The relatively unknown Spion Kop in Brisbane Water National Park has been on my to do list for a while… from the end of the ridge there’s a stunning view over Woy Woy Bay.
Spion Kop can be reached from a few different starting points; I’m following the Koolewong Ridge between Woy Woy and Point Clare, and doing a side trip across to Spion Kop.
Koolewong Firetrail from Woy Woy station
Starting from Woy Woy station, the “trail” starts as a shared bike and walking path, which follows the foreshore all the way to Gosford.
I don’t follow the path for very long – after crossing Woy Woy Bay over Spike Milligan Bridge, I turn onto a rough path goes under the road and train line to reach the start of the firetrail.
The firetrail climbs very steeply, past an old gate that seem a little redundant, as even a 4WD would struggle to get up the very eroded trail.
The trail ascends for about 800m before reaching the top of Koolewong Ridge; it gets slightly less steep after the first few hundred metres, but this whole stretch is a pretty good workout. A set of concrete stairs in the middle cuts out one loop of the firetrail.
There are many shelters below the ridge, which was the traditional land of the Darkinjung Aboriginal people. One of the caves has some charcoal art, which is still well preserved.
Once on top of the ridge it’s easy walking, with the firetrail passing a communications tower and water reservoir as it follows Koolewong Ridge.
Although the ridge is not particularly wide, there’s not much of a view (most of the time) due to the trees and vegetation on both sides of the trail. Occasionally a side track lead to a more rock open platform, where you get a nice outlook. On the eastern side of the track, a wide expanse of rock provides a view of Woy Woy and Woy Woy Bay, with Spion Kop directly opposite..
It’s pleasant and easy walking along here, and other than one large family group walking in the opposite direction, I haven’t seen anyone else. I soon reach the next lookout, which is known as the Koolewong Firetrail Lookout. A small rock platform next to the trail has spectacular views over Brisbane Water to the west.
The lookout feels like it’s almost directly above the town of Koolewong, with views of the sheltered bay, boat ramp and railway line.
Just after the lookout the firetrail dips a little below the top of the ridge (to the east), while a walking track continues along the top of the ridge. I follow the walking track, which seems a nicer option than the wide firetrail. It crosses a broad rock platform, before passing one of the most impressive red gums I’ve seen. Not impressive in size, but in how its branches have been twisted, or sculpted, like an oversize bonsai tree.
I continue a bit further along the walking track, which starts to get a bit more indistinct, before dropping back down to the firetrail.
Spion Kop Track
The trail to Spion Kop is not signposted; it starts as a firetrail that branches off the Koolewong Trail. Keep an eye out on your map for the junction, which is just after the Koolewong Trail merges with another firetrail. The Spion Kop firetrail soon narrows to a bushwalking track, which descends towards a small creek.
It’s only a short, downhill walk before the trail reaches a small creek – it’s unnamed on my maps, but I’ve seen it referred to as Waterfall Bay Creek. There’s a number of small water holes, before the creek drops over a ledge to form a waterfall. The creek probably stops flowing during dry periods, but after a bit of rain it’s a nice spot for a break or to cool off.
There’s a few Aboriginal engravings along the creek, although they are fairly hard to spot.
The track from the creek is also not so obvious… cross the creek and continue downstream, until you see a gap between two large rocks. The track goes up through these boulders, and climbs up towards the Spion Kop ridge.
As the track ascends, it goes through a narrow, natural passage between two large boulders.
There are some interesting rock formations along this section of the track.
After the initial short and sharp ascent, the track undulates along the ridge. It’s fairly easy walking, but a bit exposed with only light tree cover, so best avoided on a very hot day (or make sure you have plenty of water).
Before reaching the end of the ridge, there’s an unexpected lookout right next to the track. Between Spion Kop and Koolewong Ridge is Waterfall Bay. Across the bay is the communications tower, at the end of Koolewong Ridge and near the start of the bushwalk.
From here it’s not far to Spion Kop at the end of the ridge, a vantage point with spectacular views over Woy Woy Bay, and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Adding to the view is an unusual rock formation, where the wind has sculpted the rock into half of an arch. About 140m in height, Spion Kop (Afrikaans for “Spy Head”) was named after a famous Boer War battle site in the northern Natal Province – the hill is said to bear a close resemblance to its South African counterpart when viewed from a distance.
A faint track leads to another rock platform, which also offers nice views over Woy Woy Bay.
There’s a couple of bushwalkers picnicking at the main lookout – the only people I’ve seen in the last two hours – so I leave them to enjoy the view and head back to the Koolewong Ridge firetrail.
Back on the Koolewong Firetrail
The trail ascends steadily along the ridge, and is fairly exposed to the sun.
An obvious but informal track leads to another Aboriginal rock engraving site; it’s a small rock platform with views through the trees of Brisbane Water. The engraving is of a whale, which is quite weathered.
Corrumbine Creek Fire Trail
The firetrail continues to ascend, reaching the junction with the Bambara Road Firetrail near one of the high points on the ridge. (A short distance down the Bambara Road trail are the Gosford Glyphs, or Kariong Hieroglyphs – a group of approximately 300 Egyptian hieroglyphs, thought to have been inscribed in the early to mid 1920s). From the junction, the firetrail along the ridge becomes the Corrumbine Creek Fire Trail. It descends to a shaded creek, and small waterfall.
Unfortunately, what goes down, must come up… and from the creek it’s a long slog up the concreted fire trail on the other side. Some more Brisbane Water views are the reward for the effort of reaching the top of the hill.
The firetrail continues ascending, but much more gently, to reach a junction with the Milyerra Road Firetrail. Although there’s no view from here, this is the highest point of the bushwalk.
Milyerra Road Firetrail down to Point Clare
The rest of the bushwalk is (mostly) all downhill, as the Milyerra Road Firetrail heads down towards Point Clare. There are some views towards the north, over the industrial outskirts of Gosford.
The firetrail goes to the top of the spur, and from here a bushwalking track continues down the spur.
There’s some nice pockets of bushland, before the trail reaches a set of stairs down to the end of Penang St. It’s just under a kilometre from here to Point Clare railway station, and a nine minute train ride back to the car at Woy Woy railway station.
Although this bushwalk is best suited to a cooler day, with much of the walk being along ridges, at least on a warmer day there’s been lots of water in the creeks and a few shaded spots to cool off.
0.0km Woy Woy railway station 1.1km Koolewong Firetrail 2.2km Informal lookout (looking east) 3.3km Koolewong Firetrail Lookout (view to west) 3.8km Turn onto track to Spion Kop 4.3km Waterfall Bay Creek 6.1km Junction with informal track down to bay 6.3km Informal lookout 6.7km Spion Kop lookout 9.4km Back on Koolewong Firetrail 9.9km Aboriginal engraving site (just off firetrail) 10.6km Junction with Bambara Road Trail 11.9km Turn onto Milyerra Road Firetrail 13.3km Start of bushwalking trail down to Point Clare 13.8km End of Penang St 14.7km Point Clare railway station
How to get to Spion Kop
There are quite a few ways you can reach Spion Kop:
- Most scenic route – the bushwalk described here from Woy Woy to Point Clare is the most scenic, as you’ll pass some great lookouts along the Koolewong Ridge. If you’re happy to go back the same way, start and finish at Woy Woy station, which passes all the best lookouts. (12.6km return, 410m total ascent)
- Easiest route – the easiest way to reach Spion Kop is by taking the Bambara Road Firetrail from Woy Woy Road, and returning the same way. You’ll pass by the Gosford Glyphs going this way, which also means you’ll encounter lots of people on weekends (it’s a popular spot) and parking will be limited. (9.9km with 320m total ascent)
- Shortest route – A steep trail up from Glencore Parade in Koolewong to the ridge provides the shortest way to get to Spion Kop – although I haven’t personally verified this route. (7.2km return, 315m ascent)
- Shortest route if you Own a Boat – I also haven’t verified this route, but if you can get to the small bay to the west of Spion Kop, there is said to be a trail that goes around the bay and up to the Spion Kop track – it is very steep with ladders and some scrambling, as it heads direcly up the side of the ridge. (3km return, 170m ascent)