After the stunning views from Pigeon House Mountain (Didthul), my second bushwalk on the NSW south coast is a coastal walk between Pretty Beach and Pebbly Beach. The Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Loop follows the coastline in one direction, before looping back over Durras Mountain. Although I’d recommend doing the more strenuous section over Mount Durras first, with heavy rain forecast for the early afternoon I’m keen to explore the coast before the rain sets in. So I’m starting from Pretty Beach at the northern end of the loop.
Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach coastal walk
After crossing a low rock platform at the southern end of Pretty Beach, I’m soon on the next beach.
There’s only two other people on Island Beach, another pristine South Coast beach.
After the next small headland is the tiny Singing Stones Beach, a semi-enclosed cove with a pebbly beach. The pebbles ‘sing’ when tumbled by the waves, being made of hard minerals which help to conduct sound.
A walking track continues above the coastline, avoiding some taller cliffs and around the next headland.
The track descends steeply to the beach again; at high tide you could stay above the coastline on a rough track, but it’s much nicer being back near the water.
The next kilometre or so crosses a couple of unnamed beaches, sandstone platforms, rock formations and caves. It’s a nice part of the walk, and far enough from the car-accessible beaches that you’re unlikely to see many people. I passed two other bushwalkers, and otherwise saw no-one along this section.
The next named beach is Dawson Island Beach, another beautiful beach with almost no waves; it would make a nice spot for a swim on a warmer day.
The track crosses another rock platform as it heads for the next bay.
Snake Bay is a very small and sheltered bay, with a sand and pebble beach. I meet another bushwalker here, who’s doing the Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Loop in the opposite direction to me.
From Snake Bay there should be a rough path that heads inland, but I prefer to follow the shoreline as long as I can. Also, I can’t see the track heading inland which is shown on my map… Being low tide, it’s still easy walking along the rocks.
After crossing a couple more headlands, it looks like continuing along the rocks is becoming more challenging. I spot a pink ribbon and a rough pad heading up into the bush from the rocks. I head up the slope through low grass, full of enthusiasm as I follow a series of pink ribbons. My enthusiasm soon wanes. The scrub gets thicker, and while the ribbons show no signs of ceasing I’m soon pushing through head-high coastal heath and re-growth from fires a couple of years ago. It’s painfully slow, but I persevere as occasional glimpses of the coast below shows there isn’t a viable route along the water.
I’m relieved to suddenly stumble on a proper bushwalking track just north of Snake Bay South.
Snake Bay South is another sheltered beach, surrounded by steep hills on all sides.
The track passed Clear Point, a grassy headland, and soon after reaches the junction with the track up to Durras Mountain.
Pebbly Beach to Pretty Beach via Durras Mountain
I haven’t quite made it to all the way to Pebbly Beach; with the sky getting darker, I head up the track to Mount Durras. The bushwalking track climbs steeply up the spur, with occasional glimpses of the ocean through the trees a reminder that the track is gaining a lot of altitude.
At the top of the spur the walking track meets the Old Coast Road (closed to traffic), which follows the main ridge from Pebbly Beach Road to Dangerboard Road.
Although there isn’t much of a view from the ridge, through gaps in the trees you can see the distinctive shape of Pigeon House Mountain (Didthul), and some of the ridges and mountains in Morton National Park.
Although there is no obvious mountain peak, the highest point on Durras Mountain (277m) is marked by a trig station just next to the old road. (There’s also a picnic table and a large concrete water tank near the track.)
For the best views, follow a rough but obvious trail a few hundred metres to the east, towards the edge of the wide ridge. Through a gap in the trees you can see out over the ocean and the coastline to the south. It was a great vantage spot to watch the afternoon storm rolling in.
The old road continues along the top of the ridge, with occasional glimpses of the ocean. The views are not particularly good on this walk – if you’re after stunning vistas, do Pigeon House Mountain / Didthul instead!
After a couple of kilometres the trail starts gradually descending, entering into tall forest with spotted gum, coachwood and lillypilly trees. Torrential rain started just as I entered the forest, and although I’m quickly drenched, the rain and mist adds an almost magic quality to the bushwalk.
What wa smuch less magical is missing a critical junction as a I plodded down the track with my head down… If you follow the firetrail (Old Coast Road) to the end, you reached a locked gate at Dangerboard Road (this is an alternate start point which removes some of the ascent/descent to Durras Mountain). The route I should have taken was a bushwalking track that descends to Pretty Beach.
After backtracking to the junction (a 3km detour), the trail immediately starts steeply descending. What’s striking is that some trees appear to have been completely scorched by the fires two years ago, while other appears untouched.
I’m soon back at my starting point at Pretty Beach, very wet but happy that the rain held off until the descent from Mount Durras. It took me just over four hours for the Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Loop, including my “detour” where I missed a junction. I would allow up to six hours, but at a decent pace you could do the loop in 3-4 hours.
Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Loop directions
You can start the Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Loop bushwalk at either end – it’s slightly shorter if you start from Pretty Beach, as I did. Both Pretty Beach and Pebbly Beach are accessed via the Princes Highway, between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay on the south coast of NSW (about 3.5 hours drive from Sydney). You can also do the walk in either direction – but I would aim to do the section along the coast at low tide. It’s slightly easier (a more gradual ascent) walking up to Mount Durras from Pretty Beach, and also a little bit easier navigationally doing the loop anti-clockwise from Pretty Beach.
More information on the Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Loop
The National Parks Web site shows the Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Loop as multiple separate bushwalks, which is a shame as it makes a nice circuit. Other bushwalking resources and books have detailed track notes on the full circuit.
- National Parks (NPWS) – Pebbly Beach to Durras Mountain walking track
- National Parks (NPWS) – Pretty Beach to Durras Mountain walking track
- National Parks (NPWS) – Pebbly Beach to Snake Bay walking track
- Top Walks in NSW (Hardie Grant) – buy on Kindle
- Hiking Scenery – Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach Circuit, Murramurang NP