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.
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.
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.
There’s a great view from this half-way headland: a typical Flinders Island outlook of sea, sand and some dramatic, weathered sandstone formations.
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.
Finally, I reach Castle Rock, an imposing, monolithic boulder on the end of the headland.
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.
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.
Easy. <50m total ascent
All year round. Easier at low tide / outgoing tide.
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).
View from the Spit bridge over Middle Harbour
Ellery’s Punt Reserve at the start of Spit to Manly walk
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.
Boardwalk around Fishers Bay
Eastern Water Dragon by the track
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.
View of the sheltered beach from 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.
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).
Middle Harbour from Duke of Edinburgh reserve
Castle Rock beach
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.
Boardwalk through Sydney National Park
Middle Harbour from Sydney National Park
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!
There’s a short (500m) detour not long after entering the national park to Grotto Point Lighthouse, an active beacon referred to as the ‘Disney Castle’. 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.)
rotto Point Lighthouse
View from rotto Point Lighthouse
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!
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.
Views from Crater Cove, with Manly visible top left
The abandoned Crater Cove huts can be seen above the cliffs on the left
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.
Spit to Manly track from Crater Cove Lookout from Dobroy Head to Reef Beach
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.
Forty Baskets Beach
End of Forty Baskets Beach
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.
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)…
Fishing off the rocks in Fairlight
…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”).
Start/finish at The Spit (accessible by bus or water taxi, and parking available) or Manly Beach (bus, ferry).
The Bairne to Basin circuit connects two West Head (Ku-ring-gai Chase) walks by ferry – the Bairne Track and Basin Track – to form a circuit.
The Bairne Track (or Bairne Trail) and Basin Track both provide access to The Basin, on opposite sides of this narrow stretch of water. You can join these into a longer circuit thanks to a regular ferry service that connects the two jetties…
It’s easier to start on the Bairne Track, as the ferry only goes in one direction; by doing the walk in reverse you’ll have a much longer trip, taking the ferry to its terminus at Palm Beach and then all the way back through a number of coastal villages. It’s also a bit tricky to find the narrow trail that goes back up from Coasters Retreat to the Bairne Track, which is not sign-posted.
From West Head Road, the Bairne Track (a well-formed maintenance trail) is fairly flat as it goes through low forest. After 2.4km there’s a small cairn on the left marking a fairly faint trail, which is shown on Google Maps as providing access to The Basin and Bonnie Doon wharf; ignore this and keep on the main track (this side-track seems to peter out, although it may provide another way to get down to The Basin). Another 200km on and there’s a big fork – take the left-hand option towards Soldiers Point. (The right-hand option leads to a very pleasant lookout over Pittwater, and is worth a detour if you have time.)
The Bairne Track, near the start
Keep left here – the right-hand track leads to a lookout
The last section of the trail to Soldiers Point starts descending gradually, with the forest providing a bit more shade.
It’s been raining for the last three weeks. This mushroom is happy about it. I’m not.
Approaching Solders Point
The “official” end of the Bairne Track is at Soldiers Point, about 3.4km from West Head Road where I’ve started the walk. If I was a real estate agent I might describe it as “filtered views” of The Basin and Pittwater; there are some views but they not particularly good from here.
View from Soldiers Point
View from Soldiers Point
At the far end of the Soldiers Point there is a faint but obvious foot-track that heads steeply down the ridge. There are a couple of cairns, but the track is fairly easy to follow. (Note: this track down from Soldiers Points doesn’t appear on most maps.)
The track ends behind a couple of houses at Coasters Retreat, a small community of about fifty holiday houses set in the bush and beside the beach. While the earliest houses date back to 1922-26, the area was used from the early 1800s by boats heading our from Sydney: “From the earliest records of the colony the bay was known as Coasters Retreat and the lagoon was known as The Basin… It was here that the convoys were formed up, the cargoes trimmed for the voyage down the coast. The first recorded convoy left the shelter of Coasters Retreat on 3 March 1803.” [Pittwater History]
I walk between two houses to reach the track that runs along the water, in front of all the houses and past the rural fire brigade. Directly in front of me is the Bennetts Wharf, built in 1944 to service the holiday houses.
Looking west from Bennets Wharf towards The Basin
While I can catch the ferry across to The Basin from here, I continue walking to the far (west) end of Coasters Retreat. I’ve got plenty of time to the next ferry – and I want to see if it’s possible to cross the narrow stretch of water by foot. It’s about 800m to Bonnie Doon wharf at the other end of Coasters Retreat, which is the original wharf built in 1914 by the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park to provide access for campers and visitors.
Banksia flowering near the beach
Bonnie Doon wharf
I’m there just before low tide, and I’ve read reports that you can wade across. The Basin campground on the other side looks tantalizingly close, on the other side of the narrow inlet. So I take off my shoes, and hoping not to step on any sharp oyster shells I wade across, following the shark net. At about the half-way mark, I’m up to my waist and it is still getting deeper… not really wanting to replace my camera and iPhone again (after my rather poorly planned Wollangambe adventure earlier in the year), I give up.
Shark net at entrance to Inner Basin
Shark net at entrance to Inner Basin
It’s a quick walk back to the Bonnie Doon wharf, where the ferry takes about three minutes to deposit me (and a few other picnickers and hikers) at The Basin wharf, directly opposite. (The ferry service operated by FantaSea comes every hour from 9:15am to 5:15pm, with no ferry service at 1:15pm).
From here, it’s a steep walk up the Basin Track (or Basil Trail) back up the hill. There’s a small cascade that tumbles next to and under the track, after about 500m with a small waterfall below the track.
Small cascade next to Basin Track
It’s a generally unpleasant track, and (other than as a return route from the Bairne Track) not one I’d recommend: almost half the track is concreted, and while the road is closed to public vehicles, I don’t particularly like seeing speed signs when I’m bushwalking. There’s also very little shade alone the track.
After about 2km (from the wharf) the track flattens, and there’s a turn-off to Great Mackerel Beach (ignore this – it’s an alternative and nicer circular walk you can do). After another 300m there’s an Aboriginal engraving site, with outlines of animals and human figures, accompanied by interpretative signage.
Aboriginal engravings on the Basin Track
Aboriginal engravings on the Basin Track
And that’s about it: 400m from the engraving site and I’m back at West Head Road, and then there’s a rather dreary (but quick) 2.4km walk along West Head Road, back to the car.
All up, it’s taken a bit under three hours, including a half hour wait for the ferry.
Park at Bairne or Basin trackhead (both on the right-hand side of West Head Road, about half-way along)
12km circuit. (3-4 hours).
Easy/Moderate. 205m total ascent.
All year round
Ku-ring-gai & Berowra Valley Visitor Guide (from Info Centre)
Or the free map from entry station
The Freycinet Circuit is a rewarding circular hike that combines picturesque bays, turquoise water and majestic views of the Tasmanian coast.
This circuit of Freycinet Peninsula, one of Tasmania’s “Great Bushwalks” has been on my “to do” list for a long time. It was originally intended as a long one-day hike, but with my 8-year son (Luke) showing increasing enthusiasm for hiking and camping it became a 2-night/3-day adventure. It’s been many years since I’ve walked with a 20kg pack and the first time Luke’s been on an overnight walk. So this could be a great experience… or the chance to see how effective my emergency beacon is!
We arrive in Launceston the evening before our walk and stay with a Taswegian friend overnight, so we can make a relatively early start the following day for the 2.5-hour drive to Coles Bay. There’s time for an egg and bacon roll before we hit the track – the last palatable food for the next 48 hours.
At 11am we’re on the track from Wineglass Bay car park to Hazzards Beach. It’s a slow start, with a friendly wallaby posing for photos at the trackhead. Despite signs saying “don’t feed the wildlife”, this wallaby was very tame and was obviously used to receiving food from tourists. At least it had been fed fruit, and not bread which is bad for them. I was happy it was a friendly one; the signs along the road to Freycinet were rather ominous and warned of kangaroos that would flip your vehicle with a single paw. It’s not surprising that international visitors are scared of our wildlife!
The first 5km is relatively flat, following the coast from the car park to Hazards Beach (said to be named after local whaler, African-American Captain Richard Hazard). It’s pleasant walking, despite being a warm day and carrying having a heavy pack, which I’m not used to. There are views out to the west over Promise Bay towards Swansea and the Eastern Tiers.
After about 1.5 hours we’ve almost reached Hazards Beach; just before we get there we spot an idyllic bay. Across the (almost warm) turquoise water is Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham, which we climb tomorrow. Unlike the exposed beach, it has plenty of shade. And another friendly wallaby. We stop here for lunch and a swim.
Reluctantly, we leave the bay around 2:30pm, continuing our walk along Hazards Beach. This doesn’t disappoint either, and we could easily spend a few hours lingering here. Except that we have a campsite to get to.
There’s a campsite at the end of the beach, which is shaded and fairly empty. From here the track follows the coast through low scrub and casuarina trees, but while there is some shade this section of track feels much longer than the 4km that it is. We’re glad to reach Cooks Beach.
A short walk along Cooks Beach brings us to our camp site, and the end of Day 1. We’ve covered about 17km, but it’s been easy walking. We set up camp a stone’s throw from the ocean, on a small hill just before the entrance to the official campground. There’s water here from a tank at Cooks Hut a stroll away, where we chat to the friendly Park volunteers before enjoying a hot chocolate and tea as the sun sets. Apart from my lamentable attempt at cooking sausages on my camp stove, it’s been a fantastic day.
We awaken early the next day. To be specific, Luke wakes up early and tells me I need to get up. I’d be happy to snooze another couple of hours. We’re underway around 7am, heading back along Cooks Beach to the turn-off up to Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham. Today will be a big day.
From the northern end of Cooks beach, the track ascends steadily up to and then along the East Freycinet saddle, gaining about 375m over 5km. It’s tough going after a very “flat” first day and carrying a heavy pack, but we’re walking through dry sclerophyll forest and in shade. It takes us just over two hours to reach the side-track to Mt Freycinet. I feel slightly bad telling Luke that climbing the highest peak in Freycinet is not optional, and we leave our packs at the bottom.
The climb is steep: only 750m in distance, but climbing from 375m up to the top at 620m. There are cairns and orange markers designating the rough track that goes directly up the side of the mountain, with some boulder-scrambling at the top. The views towards Wineglass Bay as you reach the summit suggest it’s worth the effort. Luke doesn’t share my opinion. I am currently the Worst Dad in the World.
The view from the top is incredible (although I am not yet forgiven). You can see the main track continuing up over Mt Graham to the north-east. Directly north is a magnificent vista that takes in Hazards Beach and Wineglass Bay, with Hazards Lagoon in the middle and “The Hazards” in the background. If you’re doing the Freycinet Peninsula circuit, it’s worth making the effort.
The track ascending Mt Graham to the north-east
Luke looking decidedly happier on the summit
The descent is much quicker. We re-shoulder our packs at the bottom, and start our second ascent up Mt Graham (579m). The track is now in full sun as it climbs steadily up through low heath to our second summit of the day.
Mt Graham is not really a peak – there’s a 100m pad up to the “summit” from the main track, with views of Mt Freycinet to the south and Wineglass Bay to the north. The views are not as dramatic as Mt Freycinet, but being a “flat” peak (Mt Freycinet is more a collection of large boulders) you get uninterrupted 360-degree views. Strong winds and some cool mist suggests how quickly the Tasmanian weather can change.
From here the track descends to Wineglass Bay, but remains exposed and it’s another section that feels much longer than it it really is. Wineglass Bay still looks far away…
I’m unsure whether there is water at Wineglass Bay, so I’m hoping that we can replenish our water supplies on the way down. We find a few unappealing, brackish streams before eventually striking a clear stream that crosses the track (Graham Creek) and we refill our three 1.5L water bottles. I explained to Luke that, worst case, we could suck the nectar out of banksia flowers (although most were pretty dry).
Finally, we reach our camp for the second night, after 16km and over 1000m of climbing. Wineglass Bay is rated one of the best beaches in the world (by Traveller.com, UK Telegraph and Lonely Planet to mention just a few publications) and it is just spectacular. Clear, blue water and white sand with the peaks of The Hazards forming the background.
The only downside is the number of mosquitoes. The large campground, which is right on the water, is not full despite it being a summer weekend. But as all the premium water-front plots are taken, we find a nice secluded camp site toward the back of the campground. Big mistake. I feel as we are the guests of honour at the Tasmanian National Mosquito Conference. I’ve never seen so many mozzies. We quickly cook our dinner (another culinary miss, with Luke declaring my expensive Back Country Honey Soy Chicken packet a bunch of inedible vegetables), watch the sun set and climb into our tents. Despite this, we sleep well and are ready for the final hike out the next morning.
Another early-ish (7:30am) start – we are both ready for an egg and bacon roll and a cold drink at Coles Bay, after our last few meals… It should be pretty easy as as we’re walking around Wineglass Bay along the beach, although the sand is soft and we can feel our muscles! Wineglass Bay looks pretty impressive from this angle too, this time with Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham in the background.
The track ascends from the the north end of Wineglass Bay. Being a popular day-walk, the track is now of a considerably higher standard, but we’ve got a 200m climb up to the Wineglass Bay lookout. We start seeing a lot more people, for the first time in three days.
It’s not a bad view over Wineglass Bay… but we’ve been spoilt by the last two days and the weather is a bit overcast for the first time (although it soon clears). There’s many people here, with the lookout rated as one of the “most photogenic destinations” in the world, according to Traveller.
It’s now all down-hill for the last two or so kilometres, on a well-graded track that feels more like a highway than a trail after the rest of our hike. We’re welcomed by another friendly wallaby, as we make our way back to the car-park (and our well-earned egg and bacon roll). It’s been exactly 40km in 48 hours. We’ve both had a great time on our first overnight hike, and thinking about where we might go next…
Lessons and Suggestions
It’s been many years since I’ve done an overnight walk… and we’ve done pretty well with our preparation and gear. Next time, I’ll definitely be packing insect repellent. Some light-weight thongs or “slippers” would have been helpful around camp. And you can never bring too much wine…
If you’re not up for overnight-camping, there are are a few companies that offer Freycinet trips, often using boats to avoid sections of hiking and including accommodation in a lodge near Coles Bay:
A one day “express” version of the new Three Capes Track in Tasmania, on the Tasman Peninsula. Whether you do it in one day or over four days, expect spectacular coastal scenery and a very high quality walking track.
There’s been a bit of controversy over the new Three Capes Track, which is on the Tasman Peninsula about 90min south of Hobart. Billed as “the premier coastal walk in Australia” and one Tasmania’s Great Bushwalks, it has been designed as a 4 day/3 night walk covering 46km, staying in newly constructed huts. There’s a maximum of 48 people that can start each day. You can’t vary the itinerary. And there’s a cost of (around) $500 per person. Why the controversy: because multiple bush-camping sites have been removed, with just one remaining camping site that has space for six tents for those wanting to do an “unassisted” walk.
I think it’s a great idea: the cost is reasonable, it will hopefully generate a new income stream for Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service and it enables people to undertake this walk who aren’t willing or able to carry a tent, stove and other supplies… All the huts were full, so the concept seems to be working. The downside is you’re often walking on a highly-engineered “track” that’s more akin to a metropolitan boardwalk than a bushwalk. There were a few sections where I expected to see a travelator… Or for a butler to pop out from behind a casuarina and offer to carry my bag.
I will clarify at this juncture: my one-day hiking of the track was not a protest at the track fees: I just didn’t have four days to spare and I was too lazy to carry all my camping gear!
After a late-evening arrival into Hobart International Airport (which doesn’t actually have a single, scheduled international flight) and an early morning start the following day, I reached Fortescue Bay at 8:30am. While the “official” walk starts at Port Arthur with a boat trip to the trailhead at Denman’s Cove and finishes at Fortescue Bay, this first section of track can only be done as part of the paid Three Capes walk. I start (and finish) at Fortescue Bay. Armed with my two Snickers bars, two litres of water and sunscreen, I head off at a fairly fast pace, as I need to get back to the airport by 8pm.
The Old Cape Pillar Track starts a few hundred metres up the road from the car park at Fortescue Bay, climbing gently up to 275m altitude where it meets the new / upgraded Cape Pillar Track (map below). It’s mostly in light forest, and in the hour and a bit it takes me to cover the first 7km I meet a couple of hikers, two wallabies and a large black snake. I continue on the (new) Cape Pillar Track for another two kilometres – I am now following the official Three Capes Experience route – before I reach the Munro hut. It’s an impressive construction, and sitting on a deck chair watching the sun set would not be an unpleasant way to spend an evening (although it’s not really possible since the deck is facing east, but you get the idea.)
View east along the coast from Munro hut
The east-facing deck at Munro hut
I push on toward Cape Pillar. I’m making good time on the well-graded track, which becomes a boardwalk super-highway for a number of kilometres along the Cape. I’m now encountering most of the 48 people who are on Day 3 of their 4-day Cape trip. They’re friendly and seem to be enjoying the walk, with a number of families on the trail.
After a few more kilometres, the track starts hugging the southern edge of Cape Pillar. The track undulates between about 250m to 350m above the Tasman Sea, which crashes into the cliffs below us. The views are impressive in all directions and frequent photo stops are required.
I reach the tip of Cape Pillar and ascend The Blade at 11:30am; I’ve walked just under 17km and have reached the furthest point from the start (and end) of my hike. The view is incredible: Tasman Island lies directly head, and the cliffs of Cape Pillar can be seen on both sides of the rocky promontory.
I continue after a short break and my first chocolate bar, re-tracing my steps back along Cape Pillar and past Munro Hut. Not long after Munro Hut I reach Retakunna hut, where most of the hikers I met will spend their last night on the trail. It too looks as luxurious as bush huts get, and I take the opportunity to fill my water bottle and consume my second nutritional Snickers bar. There’s no-one here yet, as I start the steepest section of the walk, climbing through rain forest from 235m up to the highest point of the Three Capes track at 489m.
It’s not a particularly tough climb, but I’m happy to have completed this section and descended 300m back down to the cliff line again, with the views getting more impressive as I get closer to Cape Hauy.
The Cape Hauy track snakes up and down along the second cape of the walk, with views back up the coast to Fortescue Bay where I’ll finish the walk. The track is exposed and I’m glad I’ve brought sunscreen!
Not quite as spectacular as Cape Pillar, but worth the 2km detour, the second cape** of the trip towers vertically above the ocean. I can hear climbers somewhere on the Totem Pole that’s directly in front of us and a series of jet boats circle underneath us getting a view of the sheer cliffs from below. Cape Hauy is one of the 60 Tasmania “Great Short Walks”, based on the track from Fortescue Bay to the cape and back (8.8km return).
(** While it’s called the Three Capes walk, it is currently a Two Capes walk… the third cape is Cape Raoul, which is stage 3 of this project and will add another 32km of track and two more huts.)
Another 5km or so and I’m back at Fortescue Bay, for a refreshing swim before the drive back to Hobart. It’s taken 8.5 hours to walk the 41km: faster than I had anticipated, but a $28m investment in building and upgrading the track means very easy walking.
Would I recommend it? For families with small children or people that really can’t manage more than 10-15km per day of fairly easy walking, yes. The scenery is great and the huts world-class. But there are long sections of monotonous track, so it’s hard to recommend this walk over Cradle Mountain or many other tracks that are serviced by tourism operators that offer hut accommodation.
From Fortescue Bay on the Tasman Peninsula (90min from Hobart)
41km “lollipop” walk. 1120m total ascent.
Hard due to length. Moderate for Cape Hauy / Cape Pillar only.
All year round
TasMap “Peninsula Walks” or Tasman Peninsula 1:50,000
A multitude of short walks 90min north of Sydney, from secluded beaches to rocky outcrops with views over Pittwater.
West Head, part of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, is one of my favourite destinations for short hikes – or to find a beach that won’t be crowded even on a summer weekend. There are about 20 trails, almost all of them starting on West Head Road and well sign-posted.
Even if you’re not a hiker, the drive to the lookout at the end of West Head Road offers spectacular views over Broken Bay and towards Palm Beach. (Note: there is a gate that is 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 $12 per vehicle.)
Willunga Trail – 1.5km walk up to highest point in the park, with great views
Waratah Trail (Aug 2016)
A long fire trail along the ridge, culminating in views over Cowan and Coal and Candle Creeks.
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 not the most exciting walk at any time of the year!
(After about 3.5km there’s a faint trail off to the right (north) that’s marked on some maps – this doesn’t go very far before disappearing.)
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) in the distance.
First trail on the left, at start of West Head Road
A longer (but easy) track 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. 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…
Take the the right fork and the trail continues for another 900m, descending a little until it reaches a lookout above the cliff-line. There’s views across Pittwater to Scotland Island and beyond, and to the right (south-west) is Towlers Bay, accessible by boat or via another walking trail from West Head.
View from Bairne Trail, looking at Scotland Island to the south
iew from Bairne Trail of Towlers Bay
Or, take the left fork which becomes the Soldiers Point Track (there’s an unmarked track off to the right after 100m). I haven’t taken this trail yet – and reports suggest the last section is a little overgrown – which leads to another lookout over Pittwater, and then down 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), providing another means of access. Or you could link up with the Basin Trail, to form a circular walk (returning to the start of the Bairne Track along West Head Road).
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 hard work.
Right-hand (east) side of West Head Road, about half-way
A very short track to a trig point, which is the highest lookout 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.
One of the few West Head tracks that offers Aboriginal engravings, a waterfall, views (over Cowan Water) as well as descending down to the water.
Near the start of the walk, a short detour leads to rock engravings on a sandstone shelf.
The trail descends gradually for about a kilometre, crossing a creek which is then followed down to a waterfall and rock platform. From here there are views over America Bay and out to Cowan Water, with the creek dropping off the sheer cliff.
If you continue about 100m along the track past the platform, there is a rough track that leads down a through a gap in the cliff. It’s only about 150m but very steep, meeting the creek just before finishing at America Bay.
About half-way down West Head Road on the left
2.6km return (including down to bay). 1hr
Easy to lookout. Moderate to bay. Total ascent of 125m
A very short walk to a secluded beach – you can also extend this walk into the 4.3km Resolute Loop Trail.
Starting at the West Head lookout (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”). 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.
Directly opposite Barrenjoey Peninsula, which you can see across Pittwater, it’s a sheltered, picturesque beach. It’s rarely busy and there’s lot of shaded spots. The beach is a bit rocky and best at high tide; you can go back up the hill and follow the track a bit further to Resolute Beach (another 600m).
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.
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). 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.
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 (and the dates don’t correspond).
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. 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.
Near the start of West Head Road; right-hand (east) side
This is my second-favourite walk (after the Resolute Loop Trail), with the option of going to either the beach (the more popular walk, and a good swimming and fishing spot) on one one side of the headland, or the bay (where you’re unlikely to see anyone else) on the other.
You can also connect the two, and walk around from the beach to the bay (or vice versa) – this is a harder walk, that’s covered by the Wildwalks web site (see info box below).
For either option, the 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.
Head left for Flint and Steel Bay; the track continues to descend for another 500m before reaching the water. You can see the ruins of McGaw House here, although not much remains except some well-built sandstone foundations. The history is fascinating and documented by an archaeological student in a detailed report: the house was built by E.R. McGaw from 1920-65, and while the land was resumed as part of Ku-ring-gai National Park in 1939, the McGaws were permitted to stay. It wasn’t until 1968 that the NPWS requested that all structures be removed. There was an application to include the house in the Register of Historic Buildings, which the NPWS reluctantly agreed to – but in 1971 the house was destroyed by a fire. According to the report, there is a spring behind the house with fresh water.
The track continues along the shoreline of Flint and Steel Bay, 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.
For Flint and Steel Beach (which is where I often go for a swim with the kids), 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.
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).
Left-hand (west) side of West Head Road, just before end of road
3.4km loop (1:30hr). Approx 2km return to either the bay or the beach
For all these walks, the free map at the West Head entry station is sufficient; for a more detailed topographical map there’s the “Ku-ring-gai & Berowra Valley” visitor guide, which you can purchase from the Information Centre at Bobbin Head. You won’t need a 1:25,000 topographical map; Broken Bay (9130-1N), Mona Vale (9130-1S) and Hornsby (9130-4S) would be needed to cover all the walks.
An urban walk overlooking Serangoon Harbour, and a good place for watching the sun set.
Singapore isn’t well-known for hiking… the Changi Boardwalk, located at the of Changi Point, is about the closest I could find during my last (brief) visit to Singapore. It’s also walking distance from my (allegedly haunted) hotel, the Raintr33 Hotel.
The boardwalk has six sections, but Section 3 (Cliff Walk) was closed while I was there due to repairs, so I only had the opportunity to walk (more of a stroll, really) the first two sections.
Kelong walk extends into the sea, built above water on stilts. There was almost no-one around, except for locals fishing. Some with multiple rod and enough equipment to start a fishing shop. No-one seems to have caught anything though..
At the far end (below) right, the boardwalk rises a few metres into the forest, where it becomes the Cliff Walk – this was closed. In the middle is the Changi Beach Club (originally the Changi Swimming Club in the 1970s). It’s now private, and there’s a reasonably-priced seafood restaurant, with views over the harbour.
At the western end is the short Sunset Walk, which is also a boardwalk that extends over the water, ending at set of large boulders.
Not surprisingly, it is a good place to watch the sun set…
Changi Point- enter Changi Village Road, Gosport Road or Changi Sailing Club
A two-day circuit hiking the southern section of Wilsons Promontory National Park, heading south via Sealers Cove, Refuge Bay and Waterloo Bay to the Lightstation, and back to Tidal River via Oberon Bay.
It’s been 21 years since my last trip to Wilsons Prom, when I backpacked both the south and north sections with friends over a week. A trip I still remember fondly, from an unexpected koala crossing the road in front of car as we neared Tidal River, to camping by Five Mile Beach and Johnny Souey Cove (in the northern section) and having the beaches to ourselves.
Wilsons Prom, at the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, has been a national park since 1898. Also known as “the Prom”, Wilsons Promontory National Park contains the largest coastal wilderness area in Victoria. A number of short and overnight walks start at Tidal River, the only settlement within Wilsons Promontory or at Telegraph Saddle, half-way up Mount Oberon. After a short drive from my accommodation at Black Cockatoo Cottages, 11km from the park entrance, I start my overnight walk at the Telegraph Saddle car-park.
Telegraph Saddle to Sealers Cove (10.2km)
I’m taking the long route to the Lighthouse, along the eastern coast of the peninsula. The first section takes me to Sealers Cove, along the Sealers Cove Walking Track. After significant damage from a storm and resulting flash flood in 2011, the track to Sealers Cove was completely re-built and is now very easy walking as it ascends gradually through dry eucalpyt forest to Windy Saddle, before descending to the coast.
Telegraph Saddle to Sealers Cove – new truck after 2011 floods
Before the track reaches Sealers Bay, there’s a long section of boardwalk through Sealers Swamp. A very different, moist microclimate supports ferns and mosses, with the start of Sealers Swamp marked by large swamp paperbarks.
Boardwalk near Sealers Cove
After crossing two streams, the track reaches Sealers Cove. A large and protected beach, Sealers Cove is a popular destination as a day walk, and the camping ground at the southern end is often used as the first overnight camp when doing a southern circuit of the park. Behind the beach is the La Trobe Range, with The Cathedral and Mt Latrobe (754m) some of the higher peaks.
Sealers Cove to Waterloo Bay (14.5km)
After walking along the beach to the southern end, you need to cross Sealers Creek – which can be difficult to cross at high tide, but didn’t present any issue for me. From here, the track is called the Refuge Cove Walking Track. (The camping ground is on the other side of the creek.)
There’s a short climb after crossing the fairly large camping ground, with some nice viewslooking back towards Sealers Cove and Five Mile Beach beyond.
The track stays well inland as it passes Horn Point, Smith Cove and Hobbs Point, before it descends through fern and tea trees to Refuge Bay. This is a beautiful beach, with crystal clear blue water, and I can’t resist a quick swim – although the water is very cold! (This would be my pick for a camping spot over Sealers Cove.)
From Refuge Bay, the track climbs up to a large rock platform, where there’s a view over the sheltered bay.
As the track follows the ridge above the coast, there are views to the south, with the Lightstation visible in the distance (today’s destination… which still looks a fair way off!) as well as the pyramid-shaped Rodondo Island.
A short side-track lead to Kersops Peak, which provides even more expansive views to the south and to Waterloo Bay directly ahead.
Next stop before Waterloo Bay is the much smaller North Waterloo Bay – another beautiful beach that I have to myself, when I have a short break for lunch. The beach is divided near the middle by a rocky outcrop, although it must be low tide as it’s easy to get across it and along to the far end of the beach.
The track continues along the coast – there’s no camp ground here, but it’s really nice spot for a break. Again, I have the beach to myself.
Another short section of track and I reach Little Waterloo Bay… yes, it’s another picture-perfect beach and a reminder as to why this walk is so popular. (Even though, on a November week-day, I haven’t seen a soul since Sealers Cove). There’s another camping ground here, behind the dunes.
Little Waterloo Bay
The track climbs a small way around some rocks, though it’s never far from the sea (which looks like it’s straight from a Mauritius travel brochure), before Waterloo Bay comes into view.
I have the beach to myself again, as I pass the camping ground (set a short distance back from the beach) and walk along the white sand.
Waterloo Bay to the Lightstation (10.4km)
About half way along the beach, the Waterloo Bay Track heads over the sand dunes and inland to meet with the Telegraph Track. I continue along the beach, taking the South East Walking Track along the coast to the Lightstation. This is a relatively new track – some of my topographical maps don’t show this route, but it is on any current map. At the southern end of Waterloo Bay, after crossing a creek that runs down the beach, the track immediately ascends about 100m.
The track follows the coast, but a fair way inland. From time to time my destination can be seen – and it stills looks along way in the distance! This section of track feel the longest, part because it’s at the end of a long day, and partly because the track is quite undulating as it goes down and back up a few gullies.
South East Walking Track to Lightstation
I’ve very glad when I reach the 4WD track that leads to the Lightstation, using the last of my energy to walk up the steep road to the top of the headland. It’s been about 35km of walking today, although I’m travelling relatively light…
Wilsons Prom Lighthouse… 12V globe is powered by the solar panel array (left of photo) and bank of batteries that lasts up to tnen days
Wilsons Promontory Lightstation
…built in 1859 from local granite at the end of a narrow peninsula, the Lightstation offers accommodation in both a shared dormitory or a fully self-contained cottage. Which means I only need to carry food and water. It makes the 60km circuit of the southern section of Wilsons Prom feasible in two days; otherwise, carrying a tent and cooking equipment, this would be more typically done as a 3-day walk.
Although the lighthouse was fully automated in 1993, it still has a permanent “lighthouse keeper”, who is responsible for the running the property – rather than maintaining the light. The historic residences are the southern most settlement on the Australian mainland. Supplies are flown in (and rubbish flown out) every six months by helicopter, and the light-house keepers rotate every few weeks. Other than by helicopter, access to the Lightstation is only by foot or by boat (weather permitting).
Directly in front of the headland is the pyramid-shaped Rodondo Island, a granite island that supports a breeding colony of over one million mutton birds.
While waiting for the sun to set, I take a photos of a wombat that’s taking advantage of the watered grass by the cottage, and doesn’t seem to mind my presence.
The sunset from the Lightstation is stunning, looking west towards South Point (the most southerly point of mainland Australia) and Wattle Island just off the the coast.
Lightstation to Oberon Bay (16km)
The following day is grey and overcast, despite a clear night when I went to bed… I set-off early, as I need to get back to the car and then onto the airport for a late afternoon flight.
The rain holds off as I head north towards Halfway Hut, up the middle of the peninsula. While the Telegraph Track (a wide 4WD track) goes all the way up to Telegraph Saddle, there are sections of narrower walking trails which offer a much more pleasant alternative. The landscape is quite different here than the route along the coast, consisting mostly of low heathland.
Just over a kilometre after Halfway Hut I reach Telegraph Junction, the intersection of the Telegraph Track with the Waterloo Bay Track and Oberon Bay Track. The quickest way back would be to continue straight head along the Telegraph Track, to finish the walk where I started (Telegraph Saddle). The longer and more scenic option is to head west to Tidal River via Oberon Bay. I head west, hoping the rain will continue to hold off… It’s takes about an hour to reach Oberon Bay.
Oberon Bay to Tidal River (8km)
Having reached Oberon Bay (there is a campsite at the southern end), I walk along the desolate beach. It’s not as nice as the beaches on the eastern side of the peninsula. I’m definitely not tempted to go for a swim today, with the temperature much lower than yesterday.
At the northern end of the beach I cross the wide Growlers Creek, and the track continues up and over the headland as it follows the coast.
After about three kilometres, I reach Little Oberon Bay, with Little Oberon (267m high) just behind it. I also meet a group of serious-looking hikers who are setting off from Tidal River in the opposite direction to me, the first people I’ve seen (except for the Lightstation keeper) since Sealers Cove on the previous day.
Despite the still-gloomy weather, the desolate coastline is arguably enhanced by the low clouds that hug the coastal peaks.
I’m soon on the final stretch, with Norman Beach visible in the distance. This last section of the Oberon Bay Walking Track is very well maintained and fairly flat, and I make rapid progress.
I’m soon at the sheltered Norman Beach, which is very close to Tidal River – the track passes by the southern tip of the beach, and heads inland to the Tidal River settlement.
Unfortunately, my car is not at Tidal River, but at Telegraph Saddle – a 3.5m walk along the road, and most of it a steep and winding road. I’m not really looking forward to this rather anti-climactic ending, so I very gratefully accept a lift from someone who’s driving up the car park!
It’s definitely one of my “Top 10” bushwalks – I’ve had very fond memories of my last walks here many years ago, and the accommodation at the Lightstation now makes it feasible to do an overnight – through spectacular scenery – without carrying a heavy backpack. My only recommendation (other than “just do this walk!”) is to avoid busy holiday periods if you can, and book the Lightstation accommodation (or camp sites) well ahead in advance.