With the forecast of a rainy week ahead, I take the opportunity to explore Box Head (at the western end of Bouddi National Park) while it’s still mostly sunny. It’s been many years since my last bushwalk in this part of the park, and I’m surprised by the “4WD recommended” sign where Hawke Head Drive changes from sealed to unsealed (I have a vague recollection of the road being suitable for all vehicles). I continue in my non-4WD car, taking some of the large bumps very slowly, and notice a few 2WDs also making the trip. I don’t continue all the way to the parking area at the end of Hawke Head Drive, but park at the junction with the Old Wagstaffe Trail (another service trail, which is closed to traffic by a large gate). It’s not particularly pleasant walking along the dirt road, but it gives me the opportunity to explore one of the side-trails. Off the left-hand side of the (south) is the Killcare Trail, a wide service trail that heads towards the coast.
I start following the Killcare Trail, but soon veer off down a rough walking trail which leads to a series of rocks on the edge of the cliff, with views over Tallow Beach below, and the Barrenjoey Peninsula in the distance.
I wander around the cliff edge taking photos from a few different spots – and surprisingly, bumping into a small group exploring the same area. Heading back up to the road, I spot a few Christmas bells (Blandfordia nobilis, or gadigalbudyari in the Cadigal Aboriginal language), below a large rock overhang.
Continuing down Hawke Head Drive, another very short side-track leads to another vantage point, where you can clearly see the wide Tallow Beach Trail heading down to the Tallow Beach.
Tallow Beach Trail
I’m soon at the parking area at the end of Hawke Head Drive, where there is a locked gate. Another side-track goes to a vantage point where you can see the trail (closed to vehicles) continuing along the ridge, and Box Head in the distance.
Hawke Head Drive descends from the locked gate. From here the trail is also called the Tallow Beach Trail. The descent is initially gradual, with occasional views of the ocean. It’s easy walking, but there’s not much shade along the wide track.
After a few hundred metres, I take a narrow walking track that provides a short-cut to the Tallow Beach Trail, another service trail. Near the bottom, a side-track through the thick scrub heads south; it’s shown on my map as being a shortcut to Little Tallow Beach. But after less than 100m, it abrubtly stops. There’s a nice view over Little Tallow Beach, but it doesn’t look feasible to continue.
The Tallow Beach Trail continues to descend. Another side-track after a few hundred metres looks a bit more promising – there’s no sign, other than a marker next to the path which states “no camping” and “no fires”.
I take this well-defined trail for a short distance, before scrambling down to the southern end of Tallow Beach.
Tallow Beach is deserted, and although described as a “great spot for swimming”, the presence of hundreds of jellyfish along the beach is a bit off-putting! I have a very quick and cautious dip, and take a short break in the shelter of the rocks at the end of the beach, before continung my journey.
From here, I could walk along Tallow Beach and return via the Tallow Beach Trail, but I’m keen to explore the end of Box Head. Rather than scrambling back up to the path, I continue along the rocky shoreline. Although a bit tricky in spots (fortunately it’s only about an hour after low tide), I make it around the small headland and back up to the bushwalking track, just before it reaches Little Tallow Beach.
There’s a nice view of the small and sheltered Little Tallow Beach from the track: you’ll have a good chance of having this secluded beach to yourself.
I’m hoping I can continue along the coast to the end of Box Head – my AllTrails map shows a path all the way to the end, although it’s not an official trail. From Little Tallow Beach the track is pretty obvious – and well above the high-tide mark.
The track continues along the coast, initially remaining above the rocks.
About half-way to the end of the headland, the track reaches a rock platform, although it’s still far enough above the shore that you would get through at high tide.
The second half this section follows the rocks, with the path much less obvious. At the base of the Box Head there’s a bit of (easy) scrambling around the end of the headland.
A fairly obvious, (but rough and steep) track provides access to the lookout, with some nice views of Barrenjoey Head and Lion Island on the way up. The unmarked track reaches Box Head Lookout just below the sign stating “No Track Past this Point”!
Box Head Lookout
The Box Head Lookout provides a panoramic view over Broken Bay.
To the south-west is the distinctive Lion Island, with Middle Head to the right and West Head on the left. Directly south, to the left of Lion Island, is Barrenjoey Head, with the Barrenjoey Lighthouse just visible.
Box Head Walking Track
From the lookout, I’m back on an “official” track, with the Box Head Walking Track ascending the middle of the narrow headland. It’s a very pleasant walking track, with lots of shade and nice views back up the coast over Tallow Beach and Killcare Beach / Putty Beach.
Although it’s a a bit late in the season for wildflowers, there are a few flowering banksias (left), and what I think is some kind of Wahlenbergia.
There’s another fantastic viewpoint a bit further along, looking north again over Tallow Beach.
As the Box Head Walking Track continues along the headland, you can see Box Head jutting out to the south, as well as more views along the coastline to the north. (Box Head gets its name from the resemblance to a box when viewed from the ocean, but it’s not apparent from this angle!)
Just after a passing a small rock platform flanked by two gnarled red gums, the walking widens into service trail.
Flannel Flower Walking Track
The Box Head Walking Track soon meets the Tallow Beach Trail, and then veers right to join the Hawke Head Drive. Rather than turning onto the Hawke Head Drive, I continue straight ahead on the Flannel Flower Walking Track.
I’m hoping I can cut through the bush to join the Old Wagstaffe Trail, but the scrub is way too thick to entertain this idea. Just as I think I’ll need to retrace my steps back to Hawke Head Drive, I spot a rough bushwalking track that seems to be going in the right direction… As luck would have it, the track (not shown on any map) takes me to the end of the Old Wagstaffe Trail, where ironically there is some helpful signage (if you’re walking in the other direction).
Old Wagstaffe Trail
I’m now on the home stretch, as I follow the wide and fairly level Old Wagstaffe Trail. The service trail passes an old gate, and a short distance later a sign stating “No public access” and the remnants of another gate. Checking the topographical map later, I realise the Old Wagstaffe Trail crosses the corner of a large residential block. The two, now unused gates, mark the property boundary. A few days later I speak to a helpful ranger from the local NPWS office, who explains that the previous landowner had refused access; but the current owner was OK with the firetrail being used. Regardless, the firetrail still remains technically closed for this very short section.
The Old Wagstaffe Trail passes the Hardys Bay Trail, before reaching Hawke Head Drive where I left the car.
It’s been a great little loop walk, with lots of variety, a couple of deserted beaches and some of the best views in the park… the only downside is that much of the walk is along service trails.
0.0km Hawke Head Drive (junction with Old Wagstaffe Trail) 0.3km Junction with Killcare Trail [600m optional detour] 1.0km Car park and locked gate. 1.4km Turn onto bushwalking track connecting to Tallow Beach Trail 1.5km Tallow Beach Trail 2.2km Turn onto Little Tallow Track (off Tallow Beach Trail) 2.4km Tallow Beach (southern end). Track continue along coastline. 2.7km Little Tallow Beach 3.7km End of Box Head 3.8km Box Head Lookout & start of Box Head Walking Track 5.2km Junction with Tallow Beach Trail 5.3km Continue along Flannel Flower Walking Track 5.4km Turn onto walking track connecting to Old Wagstaffe Trail 5.6km Start of Old Wagstaffe Trail 6.3km Junction with Hardys Bay Trail 6.6km Hawke Head Drive
More information on Box Head Track Loop walk
- National Parks (NPWS) Bouddi Visitor Guide [PDF]
- National Parks (NPWS) Box Head Walking Track web page
- National Parks (NPWS) Flannel Flower walking track web page
For more information on Bouddi National Park including all the bushwalks, picnic areas, beaches and the best lookouts, have a look at the Guide to Bouddi National Park.
pawel · December 23, 2020 at 1:15 am
box head loop is one of my favourite hikes in Bouddi. Great rugged piece of the coast! Nice photos mate.
oliverd :-) · December 23, 2020 at 7:25 am
yeah, it’s a nice hike. Went back today to see if I could get to Iron Ladder Beach along the coast, but wasn’t able to get all the way there. Still trying to work out if there’s a way to access on foot.
Pawel · December 25, 2020 at 3:20 am
I have never tried to get there…
Simon Beck · October 17, 2022 at 11:30 am
Hey Oliver, thanks so much for providing these detailed track notes. There is no way we would have attempted this seemingly impassable Box Head loop route below the cliff line but it made for a much better way of heading out to Box Head as a loop rather than an out-and-back along the official trail. There were a couple of points below the cliffs where it really did seem folly to continue but we pushed on and actually it was all very doable. It made for a great extension to the Bouddi Coastal Trail we had just walked. We continued on from the Box Head loop out to Lobster Beach and then Wagstaffe Point and then down to Pretty Beach and Hardy’s Bay for some much-earned pizza. Great photos too. Cheers.
oliverd :-) · October 17, 2022 at 2:21 pm
Thanks Simon. I probably wouldn’t have attempted this from the top given the signage… but I came from the bottom and the “trail” was reasonably good, as you noted. It is a fantastic loop walk!