Hungry Beach, West Head

Hungry Beach is a secluded beach near West Head in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park that you access by boat – or on foot via an untracked route.

In search of a secluded or “secret” beach, I’ve noticed Hungry Beach near West Head (north of Sydney) on Google Maps. (‘Though I’m not sure with Google Maps there is really such a thing as a “secret” beach any more!) There’s no walking track to the beach, although it’s only about 1km from West Head Road. Could it be reached by “bush bashing” down from the road?

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No. What Google Maps doesn’t show is that the lighter-coloured terrain is thick scrub, and even making 50m progress through the bush is arduous, slow and painful! I could come back with a chainsaw, but I’m not sure that this would be a recommended activity in a national park!

We (I’ve managed to convince my friend Andy that bashing through thick scrub on a hot afternoon is a great idea) move to Plan B before giving up. Getting back in the car, we continue along West Head Road to the start of the Flint and Steel track. It should be feasible – at least at low tide – to follow the coastline from Flint and Steel Bay to Hungry Beach. Although I’m not entirely sure of the current tide times: there was more optimism on my part than planning in today’s pursuit of an Undiscovered Beach… Fortunately, as we reach Flint and Steel Bay along the rough but distinct track, it does appear that the tide is out.

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From here I’m not sure what to expect or how far we will get, but we make decent progress along the rocky coast. It would be a lot harder at high tide, though.

It doesn’t take too long before Hungry Beach is in view, around a small headland that we still need to negotiate.

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The very last few hundred metres would have been challenging if the tide was higher, but proved no major obstacle. We’re soon standing on Hungry Beach, with just a handful of people who have arrived by boat.

It’s a nice beach, although the colour of the water is not particularly appealing (could be that recent rain has washed some silt down the Hawkesbury River). At the back of the beach, near the middle, is a ribbon taped to a tree marking the start of a track that heads up the steep terrain. So perhaps there is an alternate track to the beach – we’ll have to come back and explore further.

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There’s also an old World War II bunker located a short distance above the beach. I can’t find any information on the building, but it would have been part of the fortifications built along the Hawkesbury River to fend off any Japanese naval attacks from the north.

We return back to the car the way we came: it’s been great to have reached Hungry Beach, but it’s also a hot afternoon with little shade for most of the way and we’re glad to be back at the car! I’ll be making a return trip on a cooler day to explore the possibility of an alternate track to the beach.

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0.0km Start at Flint and Steel trackhead (on West Head Road)
0.3km Take track to Flint and Steel Bay (to the left) 
0.7km Ruins of McGaw House
1.1km White Horse Beach (Flint and Steel Bay) - proceed along shoreline
1.8km Hungry Beach
3.6km Flint and Steel carpark
Location Start at Flint and Steel trailhead near the end of West Head Road
Distance 3.6km return.
Grade Moderate. Partly off-track.
Season/s All year. Low tide.
Map 9130-1N Broken Bay (1:25,000)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – view route and export to GPX format.

Wollangambe Canyon (Lower Section)

Wollangambe Canyon is an easy canyon in the Blue Mountains, requiring no technical skills (ie. abseils) – the Upper and Lower Sections can be done as separate day trips (or one very long day-trip). 

It’s been almost a year to the day since tackling the Wollangambe Upper Section (also known as Wollangambe One), and with hot and dry weather forecast for a week it seems a good time to head back and undertake the Wollangambe Lower Section / Wollangambe Two. We leave Sydney a bit later than planned – I’m taking my son Luke (10) for his first canyon adventure, and am joined by Andy plus his son Sam and two of his friends.

We’re on the firetrail, which starts opposite the Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground in Mount Wilson, just after 11am. There’s the usual warning signs at the gate, before the firetrail descends gradually through tall forest.

The wide trail is fairly flat for the first 2.2km – in fact, after the initial descent it climbs fairly steeply up a hill before reaching the narrow track down to the Wollangambe River. We’re glad when we’re finally heading down to the river, with the track down being another 1.4km in length. (There’s just one bifurcation in this track, where we take the left-hand fork.)

Just before reaching the river there’s a steep drop, with a fixed rope helping to descend the cliffs above the Wollangambe River.

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We’re at the entry point for Wollangambe Lower Section and inflating our li-los by 12:30pm – this is also the exit point for Wollangambe One / Upper Section. We’re all looking rather professional as we get ready… until Sam inflates “The Otter”!

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It’s much cooler in the Wollongambe Canyon, and it’s nice to be in the water with a short swimming / liloing section to get us started. Compared to the Wollongambe Upper Section a year ago, there’s more rock scrambling in this section.

Not far from the start there’s a tricky drop of about 2m –  you could jump (but you need to land very precisely to avoid a submerged rock) or used the frayed rope that’s been installed. Or a combination of the two, with a jump into the river from half-way down!

The water level is relatively low, so there’s quite a few “rapids” that require careful navigation to avoid tearing our lilos… and otters…

There are not many long swimming sections, but there are frequent, deep sections between the rock scrambles. It would be as tough (if not tougher) than Wollangambe One without lilos.

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It’s hard to fully appreciate the beauty of the river/canyon, when your attention is frequently focussed on finding a way around the boulders and rapids. But when you do stop and look around – or you’re floating along one of the deep sections of the river – it’s a pretty amazing landscape with the crystal-clear water of the Wollangambe River surrounded by steep cliffs and rock formations sculpted over millions of years.

It doesn’t take long between these brief moments of contemplation before the next set of obstacles presents itself. Seems to be a more rocky challenges here than Wollangambe One!

Like Wollangambe One, the lower section of the river is home to many Sydney Crayfish, a red spiny burrowing species that’s indigenous to the Greater Blue Mountains. A few water dragons also watch our progress down the river.

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At the entrance to  Whungee Wheengee Canyon (MGA568919) we greet a couple of more serious canyoners who have been exploring some of the tributaries of the Wollangambe River. We’re now well past the half-way mark. There’s a huge overhang a bit further on, after another tricky section where the river has vanished under a collection of car-sized boulders. Time for a last snack break and a check of our map.

A last magnificent section of still water and towering cliffs that we li-lo down, as we come up to the last bend in the river before our exit.

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I’m always a bit nervous about missing an exit – it’s a long way down the river before the next track out!

It’s a relatively straightforward route out – the track is initiially very steep as it follows a ridge up, before the ascent becomes more gradual. There’s a few vantage points over the Wollangambe Wilderness, and you can just make out the route of the Wollangambe River.

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The narrow track reaches a grassy clearing after about 2km, where it becomes a  firetrail that ascends very gradually through tall eucalypts and ferns. The exit route is slightly shorter than the entry, and after about an hour of walking we’re back at the Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground, finishing right next to the firetrail we took down to the river.

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 0.0km Start at Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground (firetrail)
 2.2km Start of track down from firetrail to Wollagambe Canyon
 3.6km Reach Wollangambe Canyon at MGA560916 (8931-2S Wollangambe map)
 9.0km Junction of Whungee Wheengee Canyon (MGA568919)
10.4km Exit point from Wollangambe River (MGA572925)
13.2km Turn right onto Mount Wilson (North) firetrail
13.8km Reach Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground
Location Starts at Cathedral Reserve Camping Ground in Mount Wilson
Distance 13.5km. Allow 6-7 hours.
Grade Moderate (with a lilo!). Some rock scrambling and tricky descents
Season/s Ideal in summer on a warm day. Avoid before heavy rain or storms.
Map 8931-2S Wollangambe (1:25,000)
8930-1N Mount Wilson (1:25,000) – for start/end of track. Not really required.
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – view route and export to GPX format.
Resources OzUltimate.com has helpful track notes

Map-Wollangambe-LowerSection

Glenbrook Creek and the Lost Wallet

 

A mostly off-track hike from Warrimoo in the Blue Mountains down Glenbrook Creek to Glenbrook station via Duck Hole and the Blue Pool.

A series of hot December days means that after a successful trip down Wollangambe Canyon a few days earlier, I’m looking for another creek or river for a planned bushwalk with a friend visiting from the UK. The area around Glenbrook looks like a good option – we’d leave the car at Warrimoo, head down to Glenbrook Creek and hopefully make it as far as Lapstone, taking the train back to the car. A bit or prior research yielded some track notes from a bushwalking book, one topographical map showing a track most of the way and another map that had no trail at all… with the temperature forecast to be in the mid 30s (Celsius), we could always take to the creek!

It’s already pretty warm when we reach the trailhead at the end of Florabella St in Warrimoo at 10am. There’s not much parking – but there’s no-one else crazy enough to walk in this heat, as we head down the Florabella Pass.

 

The track descends pretty consistently for the first kilometre, with well-constructed steps hewn into the rock and a few overhanging caves.

 

Although the trail is mostly downhill and fairly shaded, it traverses a few small creeks and valleys. After about 3.2km there’s a well-marked track that goes up to Plateau Parade in Blaxland – there’s a deep overhang here and it makes a nice rest stop.

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Soon after this there’s the first glimpses of Glenbrook Creek, and we start to keep an eye out for a trail down.

 

The path down from the main trail is impossible to miss… while the track down is not signposted, there’s a sign pointing back to “Florabella Pass” (at Springwood 777632

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The track is very steep but short, and we’re at the creek in less than 15 minutes.

 

From here my guidebook suggests the trail is a bit “scungy”, so I’m not sure what to expect. Turns out there is no trail – at least there might have been ten years, ago but there’s no remnant of any track along the creek anymore. There’s fairly thick scrub right down to the edge of the eater. The easiest way to proceed is down the creek, which is mostly no more than waist deep, with occasional sections of rock-hopping.

 

It’s relatively slow-going, with a deep section near Boulder Pool (bottom right); there might be more water than usual despite the current hot and dry spell, as I’ve seen photos of the the same pool with a broad sandy bank. We see a few large eels along the bottom of the creek in the shallower parts.

 

There’s one last, deep section as we approach the Duck Hole. We swim for about 100m down the river, emerging on the northern side of the river. Here we see the only person we encounter all day: a backpacker is relaxing by the river, and is a little surprised by two people emerging from the creek! We have a chat and a short break, and continue down the river.

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The area around the Duck Hole is quite picturesque, with some nice spots to swim from. Woudn’t be a bad place to camp either, with flat camping spots close to the water but well shaded by trees.

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There’s an exit track here that goes up to Glenbrook, but we’re looking to get to the Blue Pool further downstream. Although we’re not going to get as far as Lapstone. It’s been pretty slow going, and it’s now 3pm (we’ve taken about three hours to cover just over 3km).

 

The good news is that while there’s still no clear track along this section, after some initial scrambling through thick undergrowth, we cross the river and find a rough track on the southern side (right-hand side going downstream). It’s not really a marked trail, but it feels like it night have been a track some time ago, and is much quicker than wading along the creek as we have been.

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We stop for a break about half-way between the Duck Hole and Blue Pool, having made pretty good time – about 45min to cover 1.5km, which is about twice our previous pace. It’s here, after enjoying a freshing dip, I realise that my wallet and car keys are no longer in my backpack.

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We head back to the Duck Hole – I’m pretty sure I must have left them somewhere near the spot we came out of the creek, where we had a short break, but can’t see them. I look in a few different spots, before reluctantly giving up. I’m not expecting anymore to find them, as we’ve only seen one person on the whole walk. It also means that rather than driving my car back to Sydney, we’ll be taking the train… I’ll have to come back the next day with my spare keys to pick up the car. We also don’t make it to the Blue Pool, but take the track up from the Duck Hole up to Glenbrook Station (it’s about 1.1km up to the ridge and then 1.2km along the railway line to the station).

 

[Somewhat amazingly, Max & Lara manage to track me down about two weeks later having found the wallet and keys in my drybag, and drop it off at the local police station. Turns out I’d left them just after the Duck Hole on top of a boulder, at one of the spots where we crossed the creek! It’s a big relief as I’d replaced the credit cards, but still hadn’t started the process of getting replacement keys and cards.]

I’ll have to come back and do the very last section from the Blue Pool… track distances beloe are based on finishing via Blue Pool.

 0.0km Start at end of Florabella St, Warrimoo
 3.2km Junction with track to Plateau Parade (Blaxland)
 3.8km Take steep track down to Glenbrook Creek (Springwood MGA777632)
 4.0km Glenbrook Creek is reached
 7.2km Duck hole (and exit track to Glenbrook [2.3km to Glenbrook station]
10.2km Blue Pool
12.8km Glenbrook Station
Location Starts at Florabella St in Warrimoo (if driving) or Warrimoo statuion. Finishes at Glenbrook station (with two exit tracks, from Duck Hole or Blue Pool).
Distance Approx 13km. Allow 8-9hrs due to off-track sections
Grade Moderate. 225m total ascent.
Season/s Ideal in summer on a warm day
Map 9030-3N Penrith (1:25,000)
9030-4S Springwood (1:25,000)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – view route and export to GPX format.
Resources Take a Walk in the Blue Mountains (John & Lym Daly) has this walk and some variants, but references a track that no longer exists

Glow Worm Tunnel via Pagoda Track

One of the shorter access routes to the Glow Worm Tunnel, passing through the spectacular pagoda-like rock formations on the way.

It’s been over three years since my last visit to the Glow Worm Tunnel, which I hiked with friends via the much longer track from Newnes after camping nearby. This time it’s a day-trip I’m leading with our local Cub pack, reaching the Glow Worm Tunnel via the shorter Old Coach Road and Pagoda Track.

At the the car park on Old Coach Road, there’s a log book. It’s a good time to explain to the Cubs that map-reading skills are important to make sure you’re at the right starting point! As one of the entries shows, there is an alternate carpark at the end of Glow Worm Tunnel Road, which is even closer to the tunnel than our start point.

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The walking track is the continuation of Old Coach Road, which is closed to traffic as is descends into the valley. There aren’t many flowers along the track even though it’s Spring – but the wattles are out in force!

After less than 500m there’s views from the track of the surrounding  pagodas, and

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A bit further on, and the pagodas are on both sides of the track, proving too much of a temptation for the Cubs!

The pagodas are the result of vertical cracks forming in a very thick layer of sandstone, which break along these joints into roughly rectangular blocks. Water erodes the rock more quickly than in the centre of the sandstone blocks, so the top of each block becomes a dome shape. Differences in the texture of the sandstone causes some layers to wear more quickly than others, generating the terraced appearance of the domes.

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It’s a pretty spectacular landscape!

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It’s pretty impressive from above too…

We finally drag the Cubs away from their Pagoda rock-climbing and continue down Old Coach Road. The road continues descending, passing a gate as it nears the bottom of the valley.

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Just after the gate, Old Coach Road joins the Pagoda Track, a narrower bush track. There’s a few huge caves and overhangs, and a hollowed-out tree that provides some more distractions for the Cubs as we descend the last section of track to the bottom of the valley. After about one kilometre the Pagoda Track meets the shorter track that leads from the carpark at the end of Glow Worm Tunnel Road, which is the shortest route to the tunnel.

The landscape changes along the valley floor, with towering eucalypts, ferns and patches or rainforest as we neat the tunnel entrance.

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Finally we arrive at the Glow Worm Tunnel entrance, half-hidden by ferns, and put on our head-torches for the last part of our walk through the tunnel.

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We all see the glow-worms once our torches are off, and our eyes adjust to the dark. The tunnel is quite busy today – and the Cubs were much more impressed with climbing the rock pagodas on the way down than the tunnel itself!

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We make our way back the same way, for a late BBQ lunch at the car park. The tunnel itself was much busier than my last visit, with most people accessing it via the Glow Worm Tunnel car park (1km), rather then the 3km route from the carpark at Old Coach Route. It’s also disappointing to see quite a few people behaving like dickheads – bringing their dog (which is prohibited in national parks, and clearly stated on the signs) and one person even smoking a cigarette as they walked through the tunnel. If you can, visit during the week or get here early.

Location Access from the top – as described above
Leave the Bells Line of Road at Clarence (Zig Zag Railway), and follow the gravel road through Newnes State Forest for 34kms. 

  • Park at the Glow Worm Tunnel parking area (1km each way) located 3km past the junction of the Glow Worm Tunnel Road and the Old Coach Road
  • Continue down Old Coach Road to the carpark (3km each way). This is what we did. Note: if using Google Maps, the carpark is not marked, but is at the intersection of Old Coach Road and the Tigersnake Canyon Track (-33.246764, 150.236225)

Access from the bottom (long walk) – refer previous blog post
Newnes is situated at the end of Wolgan Road, accessed via a turnoff from the Castlereagh Highway. (Head west from Lithgow for about 11km to a junction leading to Mudgee, then right onto the Castlereagh Highway; from here it’s another 5min until you reach Wolgan Road on your right).

Distance 6.8km return as walked
Grade Easy (215m ascent)
Season/s All year round
Maps
  • 89314S Ben Bullen (walk is well sign-posted)
  • Zig Zag Public School students created a cool guide to the Glow Worm Tunnel walks – download PDF
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – view route and export to KML format.
Notes
  • Bring torches (ideally a head torch) for the tunnel – but don’t shine the light onto the glow worms (and switch off torches to see the worms!)
  • To take photos, you’ll obviously need a tripod (try an exposure of 30sec / F4 at ISO1250 to capture the glow worms)
Map-GlowWormTunnel
Map showing route taken (Glow Worm Tunnel via Old Coach Road and Pagoda Track)

Bulcamatta Falls Track (Burralow Creek)

Bulcamatta Falls Track is a short and shaded walk from the Burralow Creek camping ground, to a small grotto and waterfall. 

A last minute decision to go camping on a rather damp long weekend sees us arriving at Burralow Creek camping ground on Saturday afternoon. We’re hoping the recent rain might mean it’s not too crowded… the reality is that while there’s still a few spots left in the large, grassy area, it’s pretty busy. I guess being less than two hours from Sydney, it’s going to be busy on any long weekend, even in the middle of winter. It’s a good lesson: don’t leave home on a long weekend!

We find a spot that’s not too close to anyone, and set-up camp. We’ll come back here on a “normal” weekend, as it’s a very nice campground – and even on a winter weekend the weather is pretty mild (a degree or two colder than Sydney).

On the following day, after a leisurely start (the kids cook us bacon & egg rolls), we set out to find the “short walk to a waterfall”. The start of the walk is not marked, but is fairly easy to find. on the western side of the camping ground. Shortly after the metal gate at the start, the track crosses the creek on a dubious “bridge” of logs. Here there is a sign.

The track is very flat – it’s easy walking – as it follows the alluvial flats through tall forest, not far from Burralow Creek. After about 500m there’s a pit constructed from sandstone blocks that’s part of an old settlement. Early settlers thought the swampy area would be suitable for irrigated agriculture: Burralow Creek camping ground is the site of the first rice farm in Australia!  A short side track leads to an impressive termite mound, and a little further there’s a a natural stone grotto and a natural stone grotto.

The track then follows a smaller side-creek through sections of fern and  increasingly moist vegetation.

After about 1.5km a narrow and shaded gorge is reached, in an area of temperate rainforest (coachwood, sassafras, cedar wattle and umbrella ferns).

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At the head of the grotto and surrounded by ferns is the picturesque small waterfall that we’ve set out to visit! We’re told that glow worms can be seen near the waterfall at night – so we’ll try the walk at night next time!

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It’s back the same way – a very pleasant and easy walk with lots to see. (Next visit, we’ll try the slightly harder track to Burralow Creek, which descends steeply to the valley.)

Location Walk starts at the western side of Burralow Creek campground (the campground is reached via Bells Line of Road near Kurrajong (take Warks Hill Road and then Burralow Road). 4WD/AWD required.
Distance 3km return walk
Grade Easy. Total elevation 20m
Season/s All year. Campground very busy on long weekends / school holidays
Maps Kurranjong 9030-4N (1:25,000). Track is not shown on the map.
GPS Route Google GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources National Parks Burralow Creek campground web page

Drawing Room Rocks

Drawing Room Rocks is a natural rock feature near Berry on the edge of the Illawarra escarpment, offering extensive views over Kangaroo Valley and Berry.

The walk to Drawing Room Rocks (in the Barren Grounds Nature Reserve) is relatively short – and offers a lot of reward for relatively little effort, with sweeping views over the mountains to the south and the ocean to the east. Of the shorter walks in the area, I’d argue Drawing Room Rocks is one of the best walks in the Shoalhaven area! Apparently the walk is not actively promoted due to “access and safety concerns”, although it’s the first in my “Best Walks of the Shoalhaven” book and is in walking distance of our accommodation on the outskirts of Berry.

While my hiking book (and a number of Web sites) state the walk is 4.5km return, part of this distance includes a section of unsealed road that is open to traffic. Parking is limited near the trackhead, but there was ample parking on the Easter weekend when I visited. From the start of the walking track, it’s only 1.4km to the Drawing Room Rocks plateau.

 

 

The well-worn track rises constantly but is never very steep, as the track goes from semi-rainforest to more open eucalypt forest. About half-way up there are a couple of indistinct tracks to the left and right, that provide  the first views to the east and west.

 

 

As the track nears the top, it passes a section of thick banksia scrub, with exposed roots in the sandy soil. The last section of track goes through thick hakea and tea trees, before ending at Drawing Room Rocks.

 

 

The track abruptly ends at a wide rock platform, from which there are sweeping views east to the ocean and west towards Kangaroo Valley. Directly ahead (below) is Broughton Head,  a long, cliff-lined sandstone mesa that’s part of the Rodway Nature Reserve.

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A short distance away at the edge of the rock platform are the features that give Drawing Room Rocks their name – the result of weathering that give the rocks an appearance of flat table tops and chairs. The softer Hawkesbury sandstone has been eroded by wind and rain, while the broad tops which consist of a harder and more resistant mineral layer have remained.

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When I arrive, about an hour before sunset, I’ve got the rock platform almost to myself There’s just Richard and Amy, also keen photographers, who share the view with me as the sun begins to set.

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Shortly before dark, a small throng of people arrive: Drawing Room Rocks is clearly a popular spot for locals. There’s wine, beers and more cheese than the local deli laid out on the rocks, as people settle in to watch the sun set. And it’s hard to think of a better spot to be!

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I head back just after sunset – I’ve got a torch but the track is uneven. And dinner is waiting… It’s a quick 20min walk back down to the car and an even quicker drive to my accommodation for the weekend at Drawing Rooms of Berry.

Location Take Brogers Creek Road (7km north of Berry) and then after 100m turn right into an unsealed road. The trackhead is signposted at the end of this road, next to a gate that leads to a private residence. There’s some parking spots just before the track.
Distance 2.8km return from the start of the walking track.
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain 190m.
Season/s All year. Great vantage point for sunrise or sunset.
Maps Kangaroo Valley 9028-4S
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Best Walks of the Shoalhaven” book, p.12

Fitzroy Falls East to West Rim

Fitzroy Falls East to West Rim is one of the shorter but more scenic walks in Kangaroo Valley. The full walk traverses the east and west rims of the Yarrunga Creek gorge, with spectacular views over the valley and of Fitzroy Falls from both escarpments.

If you’ve got two cars – or you can get dropped off at one end as I was – you can do the “east rim” of the Fitzroy Falls as a one-way walk. Which I’d recommend, as the east rim of Fitzroy Falls is definitely the less spectacular side. The start of the walk is not particularly easy to find as doing the east rim as a one-way walk is not recommended, but there is 4WD track from Nowra Road that joins the East Rim track (it’s about 300m from the main road).

From here there is a well-marked track that follows the top of the escarpment, with a number of lookouts over the Yarrunga Creek gorge. The first lookout, Yarrunga Lookout, offers broad views over Morton National Park to the south-west, with Mt Carrialoo and the more rounded Mt Moollattoo to the left and Bundanoon in the distance. To the other direction (looking north-east) is Fitzroy Falls, which is at the end of the Yarrunga Creek gorge – but is not yet visible!

A bit further along the track is Valley View Lookout, with views over the Yarrunga Creek gorge again.

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The next viewpoint is the Lamond Lookout, which offers similar views over the valley. Shortly after this lookout is the Warrawong Lookout, and the start of the Janet Cosh Wildflower Walk (named in honour of a local plant collector). I’ve walked 2.5km from the start of the walk, with another 1.2k to the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre. As well as a view over the narrowing gorge, there’s the first sighting of Fitzroy Falls, at the head of the valley.

 

The walk so far has been through eucalypt forest and fairly flat, as it closely follows the edge of the escarpment. So it’s a pleasant change when it drops into the lush Ferny Gully, passing a stand of tree ferns below a tall rainforest canopy, and crossing a couple of small creeks.

The last lookout before the end of the east rim trail is the May Lookout, perched over the edge of the gorge.

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Shortly after this last East Rim lookout, the track crosses Yarrunga Creek, and becomes the West Rim track. A short distance from here is the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre, which has lots of information on the areas and a cafe. The West Rim is far more impressive than the East Rim, and would be the best option if you haven’t got time for the full walk. It’s also much more trafficked, and not so pleasant on a busy Easter weekend!

Heading west along the track, which is now more a boardwalk than a bushwalk, the first lookout is reached after 200m.

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Cantilevered 80m above the valley floor, the metal platform provides a view to the base of the falls as well as down the length of the Yarrunga Creek valley.

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A couple of hundred metres further, Jersey Lookout provides a view back to the head of the valley and to Fitzroy Falls, with part of the lower falls visible.

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A gradual uphill section leads to the next viewpoint, Richardson Lookout.

There’s a couple more viewpoints, before the track crosses a side-creek, just before The Grotto. Even with the Easter crowds, this section of the walk is fantastic – it would be even better on a day with no-else around!

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A  short detour off the main track is The Grotto, an overhang with coachwood and water gums in front of a small cascade. Despite it being a busy day, I have the serene grotto to myself for a few minutes.

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Fitzroy Falls to The Grotto is the most scenic section of the walk; continuing another 900m takes you past Starkeys Lookout and to the final viewpoint, Renown Lookout. The last view points

From here, it’s back the same way to the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre; if you’re doing a car shuffle you can save about 500m by finishing on a fire trail near Glen Road (but it’s hardly worth it). It’s an easy but nice walk, especially after heavy rain when Fitzroy Falls is in full swing!

Location Start at Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre or at the end of the East Rim track, on Nowra Road (Kangaroo Valley, about 3 hours south-west of Sydney)
Distance 8.1km in total (East Rim one-way and West Rim as a return walk)
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain 270m
Season/s All year. Falls more impressive after heavy rain.
Maps Kangaroo Valley 9028-4S
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Best Walks of the Shoalhaven” book, p.72 (Walk 14)
fitzroy_falls_area_map
Map showing East and West Rim trails, Fitzroy Falls

Piles Creek Loop (Brisbane Water NP)

A varied track through a valley and along ridges in Brisbane Water National Park, combining the longer Piles Creek Loop and short Girrakool Loop tracks. 

Today’s walk is to check out a potential route for the 2nd Gordon Cub pack; we’ll be staying at the nearby Kariong Scout Camp. There is a link track that joins the Piles Creek Loop track.

I’ve started at the Girakool Picnic Area, which is a really nice spot, with free gas barbecues and running water. The various tracks are well sign-posted, as I set off down the Girrakool Loop track (which starts off as a paved track that is almost wheelchair-accessible).

The first lookout, Broula Lookout, is reached after less than five minutes from the car park, with a view across the valley. Shortly after this is Illoura Lookout, meaning “creek in a gully”. From here you can see a nice pool formed by Piles Creek.

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The lookout is also the junction of the much shorter Girrakool Loop and longer Piles Creek track; I continue to the left along the Piles Loop track. The trail crosses Pile Creek along a natural causeway with stepping stones just above the falls.

From here the track follows the top of the ridge above the valley formed by Piles Creek. It’s a pleasant combination of eucalpyt forest and is mostly in the shade, with some deep overhangs in the sandstone cliffs.

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After 1.4km I reach the (sign-posted) turn-off to Kariong Camp Scout, which you would normally ignore… as I’m on a reconnaissance mission for our upcoming Cub camp, I take this track which climbs gently up to the Scout property (it adds about 800m each way to the Piles Creek Loop).

Just after this turn-off is another (unnamed) lookout over the valley and the cliffs on the other side.

The track continues along the top of the valley, passing a large and weathered rock that I suspect will require an extended stop as the Cubs use it for some parkour practice (reminder: pack first aid kit!).

After about 3.5km (or 1.8km without the Scout Camp detour) the track starts descending fairly steeply down the into the valley, crossing a small side creek with the aid of some small bridges made of timber planks.

Shortly after this creek crossing is another well-marked intersection with the Great North Walk (GNW); the next section of the Girrakool Loop track is part of the GNW. A bit further on – and the lowest part of the walk – the track crosses Piles Creek on the very sturdy Phil Houghton Bridge (suspension bridge). The Cubs will enjoy this 🙂

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The bridge was built in 1998; the original bridge was washed away in a flood, and some parts of it still stand. This might be a nice swimming hole if there’s been some rain, but today it looks brown and not particularly tempting, even on a hot day.

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Just after the bridge is a nice and shaded campsite, which is used by Great North Walkers. Immediately after the campsite, the track climbs steeply up the other side of the valley.

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Fortunately, being a warm day, this part of the track is well shaded, passing some high rock overhangs and sections of dry rainforest.

After the initial climb up from Piles Creek, the track continues gently climbing along the valley. Parts of the track are exposed to the sun, although there are a few caves and overhangs that make a nice spot for break.

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Eventually Bundilla Lookout is reached, just before the track reaches the intersection with the Girrakool Loop track. The view isn’t particularly great, but from the right-hand side of the lookout it’s a relatively easy scramble down to Pile Creek and the natural pool (the same one we saw from the other side of the valley at the start of the walk). On a warm afternoon, it’s a very welcome diversion and and great spot to cool off and have a swim.

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After re-joining the Piles Creek Loop track, it’s only about junction with the Girrakool Loop track. It would be a few hundred metres back to the car park from here, but instead I turn left and take the longer route back along the Girrakool Loop track.

It’s not an unpleasant walk, but doesn’t compare to the Piles Creek Loop track – I wouldn’t recommend coming here just to do the shorter loop. The track follows Leek Creek (which feeds Piles Creek) in a northerly direction, before reaching Boondi Lookout. The view from the lookout over the eucalpyt forest is very ordinary, but just below the lookout is an almost semi-circular cliff covered with ferns. It would be an idyllic spot… but it’s located about 30m from the M1 Pacific Highway. You can’t see the highway, which is above the cliff, but the constant drone of traffic takes away from the ambience a little!

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From here, it’s an easy 400m walk back to the car park.

In short: I’d recommend the Piles Creek circuit, a quite varied walk with the option of a swim on on a hot day if you “bush bash” a short distance to the creek. I wouldn’t bother with the shorter Girrakool Loop unless you’re in the area and really only have time for this (and even if you do, just do the return walk to the Illoura Lookout.

Location Start at Girakool Picnic Area at the end of Girakool Road, off the old Pacific Highway
Distance 5.7km circuit (Girrakool Loop and Piles Creek Loop).
7.4km as walked, including side-track to Kariong Scout Camp
Girrakool Circuit only is about 1km.
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain 200m.
Season/s All year.
Maps Gosford 9131-2S 1:25K. Track is well sign-posted.
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources
  • Wildwalks Pile Creek loop track notes
  • Take a Walk – Sydney to Port Macquarie (John and Lyn Daly) p.104 and p.106

Hawkesbury River Circuit

A circular paddle from Brooklyn, visiting some nearby lower Hawkesbury River beaches, including the secluded Croppy Beach and Gunyah Beach.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been kayaking, and I’ve just bought a Winner Otium kayak that I’m keen to take for a test-paddle… so I’m swapping hiking shoes for water transport today.  My plan is to explore a few of the beaches within easy striking distance of Brooklyn, in the hope of finding a suitable beach I can take the kids camping one weekend.

I’m used to paddling a sit-on kayak that’s a lot more stable, and I do a great job of entertaining the local boaties as I capsize my new kayak in attempting to get in. After finally settling into the cockpit, in what must be about the most ungainly entrance possible, I’m on my way… the kayak is easy to paddle and tracks very straight. I’ll just have to Google “getting into a kayak for dummies” when I get home!

I head across the Hawkesbury River, to the small Croppy Beach (just after Croppy Point) – I find out afterwards the name was given to the beach by local Aborigines as it was a favourite spot where Irish convict escapees crossed the Hawkesbury (and the term “croppy” was applied to anyone with hair cut short, especially the Irish).

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It’s a nice beach with some shade, but not really anywhere to camp – it also seems to be private land and not national park (possibly a part of the nearby Broken Bay Sport and Recreation Centre). I take a few photos, and re-cross the Hawkesbury to have a look at Gunyah Beach and the adjoining Little Gunyah Beach (below), just to the north.

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This beach is great: white sand and lots of shade. At one end is a small lagoon (which seems to be fed by a stream, but looked very brackish) and a potential camping site; near the middle is a large, grassy area well above the high tide mark.

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This would be a very pleasant spot for an afternoon – or a weekend!

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With the wind picking up and the water getting increasingly choppy, it’s time to head back. I follow the rocky coast back up past Green Point and past Sandy Bay, returning to the boat ramp in time to get some lunch in Brooklyn, before the drive home.

Location Start from Parsley Bay Boat Ramp, Brooklyn (has sandy beach adjacent to boat ramp)
Distance 8.75km circuit
Difficulty Easy navigation. Easy padding, unless water is very choppy
Tide/s Minimal impact from tides
Maps Cowan 9130-4N 1:25K
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.

Steamers Beach (Jervis Bay)

Steamers Beach is a surf beach accessed by a rough 4WD track, which can also be combined into a longer circuit.

A wide and sandy 4WD trail (closed to vehicles) is clearly marked at the Steamers Beach car park, in Booderee National Park (Jervis Bay). It’s well shaded by large eucalypt trees, which still bear the signs of bushfires in September 2017 that burnt a large portion of Booderee National Park. After 1.2km the trail forks; take the left-hand track.

After another kilometre of easy walking, we reach a small clearing. And a sign warning of a steep descent to the beach… Just what we were hoping for 🙂

From here, the last hundred metres or so are on a fairly steep and narrow path before we reach the wide and exposed beach. The high, vegetation-covered sand dunes behind the beach are a result of a “mega tsunami” which occurred around 6700–7000 BC. We have the beach almost to ourselves: there’s just two other people here, a big difference to our walk yesterday to Murrays Beach.

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Being an exposed beach, with a large swell, we would have had the water to ourselves… if we had gone in! There were large waves breaking against the headlands at both ends, and what looked like a dangerous rip in the middle of the beach. Not very appealing for a swim.

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We head back up the path, but instead of re-tracing our steps we head left (west) to visit Brooks Lookout, about 900m along a wide firetrail (this section of the track is more exposed). Despite warnings of “dangerous cliffs”, the lookout is very ordinary and is set well-back from any cliffs. You can see Steamers Head beyond thick scrub, but not Steamers Beach.

An aerial view is more impressive: to the south-west is St Georges Head, with the track that goes out to the end of this headland clearly visible.

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In the opposite direction, to the east, is Steamers Head and Steamers Beach, with the 100m high sand dunes behind the beach.

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From the lookout, it’s possible to return via a shorter route to the Steamer Beach car park, by continuing west along the St Georges Head track for about 500m – it’s well signposted. You could also continue onto Blacks Waterhole and St Georges Head, to extend the walk.

Location Steamers Beach carpark, accessed via Jervis Bay Road, Wreck Bay Road and Stony Creek Road, through Booderee National Park (entry fee payable)
Distance 6.3km return for circuit, as walked
Approx 16km circuit including St Georges Head and Whiting Beach
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain 150m.
Season/s All year.
Maps Sussex Inlet 9027-4S (1:25,000). Track is well sign-posted.
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources