Phillip Walk from here) 2.5km Junction with Davidson Track 4.2km Carroll Creek (Lyre Bird Track starts here) 6.9km Davidson Park 8.0km Roseville Bridge 8.7km Start of Two Creeks Track 9.2km Junction with track to Ormonde Road 10.1km Little Digger track (continues to Roseville) 11.6km Junction with track to Wellington Road 13.3km Turn onto Gordon Creek Track 13.9km Junction with Barrie Street track 16.1km Junction with track to Koola Avenue 17.7km Pipeline Track back up to Hunter Avenue 19.2km Hunter Avenue trackhead
More information on Middle Harbour Creek Circuit
- Most of the tracks are signposted, although theere is no formal “Middle Harbour Creek Circuit” track – this loop consists of a combination of bushwalking trails (most of which are signposted)
- The western side of Middle Harbour Creek is generally harder (and less busy) – between Gordon Creek and the Stepping Stones parts of the track can be very indistinct, and the Rocky Creek crossing can be a bit tricky after heavy rain.
- You can start/finish at multiple access points along the circuit.
For more bushwalks (as well as mountain-biking trails and swimming holes) in this area, have a look at the Guide to Garigal National Park. This includes 25 bushwalks in Garigal National Park with links to detailed track notes and online maps.