Summary: The Waratah Track is one of the longer West Head firetrails; while not the most exciting bushwalk, hidden along its length are a number of Aboriginal engraving sites and lookouts.

I’ve walked the Waratah Track before – it’s a firetrail I’ve described as fairly dreary, which goes from West Head Road out to the end of a ridge from where there are views of Coal and Candle Creek in the distance. I’m re-exploring the trail, with a view to exploring the rock formations and Aboriginal engravings sites along the trail, and a couple of trig stations (the Moderate/Hard rating is based on going off-track; stick to the Waratah Track and it’s a relatively easy 9.5km return walk.)

Setting out on a Sunday afternoon with a few friends on the first of two Waratah Track forays, we spot a fairly distinct engraving of a shield and boomerang just off the track, not far from the start.


Arden Trig

The fist trig station is near the start of the Waratah Track, but is a bit tricky to get to as there’s no track… the easiest way would be to follow the Waratah Track until reaching the ridge that goes up the the trig point (which meets the firetrail around 33°38’12.5″S 151°15’03.3″E). But I’m taking a more direct route straight up the side of the ridge, skirting a few small cliffs and overhangs that are too steep to climb, before reaching the ridge-line.

From the middle of the ridge, there’s already some nice views toward Coal and Candle Creek, and the Akuna Bay marina.


It’s pretty easy going up the rocky ridge, and the trig station is soon in sight. The Arden Trig (TS638 ARDEN) has been significantly ‘unpiled’, and doesn’t look too good – but unlike many other old trig stations, the views from the trig point are pretty good. About 6km to the south another trig point can be seen, the distinctive Baha’i Temple in Ingleside.

The best views, though, are just after the trig station where there is an rock outcrop that’s clear of trees, offering almost 360-degree views over West Head.


Heading back down, I follow the ridge all the way back down to the Waratah Track – which is much easier going than the way up!

Rock formations and Aboriginal engravings

A bit further along the Waratah Track are some interesting rock formations, including a tesselated pavement.

As we continue down the Waratah Track, I spot a faint track heading out southward from the main track. It leads to a rock shelf with glimpses of Coal and Candle Creek in the distance. There’s also a couple of grooves in the rock that don’t look natural, but nothing that’s really worth the detour.

The next off-track excursion, about 2.5km from the start of the track and halfway to our destination, is a large, sloping tesselated rock slab. I’d read a description that there are axe grooves and circles here, and some of the stones bear deep grooves that look like axe-grinding grooves (but are most likely natural).

We spot another large sandstone platform below, and push on through thick bush and over a series of rock ledges to have a closer look. Overhead, a large swarm of black cockatoos fills the sky with their raucous cry, as we navigate the challenging terrain.


It’s worth the perilous journey: carved across the rock is an enormous single whale, which was documented by W.D. Campbell in 1899 as being forty one feet in length. Some of the carving is hard to make out – the fin is the most obvious – but the entire outline of the whale can be seen.


There’s one last, quite large engraving site which is right by the Waratah Track, but unmarked – which is a shame as it would be great to have some interpretative signage (and to make sure people don’t inadvertently ride their mountain bikes across the carvings). It’s not signposted, but next to a tesselated section of thw Waratah Track. 

Also documented by W. D. Campbell, the engravings here include a large whale within which is a man, another male figure and a purpoise-like figure (Figure 2, below). Near these engravings are a faint carving of an emu (Figure 1) and another large whale (Figure 3).

Waratah Plate 2 Fig 1-2
Deity Young Whale or Purpoise Large Whale with man inside


AWAT1813 LR Rediscovering the Waratah Track (West Head)

A "large figure of a deity, eight feet long, with belt and arm-hands, and feet like a kangaroo".

Young Whale or Purpoise

AWAT1816 LR Rediscovering the Waratah Track (West Head)

A smaller whale (McCarthy) or purpoise (Campbell).

Large Whale with man inside

montage stitch LR highlighted Rediscovering the Waratah Track (West Head)

"a large whale, twenty-eight feet long, with a man cut within its outline and near the head."

Some of the engravings are fairly easy to find, and others less so.

AWAT1815 LR Rediscovering the Waratah Track (West Head)

Waratah Trig and Paddys Castle

Near the end of the Waratah Track, a bushwalking pad leads to the an old trig station, another vantage point over Coal and Candle Creek.

The bushwalking pad reaches a junction after a few hundred metres: To the north is the Waratah Trig (TS4625 WARATAH), a trig station constructed in 1882 which is mostly intact.


In the distance you can see Yeomans Bay to the right and Cottage Point at the junction of Coal & Candle Creek and Cowan Creek to the left.


About 150m to the south is a rock formation informally known as Paddy’s Castle (possibly named after Patrick Duffy, an early landowner in the area who also gave Duffy’s Forest its name). There’s a short but easy clamber onto the top of the rock outcrop.

The sweeping views from here and impressive, and better than those from the slightly more elevated Waratah Trig.


At the very end of the Waratah Track is a very long rock platform, which offers some nice views over Coal and Candle Creek and Cowan Creek.

AWAT2121 LR Rediscovering the Waratah Track (West Head)

Growing under the rock overhang is an orchid, which thrives in its shady position.

AWAT2124 LR Rediscovering the Waratah Track (West Head)

The rock platform is just below the ridge: if you want slightly better views, scramble up to the top of the ridge. 

I’ve probably spent more time “off track” then on the Waratah Track – but it’s been an enjoyable two afternoons of exploring the area and finding some great lookouts and engraving sites.

Waratah Track

More information on the Waratah Track

Guide to West Head Walks

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1 Comment

Rediscovering the Waratah Trail (West Head) – OkRoam · June 17, 2020 at 6:45 pm

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