I’m back to explore the opposite side of Bantry Bay to Flat Rock Beach circuit, where a few days ago I took the Magazine Track along the western side of the narrow Middle Harbour inlet. The Bantry Bay Loop starts at the Ararat Reserve (oval) in Frenchs Forest, I’m doing what I expect to be the less interesting half of the loop first, so that I reach the Bluff Lookout near sunset on the way back. After crossing the oval and Bantry Bay Road, I take a mixed-use mountain bike and bushwalking track that runs between the Wakehurst Parkway and Bantry Bay Road.
It’s not long before my narrow track converges with the wide Engravings Track, a service trail that runs along the Wakehurst Parkway. On the right (west) is the enormous Bantry Bay Aboriginal engraving site; it was the first to be visited by Europeans (Surgeon John White) in March 1788.
There are 82 figures, including two mundoes, people, animals, fish, shields, a canoe, a basket and bag, boomerangs, circles, stone axes and clubs and snakes on the main rock platform. They were documented by W.D. Campbell in 1899.
Not far away are another couple of engravings: “Upon an adjacent rock surface to tlie westward are cut a whale and a man; the former has a groove one inch wide and half an inch deep, rubhed smooth; the man is more weathered, and probably was not so deeply cut, but has the same characteristics” (Campbell).
A short distance further, I cross the Wakehurst Parkway to visit the old Jones Trig Station (TS2636). It’s easily accessed via a short, informal track from a small clearing where the Manly Dam Mountain Bike Trail starts).
After re-crossing the Wakehurst Parkway I return to the Engraving Track, as I continue along the Bantry Bay Loop. It’s not the most exciting or interesting track, with a constant drone of traffic in the background. Although there are nice glimpses of the city skyline and North Sydney in the distance.
Timber Getters Trail
After about 3km and just before reaching Seaforth Oval, I turn right (west) onto the Timber Getters Trail, a historic logging track that was used in the 1850s when timber was logged in ‘The Big Forest’ owned by James Harris French.
As the narrow track descends towards Bantry Bay (and away from Wakehurst Parkway), it becomes much more pleasant walking. The track passes the top of a small waterfall, and Bantry Bay comes into a view before the final and steepest part of the descent.
At the bottom is the Bantry Bay Picnic Area (it’s said to be named after Bantry Bay in County Cork, Ireland.) This area was the location of the Bantry Bay ‘Pleasure Gardens’ dance hall before the land was resumed in 1915 for the Bantry Bay Explosives Magazine complex. In 1973 it was returned to the public as part of Garigal National Park. As well as toilets and picnic tables, there’s a nice view from the old wharf up and down Middle Harbour.
Bluff Track / Bay Track
From the picnic area the Bluff Track (also referred to as the Bay Track) continues along the eastern side of Bantry Bay, with a good view of the old Bantry Bay Explosives Magazine complex on the opposite side.
This is my favourite part of the walk: as the Bluff Track ascends there’s constantly changing perspective over the bay and the historic Explosives Magazine buildings/
After the track winds around and up a small cliff, there’s a great view from an informal lookout at the top over Bantry Bay.
The track continues climbing, over a few rock outcrops and past a small creek.
Just before the top of the bluff is The Bluff Lookout, a rock outcrop from which there are unobstructed views up Bantry Bay to Middle Harbour.
A little further, after the track has passed a few enormous sandstone boulders, I reach another vantage point along the Bantry Bay Loop. It’s a stunning lookout with the city skyline in the distance and northern suburbs of Sydney framed by a sandstone overhang.
There’s a number of interesting, weathered sandstone formations around this huge rock outcrop at the end of the bluff.
From a slightly different position, there’s also a clear view of the Sydney skyline, about twelve kilometres to the south.
It’s starting to get dark, as I explore one last rock platform further to the north, where I’ve heard there may be another Aboriginal engraving site (Bluff Track Whale). I see the engraving, but I’ll come back again to get some photos when there is more light. The rock platform makes a great vantage point for a spectacular sunset.
From here, it’s a short walk back to the car. Other than visiting the Bantry Bay Aboriginal engraving site, the first half of the Bantry Bay Loop along the Engraving Track is a bit dull. But the second part of the loop along the Timber Getters Track and Bluff Track was a very enjoyable walk with some great scenery and views.
0.0km Ararat Reserve (end of Grattan Crescent, Frenchs Forest) 0.3km Start of MTB/bushwalking track near Bantry Bay Road 0.9km Bantry Bay Aboriginal Engraving site 1.4km TS10638 WAKEHURST trig station (0.3km side-trip) 3.4km Junction with Timber Getters Track 4.3km Bantry Bay Picnic Area (Bluff Track starts here) 6.3km The Bluff Lookout 7.4km Ararat Reserve
More information on the Bantry Bay Loop
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.