West Head, part of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and only 90min from Sydney, has a variety of short walks –  secluded beaches, off-track routes and rocky outcrops with views over Pittwater. Within West Head are many Aboriginal engraving sites: many are hidden in the bush, but a few like the Red Hands Cave, the Basin Aboriginal Site and Elvina Aboriginal Site are sign-posted and easily accessible. The bushwalks range from ten minutes to most of the day, and even on a weekend you may find yourself alone on a beach or bush track. There are no overnight walks, although you can camp at The Basin, which is accessible by foot or ferry. There’s also a few “off track” walks that take you to secluded beaches or hidden lookouts…

If you’re after the best bushwalks of West Head, there’s a separate post with the top walks for swimming, views or enjoying an “off track” adventure! Or for even more bushwalking trails, have a look at the Guide to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park which has over 50 bushwalks as well as mountain-bike trails and swimming holes.

Even if you’re not a bushwalker, the lookout at the end of West Head Road offers spectacular views over Broken Bay and towards Palm Beach. Within West Head there are two picnic areas – Salvation Creek and Resolute Picnic Area. (Note: the gate to West Head may be locked at night – from 8:30pm to 6am during daylight savings periods and 6pm to 6am at other times of the year. In times of extreme fire danger, the walking trails may be closed. Park entry fees apply, from $13 per vehicle if you don’t have an annual Parks pass.)

Summary of walks

  • America Bay Track – 2.6km return. Easy/Moderate. Aboriginal engravings, waterfall & views
  • Bairne Trail – 9.6km return. Easy. A ridge walk with two lookouts over Pittwater (can be combined with Basin Track)
  • Bairne to Basin circuit – 12km loop. Moderate. Connects the Bairne & Basin trails via ferry, Swimming, views, BBQ facilities.
  • Basin Trail – 2.8km one-way. Easy (but steep road). Boring walk to a nice beach, campground & picnic area with BBQ facilities.
  • Challenger Trail – 3km return. Pretty boring firetrail. Mediocre views at the end unless you continue along a rough track
  • The Duckhole – 800m return. Moderate. Just outside entry station. Short walk along creek to swimming holes and an impressive waterfall.
  • Elvina Bay – 5km return. Easy to Hard. Interesting loop with off-track option. Swimming hole, waterfalls, views, beach.
  • Euro Track – 1.8km return. Easy. Service trail off Basin Trail that goes to the Basin Dam
  • Flannel Flower Beach – 2km return. Hard. A track-less scramble along the rocky coastline to a secluded beach
  • Flint and Steel Bay and Beach – 2km return. Easy/Moderate. Nice walk to one of the best swimming beaches or a secluded bay.
  • Hungry Beach – 3.6km return trail via Flint and Steel Bay. Hard. Partly off-track to a nice swimming beach with WWII  ruins.
  • Koolewong Track – 1.1km return. Easy. Short walk to a lookout with great views over Pittwater.
  • Resolute Loop Trail – 4.1km circuit. Easy. The best loop walk: Aboriginal engravings, nice views and two sheltered beaches.
  • Salvation Loop.  4km circuit. Easy. Nature walk along firetrail through heathland and past hanging swamp. No views.
  • Topham Track – 5km return. Easy. Pretty boring firetrail but continue past the end of track for a cave and nice views
  • Towlers Bay – 9.4km return. Easy.  Picturesque bay with old jetty (not good for swimming)
  • Towlers Bay Circuit – 6.5km circuit. Spectacular lookout and cave.
  • Upper Gledhill Falls – 0.2km. Easy. Not really a walk, but a short track to a waterfall and secluded swimming hole.
  • Wallaroo Track. 9km return. Moderate. Nice Cowan Creek views from the end of a fairly long management trail.
  • Waratah Trail – 9.5km return. Easy. Long and fairly boring walk along firetrail. Views at the end. Suitable for mountain bikes.
  • West Head Army Track – 1.3km return. Easy. Steep walk down to West Head Battery (WHB), a WWII defence complex. 
    (You can extend this walk by visiting Flannel Flower Beach)
  • West Head Beach – 800m return. Easy. Short walk to a sheltered and secluded swimming beach.
  • Willunga Trail – 1.5km return. Easy. Short walk up to highest point in the park, with extensive views over West Head.
  • Yeomans Track. 9.5km return. Moderate. Rock outcrop with view of Cowan Creek. Part service trail and part rough walking track.

Lookouts

There are many lookouts accessed by the walking trails described below… but only one lookout, at the end of West Head Road, that can be accessed by car. The appropriately named West Head Lookout – a large, sandstone viewing area with benches and interpretative signage – provides panoramic views over Pittwater. Directly opposite to the easy is Barrenjoey Head. To the north is Lion Island in the middle of the Hawkesbury River and Central Coast beaches including Patonga and Umina.

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If you’re there are dawn or dusk and there’s not too many people around, you might spot a wallaby, monitor, lyrebird and most likely a few kookaburras.

LocationAt the very end of West Head Road
GradeN/A. Lookout is adjacent to parking area. The area is fully wheelchair accessible.
More InfoNational Parks – West Head Lookout

If you’re prepared to do a bushwalk and avoid the crowds, the best viewing points in the park (in my subjective order of the best lookouts at West Head) are:

  1. Towlers Bay – Birnie Lookout 3.8m return or 6.5km loop (Easy)
  2. Bairne Trail – 9.6km return (Easy)
  3. Koolewong Track – 1.1km return (Easy). Starts near West Head Lookout.
  4. Elvina Bay – 5km return (Easy – with Hard off-track option).
  5. America Bay Track – 2.6km return (Easy/Moderate)
  6. West Head Army Track – 1.3km return (Easy). Starts at West Head Lookout.
  7. Topham Track – 5km return (Easy)

Picnic areas

The most popular picnic spot at West Head is the Resolute Picnic area, which is just before the end of West Head Road. It has many picnic tables across a large area, gas BBQs and a toilet block – but it is Bring your Own Water (no taps or water available). Despite its large size it gets busy – so on weekends get there early!

Less busy is the much smaller Salvation Creek picnic area, located on the right hand side of West Head Road, about half way along the road. It has three picnic tables near the small carpark – and you’ll to need to bring your own (gas) BBQ as well as water. It has a small but nice swimming hole in the creek, right next to the picnic area – perfect for kids to play in.

Bushwalking Trails

America Bay Track

The America Bay Track is of the few West Head bushwalks which offers Aboriginal engravings, a waterfall and views (over Cowan Water). You can get downt to the water, but it’s more of a scramble than a walk (on an unofficial track).

Near the start of the walk, a short (unmarked) detour leads to rock engravings on a sandstone shelf. The trail continues to descends gradually for about a kilometre, crossing a creek which is then followed down to a waterfall and rock platform.

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From here there are views over America Bay and out to Cowan Water, where the creek dropping off the sheer cliff. (No fence, so take care if you’ve got young children.)

If you continue another 100m or so along the track past the rock platform, there is a very rough track that leads down a through a gap in the cliff. It’s only about 150m down but is very steep, with the track following the creek to where it flows into America Bay.

LocationAbout half-way down West Head Road on the left
Distance2.6km return (including down to bay). 1hr
GradeEasy to lookout. Moderate to bay. Total ascent of 125m
More InfoWildwalks – America Bay track notes / National Parks (NPWS) – America Bay

Bairne Trail

One of the longer (but easy) tracks along the ridge line, that leads to great views over Pittwater. Bairne Trail should really be Bairne Trails, as there are a few different options you can take. All of them start from the main track off West Head Road. The fire trail follows the ridge, and is fairly flat. It’s not the most exciting of walks. Around 2km along the service trail there’s an old trig station up on the ridge, although reaching it requires some serious bush-bashing. After 2.4km there’s a small cairn on the left-hand side and what seems to be a faint trail leading down-hill. Ignore this, as it soon peters out. A little further, about 2.6km from the start, there is a major fork and decision to be made…

The Right Fork

The the right-hand trail continues for another 900m, before descending a little until it reaches Towlers Lookout, a lookout above the high cliff-line. There’s views across Pittwater to Scotland Island and beyond.

To the right (south-west) is Towlers Bay, accessible by boat or the Towlers Bay Trail from West Head.

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The Left Fork

The left trail becomes the Soldiers Point Track (there’s an unmarked track off to the right after 100m) which leads to another lookout over Pittwater (the views from here as not as nice as from Towlers Lookout).

The track narrows as it goes done the ridge to Coasters Retreat, a small bush community of 50 houses beside the beach. The town is serviced by the Palm Beach Ferry Service (Bonnie Doon Wharf), which provides another means of access. You can also combine this walk with the Basin Trail, to form a circular walk (returning to the start of the Bairne Track along West Head Road) – see separate Bairne to Basin circuit or summary below).

Finally, you can take the left fork and turn right after 100m down a narrow, unmarked track – this is the now-defunct Portuguese Track. It continues for about 500m, descending down a spur, before it stops. There’s a sign saying “track closed” and the trail is completely overgrown after the first few metres. It looks like it may still be possible to “bush bash” down to Portuguese Bay and Beach, but it would be (very) hard work.

LocationRight-hand (east) side of West Head Road, about half-way
Distance9.6km return (taking in both look-outs)
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 150m
More InfoBaine Trig Station bushwalk / National Parks (NPWS) – Bairne Track

Bairne to Basin Circuit

This isn’t an “official” track, but combines two trails with a short ferry ride to form a loop. It makes an interesting half-day walk (which you could easily stretch to a full day) with some nice views, mostly pleasant walking and a few nice spots for a swim. (The downside is the not-so-pleasant walk back up from The Basin to West Head Road).

The most practical route is to leave the car at the start of the Bairne Track, which you follow to Soldiers Point before taking a rough bushwalking track down to Soldiers Point. A small community on Pittwater, it’s serviced by a regular ferry that takes you across to The Basin on the other side of the small inlet (at low tide you could walk or wade across). From the The Basin, a popular campground, you walk up the maintenance road to West Head Road, and back along the road to the Bairne Trail to complete the circuit.

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LocationPark at Bairne or Basin trackhead (both on the right-hand side of West Head Road, about half-way along)
Distance12km circuit. (3-4 hours).
GradeModerate. 205m total ascent.
More InfoBairne to Basin Circuit bushwalk / National Parks (NPWS) – Bairne Track and Basin Track
Ferry timetable (FantaSea) – Bonnie Doon (Coasters Retreat) to The Basin

Basin Trail

The Basin is the only official camping area within West Head. You can reach it by ferry from Palm Beach, or by car via the 2.8km walk from West Head Road. The campground is a great spot, right on Pittwater and with plenty of shade, as well as BBQ facilities and drinking water. It accommodates up to 400 people (booking ahead is required), but can get busy in summer and long weekends.

The walk to The Basin is one of the least appealing in West Head, consisting of a steep maintenance trail (partly paved) that allows access for NPWS vehicles as well as bushwalkers. Although hidden not far off the track are many Aboriginal engraving sites, and a trig station. Near the start it’s worth taking the very short detour to the Basin Aboriginal Art Site. This site has a collection of engravings on the Basin Track that are among the most well-known in Sydney, including a depiction of a man and woman, interlocked and reaching together towards a crescent moon.

LocationRight-hand (east) side of West Head Road, towards the end 
Distance2.8km one-way
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 220m
ResourcesSecrets of the Basin Track bushwalk
National Parks (NPWS) – The Basin track and Mackerel track
The Basin Campground information and on-line booking
Ferry timetable (FantaSea) – Palm Beach to The Basin

Basin and Mackerel Loop

It’s possible to link the Basin Track and the Mackerel Track via “off track” route along the coastline. You’ll want do this close to low tide, and allow plenty of time as some scrambling and rock-hopping required.

It makes for an interesting loop walk, with some varied scenery (unfortunatele the walk up the Basin Track is not so pleasant). You’ll pass Currawong Beach, the site of a heritage-listed union workers’ holiday camp – it’s the only surviving workers holiday camp across Australia that was consistently in use for 60 years.

AWAT5821 LR Guide to West Head bushwalks
LocationLocked gate towards the end of West Head Road.
Distance6.7km loop
GradeModerate. Total ascent of 215m. Off-track section.
ResourcesMackerel and Basin Loop bushwalk

Challenger Trail

A fairly short fire trail that heads out from West Head Road toward the coast. It doesn’t appear to be particularly interesting, so it takes me a while before I venture down the wide maintenance track. My estimation of the walk proves correct: while it’s an easy and not unpleasant walk, it is also rather boring and I really can’t think of any reason to recommend it. Unless you’ve already done all the other West Head walks. Or you’re looking for a “beginners” mountain bike track, perhaps for kids, in which case this fairly flat track would be a good option. Or you need to hide a dead body somewhere that’s out of the way! While some of the more boring fire trails reward with great views at the end, this one doesn’t. There are filtered views of Pittwater, but nothing spectacular.

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But… there is a faint foot track that seems to continue from the end of the fire trail. As I continue along what the very indistinct track, I spot two Casuarina trees with some decaying yellow tape, the only sign that perhaps there is a trail that leads somewhere. Mostly, though, I’m dodging the spider webs which suggest there’s hasn’t been anyone here for a while.

As the trail skirts the edge of a small cliff (at which point I really can’t see where it continues), there’s some nice views over the Hawkesbury River and Little Pittwater Bay.

I haven’t got time to explore further, and the faint trail has disappeared, so I take a couple more photos from my vantage point, before heading back to the Challenger Trail. Maybe there is a way from here down Little Pittwater Bay – I’ll have to come back and explore on another day!

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LocationLocked gate towards the end of West Head Road.
Distance3km return.
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 40m.
ResourcesWildwalks – Challenger Track

The Duckhole

Technically just outside West Head, there’s a picnic area and a track along the creek which are accessible at any time as they are before the locked gate on West Head Road. A rough track from The Duckhole (a swimming hole) follows McCarrs Creek downstream, past a number of pools and cascades. (This is a different track to the Duckholes Trail!)

The track stops above a narrow gorge and an impressive waterfall that plunges down to a pool far below. It’s possible to scramble down to the pool, but extreme care is needed – it’s a very steep descent and slippery descent.

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LocationParking area at the bottom of West Head Road (near junction with McCarrs Creek Road)
Distance800m return.
GradeModerate (some scrambling and rough track in places)
ResourcesThe Duckhole bushwalk

Elvina Bay

The Elvina Bay circuit is a short but diverse trail at West Head. It features a secluded swimming hole, multiple cascades and waterfalls and some great views over Elvina Bay and Pittwater – plus a nice beach at Elvina Bay. It’s a great little walk, and one that far exceeded my expectations!

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There’s a few different ways to get to Elvina Bay, including the Fredricks Track bushwalking trail (which is an obvious trail but has no signage) and the Elvina Track (a clearly-marked firetrail). There’s also an “off-track” option that I’ve described in my blog post below, which follows an unnnamed creek to the top of a high waterfall, and then continues along a ridge and down a sput to rehain the main walking track. Whether you’re looking for an easy or hard walk, you’ll find something here!

LocationParking area near the start of West Head Road (on the right)
Distance5.4km as walked (slightly shorter loop is possible).
GradeEasy to Hard. Total 200m ascent; a rough off-track section
ResourcesElvina Bay Circuit bushwalk which describes the off-track variant of this walk
Wildwalks – Elvina bay Circuit which explains the normal “on-track” loop walk

Euro Track

The Euro Track is a service trail which runs from the Basin Trail to the Basin dam, an artificial dam which provides water supply to the campground below. There’s not much of a view from the track, but if you head off-track across a broad rock platform (about half-way along the track) to the south, there’s a great view from the edge of a cliff over The Basin.

LocationOff the Basin Trail (which starts the end of West Head Road
Distance5.5km return from start of Basin Trail (Euro Trail is 1.8km return)
GradeEasy. Total 20m ascent
ResourcesSecrets of the Basin Track bushwalk

Flannel Flower Beach

There’s no official track to this narrow and secluded beach, and the beach is quite rocky (making it hard for larger boats to land), so there’s a good chance you’ll have this sliver of sand to yourself!

Flannel Flower Beach is accessed from the end of the steep West Head Army Track, by scrambling over rocks along the coastline. It’s not far but takes a surprisingly long time to cover the 500m. Low tide makes the “walk” much easier – and at high tide there really isn’t much of a beach!

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LocationPark at the end of West Head Road (at the West Head Lookout)
DistanceApprox 2km in total. Flannel Flower Beach is about 500m from the end of the West Head Army Track.
GradeModerate. Total 105m ascent; rock scrambling required
ResourcesFlannel Flower Beach bushwalk

Flint and Steel Beach & Bay

This is my second-favourite walk (after the Resolute Loop Trail), with the option of going to either the beach or the bay. Flint and Steel Beach is by far the more popular walk, with the beach being great for swimming and a good fishing spot. On the other side of the headland is the Flint and Steel Bay, where you’re unlikely to see anyone else.

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You can also connect the beach and the bay via the Flint and Steel Loop, which follows the coastline between the beach and the bay – this is a harder walk. For all of the options, the Flint and Steel track starts near the end of West Head Road, descending steadily on a good track through light forest. After about 300m, the track splits and there’s a sign-post.

Flint and Steel Bay

Head left for Flint and Steel Baythe track continues to descend for another 500m before reaching the ruins of McGaw House. (Built in by E.R. McGaw from 1920-65, the house was destroyed by a fire in 2971). The track reaches shoreline of Flint and Steel Bay just after the ruins, with views across Pittwater.

A few hundred metres further along the track (which is now more of a pad) is White Horse Beach, which is where the track ends. It’s a nice spot for a swim or picnic.

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Flint and Steel Beach

For Flint and Steel Beach, turn right after 300m (it’s sign-posted) and follow the track down another 700m to the beach. After about 500m you can see the end of the beach below, with Lion Island Nature Reserve in the background.

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It’s a great spot, with many shaded areas to sit, rock pools at the western end and I’ve often seen wallabies grazing just behind the beach. It’s a popular fishing spot, but there’s rarely more than a handful of people around (although it’s getting more popular).

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LocationCarpark on left-hand (west) side of West Head Road, just before the end of road
Distance3.4km loop (1:30hr). Approx 2km return to either the bay or the beach
GradeEasy/Moderate. Total ascent of 130m
ResourcesFlint and Steel Loop bushwalk / Wildwalks – Flint and Steel Track

Hungry Beach

Another secluded West Head beach that has no bushwalking track, but can be accessed by following the coastline. It’s a great little beach with lots of shade, a large resident monitor lizard and an old World War II bunker that you can explore.

Getting there involves taking the well-marked trail down to Flint and Steel Bay, and then continuing along the rocky coast around the headland. The beach itself has lots of shade, but the walk is pretty exposed so a hat and sunscreen is a good idea – and low tide makes the walk much easier.

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LocationStart at Flint and Steel trailhead near the end of West Head Road
Distance3.6km return
GradeModerate. Partly off-track.
ResourcesHungry Beach bushwalk

Koolewong Track

The Koolewong Track is named after “koolewong”, the Aboriginal word for koala. Unfortunately while West Head is one of Sydney’s koala habitats, it’s unclear if any remain. It’s one of the shortest walks at West Head, but punches above its weight: at the end of the track is one of the best West Head lookouts, with view over the Hawkesbury River toward Patonga and Lion Island.

The track starts opposite the Resolute Picnic Area entrance, and heads down through eucalyptus forest before reaching a bench at the lookout. You can scramble further around the rocks for some more nice rocky outcrops and an even better view.

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LocationStart opposite Resolute Picnic area near the end of West Head Road
Distance1.1km return or 1.2km loop
GradeEasy. 60m total ascent.
ResourcesKoolewong Track bushwalk

Resolute Loop Trail

The Resolute Loop is arguably the best bushwalk you can do at West Head! The walk goes past an Aboriginal art site (Red Hands Cave) as well as some rock engravings (Resolute Track Aboriginal Site), passes an old WWII observation post, visits two secluded swimming beaches and offers nice views over Pittwater. You can do this in under an hour if you’re in a rush (it makes a good jogging circuit) or stretch it out over half a day, allowing time for a swim.

The loop can be done in any direction from a couple of starting points (Resolute Picnic Area or West Head Lookout) and combines the Resolute Loop Trail and Red Hands Track to form a 4.3km circuit.

LocationPark at the end of West Head Road (West Head Lookout)
Distance4.3km loop (1:30hr).
GradeEasy. 140m total ascent
ResourcesResolute Loop bushwalk
Best Sydney Walks – Resolute Beach and the Resolute Loop Trail

Salvation Loop

The Salvation Loop track is a relatively easy nature walk that passes hanging swamps and heathland. There’s no views from the Salvation Loop due to the thick heath (which are actually hanging swamps) along the wide firetrail. For some nice Cowan Creek views, you’ll need to extend this walk with the Wallaroo Track or Yeomans Track that branch off the Salvation Loop Track.

You can leave the car at one of the two trackheads on West Head Road (there’s an 800m walk along West Head Road to complete the loop) or at the Salvation Creek Picnic area, which is in the middle of the two Salvation Loop starting points.

LocationTwo trackheads on West Head Road about 3.6km from the start or Salvation Creek Picnic Area.
Distance3km circuit (including 800m along West Head Road)
GradeEasy. 60m total ascent.
ResourcesNational Parks (NPWS) – Salvation Loop / Wildwalks – Salvation Loop Track

Topham Track

Definitely not the most exciting walk at West Head, the Topham Track is a wide firetrail that leads… nowhere. To be more accurate, it ends at the edge of the ridge with a view of Cowan Creek in the distance. The trick is to continue past the end of the firetrail and to the left (west), where you’ll soon reach a huge rock overhang. From this cave there are some great views over Cowan Waters, including Jerusalem Bay and America Bay.

The track starts near the middle of West Head Road – there’s no carpark but you can leave the car on the shoulder on either side of the road.

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LocationStart near the middle of West Head Road at the signposted gate
DistanceApprox 2.5km return
GradeEasy. 90m total ascent.
ResourcesTopham Track bushwalk
The Mysteries of Topham Hill – off-track trigs and Aboriginal art sites

Towlers Bay

An easy walk on a 4WD / management road, that leads down from West Head Road to Towlers Bay (where there are are a few houses that are accessed via water only). Near the start of the track on the southern side are a couple of Aboriginal engravings, located across a series of rock platforms. There’s a couple of mundoes (footprints) and what seems to be a very small figure (and I’ve seen reports of a fish carving, but didn’t see this).

There’s also a YHA youth hostel at Towlers Bay, accessed via this track or by ferry/water taxi. The tracks starts with a very gradual descent, becoming steeper after about 2km as it heads towards Morning Bay, when views of Pittwater below start to emerge.

At around the 3km mark, the track starts to follow the coast (still 50-60m above sea level), with side-tracks down to Lovetts Bay and houses, and after another kilometre Woody Point is reached. There’s a sign to the ferry wharf, and another to the youth hostel. Continue along the coast to Towlers Bay, which is reached after about 4.5km.

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At Towlers Bay, there’s a dilapidated house (with an empty swimming pool) close to the shore. From the scarce information I’ve been able to find, it was built around 1963-64 on private land and was named “Cove Lee”, having landscaped gardens and manicured lawns. The property was compulsorily acquired not long after being constructed; there was an intent to acquire all private holdings in the area, but this was too costly. There’s also some references to this having been used as a safe-house for Petrov when he defected, which I can’t verify.

It’s a fine setting for a house and a shame it’s been left to decay. There’s an old jetty that stretches out into the bay, and views across Pittwater to Bilgola and Avalon on the other side of the water.

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There’s also crabs. Swarms (or schools, to be precise) of light-blue soldier crabs that are scurrying across the exposed mangrove flats. It’s quite a sight, which I’ve never seen before.

LocationNear the middle of West Head Road; right-hand (east) side
Distance9.4km return (2-3 hours)
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 185m
ResourcesWildwalks – Towlers Bay

Towlers Bay Loop

The previous walk follows the Towlers Bay Trail (firetrail) down to Lovett Bay and Towlers Bay. This walk leaves the firetrail after 1.2km, taking a narrow bushwalking track to the spectacular Birnie Lookout, before descending to Lovett Bay. It’s a bushwalk I recently discovered after following what seemed like an disused track, and it’s not a marked track – so you may find you’ve got the lookout to yourself!

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As well as the lookout, there’s an interesting cave formation and rainforest-like vegetation on the track down from the lookout.

Once you reach Lovett Bay, you can return via Towlers Bay Trail to the start – or extend the walk by continuing to Towlers Bay as described in the previous walk.

LocationNear the middle of West Head Road; right-hand (east) side
Distance6.5km loop (2-3 hours)
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 225m climb.
ResourcesTowlers Bay Loop (via Birnie Lookout) bushwalk

Upper Gledhill Falls

This isn’t really a bushwalk, but a secluded swimming hole accessed via a short scramble down to the creek from McCarrs Creek Road. At the top of the falls is a series of small cascades, just below where the road crosses McCarrs Creek. A bit further down is Upper Gledhill Falls, which cascades into a deep pool that’s popular in summer for swimming.

The falls and pool are technically outside West Head: the start of the track is on McCarrs Creek Road just before the junction with West Head Road. There’s very limited parking on McCarrs Creek Road, or you can leave the car at the parking area at the bottom of West Head Road and walk up the road a short distance.

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LocationNear the junction of McCarrs Creek Road and West Head Road
Distance200m. 20m total ascent.
GradeEasy. A bit of scrambling required.
ResourcesWild Swimming Holes – Upper Gledhill Falls

Wallaroo Track

The Wallaroo Track branches off from the Salvation Loop, and offers some nice views over Cowan Creek and Refuge Bay. A rocky overhang at the end makes an ideal picnic spot. It’s a relatively long walk and there are better views from many other walks – but has the advantage since it’s less popular that you’ll probably have the track to yourself.

Branching off the Salvation Loop Track after about 1.5km, the Wallaroo Track starts as a service trail that follows along a ridge. After the junction with the Yeomans Track (about 1.7km along the firetrail) the trail gets narrower and more overgrown as it heads steeply downhill. At the end of the track is a small sandstone slab, and a short distance away there’s a rocky outcrop at the top of a small cliff with nice views over Cowan Creek. If you continue along the rock platform to the north, a rough trail through the scrub goes along the ledge, which continues for a while with views along the full length.

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LocationShortest route is from northern trackhead of Salvation Loop
Distance9km return via Salvation Loop Track (or 10km with Salvation Loop)
GradeModerate. 300m total ascent.
ResourcesSunset from the Wallaroo Track bushwalk
National Parks (NPWS) Wallaroo Track / Wildwalks – Wallaroo Track

Waratah Trail

A long fire trail along the ridge, culminating in views over the Coal and Candle Creek and Ku-ring-gai Chase national park.

The sandy fire trail descends gradually down the ridge from West Head Road, through low heath. It’s nicer in spring when the wildflowers are out and can get hot in summer as there’s not much tree cover. Although, it’s really not the most exciting walk at any time of the year! You could also do this trail on a mountain bike.

At the end of the Waratah Track there’s a large rock platform; in the distance you can see Yeomens Bay (a tributary of Cowan Creek). There are a couple of off-track trig points, lookouts and Aboriginal engraving sites that make the Waratah Trail a lot more interesting!

LocationFirst trail on the left, at start of West Head Road
Distance9.5km return (2-3hrs)
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 135m.
ResourcesRediscovering the Waratah Trail bushwalk
National Parks (NPWS) – Waratah Track

West Head Army Track

A short but steep track that was opened in 2016, following the original wartime trail  down to the West Head Battery on the shoreline. The restored and well-marked track involves climbing down a set of steel stairs to reach the Observation Post, commanding views across Broken Bay to the Pacific Ocean. A bit further on are additional structures you can explore, including two gun casings and the ammunition magazine.

The track starts near the West Head lookout car park, and is clearly sign-posted. From the end of the West Head Army Track you continue along the coast (off-track) to Flannel Flower Beach.

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LocationPark at the end of West Head Road (West Head Lookout)
Distance1.3km return. (30-45min).
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 105m
ResourcesWest Head Army Track bushwalk
National Parks (NPWS) – West Head Army Track

West Head Beach

A very short walk to a secluded beach – you can also extend this walk into the 4.3km Resolute Loop Trail, which is one of the best West Head bushwalks.

Starting at the West Head lookout (at the very end of West Head Road), a well-marked track heads directly down to West Head Beach (it will be sign-posted as “Resolute Beach”, which is the second beach). Follow this sandy track for about 400m, initially going down some rock steps and later a section of timber stairs. Just after you cross a small creek, a side-track leads down to West Head Beach.

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It’s a sheltered and picturesque beach, located directly opposite Barrenjoey Peninsula, which you can see across Pittwater It’s rarely busy – although it does get a bit busier each year! There’s lot of shaded spots to sit. The beach is a bit rocky and is best at high tide.

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From West Head Beach, return to the car the same way. Or you can do a loop and return via Resolute Beach and the Resolute Loop Trail via Resolute beach.

LocationPark at the end of West Head Road (West Head Lookout)
Distance800m return (20min).
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 100m
ResourcesWeekend Notes – West Head Beach Walking Trail

Willunga Trail

A very short track to a trig point, which is the highest point in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park (albeit, only about 240m above sea level). The track goes from dry heathland to woodland, with scribbly gums and red bloodwoods. From the top, there are 360-degree views across the national park, toward Pittwater and as far as the city of Sydney to the south.

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LocationLeft-hand (west) side of West Head Road
Distance1.5km return (30min)
GradeEasy. Total ascent of 60m
ResourcesNational Parks (NPWS) – Willunga Trig Walking Track

Yeomans Track

The Yeomans Track (sometimes also called the Wallaroo South Track) branches off from the Wallaroo Track, which branches off from the Salvation Loop… it has filtered views over Cowan Creek and Yeomans Bay from a rock outcrop at the end of the track. As with the Wallaroo Track, you’ll probably have the trail and rock outcrop to yourself as this is one of the longer and less-trafficked walks (it’s also not mentioned on the NPWS web site or the free West Head Walking Tracks brochure). The service trail is fairly overgrown for the last kilometre, and long pants are recommended. It’s not one of the best walks in the park!

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To get there, start on the Salvation Loop Track, and after about 1.5km turn onto the Wallaroo Track. After another 1.7km take the Yeomans Track, an overgrown service trail that continues downhill to a rocky platform at the end.

LocationShortest route is from northern trackhead of Salvation Loop
Distance9.5km return via Salvation Loop Track (or 10.5km with Salvation Loop)
GradeModerate. 300m total ascent.
ResourcesWildwalks – Yeomans Track

Maps

For a summary of West Head bushwalks and simple map showing all the trails, I’ve created a 2-page (A4) guide which you can download:

You won’t need a 1:25,000 topographical map for the marked trails, but if you are venturing off-track Broken Bay (9130-1N), Mona Vale (9130-1S) and Hornsby (9130-4S) would be needed to cover all the walks.

For all the West Head bushwalks, the free map at the West Head entry station is also useful; for a more detailed topographical map get the “Ku-ring-gai & Berowra Valley” Visitor Guide, which you can purchase from the Information Centre at Bobbin Head.

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A short West Head history

West Head is part of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, which is the second oldest national park in Australia (after the Royal National Park). It was declared a public reserve in 1894, following pressure from Eccleston Du Faur, to establish a “National Park for North Sydney” and became a national park with the proclamation of the National Parks and Wildlife Act in 1967. During World War II, Refuge Bay was used as a secret military training base, and gun batteries and fortified shelters were constructed below West head, and along the Resolute Track.

Prior to European occupation, West Head was home to the Darramuragal or Darug people, and a large number of Aborginal heritage sites are a reminder of this heritage. They include occupation shelters and middens, as well as rock art sites:

Unfortunately while a few Aboriginal rock art sites are still signposted and easily accessible, a number of sites are no longer being promoted (or the walking track has been removed) to help presere these sites.

Over many decades the bushwalking trails have remained relatively unchanged, although a few tracks no longer exist. Conversely, in May 2016 a new track was opened – the West Head Army Track, which follows the original wartime track down to the West Head Battery (WHB).

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase. In Website Hornsby Shire. Retrieved from https://hornsbyshire.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/444

1 Comment

Hungary Trail (Cottage Point) – OkRoam · May 20, 2020 at 11:09 pm

[…] track here, it would be the only one on the Cottage Point peninsula – a stark contrast to West Head, which has 20+ trails. After finding a very small parking area where my map shows the trail should […]

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