The Yuelarbah walking track traverses the Glenrock State Conservation Area just south of Newcastle (“Yuelarbah” is a word from the indigenous Awabakal language, and is believed to mean “footsteps in the sand”). The track forms part of the Great North Walk – it’s the last section through bushland before you reach Newcastle. It’s also a much more interesting and picturesque walking track than I expected, covering a number of different landscapes.
Yuelarbah walking track to Glenrock/Burwood Beach
From the large carpark just off Burwood Road, you can take either the Yuelarbah walking track or the wider management trail, which both descend toward Flaggy Creek.
The first 600m is wheelchair-friendly, with a combination of boardwalk and concrete w.
Whether you take the walking track or management trail (mountain bikes permitted on the firetrail), you reach a very sturdy bridge after 0.6km which crosses Flaggy Creek.
Just after the bridge is a very short detour to a picnic area, which is right next to Flaggy Creek.
From the picnic area the Yuelarbah walking track stays to the left (north) of Flaggy Creek as you descend; if you’re bike riding along the management trail, it crosses the creek via a rough causeway.
Beow the track is the Flaggy Creek Cascades, a small waterfall where the creeks drops over a series of rocky tiers.
The track then veers away from Flaggy Creek, soon reaching another waterfall which is on Little Flaggy Creek.
The track crosses Little Flaggy Creek on a timber bridge, just above Little Flaggy Creek Falls.
There’s no official track to the base of the falls, but as I’m not in a rush (which is unusual), I clamber down the rocks and discover it’s possible to walk – or crawl – behind the waterfall.
A very short distance further along the Yuelarbah walking track is Leichhardt’s Lookout, a timber platform from which there is a nice view down the valley to Glenrock Lagoon and the ocean beyond. The view from this “high vantage point” was first described in a letter in October 1842 by Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Leichhardt, the famour German explorer and naturalist.
From the lookout, the walking track descends quite steeply for a short section down the valley (this is the steepest bit), with steps and steel ladders.
The last section of the Yuelarbah walking track follows Glenrock Lagoon towards the coast, through tall trees and pockets of rainforest. There are occasional glimpses of the lagoon through the trees.
Eventually Glenrock/Burwood Beach (the beach is called both Glenrock Beach and Burwood Beach) comes into view through the trees, with the track emerging onto the beach just next to Glenrock Lagoon.
To the right is Glenbrook Lagoon, which is the best place for a swim (especially if you are bushwalking with children), as the beach is known for having multiple strong rips. Behind the lagoon is the Glenrock Scout Camp, where we’re enjoying our annual Scout Family Camp, before Hillsong Church turned up three days too early with a semi-trailer of staging and camping equipment… but that’s a story for another time!
To the left is a low cliff at the southern end of Glenrock/Burwood Beach, which extends for a few hundred metres along the beach.
Yuelarbah management trail back from Glenrock/Burwood Beach
Rather than re-tracing my steps back up the Yuelarbah walking track, I continue north along the beach, to create a loop by returning along the Yuelarbah management trail. The cliffs get gradually lower, but there are lots of shallow overhangs that provide some shade if you’re going for a swim.
Along the beach are a few remnants of what appear to from the old Merewether coastal railway which served two coal mine tunnels and six coke ovens from 1852. In 1861, the Newcastle Coal and Copper Company opened a new “Red Head” coalmine on the southern shore of Glenrock Lagoon. An existing railway tunnel was extended via two railway tunnels through the Merewether cliffs (at the northern end of the beach) to Glenrock Lagoon. Until 1939, on holiday weekends excursion trains carried passengers in open trucks to picnics beside Glenrock Lagoon (at what was called Smelters Beach). It’s thought that these coastal rail tunnels may have been the first in Australia.
Although I can’t find a track up from the beach, an eroded gully provides easy access to a walking trail above.
A narrow bushwalking trail through the tall grass heads up towards Glenrock Lagoon, above the beach.
Looking back along the track are the Merewether cliffs at the northern end of the beach, and you can just make out the Hickson Street walking trail (which descends from Hickson St to Glenrock/Burwood Beach).
The walking track meets the Yuelarbah management trail after a couple of hundred metres; the wide firetrail is also signposted as “Hang Ten”, a mountain biking route.
As the Yuelarbah management trail gets closer to the Glenrock Lagoon, there are some nice views over the beach and the lagoon.
The rest of the walk is fairly uneventful; the firetrail follows the valley above the Yuelarbah walking track through mostly eucalypt forest.
I re-join the Yuelarbah walking track at Leichhardt’s Lookout, re-tracing my steps for the last section of the walk. You could continue along the firetrail all the way back to the carpark if you wanted to avoid any backtracking (or if you are on mountain bike) – but the walking track is much more interesting.
Loop walk or “out and back” bushwalk?
As an out-and-back bushwalk, the Yuelarbah Walking Track is 4.8km return (although the National Parks web site incorrectly shows it as having a length of 6.8km). If you continue along the beach and return via the Yuelarbah management trail, it’s about 6km. Although the walking track is much nicer than the wide firetrail, doing a partial loop where you come back up the valley to Liechhardt’s Lookout via the Yuelarbah management trail gives you some different views over the beach and lagooon. It’s also a less steep ascent.
If you want a longer walk, continue along the beach to the northern end and cross the rock platform under the Merewether clffs to Merewether Beach and the Merewether Baths (make sure it’s low tide). You can return the same way, or walk along Scenic Road and take one of the myriad of trails in the Glenrock State Conservation Area which connects with the Yuelarbah management trail.
Getting to the Yuelarbah Walking Track
The usual starting point for the Yuelarbah Walking Track is a large carpark just off Burwood Road, which also serves as the start point for some of the mountain biking trails (so the parking area can get busy). You can also access the trail from the Glenrock Scout Camp via the Burwood Track, which goes from scout Camp Road (just above the camp) up the valley to connect with the Yuelarbah management trail. Starting at the Scout Camp and doing the full Yuelarbah loop walk is about 9km.