It’s been a while since I’ve visited the quiet and secluded Flat Rock Beach. This time I’m undertaking a longer loop around Killarney Heights, which combines some of the best bushwalking tracks in Garigal National Park.
Flat Rock Beach Track
Starting at the end of Downpatrick Road, I head down the wide access track down to the Flat Rock Beach Track.
It’s quite a shaded track with some rainforest-like sections – but it’s also evident from the non-native weeds and fishbone fern that this part of Garigal National Park is not far from civilisation!
There’s soon some impressive sandstone cliffs and overhangs, some weathered by thousands of years of wind and water erosion. (A news article from 1979 documents how a Lithuanian couple, who migrated to Australia after WWII and feared they were being pursued by Soviet agents, lived as hermits in one of these caves for 28 years!)
Clambering to the top of these cliffs provides some great views over Middle Harbour, with the Roseville Bridge Marina on the opposite side.
The track continues through tall forest with an understorey of ferns as it follows the coastline. After about 1.4km Killarney Point is reached, where the Flat Rock Beach Track crosses private land (the current landowner has rescinded access to bushwalkers). To avoid this, you can follow the edge of the coastline where there is a 30m-wide foreshore reservation. Killarney Point, named after Killarney in Ireland, is thought to have been named by Irishman John Dunbar Nelson who began bringing tourists to the point in 1856. In the middle of Killarney Point is a derelict building that was built as a dance hall in 1928, before becoming the home of Mosman Rowing Club. The building was almost completely destroyed by a suspicious fire in 2016; the property boundary is quite close to what remains of the house, which is now surrounded by weeds and bush.
From Killarney Heights, the track continues to follow the coast, although it remains well above the shoreline, traversing a sea of ferns and tall eucalypt trees. It’s very easy and pleasant walking.
After about 2.5km is the end of Flat Rock Beach Track; there’s an access track up to Killarney Drive, and the start of the Magazine Track which descends to Flat Rock Beach. A small waterfall (the Magazine Track Waterfall) at the top of the track drops between two large boulders. There’s a decent flow of water, even though we haven’t had heavy rain for a while.
A little further down the Magazine Track, the path crosses the bottom of the waterfall, which now has multiple cascades.
The track continues descending, before reaching a junction. The Magazine Track continues to the left (east), while an informal track continues directly south.
I take this short detour, down to the end of the headland and Sugarloaf Bay, where a few people are fishing from the rocks. It’s a nice spot to fish… although they weren’t catching anything – an experience I am very used to! (Sugarloaf Bay got it’s name from rocks in the bay resembling a loaf of sugar, when sugar was packed in loaves for storage.)
The next stop is the picturesque Flat Rock Beach – although there’s not much of a beach as it’s high tide. I’ve got the narrow beach to myself, with the setting sun illuminating Bantry Bluff and the suburb of Seaforth on the opposite side of Middle Harbour.
From Flat Rock Beach, the track stays close to the shore and passes the very bottom of the Magazine Track Waterfall.
There’s a nice view back to the sliver of sand surrounded by bush that is Flat Rock Beach (it’s a much larger beach at low tide)!
The track is really nice from here, making it’s way again through ferns and tall forest as it follows the Middle Harbour coastline.
There’s another nice viewpoint over Middle Harbour from an exposed rock platform, looking directly across Bantry Bay to Garigal National Park on the other side.
As the Magazine Track continues north along Bantry Bay, the landscape changes a little with ferns replaced by dry sclerophyll forest and thicker undergrowth.
The track gradually veers away from the water as is passes behind the Bantry Bay Explosives Magazine Complex – you can’t really see it from here (it’s better viewed from the Bay Track on the opposite side of the bay). Originally set aside as a public recreation area, in 1909 the government (despite a storm of protest) resumed the land and several neighbouring properties to create a dedicated port of magazines, wharves, tramlines, outbuildings and a dam. Eventually rendered obsolete by technological changes in explosives, transport and storage, the majority of the site was dedicated as Davidson Park in 1974 and incorporated into Garigal National Park in 1992. (Public access to the site was revoked in 2003 due to the risk of contamination from the explosives.)
The Magazine Bay Track then heads inland, following Bates Creek as it ascends the valley to meet the Tipperary Road service trail where it becomes the Bates Creek Track.
Bates Creek Track
The Bates Creek Track continues along Bates Creek, which it eventually crosses via a concrete weir.
Continuing to ascend from Bates Creek, the next junction is with the Cook Street trail. It’s now dark as I exit Garigal National Park onto Cook Road, completing the loop back to the car by road (1.5km on road). You can continue from here via the Natural Bridge Track and Bay Track to Seaforth – I’m planning to come back and do this section as a separate bushwalk.
0.0km End of Downpatrick Road (access to Flat Rock Beach Track) 0.4km Flat Rock Beach Track 2.5km Access track to end of Killarney Drive 2.9km Sugarloaf Bay (side-track down to water) 3.2km Flat Rock Beach 5.3km Junction with Tipperary Road service trail 5.9km Bates Creek (track crosses creek) 6.4km Junction with Cook Street Trail 6.7km Cook Street 8.2km Downpatrick Road (via Starkey St and Greystones Road)
More information on Flat Rock Beach circuit
For more bushwalks in this area, have a look at the Guide to Garigal National Park. This includes a summary of the best bushwalks in Garigal NP, and lists over 35 official and informal bushwalking tracks.