Summary: A circuit of Topham Hill, exploring some of the Aboriginal rock art sites, sandstone shelters and views over West Head.

This is my fourth (at least) foray into the bush around Topham Hill at West Head. It’s a place that one could explore for weeks, and still find new things hidden in the scrub. There are eight known Aboriginal art sites on Topham Hill, including one I recorded recently – and I’ve no doubt there are any more sites still to be “re-discovered”. It was clearly considered a sacred place by the Garrigal people, who were the original inhabitants of West Head.

On today’s expedition, we’re planning to circle ’round the base of Topham Hill, stopping first at the most important Aboriginal engraving site in the area. Depicting an enormous deity, Daramulan (who holds a boomerang in one hand and a half-engraved boomerang in the other), the site was described as being of great ceremonial significance.

AWAT5927 LR Around Topham Hill

From here we push on through the bush, trying to stick to roughly the same contour as we traverse a few gullies and rock outcrops.

Towards the back (north-western end) of Topham Hill the scrub gets increasingly thick, but there’s some great views through the trees of Refuge Bay. (Refuge Bay has some interesting history, having been used as a secret WWII training base – I’ll explore this area on a future bushwalk.)

AWAT6087 LR Around Topham Hill

As we reach the back of Topham Hill, there’s a steep slope down to the water below us, and towering cliffs above us.

We had planned to continue around the base of the cliffs, but with the scrub getting increasingly thick we change our approach. Finding some gaps in the cliff, we head straight up the back of Topham Hill. As we clamber up the rocky slope, there’s some great views looking back to the west. You can see not just Refuge Bay below, but Cowan Creek and the Hawkesbury River in the distance.

View from Topham Hill over Cowan Creek

We finally reach the top of the hill, and a bit more bush-bashing along the top of Topham Hill brings us to Topham Trig. Although technically the highest point on the hill, there’s not much of a view from the trig point – although you can see the Pacific Ocean to the east.

Heading towards the eastern side of the hill, there are now occasional views of Pittwater to the east beyond the rugged bushland of West Head. We stop at another long shelter, which contains some clear Aboriginal red hand stencils.

As we head back via the southern end of Topham Hill, we explore a number of the long ledges which hide more Aboriginal rock engravings. We spot a fish, shield and a stingray – but many more carvings elude us.

The final stop as the sun sets is a rock platform which has a school of 30 “bream-like fish”, most of them swimming head to tail. Even without the engravings, it’s a great spot with expansive views over West Head.

AWAT6213 LR Around Topham Hill

Slightly scratched but happy to have found a few more secrets of Topham Hill, we make our way back down to West Head Road and our parked car.

More information on Topham Hill

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hiking the World, and receive notifications of new posts by email. (A hike is added every 1-2 weeks, on average.)

Join 1,205 other subscribers

Featured Guides

A list of hiking guidebooks I've researched, purchased and used. Each is rated based on it's overall value.


mattniven · July 13, 2021 at 6:44 am

It never ceases to amaze me how many lost sites are hiding out there!

carolinehelbig · July 14, 2021 at 3:45 am

Great to have a hike that is both scenically beautiful and culturally significant.

Leave a Reply