Passage Peak and Escape Beach, Hamilton Island

A combination of trails on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays that combines sunrise from Passage Peak, a stop at the remote Escape Beach and views from the Resort Lookout.

It’s an early morning start to catch the sunrise from Passage Peak. I set off from the Hamilton Island Resort Lookout Trail entrance, torch in hand, at 6am. The¬†narrow but well-constructed trail ascends steadily from the resort towards Saddle Junction. There are views from the track toward Whitsunday Island and Whitsunday Peak to the east.

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After a kilometre the walking trail meets a maintenance / 4WD road that follows the ridge, and shortly afterwards there’s a small detour along the road to the¬†Flat Top Hill Lookout. Although it’s still a bit dark, there are views over Hamilton Island resort and Catseye Bay.

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With the sky starting to lighten I fear I’ve started the walk a bit late (shouldn’t have hit the snooze button three times on my ‘phone before finally getting out of bed!). I push on towards Saddle Junction: from here there’s just under a kilometre to go, but it’s the steepest part of the walk. I can see my destination ahead – what looks like a small hill in the distance.

There’s more views from the trail to the north-west as it climbs up towards Passage Peak.

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The last 200m is quite steep, but I make it just in time to see the sun rising above the ocean, behind Haslewood Island.

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There’s 360-degree views from the top of Passage Peak – the highest point on Hamilton (although it’s only 234m above sea level).

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To the south-east is Perseverance Island, the closest one to Hamilton Island, and in the distance Pentecost Island and Lindeman Island.

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To the west is Catseye Bay and Hamilton Island Resort, and just behind the resort is Dent Island (home of the Hamilton Island Golf Club), with Long Island and the mainland in the distance. You can also see the maintenance road that goes along the ridge to the end of Hamilton Island.

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I spend ten minutes or so on at the lookout, before heading back – it’s much quicker going down ūüôā

I’m only re-tracing my steps for 200m, back to South East Head Junction. From here I’m taking the long way back, via South East Head and Escape Beach. The first few hundred metres is a wide maintenance track, and then I turn onto a narrow walking trail that roughly follows the coast south.

Halfway along the trail, there’s an abrupt change from light forest to a sea of grass trees (these are quite common on the¬†sandy and infertile soil of ridges on Whitsunday islands).

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A sulphur-crested cockatoo is enjoying the large flowering spike of the grass trees.

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The trail is getting closer to the coast as it nears South East head, with Perseverance Island just across the narrow channel.

The trail rounds the headland, with South East Head jutting out into the ocean. The track is still fairly exposed here, although it’s only 7:30am so it’s pleasant walking even without shade.

The track drops into a small valley, crossing a small stream before ascending very gradually through a section of forest. Soon Escape Beach is visible below the trail.

There’s a very obvious (but not sign-posted) track down to the secluded Escape Beach. At this time of the day there’s no-one here – and I suggest there’s a good chance of having the beach to yourself for most of the day. It’s not particularly picturesque at low tide – high tide would be the best time to visit.

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From Escape Beach the walking track ascends gently up to Saddle Junction, which will complete the circuit of South East Head.

From¬†Saddle Junction I’m re-tracing my steps along the walking track to Resort Lookout Junction. Except now it’s daylight, while two hours ago I was walking up the same track by torch-light.

Once I reach the Resort Lookout Junction, I take the left fork towards the Resort
Lookout¬†– this part of my route is on a graded maintenance road (also used by ATV tours) and it not particularly nice walking. It adds about 4km to the walk, but I want to go back via one more lookout…

…Resort Lookout is a huge cleared area, that’s above the Hamilton Island airport and is also used for weather monitoring equipment. There’s a picnic table here, but it’s not a particularly nice place. The views are pretty good though, if you walk around the edge of the large lookout area. The lookout is almost directly above the resort and Reef View towers.

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In the opposite direction is the mainland.

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The quickest way back to the resort would be to return to¬†Resort Lookout Junction and take the trail down to the¬†Resort Trail¬†Entrance. In hindsight, I should have done that… but instead I follow the maintenance road to Palm Valley. I’m heading away from Passage Peak, at the other end of the island, and towards the airport.

The trail leaves the park near the southern end of the runway, on Palm Valley Way. From here it’s about 2km along the road, past the Hamilton Island Airport and past the marina back to the resort. It means I’ve done a second big circuit rather than returning the same way from the Resort Lookout – but the walk from the last lookout to the resort isn’t particularly nice walking.

Location Starts at Resort Trail Entrance near the Hamilton Island resort. Return to same location or Palm Valley Way near Hamilton Island airport.
Distance 13.9km as walked (combining three separate walks)
Grade Easy/Moderate. Total elevation gain of 550m
Season/s All year. Temperatures most pleasant in winter.
Maps Resort Walking Trail Map is useful. Walks are well sign-posted
GPS Route Routie GPS trail –¬†view route and export to KML format.
Resources

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 ūüôā

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‚Äď7000 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

 

Murrays Beach and Governor Head (Jervis Bay)

A short walk to a very beautiful (but busy) beach on the South Coast, with views from Governors Head across to Bowen Island.

Murrays Beach is a sheltered and very scenic beach in Booderee National Park (Jervis Bay).¬†It’s accessed via a fairly short (300m) walk from the car park – or by following the coast around from the jetty. (If taking the track rather than rock-hopping along the coast, continue past the first car-park to the parking area that’s furthest from the entry road. There are multiple, huge car parking areas that probably reflects the decision in 1969 to build a nuclear power station here, resulting in land being cleared and footings built for the decision was reversed in 1971.)

As we make our way slowly across the rocks (it was close to high tide, and would be much easier this way at low tide), we spot what seems to be a naval training exercise on the opposite of Jervis Bay.

It doesn’t take long to reach Murrays Beach, which has been described as¬†“the jewel in the Booderee National Park”. It has the same white sand as the famous Hyams Beach, very clear water and supposedly less people – although it was pretty busy today!

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It’s also protected from bad weather by Bowen Island, which bears the brunt of any big swells and means even on a day with dangerous surf warnings, the kids could safely swim.

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From Murrays Beach it’s an additional 800m to Governors Head, directly opposite the peninsula. (This is part of a longer walk that goes up past Hole in the Wall and up to Green Patch.) It’s a wide and easy to follow track through eucalypt forest, with some interpretative signage.

The track follow the edge of the cliff, which gets steeper towards the end of the peninsula. A fenced viewing area at the end provides a great view towards Bowen Island, with the shallow channel bearing the brunt of strong winds and a high swell.

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Going back, I follow the coast instead of the marked track, descending down the steep slope to the rocky shore, which is fairly easy to follow. There are a few other people observing the massive waves, and a pair of sooty oystercatchers, foraging in the inter-tidal zone.

There’s a few sections where I need to detour slightly inland to avoid small inlets – it’s not difficult walking but I wouldn’t recommend going this way with small children. Eventually I reach the shore again, and walk back along Murrays Beach to my starting point.

It’s a great beach for swimming, and adding the short walk to Governors Head was worth it for the view (especially if it’s a day with a big swell).¬†With more time, I would have liked to continue up the coast at least to Hole in the Wall. But that will have to be another day!

Location Murrays Beach carpark, accessed via Jervis Bay Road through Booderee National Park (entry fee payable)
Distance Approx 3km return for beach and Governors Head lookout
Up to 10km return if going up to Green Patch (and back)
Grade Easy. Total elevation gain 20m.
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 NPWS Jervis Bay web page

 

Bullimah Spur Track (Bouddi NP)

A short and very picturesque circuit in Bouddi National Park, with some of the best views in the park and a stop at beautiful Maitland Bay.

There are a few ways to get to Maitland Bay, the “jewel” (I would argue) of the Bouddi National Park. One of these is the Bouddi Coastal Walk, which I did a few weeks ago, and is one of my regular walks. Today I’m taking a much shorter route, going down via the¬†Bullimah Spur (on the aptly named Bullimah Spur Track) and back up the main Maitland Bay Track.

The Maitland Bay carpark is almost full at 11am on a hot day in December; each year the park seems to get more popular. I’m hoping that taking the¬†Bullimah Spur Track will avoid the crowds. Starting on the well-trodden and well-marked Maitland Bay Track from the carpark, after about 100m there’s a sign for the Bullimah Spur Track off to the right.

So, I’m surprised when we hear a group of eight hikers coming up behind us! We let them pass, and they turn out to be the only other hikers we see on this trail. The track follows the¬†Bullimah Spur which heads away from Maitland Bay, descending very gradually through shaded eucalypt forest.

Less than a kilometre from the start of the walk, there’s the first of a few sandstone outcrops that provide stunning views over Maitland Bay. The Bouddi Coastal Walk can be seen winding its way along the top of the cliffs on the left.

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The second lookout, just off to the left of the Bullimah Spur Track, offers even better views – if that’s possible!

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To the east is Maitland Bay and the protected waters of the Bouddi Marine Extension.

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To the west and on the other side of the¬†Bullimah Spur, the Bouddi Coastal Track snakes along the cliffs to Putty Beach. Lion Island is in the distance, and Killcare is on the other side of the peninsula. While it feels like you’re far from civilisation on most of the Coastal Walk, Killcare and Killcare Heights protrude into the middle of Bouddi National Park. At the far end of the Bouddi peninsula, on the other side of Putty Beach, is Box Head and Tallow Beach where it’s national park again.

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A short distance further (1.4km from the carpark) is Bullimah Outlook, a rocky outcrop at the end of the Bullimah Spur.

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There’s great views out to the west over Gerrin Point and Putty Beach / Killcare Beach. There’s a plaque on the rock commemorating Charles Darcy Roberts (a bushwalker and former trustee of Bouddi National Park) as well as ‚Äúother bushwalkers who lost their lives in World War II‚ÄĚ.

According to the map, the track stops here… but it doesn’t. Marked by white arrows, a well-marked track descends steeply from the¬†Bullimah Spur, through shaded forest – although on a warm day, I’m glad we’re going down this section, and not up.

About two-thirds of the way down, there’s a “mini-cliff” (it’s only about 5m high), with a rope to help descend (or ascend) this section.

There’s another hundred metres before the track joins the main Bouddi Coastal Track. (If you’re doing the walk in the other direction there’s no signage: look for an unmarked track that goes past a large boulder, about 60m north of Gerrin Point lookout – 33¬į31’47.0″S / 151¬į22’59.1″E)

It’s a very short detour to Gerrin Point lookout, with a large sandstone platform directly below the cliffs and views of Maitland Bay and beyond.

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From Gerrin Point, it’s a 1.4km walk along the Bouddi Coastal Track (which mostly follows the coastline) to reach the junction with the Maitland Bay Track. There are occasional glimpses of Maitland Bay as we get closer and a few exposed sections of track, but we’re mostly walking through light forest and in shade.

Maitland Bay is never crowded but is fairly busy today, being a warm day in the December holiday period. We could have found a shaded spot near the middle of the beach, but decided to have a quick swim and head back to the car. (There’s also the wreck of the SS Maitland, which sank in 1898, located at the far end of the beach. It’s worth having a look, especially at low tide when the rusted remains are most visible.)

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After a refreshing swim, it’s an easy (and shaded) walk straight back up the Maitland Bay track to the car.

It’s taken us just over two hours, including a quick swim – but we (or rather I!) stopped many times to take photos along the¬†Bullimah Spur, and as a result our pace was fairly slow. It’s the first time I’ve walked to Maitland Bay this way, but won’t be the last. While not the quickest route, the views are stunning from the¬†Bullimah ridge, and even on the busiest days you’ll have the track (almost) to yourself!

Location Start at Maitland Bay car park, on The Scenic Road
Distance 4.6km circuit (2.6km return for Bullimah Outlook only)
Grade Easy. Total 180m ascent.
Season/s All year.
Maps
  • Broken Bay topographic map (NSW 9130-1N) 1:25K
  • Bouddi National Park sketch map from park office. 1:25K
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources
Map-BouddiNationalPark-BullimahSpurCircuit
Map showing route of Bullimah Spur Circuit

Flannel Flower Beach (West Head)

A scramble over rocks to reach a narrow and exposed beach on West Head.

Looking for short walk to do with one of the kids not too far from home after Christmas lunch, I found a beach that hopefully could be accessed via the West Head Amy Track. I had walked down to the old World War II gun embankments at West Head earlier in the year, but hadn’t seen any obvious track along the coast. So it’s a bit of an exploratory trip on a somewhat bleak afternoon!

Once we reach the first gun casing (the one on the left, or northern-most side), we start following the the rocks along the shoreline. My daughter (11yrs) is with me, and my sister who’s visiting from overseas. There’s some scrambling involved, but nothing too challenging.

After a few hundred metres along the rocks, we clamber up a bit higher, where we find an old steel and concrete structure which may also date back to World War II.

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It’s harder going further up the slope, which is quite steep, so we soon drop back down to the rocks along the shoreline. There’s a “mini tessellated pavement” as we near the headland before the beach, and some flat areas of sandstone where make good progress.

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Progress along the coast stops as we reach the small headland in front of the beach: there’s some large boulders that make it impossible to continue. There’s a nice rock platform with some rock pools with views towards Lion Island. But although we’re almost at Flannel Flower Beach, we still can’t see it.

I complete the last, short leg on my own. It’s an easy “climb” up and around the headland, avoiding the rocks along the shore, and then I’m at the end of the beach. While it’s not the best beach around, the challenge getting to it means you’ll probably have it to yourself… at least at low tide!

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Flannel Flower Beach is a narrow sliver of sand backed by a 5m sandstone bluff. So I’m not sure there would be much of a beach at high tide – and¬†getting to the beach would be much harder and possibly dangerous on a rising tide or at high tide.

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It’s been a fun hour and a half, with some rock scrambling / parkour – and the climb back up to West Head car park helping to offset a few of the calories consumed at out Christmas lunch…

Location Park at the end of West Head Road (at the lookout)
Distance Approx 2km in total. Flannel Flower Beach is about 500m from the end of the Army Track.
Grade Moderate. Total 105 ascent; rock scrambling
Season/s All year at low tide.
Maps Ku-ring-gai & Berowra Valley Visitor Guide (from Info Centre)
Or the free map from entry station
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Notes
  • The gate to West Head is locked at night ‚Äď 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, walking trails may be closed.
  • Park entry fees apply, from $12 per vehicle.

 

Bouddi Coastal Walk

One of the best coastal walks around Sydney, traversing a number of beautiful beaches and scenic lookouts.

The Bouddi Coastal Walk follows the coast from Little Beach to Putty Beach, through the Bouddi National Park an hour north of Sydney. You can do this walk in both directions, with a few variations to minimize “back-tracking”. I’ve always started at Little Beach – which has the advantage that, if time permits, you can get a cold drink or even lunch at the kiosk at Killcare Beach, before returning. Or you could organise a car shuffle and do the walk in one direction. You can also do the walk in shorter sections. It’s a fantastic and fairly easy walk¬† that was nominated as “one of the 18 best day walks in Australia” by¬† Australian Geographic. (If you’re after a shorter walk that offers the best of Bouddi National Park, I’d strongly recommend the Bullimah Spur circuit).

Starting near Little Beach, you can take either the “Old Quarry Trail” or “the Bouddi Coastal Walk” trail from the carpark, both join up eventually (the Coast Walk track is narrower and more of a foot trail).

 

(Little Beach can be accessed via a separate path from the carpark, or a short detour off the Coast track. It’s a small, sheltered beach with a grassy area where camping is permitted. On a warm day, a good spot for a final swim before returning to the car but it’s not the nicest beach along this section of coast.)

After 400m the two trails join and become a wide fire trail for a while, before turning back to a narrow trail again about two kilometres from the start.

 

From here the track follows the coastline quite closely, and while a bit exposed, I think it’s one of the nicest sections of the Coastal Track. There’s great views over the ocean and along the coast: Bouddi Point is just ahead, followed by Gerrin Point, and far off in the distance is Box Head.

 

After 3.5km, we’re at Maitland Bay (I’m doing this walk with my father). The track descends steeply down to the eastern end of the the beach.

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A sheltered bay, Maitland Bay is one of the most¬†picturesque beaches around Sydney. It’s often mentioned as one of the top “secret” beaches in NSW (eg. Australian Traveller’s “21 Secret Beaches in Sydney and NSW“). If you have time, it’s a nice spot for lunch or a swim, with many shaded areas along the middle of the beach. It’s never busy, although every year there’s a few more people on the beach… If you go mid-week you’ll probably have the beach to yourself (we saw two other people on a Thursday).

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The beach is named after the SS Maitland (having previously been called Boat Harbour), a paddle steamer which ran aground and sank in 1898, killing 27 people. The remains of the boat can be seen at low tide, just off the rocks at Bouddi Point.

 

From here, we follow the beach around to the far end, taking the Maitland Bay track at the other end of the beach. After a couple of hundred metres the main track continues up the hill (this is the shortest access to the beach) but we go left, continuing along the Coastal Track.

 

This is another nice section of the Coastal Walk, again closely following the coast and offering a combination of views and shaded sections of forest.

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It’s not far from here (about 1.5km from Maitland Bay) to Gerrin Point Lookout, where there’s a timber platform perched on the edge of the cliffs. It’s a great spot for whale watching; not that I have the patience to stand there and look for passing whales! But if you had the patience, it would be a good spot at the right time of year.

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From the lookout you can see the crescent-shaped Maitland Bay,¬†where we’ve come from, and over the¬†Bouddi National Park Marine Extension. We’ve done just under six kilometres so far, and are nearing the end of the walk.

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The last section is the most popular, and you’re unlikely to be on your own… A timber boardwalk follows the coast, with a turn-off to the small¬†Bullimah Beach just after Gerrin Point.

 

A little further on is the tessellated pavement, where the the sandstone has been subdivided into regular rectangles.

 

A bit more boardwalk, and I’m at the end of¬†Putty Beach. This is the longest beach in the Bouddi National Park, consisting of Putty Beach at the northern end and Killcare Beach at the southern end. A stroll along the beach to the far end takes you to Killcare Surf Life Saving Club, where there is a¬†kiosk that’s open every day until about 3pm.

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It’s 7km to Putty Beach; there’s no choice from here other than to return the same way along the boardwalk superhighway to Gerrin Point and then the track to Maitland Bay. (I discover later that the Bullimah Spur Walking Track actually joins the Coastal Walk near Gerrin Point, which is not shown on any of the maps – so I’ll come back another time to walk this route.)

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From Maitland Bay, to avoid returning the same way, we take the Maitland Bay Track, which climbs steadily up to the ridge. It’s a shaded track that provides the most direct access to the beach.

 

At the end of this trail is the carpark, and the¬†Bouddi National Park Information Centre, open for a few hours on weekends. We continue along the¬†Stroms Trail. A wide track that follows the road, it’s also suitable for mountain biking.¬† There’s rarely anyone else on this trail – today there’s just a lace monitor, one of of Australia‚Äôs largest lizards sharing the track with us.

 

The¬†Stroms Trail follows the ridge for about 2.3km, before joining the main road (The Scenic Road). From here it’s a rather boring 2km walk along the The Scenic Road and down Grahame Drive back to the car (although mostly in the shade and downhill, so it’s not too bad on a hot day).

Start / End points
Distance 14km return
(18km return if going to the end of Putty/Killcare Beach and back)
Grade Easy. Total 450m ascent.
Season/s All year.
Maps
  • Broken Bay topographic map (NSW 9130-1N) 1:25K
  • Bouddi National Park sketch map from park office. 1:25K
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources
Map-BouddiNationalPark-CoastalWalk
Map showing Bouddi Coastal Walk route with different route options

 

Flinders Island

In search of somewhere new to visit in the school holidays, we’ve booked a week on Flinders Island, which lies between the Australian mainland and Tasmania. It seems to offer both hiking opportunities and less strenuous sightseeing by car – as well as lots of beaches for the kids to swim at!

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About Flinders Island

Flinders Island is the largest of the 52 islands in the Furneaux Group, which are dotted across Bass Strait to the north-east of Tasmania (between Tasmania and the mainland). The island is closer to Tasmania than the mainland, and is located right on the 40¬į south latitude – also known as the Roaring Forties (although we didn’t experience any of the wild weather for which the island is renowned).

The island is about 62km in length and 37km across with a total land area of 1,333 square kilometres.  About a third of the island is mountainous, with ridges of granite running the length of the island. The coastal areas are predominantly covered in thick scrub, with a wide strip of sandy dunes along the shoreline (although there are large areas of cleared land that support over 50 lamb and beef farmers).

Some of the Furneaux Group islands were recorded in 1773 by British navigator Tobias Furneaux, who commanded one of the support boats James Cook’s second voyage, and the southern islands were charted by¬†Matthew Flinders in February 1798. (James Cook named the group of islands after Tobias Furneaux, and¬†Phillip Parker King – also an explorer – later named the largest island Flinders Island after Matthew Flinders.)

Flinders Island was¬†frequented by sealers and Aboriginal women (who had been taken from mainland tribes) in the¬†late 18th century; when seal stocks collapsed in the late 1820s many sealing families stayed in the Furneaux Group, subsisting on cattle grazing and mutton-birding. It wasn’t until the 1950s that a proper settlement scheme was initiated, drawing settlers from mainland Tasmania and central NSW to Flinders Island’s eastern shore. Sixty years later, in the 2011, the population of Flinders Islands was 700 people with a median age of 45. [Source: Wikipedia]

When to go (and for how long)

There’s not really a “bad” time to visit Flinders Island – although the climate is surprisingly varied for an island, with recorded extremes of -3.5 degrees in winter to 41.5 degrees in summer. Initially I’d planned to visit in early January, before discovering the flights were at their most expensive and accommodation options limited. I was more successful in booking our family trip in the April school holidays – which in hindsight was a good result. While summer would have been ideal for swimming in the many beaches and coves, it would have been less pleasant for hiking. Autumn was ideal – just warm enough for the kids to have a quick swim (definitely too cold for the adults!) and perfect for exploring the island on foot.

Climate-FraserIsland
Source: Bureau of Metereology via Wikipedia

As for how long to stay? We had eight days on the island and could easily have spent up to a couple of weeks. There’s lots to see, and had we stayed longer we could have enjoyed a few “quiet days” at our well-appointed beach house, or ventured out to one of the neighbouring islands (by chartering a boat). A week was needed to really explore all corners of the island, especially if you’re planning a few weeks.

Getting there and around

There’s really only one option for getting here (unless you own your own boat!), which is flying with Sharp Airlines from either¬†Launceston (Tasmania) or Essendon (Victoria). The 19-seat turboprop plane takes about 30min from Tassie and an hour from Victoria – every seat is a window seat (except for one, which I’m assigned on both flights!), so you get nice views coming into Flinders Island.

There is a ferry from Bridport in Tasmania that is operated weekly by Furneaux Freight, allowing you to bring your own vehicle. It’s an 8-hour trip with a schedule that is dependent on tides and weather conditions… we had considered this option before realising our trip out would have meant a departure time of 1am!

Once on the island, a car is essential unless you’re on an organised tour. There is one option – Flinders Island Car Hire – which is located at the airport. Despite having a ground transportation monopoly, the prices are reasonable ($75-$80 per day), albeit the the cars are up to ten years old. The staff at the car hire desk are very friendly, meeting each flight and providing local advice and maps before sending you on your way. Although most roads are unsealed, we found them all to be in good condition and easily navigated in our 2WD rental car.

Food & Accommodation

There’s many places to stay – even in my initial attempt to book a trip in January, there was still availability a month or so prior. In April, a few places were booked a couple of months prior but we had a lot of choices: we ended up booking West End Beach House, towards the northern end of Flinders Island. A great choice – the house was well appointed, and in a very private location overlooking the ocean (the beach being ¬†a 5-10min walk away through the sand dunes, behind the house). Sawyers Bay Shacks is another option that looked appealing.

Other than the type of accommodation, the main decision you’ll need to make is how close to “civilisation” you want to be… There are dining-out options at Whitemark and Lady Barron, and a supermarket at¬†Whitemark (and a much smaller one at Lady Barron). And that’s about it. We were a good 45min drive away, so we had planned to stock-up every few days and cook our own dinners. It would have been pretty tedious driving at dusk/night every day to eat out for dinner.

As far as dining out goes, we met some friends for lunch at the Furneaux Tavern (Lady Barron) at the end of our stay, which wasn’t bad. Although the seafood options on the menu weren’t caught locally, there was a decent range of food and prices were reasonable. It seemed almost impossible to buy locally caught fish (there were rumours of a local who sold fresh seafood out of the back of his truck at the local pub once a week – but he hadn’t been seen for a few weeks). I ¬†did manage to track down a purveyor of crayfish – and bought a freshly caught and cooked cray that made a delicious evening meal. We even got a tour of the crayfish and abalone holding tanks that are located at the Lady Barron wharves.

What we found consistently impressive: the local meat, which we bought at the butcher in Whitemark.¬†While the Flinders Island (human) population represents only 0.02% of Tasmania, Flinders Island farmers produce approximately 15% of Tasmanian beef production and 9% of Tasmanian lamb production. (The chicken schnitzels were also fantastic, although they were “imported” as there’s no commercial poultry operations on the island). For a coffee fix or pre-prepared meals, A Taste of Flinders (next door to the butcher) was a regular stop.

The Itinerary

The general plan was to see as much of the island as possible in ten days (we do manage to cover a lot of ground), and I wanted to fit in a few hikes. The “highlights” of our trip:

  • Best beaches – Trousers Point was the stand-out (it just missed out on the The Mercury’s Tasmania’s Top 10 Beaches¬†list) and has a picnic area with free BBQ. Also very picturesque are Killiecrankie Bay, Sawyers Bay and the bays and beaches around North East Rock.
  • Best hikesMt Strzelecki is worth the effort, but you need a very clear day. I found Mt Killiecrankie even more rewarding, but tougher than than Strzelecki (as it’s partly off-track). For coastal walks, Castle Rock deserves it’s place as one of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks.
  • Best Lookouts – For vantage points that can be reached by car, Mount Tanner to the north offers good views and is good spot to catch the sun rising or setting. Walkers Lookout is the one to visit, for the best views of the island.

Map-Flinders-Island

Getting to West End (Day 1)

Due to flight scheduling challenges (we’re coming from Sydney), it wasn’t feasible or cost-effective to get to Flinders Island in one day. So, we flew to Launceston on the previous day, arriving late afternoon. Today we had time for a visit to Platypus World in the Tamar Valley before our flight from Launceston Airport. Check-in was very quick and straightforward, and after a half hour wait we took off on our fairly short flight to Whitemark, where we picked up our car around midday.

Having picked up our car, we set off northwards on Palana Road. The road is initially sealed and passes through open farmlands, with views over the coast from Emita. After about 20min, at the junction to the C801 to Memana, the sealed road turns to gravel and it starts to feel like we’re the only ones on the island!

Another 20min or so further, and we turn left onto West End Road. The light is starting to fade, so we take it fairly slowly as there’s a lot of wildlife around. I later read in one of the guides at the house that due to ideal conditions and lack of predators, there’s about 400% more wildlife on Flinders Island compared to mainland Tasmania. Which explain the huge amount of roadkill, considering the relatively light traffic on the island. We spot a wombat by the side of the road, and a little further on a rather pale (and shy) echidna. We discover later that Flinders Island¬†has an echidna population that includes an uncommon subset of pale or ‘albino’ echidnas.

We finally make it to our West End Beach House, just in time for a fantastic sunset and a quick swim on the beach (well, not for me, it’s way too cold but my son is part-seal!).

It feels like we’re on holiday!

North West Coast (Day 2)

We commence our island exploration with a tour of the west and north-west, continuing along West End Road and up to Mount Tanner, which is far as we can go with a 2WD car. We’d been told to avoid this road, but it seemed to have been recently graded, and was no problem for our car as it wound up the hill to the 332m summit of Mount Tanner. At the top is a microwave communications tower built to connect the island to Victoria and mainland Tasmania¬†in 1967. The views from here stretch in all directions: to the north (below) is Killiecrankie Bay and Mount Killiecrankie.

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On the way back down, we spot a tiny frog that’s almost blended into the gravel, which the kids helpfully shepherd off the road…

Having descended back the same way, we head south, past our house and toward Whitemark. Our next stop is Long Point and the Arthur Bay Conservation Area (off Palana Road, on the west coast). One one side of the narrow road is the ocean, and on the other side a sheltered bay that has a viewing hide to observe the many sea birds.

While the kids and Mum have lunch and observe the bird life from the hide (I don’t have the patience required for bird-watching), I walk back along Long Point Beach and around to Sawyers Bay. Between Long Point Beach and the start of Arthur Bay is Blue Rocks, an outcrop of lichen-covered boulders, with the Mt Strzelecki ranges in the distance.

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Our last stop for the day is just a bit further north, where there’s a short walk from Emita along the coast to the imposing Castle Rock. (I did the 4km one-way walk; after dropping me off the rest of the family parked near the rock, which you can also get to via a short 4WD track from the car park – it’s well worth it, especially at sunset.)

Castle Rock walk (4km one-way)
One of the Tasmanian “Great Short Walks”. The trail traverses secluded beaches, weathered sandstone formations and grassland before reaching¬†Castle Rock, an imposing, monolithic boulder on the end of the headland.
Full hike details
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Patriarch Wildlife Sanctuary (Day 3)

Another clear and sunny day awaits us… today we’re driving to the¬†Patriarch Conservation Area, on the eastern side of the island. On the way, we make a small diversion to Tobias Furneaux Lookout.

The views aren’t spectacular, but they do give you a view over the interior of the island.

Continuing along the well-graded Memana Road (C803), we stop a couple of times to photograph the Cape Barren Geese.¬†¬†They are “a most peculiar goose of uncertain affiliations, which may either belong into the “true geese” and swan subfamily Anserinae or into the shelduck subfamily” [Wikipedia], and are one of¬†the unique birds that live around the Furneaux Group. Considered an endangered species only about 40 years ago, a breeding program to increase their numbers of geese was so successful that in recent years the numbers of geese have grown to plague proportions. As a result they are now allowed to be hunted in certain times of the year – which is probably why they take flight as soon you get too close.

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We arrive at the¬†Patriarch Wildlife Sanctuary mid-morning, which is a habitat for abundant wildlife and bird life including wombats, wallabies and Cape Barren Geese. There’s an¬†an A-frame building with bunk beds and cooking facilities inside, and a shaded (free) gas barbecue area outside. A big container of wallaby feed ensures that a large population of almost “tame” wallabies around the building!

Unfortunately, the relaxed vibe is broken when my wife goes searching for some birds to photograph in the nearby pond… and a snake rears it head out of the water and makes a beeline for her!

The area is named after the “Patriarchs” – three granite mountains that¬†were named after Matthew Flinders, as they stand out on the low plains. I had allowed time to hike to the summit of one of them, the South Patriarch (the route is described in¬†“Walks of Flinders Island”). It’s an untracked walk, and after a brief attempt to traverse the thick scrub (particularly heavy due to a bushfire a few years ago that resulted in heavy re-growth) I give up. I’m discovering that off-track walking on Flinders Island requires a certain level of long clothing and commitment!

Being now mid-afternoon, we head back to our house at West End.

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After a brief stop at the house, it’s back in the car for the 15min back up to Mount Tanner to take some sunset photos. The late afternoon light is fantastic!

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To the east are clear views of Killiecrankie Bay, and on the other side of the telecom tower the sun is setting over the ocean.

After dinner back at the house, I make a final trip for the day back to Mount Tanner, to take advantage of the clear skies and watch the moon, which is rising just after 10pm. The photos don’t really do justice to the amazingly clear views of the milky way, and the orange glow of the rising moon. I could stay here a long time. But it’s getting late chilly!

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Mt Strzelecki (Day 4)

Today’s plan is to start relatively early, and take advantage of the continuing fine weather for an ascent of Mt Strzelecki, the highest peak on Flinders Island at 756m.

Mt Strzelecki (6.6km return)
Another of the three Tasmanian “Great Short Walks” on Flinders Island. The well-marked track climbs steadily and relentlessly to the peak, through a variety of different environments.
Full hike details
 

It’s well worth the effort, despite the potentially spectacular views in all direction being partly obscured by cloud. The general recommendation is to go early (which we did) – the mountain seems to attract clouds and create its own weather at the top.

We cool off afterwards at the nearby Trousers Point Beach, with Mt Strzelecki reminding us of its presence in the background. Frustratingly, the top now looks clear of cloud!

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After driving back to West End there’s time for a swim at West End Beach, followed by a short circular walk along West End Beach and back up West End Road to our house. The sunsets haven’t disappointed so far!

It’s pretty chilly outside… but not too cold for the kids to enjoy some marshmallows over the firepit before going to bed.

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Killiecrankie (Day 5)

Another long walk – and some fossicking – is planned for today. It’s the warmest day so far, and there’s not a cloud in the sky.

We drive to Killiecrankie Beach, a little to the north. It’s one of the places to search for the Killiecrankie Diamond, and we have our shovels and sieves that we hired a few days ago in Whitemark.¬†¬†The “Killiecrankie Diamond” is a type of clear topaz that has been washed down from the granite mountains.

Leaving the rest of the group to (hopefully) pay for our holiday** with their fossicking efforts, I head off around Killiecrankie Bay with my sights set on reaching the top of Mt Killiecrankie. It ends up being the most rewarding, but also the longest and toughest walk I do on the island.

Killiecrankie Circuit (18km)
A partly off-track circuit to the summit of Mt Killiecrankie summit, which offers
360-degrees over the island. The circular route back follows the rugged coast from The Dock and around Old Man’s Head.
Full hike details
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I don’t finish the hike until just after dark, walking back around Killiecrankie Bay as the sun sets over the ocean. (It’s another great sunset vantage point, which we re-visit a couple of days later).

** After collecting many small and shiny rocks, the helpful lady at Killiecrankie Enterprises (where we’v hired our fossicking equipment) explains that we have a nice collection of quartz. But not a single Killiecrankie Diamond.

Trousers Point (Day 6)

Disappointed by the less than perfect view from the summit of Mt Strzelecki two days prior due to cloud around the peak, I set the alarm clock super-early. I’m up at 3:30am and back on the summit track by 4:30am. I plan to catch the sunrise from the summit and get some clear shots from the highest vantage point on the island!

Alas, my second summit attempt is a complete disaster, with not just heavy cloud but rain falling near the peak. After returning to the car, I drive to Walkers Lookout, which is also mist-bound. Looking at¬†Mt Strzelecki from Whitemark, the entire mountain range is shrouded in thick cloud. (I’m increasingly less convinced by the “climb early in the morning before the clouds form” school of thought. And slightly paranoid that the Strzelecki mountain gods have taken a dislike to me.)

I head to Trousers Point: the plan is to meet the rest of the family here for lunch after they’ve purchased some local beef sausages for lunch. The weather is quickly improving, and the clear water is very inviting, despite the temperature being in the low twenties.

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It’s never too cold for the kids to swim, of course… and in a clear case of the mountain gods mocking me, the top now seems completely free of cloud. I don’t have the energy for a third ascent.

This a great spot for a BBQ – like a few other places on the island, the BBQ facilities are free and spotless. This would be one of the top picks on the island for a BBQ or picnic – and yet in our three hours here we see only one other group of visitors.

After lunch, I undertake the Trousers Point Walk, the third and last of the “Great Short Walks” on Flinders Island. The return walk is just over 4.5km in length and takes me about 45min of brisk walking. It’s the shortest of the Great Short Walks, which follows the coastline along the Trousers Point headland. It’s also the least great of the Great Short Walks. It’s a nice walk along the rocky shore, with some interesting rock formations, but there’s far less variety than the other two Great Short Walks.

On the way home, we detour past Walkers Lookout again – this time it’s a far more impressive vista than the 20m visibility I had earlier in the morning. There are clear views in every direction, with signage that points out the major features in every direction. The Strzelecki ranges can be seen in the distance to the south and the Patriarchs to the east. For lookouts accessible by car, this is definitely the best one.

There’s still a few hours left in the day, but we head back to our house to avoid driving at dusk. It’s been another great day on Flinders Island.

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Palana and the North East (Day 7)

We haven’t explored the north east corner of Flinders Island yet, so we head off in this direction, taking the North East River Road all the way to the north-east tip of the island (Holloway Point).

For the last few kilometres the road follows the North East River, which resembles a tidal estuary more than a river. There’s thousands of tiny crabs swarming on the mud flats of the river, and it’s teeming with birdlife.

At the end of the road, there’s a few parking spots and a toilet block. Although my guide book says the road can get busy in summer, there is no-one here today, so we can have the place to ourselves to explore and look for shells.

On the south side of¬†Holloway Point, a¬†long and rocky promontory, the North East River flows into Bass Strait.¬†There’s a small sheltered bay and a nice, long stretch of sand along the mouth of the river. It would be a great spot to swim on a warm day – today, it’s too cold even for the kids!

A short walk away, over the rocky promontory, there’s another north-facing beach that’s more exposed.

It’s a great spot for photography, especially today with the weather and light constantly changing.

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We spend a couple of hours here, before heading to Palana, on the western side of the island.¬†Palana Beach is the most northern beach on Flinders Island; there’s a number of beach houses you can rent here, but (like our house at West End) it’s a long drive to the nearest restaurant or grocery store.

At the end of Palana Road is a very sheltered harbour or bay with a jetty. There’s also a very solid concrete bunker. There’s no explanation or signage ¬†– and it’s the only one of it’s type I’ve seen on the entire island. Later research indicates it’s a World War II bunker.

Access to Palana Beach (which is poorly signposted) is a few hundred metres back along the road. The very last section is a bit eroded and we fear our 2WD car won’t make it, so so we leave the near the turn-off to the beach and walk down the last 250m.

It’s a nice beach, but not as nice as Trousers Point or even our last stop at North East River Inlet. I walk down the beach to the end – there are some steep sand dunes toward the far end, and a mini-lagoon where the water is a bit warmer.

At the end of the beach, there’s a good view of Inner Sister Island directly ahead (there’s also an Outer Sister Island). One of¬†the largest of the approximately one hundred outer¬†islands¬†in the Furneaux Group,¬†Inner Sister Island is a granite and dolerite island, that supports seabirds and waders and is grazed by sheep.

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No more stops are planned after our very late lunch and stroll along Palana Beach… but… as we near the turn-off to Killiecrankie the sunset seems to be another nice one. Not what we’re expecting, as it’s been a fairly overcast day. We make an impromptu diversion to¬†Killiecrankie Bay.

The colour of the sky is getting more orange as we arrive and scope out the best spot for photos.

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It gets more spectacular as the sun emerges from the clouds, bathing the surrounding rocks and Mt Killiecrankie on the other side of the bay in a warm glow. We stay until the sun has fully set, and finally head back to the house.

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Around West End (Day 8)

It’s a quiet day today… the weather is overcast and rain threatens. The kids and I set off for a beach stroll and Killiecrankie Diamond fossicking attempt in the morning. This time we go to Tanners Bay, just south of West End Beach. While Tanners Bay can be accessed by foot from West End Beach, we drive a short way up West End Road, where our map indicates that there is a roads leading down to the beach. We leave our car on main road and walk down one of these side-tracks… which seems to be a private road leading to a house. No-one is around, so we’re quickly on the beach, but a bit confused as to which of the tracks down to the beach are public and which are private driveways.

We’re now looking for a creek bed that would have carried the “diamonds” down from Mt Tanner, but we’re really not sure if we are anywhere near the right spot. Nevertheless, we dig and sieve away with diminishing enthusiasm: there’s not a lot of reward for our effort!

Having ¬†tried a few different spots and not far from giving up, I spot what seems to be a seal resting on the beach. Walking a bit closer, it turns out it IS a seal, which is a pleasant surprise – it’s the only seal we see on the island.

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It gives us a baleful look, and (rather inelegantly) waddles into the ocean

As the sky darkens, we head back to the car – there a brief downpour on the way back, which is the first rain we’ve had in eight days (so we can’t really complain).

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By late afternoon, the weather has significantly improved so I take the opportunity to do one more walk… from our beach house at West End I’m walking to Egg Beach. I start behind our house, walking over the sand dunes and following West End Beach north.

Egg Beach (8km)
From West End Beach, the untracked route follows the coastline, crossing secluded coves and beaches as well as rocky sections of the shore before reaching the peculiar Egg Beach. The return journey is via an old 4WD track.
Full hike details
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Lady Barron (Day 9)

Our last full day on Flinders Island… After meeting friends (who are circumnavigating Tasmania by yacht) for lunch at the Furneaux Tavern in Lady Barron, we have a look around the jetty area. In the distance, across Petrifaction Bay are the Strzelecki Ranges, and directly in front of us is Cape Barren Island.

Driving back to West End, we spot another echidna near the road.

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Leaving Flinders Island (Day 10)

We wake to the first wet and miserable day we’ve had in ten days, as we finish packing and make our way to Whitemark for our flight to Essendon (Victoria) and connecting flight to Sydney. We’ve seen a lot of the island, and it’s definitely somewhere I’d visit again.

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More Information

For general information¬†the¬†Visit Flinders Island¬†Web site is helpful and lists the many accommodation options (many places are not listed on Stayz or other booking sites that I’d normally use).

For hiking, a copy of “Walks of Flinders Island” (Ken Martin) which I bought at the general store in Whitemark was really helpful, providing details and maps of over 50 walks from well-marked trails to off-track routes. The 1:100,000 Flinders Island topographical map was also useful for planning walks and drives (purchase on-line at the TASMAP eShop or available on the island).

Egg Beach (Flinders Island)

An easy coastal walk on the north-west part of Flinders Island, with secluded coves, interesting rock formations and the peculiar “Egg Beach” at the end

This is my last walk on Flinders Island, and it’s not really planned… with a few hours of daylight left and the clouds clearing, I look at what nearby hikes are possible. As I’m staying on West End Beach, the walk to Egg Beach (also referred to as Egg Rock Beach) is one I can do from the back door!

I start directly behind our rented house, walking over the sand dunes and following West End Beach north.

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Being late afternoon, the light is great for photography and while the weather has been improving, there’s some dramatic cloud formations in the sky.

It doesn’t take too long of very easy walking to reach the northern end of West End Beach. Normally the walk would start here, with the beach being accessed via the track that starts next to the West End homestead, on West End Road. From here there is a short rocky section to traverse, interspersed with some small sheltered bays.

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In the distance is Roydon Island – we’ve seen smoke from a small fire on the island over the last couple of days, which I suspect has been deliberately lit as part of a strategy by volunteers to tackle the spread of boxthorn weed.

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Sooner after this headland there’s a secluded and beautiful beach, followed by another rocky section that’s characterized by odd-shaped stones. Despite the very rocky shoreline, there are many unbroken shells to be found along this section of the walk.

This last section is rather slow going due to the uneven and rocky terrain – I’m not sure if I’ll be able to reach my destination before it gets dark. But I press on around the last¬†rocky headland, with the rocks are starting to look distinctly more “eggy”!

Almost out of nowhere, I’m confronted by Egg Beach. It’s pretty obvious how it got it’s name, and looks quite odd – like each grain of sand has been magnified 1000%! In the distance is Twelve Hour Point, the headland at the far end of the beach.

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It’s getting too late to return the same way – the untracked coastal route has taken me longer than I thought, with some easy beach walking, but also many slow sections of boulder hopping and rocky ground. There is supposed to be an alternate 4WD track that runs parallel to the shore, so I head directly up the hill behind Egg Beach, through low grass. It doesn’t take long before I reach a rough but very distinct vehicular track.

This is much easier walking, and I make quick progress back towards my starting point. I could stay on this 4WD track all the way back to West End Road – but with the potential of another beautiful sunset, just before West End Beach I retrace my steps along the shore.

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I soon reach West End Beach, with its collection of boulders and deep piles of seaweed welcoming me back to my “home beach”!

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I reach the track up through the sand dunes and back to the house just before dark. It’s been a satisfying final Flinders Island walk!

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Location Start at West End Beach, near the north-western end of Flinders Island (track to the beach next to the West End homestead)
Distance Approx 5km return (8.6km as walked from West End Beach House)
Grade Easy. <50m total ascent
Season/s All year round. Easier at low tide / outgoing tide.
Map TasMap Flinders 1:100K. No signage.
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Walks of Flinders Island” book by Ken Martin (p.73). Available in¬†Whitemark or via Amazon

Castle Rock (Flinders Island)

 

A short, but surprisingly varied, coastal walk to a massive boulder on the eastern coast of Flinders Island.

As one of the three Tas Parks “60 Great Short Walks” in Tasmania on Flinders Island, I expected this to be a scenic track. And it didn’t disappoint!

I was dropped off at the start of the walk near Allports Beach, which is easy to find; the rest of the family is meeting me at the other end. The track starts a little inland with small orange markers pointing the way to the coast, which is quickly reached.

After about half a kilometre¬†the first “beach”, consisting of many small boulders, is traversed: one¬†of¬†the attractions of the island is the variety¬†of landscapes found along the coast, from¬†soft (“normal”) sand to ground quartz and¬†miniature boulders.

The track then diverts inland along a wide 4WD track for a few hundred metres, before a set of wooden steps that leads down to Old Jetty Beach Beach (also, incorrectly, called Emita Beach).

It’s an easy stroll along the beach, then¬†up and over the headland at the end.

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After the headland (and a small, rocky bay) is Emita Beach, another secluded and desolate beach. At high tide or stormy weather this section could get a bit tricky, but with calm seas and a fairly low tide I can easily skirt around some of the granite slabs and rocks that jut into the beach.

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Looking back, I can still see my starting point in the distance, a few beaches away. I’ve covered about 2km, with another 2km to go.

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There’s a great view from this half-way headland: a typical Flinders Island outlook of sea, sand and some dramatic, weathered sandstone formations.

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There’s now another landscape change, with the track leaving the coast and winding through coastal grassland. Looking inland to the east, there’s many kilometres of native grasses and farming land, with Mulligans Hill Conservation area in the far distance.

There’s three final, adjoining beaches before Castle Rock, which is now visible in the distance.¬†These beaches don’t seem to have a name, but are referred to as FI79, FI80 and FI81. Very imaginative. Behind the three beaches are two kilometres of ¬†dunes which are up to 38m in elevation.

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Finally, I reach Castle Rock, an imposing, monolithic boulder on the end of the headland.

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From here, you can return to the start the same way. Or,¬†just beyond the rock if you continue along the beach you can join a 4WD track that takes you around to the end of the next beach (Marshall Beach). This is¬†accessible by a 2WD road, and there’s a sall car parking area.

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Location Start at Allports Beach (17km north of Whitemark). Can be done with a car shuffle (there’s a 2WD track that takes you to within 300m of Castle Rock) or return the same¬†way.
Distance 4km one-way.
Grade Easy. <50m total ascent
Season/s All year round. Easier at low tide / outgoing tide.
Map TasMap Flinders 1:100K. Track is well sign-posted
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources “Walks of Flinders Island” book by Ken Martin (p.77). Available in¬†Whitemark or via Amazon
Tas Parks “60 Great Short Walks
Map-CastleRock
Map of Allports Beach to Castle Rock on Flinders Island

The Spit to Manly (Sydney)

A popular coastal walk in northern Sydney, from The Spit in Mosman to Manly, through pockets of rainforest and past secluded bays and beaches

The Spit to Manly walk is arguably Sydney’s most popular walk… a¬†Google search yields 415,000¬†results for the term “Spit to Manly walk”, so if you’re seeking solitude – try a¬†different walk! It’s popular for a¬†reason: the well-marked track closely follows the¬†coast through a variety of flora, from coastal heath to rainforest, passing many bays and beaches, and offering spectacular harbour views¬†along the way.

The walk can be started at either end, and is most commonly walked in one direction, starting from The Spit. If using public transport (or if you can be dropped off the Spit), from Manly there are frequent ferries to the CBD.

After walking over The Spit bridge (one of¬†Sydney’s worst traffic snarls), which¬†crosses Middle Harbour, the track closely follows the water¬†through Ellery’s Punt Reserve. This was the site of a punt across Middle Harbour until 1939 for foot, horse, tram and vehicular traffic.¬†A bridge across the harbour was completed¬†in 1924, and the current¬†Spit bridge constructed in 1958 – it’s one of the only lift bridges still operational on a major arterial road (it opens to allow taller boats into Middle Harbour).

Soon after this open parkland, enters sub-tropical rainforest as it goes around Fishers Bay and past a small creek, with a section of wooden boardwalk.

Another 500m or so and the landscape changes again, and we pass the very wide Sandy Bay, enjoying a touch of suburbia and expensive real estate before we enter Clontarf Reserve.

The walk follows the coastline very closely, and we walk along a thin strip of sand between the sea and houses along Clontarf Beach. It feels like the beach has shrunk since doing this walk many years ago (probably my imagination, or it was low tide on my last visit). Although, studies (including the University of NSW’s Water  Research Laboratory) have shown that Clontarf Reserve is one of the highest-risk areas in Sydney from global warming-induced sea rises or severe storms.

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At¬†the end of Clontarf Beach there’s a very short climb up into the Duke of Edinburgh reserve, a surprisingly dense patch of bush with views over Middle Harbour. At the far end of the¬†reserve is Castle Rock beach, named after a¬†distinctive rock (which can’t be seen from the track).

Next up as we continue along the track –¬†we’ve now covered about 3.5km – is my favourite section. Entering¬†Sydney National Park, you wouldn’t realise you’re in the middle of a major city (well, if you ignore the houses on the other side of the harbour) as the track passes under sandstone¬†overhangs and through coastal heath.

There’s not a lot of fauna to be seen – thousands of people walking, jogging and running along the track is a bit of deterrent to any self-respecting native animal – so it’s a little surprising to encounter a few brazen water dragons. The¬†Eastern Water Dragon below was definitely not going to move from its prime position above the harbour!

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There’s a¬†short (500m) detour not long after¬†entering the national park to¬†Grotto Point Lighthouse,¬†an¬†active beacon referred to as the ‚ÄėDisney Castle‚Äô. It was designed by architect Maurice Festu, built in¬†1910 and first lit on 1 September 1911, and is one of four lighthouses in¬†this style. From here you can see The Heads and out to the Tasman Sea beyond. (The track is a bit muddy and rougher than the rest of the Spit to Manly walk.)

Returning back to the main track after¬†my little diversion, there’s another brief stop to look at Aboriginal engravings,¬†located only a¬†few metres off the main track.¬†Apparently they include¬†images of boomerangs, fish and a giant wallaby, and there’s interpretative¬†signage. I was in a bit of a rush to catch-up with the rest of the group after¬†my solo¬†lighthouse detour, so I just saw a fish. Compared to other engraving sites, it’s remarkably distinct¬†and looks just like a fish!

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Next stop, after the track (mostly on raised boardwalk)¬†leaves the coast and goes a little inland, is the Crater Cove Lookout.¬†This offers the best views of the whole walk across the harbour and out to The Heads. Manly, our destination, is now visible in the distance (there’s still another 4km or so to go). Almost directly below the lookout¬†above the sheer cliffs of Dobroyd Point is a “ghost village“:¬†seven huts, constructed from iron and wood between 1923 and 1963, that were abandoned in 1984 after their last occupants were forced out. Repaired and maintained by the National Park and Wildlife Service (which doesn’t promote their presence), they can be accessed via a steep, unmarked track.

The path veers inland again, heading down from the Crater Cove Lookout through low casuarina¬†trees to Dobroyd Head (there’s a lookout here, but the view are¬†not as good as those from¬†the previous¬†vantage point) and then onto Reef Beach. Once a depression-era camping ground and later proclaimed a nude beach¬†by Neville Wran in the 1970s (revoked in 1993 due to public pressure)¬†it’s fairly quiet and secluded, with¬†scenic views of the Harbour and Manly Cove.

The track follows the coast fairly closely again from here, emerging from greenery of Sydney National Park at Forty Baskets Beach. The origins of the name¬†is believed to based on a¬†catch of 40 baskets of fish sent to a contingent of NSW detained at the North Head Quarantine Station after returning from Sudan in 1885. There’s a netted swimming enclosure and it’s¬†a pretty popular spot.

The track now re-joins “civilisation”, following the coastline all the way around North Harbour through Wellings¬†Reserve and North Harbour Reserve. There are views over the harbour and it’s easy walking, but it’s the least nice part of the walk (there’s also a¬†short section of road¬†where the¬†houses go right down to the high-tide mark).¬†On the opposite side of North Harbour and nearing our destination is Fairlight Beach, also a nice (and popular) spot directly opposite¬†The Heads.

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We’re almost at the end… with water on one side and blocks of units on the other, the path (also known as the Fairlight Walk)¬†follows the meandering coastline. We go past one last secluded beach (Delwood Beach) and Kay-Ye-My Point (named after the Aboriginal Kayimai clan living in Manly)…

…and after about 10km (or 11km including the Grotto Point¬†side trip)¬†we reach Manly, along with about 50,000 other people¬†enjoying the warm autumn weather. It’s easy forgot that about an hour ago we were¬†surrounded by bush!

The last attraction of the walk (other than a well-earned ice cream) is the iconic ferry back to Circular Quay (there’s¬†also the slightly less iconic and¬†slightly less crowded “fast ferry”).

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Location Start/finish at The Spit (accessible by bus or water taxi, and parking available) or Manly Beach (bus, ferry).
Distance 10km one-way
Grade Easy. 350m total ascent.
Season/s All year round. Generally busy on weekends.
Map None required as very well signposted and marked.
Download official Manly Scenic Walkway map (3MB)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources Sydney Coast Walk website
Wildwalks has detailed track notes
Notes
  • Plenty of parking available¬†near The Spit – but it’s not cheap!
  • Food/coffee at The Spit, Clotarf Beach (kiosk) and of course Manly
  • No dogs/pets allowed
Map-Spit-to-Manly
Map of Spit to Manly walk. Source: Manly Scenic Walkway brochure. See link above to download.