Freycinet Circuit

The Freycinet Circuit is a rewarding hike that combines picturesque bays, turquoise water and majestic views of the Tasmanian coast.

This circuit of Freycinet Peninsula 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.

Day 1

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.

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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.

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Day 2

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.

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The view north over Hazards Beach and Wineglass Bay

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.

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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.

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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.

Day 3

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.

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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.

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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:

Hike details and map

Location Starts at the Wineglass Bay carpark, near Coles Bay. About 2.5-hours from Hobart or Launceston airports.
Distance 40km circuit. 1180m total ascent. 1-3 days.
Grade Moderate
Season/s All year round
Map TasMap Frecyinet National Park 1:50,000
GPS route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources  Parks and Wildlife “Freycinet Peninsula Circuit” overview
Photos Google photos albums – Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3
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Map showing Freycinet Peninsula Circuit route and elevation gain.

Three Capes in A Day

A one day “express” version of the new Three Capes Track in Tasmania, on the Tasman Peninsula

There’s been a bit of controversy over the new Three Capes Track, which is on the Tasman Peninsula about 90min south of Hobart. 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.)

I push 0n 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.

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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 Huay.

The Cape Huay 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.

(** 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.

Location From Fortescue Bay on the Tasman Peninsula (90min from Hobart)
Distance 41km “lollipop” walk. 1120m total ascent.
Grade Hard due to length. Moderate for Cape Huay / Cape Pillar only.
Season/s All year round
Map TasMap “Peninsula Walks” or Tasman Peninsula 1:50,000
Resources Three Capes Track web site for details of 4 day/3 night walk
Photos Google Photos gallery
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Map of Three Capes track, showing route and Three Capes Experience walk.

West Head walks

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.)

Walks include:

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.

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Location First trail on the left, at start of West Head Road
Distance 9.5km return (2-3hrs)
Grade Easy. Total ascent of 135m.
Resources National Parks web site. Google Street View Trekker

Bairne Trail (June 2016)

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.

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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.

Location Right-hand (east) side of West Head Road, about half-way
Distance 9.6km return (taking in both look-outs)
Grade Easy. Total ascent of 150m
Resources National Parks web site. Google Street View Trekker

Willunga Trail (June 2016)

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.

Location Left-hand (west) side of West Head Road
Distance 1.5km return (30min)
Grade Easy. Total ascent of 60m
Resources National Parks web site. Google Street View Trekker

America Bay Track (June 2016)

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.

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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.

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Location About half-way down West Head Road on the left
Distance 2.6km return (including down to bay). 1hr
Grade Easy to lookout. Moderate to bay. Total ascent of 125m
Resources Wildwalks track notes. National Parks web site.
Google Street View Trekker

West Head Beach (May 2016)

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.

Location Park at the end of West Head Road
Distance 800m return (20min).
Grade Easy. Total ascent of 100m
Resources Weekend Notes

Towlers Bay (Mar 2016)

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.

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

Location Near the start of West Head Road; right-hand (east) side
Distance 9.4km return (2-3 hours)
Grade Easy. Total ascent of 184m climb.
Resources Wildwalks track notes

Flint and Steel Beach & Bay (March 2016)

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Location Left-hand (west) side of West Head Road, just before end of road
Distance 3.4km loop (1:30hr). Approx 2km return to either the bay or the beach
Grade Easy/Moderate. Total ascent of 130m
Resources Wildwalks track notes for loop walk

Maps

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.

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Changi Boardwalk

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.

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Not surprisingly, it is a good place to watch the sun set…

Location Changi Point- enter Changi Village Road, Gosport Road or Changi Sailing Club
Distance 2.2km one-way. Sections 4 & 5 are 320m one-way.
Grade Super Easy.
Season/s All year.
Photos Google Photo album
Resources National Parks brochure (PDF)

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Southern Circuit, Wilsons Prom

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.

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.

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

Refuge Cove

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.

View from Kersop Saddle toward Waterloo Bay

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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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 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.

Rodondo Island, drectly south of the lighthouse

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.

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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.

Sunset from Lightstation

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.

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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.

Oberon Bay

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.

Oberon Bay

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.

Little Oberon Bay

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.

Final section back into Norman Beach (Tidal River)

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.

Location Start from Telegraph Saddle car park in Wilsons Promontory National Park About 3 hours drive from Melbourne.
Distance 59km circuit as walked (35km on Day 1 & 24km on Day 2)
The most direct route to the Lightstation is about 20km each way via the Telegraph Track
Grade Moderate/Hard due to distance (easy/moderate if done over 3-4 days)
Season/s All year. Book well ahead in January / holiday weekends
Resources
Maps  Wilson Promontory Outdoor Recreation Guide (1:50K)
Map-WilsonsProms
Map showing route of Wilsons Prom Southern Circuit / Lightstation Circuit