The Smugglers Ridge Track in Marramarra National Park is one I’ve had on my to-do list for a while… while it can be done as an “out and back” down to Marramarra Creek, you can combine the Smugglers Ridge Track with the Marramarra Ridge Trail to form a loop. We decide to descend via the steeper and more direct Smugglers Ridge Track, which starts as a service trail that branches off the Marramarra Ridge Trail, before reaching a locked gate after about 1.5 kilometres.
The Smugglers Ridge Track continues along the ridge, gradually getting narrower as it continues. It’s not the most interesting scenery, but easy walking.
After about four kilometres the Smugglers Ridge Track starts to descend; after the first, short descent there’s a view over the Marramarra Creek below, and the rugged cliffs on the opposite of the creek.
The Smugglers Ridge Track continues to descend for about two kilometres, with a few sections requiring a bit of care as the track crosses a few large boulders.
The Smugglers Ridge Track meets the Marramarra Creek Trail at the bottom of the ridge. Before returning via the Marramarra Creek Trail and Marramarra Ridge Trail, we turn left to have a look at the campground. The Marramarra Creek Campground is a wide clearing, with a few picnic tables, some firepits and an impressive-looking pit toilet.
Just below the campground is the upper reach of Marramarra Creek. Being near the tidal limit, the creek is more a series of waterholes (some would be deep enough for a dip on a warmer day), with a sandy bank on the campground side.
After a brief rest at the campground, we continue back along the Marramarra Creek Trail, which follows Marramarra Creek (crossing a shallow side-creek along the way).
After about a kilometre of very easy and flat walking from the campground we reach a junction, where the along Marramarra Creek Trail continues along Marramarra Creek to the Orchard campground.
This second camping area is named after an old orchard. Rows of orange trees grow somewhat incongruously amongst a groundcover of native bracken ferns. The farm may have been part of the Lewis family farming allotment in the 1830s – or it may have been an adjoining allotment.
There’s some interesting documented history about the Lewis farm: John Lewis Ferdinand arrived in NSW as a convict, with a life sentence for desertion from the army. By about 1820 he was in the Marramarra Creek area as a lime burner (gathering shells from Aboriginal middens for burning into lime to make mortar for Sydney buildings). Lewis settled near Marramarra Creek in the 1830s with Biddy (known formally as Sarah Wallace), who was a tribal Aborigine, and the couple raised ten children (seven survived to adulthood). It would have been a harsh existence, with a report in 1833 describing the farm as: “a miserable hut of rough logs covered with bark, from whence issued a number of dogs barking … and then the inhabitants; two old men and a woman with child in her arms … These dreary solitudes might serve for the abode of a misanthrope so utterly are they secluded from all approach and so entirely destitute of all comfort”. Anecdotal evidence suggests the area was abandoned in the 1950s.
The Orchard Campground is a bit more basic than the Marramarra Creek Campground, with a couple of picnic tables, but no toilet. (Unlike the Marramarra Creek Campground, this campsite can’t be booked online.)
Right next to the campground is Marramarra Creek, which is much deeper and wider here (than the previous campground).
From here it’s back the same way, until we reach the junction with the Marramarra Ridge Trail where turned left. The return journey via the Marramarra Ridge Trail is a fairly dreary ascent along the wide firetrail. Unlike the Smugglers Ridge Track which goes steeply down the ridge, the Marramarra Ridge Trail traverses some side valleys. So it’s a longer climb, with a few sections where you descend… before climbing again…
We finally reach the top of Marramarra Ridge, where’s theres a locked gate and some National Park signage.
The trail is is fairly level from here for the last three kilometres or so. Although we are still in Marramarra National Park, we pass a private block of land, which has a nice house behind a fairly serious gate. It would be a nice place to live, except during the bushfire season… A last side-trip takes us down an unmarked track which ends at a cliff, below which is a long-discarded, rusted vehicle.
It hasn’t been the most exciting bushwalk, but the section down Smugglers Ridge Track to the creek, and along the Marramarra Creek Trail is quite pleasant. I’d recommend doing the walk in the opposite direction: descend via the Marramarra Ridge Trail, and come back up the steeper but more interesting Smugglers Ridge Track.
0.0km Junction with Smugglers Ridge Trail & Marramarra Ridge Trail 6.0km Smugglers Ridge Trail meets Marramarra Creek Trail 6.3km Marramarra Creek Campground 7.4km Junction with Marramarra Ridge Trail +2.2km return to Orchard Campground 13.2km Return to start