Discovering the Central Coast

Experienced authors Gill & John Souter, reflect on what they enjoyed most about re-walking, reviewing and revising the Woodslane Press guide to the Central Coast...

 

With interstate and international jaunts both off the COVID playlist, the opportunity to redo Woodslane’s Central Coast walking book was too good to pass up. Not being locals, we had to time our visits when we were allowed between lockdowns. Over the years, we’d done a bit of walking in this beautiful region but this was the chance to delve deep, as we’ve learnt from experience that we find so much more on a walk when we know we have to write it up for a book (and hopefully our readers will too!)

Mostly we’d confined past walking to the glorious coastlines of Brisbane Water and Bouddi National Parks and these parks still do not disappoint! The Bouddi Coastal Walk through Maitland Bay is a real stunner, as are the walks out to Box Head plus Patonga to Pearl Beach.

But these parks both hold their inland secrets more closely: Bouddi’s First Nations and European heritage are both on offer on a walk we devised for this revised edition to the Daleys Point Aboriginal Site where rock platforms host a wealth of engravings and grinding grooves, while Fish Hook Shelter below protects charcoal drawings and a shell midden. Our walk returns via a mangrove shoreline and the ruined home of the oyster-farming pioneers who built it in 1836.

Another walk we particularly enjoyed devising for this edition – this one in Brisbane Water National Park – we named Koolewong Ridge Secrets for its many hidden delights. Apart from a springtime display of wildflowers and the succession of panoramic Brisbane Water views on offer, there are rock formations, Aboriginal engravings, a detour via a cascading, rain-forested creek to Waterfall Bay and a diversion to the intriguing Kariong Hieroglyphs. These 300 faux-Egyptian engravings line both sides of a high, walk-through cleft in a low cliff line. It’s supposedly the largest set of ‘Egyptian hieroglyphs’ outside of Egypt and Sudan, though the origin of the carvings remains a mystery.

We had a great time in BWNP. At Somersby Falls we turned a lovely tourist jaunt into a real exploration when we ignored a sign saying ’No maintained path below this point’ and discovered the remains of a long-forgotten track, complete with steps cut in the rock ledges, that followed the creek further downstream to a succession of rain-forested cascades and low waterfalls.  At the park’s southern extremity, we had a big day out, traversing the 20 kilometres between Little Wobby (reached by ferry) and Wondabyne Station (accessed only by foot or boat). The Hawkesbury sparkled on a cloudless day and the succession of panoramic views from Midway Ridge was sublime. We’d never been there before, and Rocky Ponds (with its spa pools, swimming holes, cascades and rainforest grotto) was a revelation. We’re keen to lead others there from our local bushwalking club as soon as we can!

We are now well acquainted with the charms of two of the Central Coast’s lesser-known coastal reserves: Munmorah State Conservation Area and Wyrrabalong National Park. At the former we included a new walk to the beaches south of Catherine Hill Bay and were very taken with the rock platform of Flat Rocks Point and nearby sea caves, not to mention hidden Ghosties Beach. In contrast, just to the south, is the wild seascape of Wybung Head and Snapper Point and a coastal walk connecting the two. Next time we’ll make sure we’re there during whale-watching season!

The Entrance separates the northern and southern sections of Wyrrabalong. Two rambles above Tuggerah Lake are an immersion in mighty Sydney Redgum forest, saved from the depredations of sand mining in the 1970s, and a stand of littoral rainforest. South of the Entrance, the Wyrrabalong Coast Walking Track has everything you could want in a seaside walk – lovely coastal views, varied forest, swimming opportunities and the option to extend your comfort zone with an untracked return at sea level, including a rock-hopping scramble around some headlands.

But as we said, there’s more to the Central Coast than just the coast. Gosford and its suburbs are surrounded by green space – Rumbalara, Katandra and Kincumba Mountain Reserves and each has a network of beautiful forest tracks, making the task of choosing the best a tough one. We mostly kept the walks there fairly short but there’s nothing to stop you linking them up for a big day out. To the northwest, the walks in Strickland State Forest are well worth seeking out – who knew that its historic arboretum was the state’s first government nursery with tree plantings dating from 1887. Further west is the somewhat obscure Popran National Park and it shelters the cascade-fed waters of Emerald Pool, one of the loveliest swimming holes we’ve had the pleasure of plunging into. And the colour really is emerald green! There are few opportunities for bushwalkers to access the magnificent Hawkesbury River so we were fortunate to be able to include a photogenic circuit near the Mangrove Creek confluence, with the kind permission of the owners of Greenmans on Hawkesbury, a rustic riverside caravan park surrounded by Hawkesbury sandstone cliffs.

We really enjoyed ourselves in Dharug National Park, a park imbued with convict and pioneer heritage. Catching a car ferry across the Hawkesbury from Wisemans Ferry is a fine way to reach the start of the Convict Trail. This walk forms part of the Old Great North Road, possibly the young colony’s most impressive engineering feat. It had been decades since we’d been there and since 2010 it has been World Heritage-listed so a lot of dollars have been spent improving the track and its interpretative signage. No less enjoyable was a long circuit through Dubbo Creek and Mangrove Creek valleys to visit Ten Mile Hollow, the site of a convict stockade and Clares Bridge, Mainland Australia’s second oldest. Again we were mostly on convict-built roads which we conquered on our trusty mountain bikes, though there were several pushes on the climb back out. It’d also make a neat overnight hike.

We’ll be back soon as these walks will change with the seasons!

Authors: Gillian and John Souter

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