Kuring-gai Chase National Park

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Places in KCNP
Walks in KCNP

It occurred to me today that I am probably going to have a lot to say about KCNP, one way and another, so I have opened a special page, just for this park, which just happens to be my favourite.

You can find official information about this park at this link. This is the link for KCNP maps.

Getting there

Kuringai, Kuring-Gai, Ku-ring-Gai or whatever, it is a name often given for the aboriginal tribe who lived in the area. These people were either wiped out by disease or drink, or moved out before they could be taught our form of writing, so they have never had a say in how their name was spelt.

The Dharuk and Eora peoples lived in the area for thousands of years, and there are plentiful reminders of their prior presence to be observed. And to be preserved: once these are gone, they cannot be replaced. We need to care for these relics from the past.

You can drive to the park from Mona Vale on the Manly-Warringah peninsula, or from several parts of Mona Vale Road, or from the Pacific Highway. You can get to parts of it by train, walking in from Mt Ku-ring-gai, Berowra, or even Cowan. The best of the lot though, is probably the ferry ride from Pittwater Park wharf to The Basin.

The park was created in 1894, and has been going strong ever since. There has been a certain amount of damage where home-sick Europeans planted exotic trees, but that aside, most of the land is as it should be, much the same as the Sydney bush must have been before the whites came.

There are some signs of previous occupation by whites, like the barbed wire in the bush near the Duck Hole, and the slope for running ammunition down to World War II gun emplacements at West Head. In some areas, horse-riders have damaged and eroded the trails down to bedrock, but the area is largely free of trail-bikes and the far worse damage that they cause.

Access, times, entry costs

Opens: sunrise to sunset: West Head may be chained, and then it will cost you money to get out!
Entry fees: Car entry fee (or annual sticker), camping fees at The Basin.

What to do there

There are picnic spots dotted along the West Head road, along the road that leads round to Akuna Bay, (Coal and Candle Creek Drive), and in the vicinity of Bobbin Head. There are also fireplaces at The Basin, but no firewood within several hundred metres. Fires are a problem in any case: they should only be lit where there are fireplaces, and the Park staff would really prefer you to use a gas fire.

There are dozens of walks to be had along most fire trails, including the ones that run in from the West Head road. These are shown in the books of Sydney walks, on leaflets that you can get from the entrance stations to the park, and on the "Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park tourist map". You can get that map at the park's visitor centre, near Bobbin Head, or at places selling CMA maps.

After that, go and find a few of your own, like the Long track and Cowan track. The Berowra-Appletree Bay-Mount Kuring-Gai walk seems to be highly recommended, but I've never tried it, so no guarantees!

There are several establishments renting out boats around the waters of the park, including Halvorsen's (cruisers, launches & rowing boats) 9457-9011 at Bobbin Head (closed Christmas Day), and a small place at Cottage Point, phone 9456-3024, which has a number of aluminium runabouts (up to six people) with outboard motors (open every day). There are other establishments around Pittwater and Berowra Waters which may also be worth approaching. Try the Yellow Pages under "Boat Hire - Drive Yourself"

Fishing seems quite popular off the rocks along Coal and Candle Creek Drive, but I have never tried it myself. We have had a few reasonable bream with handlines at the bottom of the Bibbenluke track, where it meets the Warrimoo track. Try asking the park's staff for advice. Kids enjoy fishing at The Basin, but there seems to be little to catch there.

There are charges for camping in some parks, and this is one of them: if you want to camp at The Basin (the only legal camping spot), you must book on 9974-1011, and pay a fee for each tent for each night. Day visitors get in for free, and so do Pittwater ferry riders going to The Basin, but there is a park use fee levied on vehicles driving into the park. Annual stickers can be used.

What to watch out for

The engravings which are found on the rocks, all over the park - ask the rangers at the entry stations for more information.

Some of the firetrail walks along the West Head road.

What else is around

You are in the vicinity of a large and beautiful park - stay with it! The Northern Beaches are nearby, if you have to move on.

Roughly in order of difficulty, try the Willunga track, Red Hand Track, Topham track, Challenger track, America Bay Track, Salvation loop (with or without the Wallaroo extension), Flint and Steel track, Bibbenluke track, Smith's Creek East track, Ryland track, Bairne track (with or without Soldier's Point track), Bobbin Head to the Sphinx, Elvina Track, Basin Trail Walk, Warrimoo track, and the Waratah track for starters.

I will deal with some of these walks in more detail later.

Places in KCNP

Akuna Bay
Bobbin Head
Cottage Point
The Basin
West Head

Akuna Bay

You need a car for this. Drive along Mona Vale Road, turn onto McCarr's Creek Road (the roundabout can be a bit tricky: you turn left off the main road, right at the roundabout, and then follow your nose). When you come to a fork, you can go either way, but I suggest going straight ahead. The road to the right runs down to Church Point, but there is a turnoff to the left that takes you to West Head, or if you take another left turn, to Akuna Bay/

You can also head to Palm Beach, and turn left to Church Point at Mona Vale, just after Mona Vale Road.

I will assume you have come from Terrey Hills, and you have gone straight ahead, which means you are now one the road with perhaps the longest name in Sydney: "Liberator-General San Martin Drive". Go along this, ignoring the turn-off to the left that goes to Cottage Point. Take it easy: the road winds a lot, and there can occasionally be wildlife, pedestrians, cyclists and people towing boats.

Akuna Bay is tne second bay that you come to. There is a parking area, there are picnic places, there are boats (some for hire), shops and eateries. It is fairly basic and not very cheap, but you can get a snack and have it in nice circumstances. Splurge and enjoy it!

Walks and views in the area

The water views are pleasant, but there are few accessible walks in this section.

Bobbin Head

Ku-Ring-Gai Chase Road comes off Belmont Parade, Mount Colah and runs to Bobbin Head, where it changes to Bobbin Head Road which starts at the Pacific Highway at Turramurra and runs down through North Turramurra. There is parking near 'the Sphinx', just where the road starts to go downhill.

Walks and views in the area

From 'the Sphinx', you can walk down the Sphinx walking track to Cowan Creek, and then follow a track that runs to Bobbin Head -- I have not walked this in twenty years, but I believe it is still there. There is also a more direct track known as the Bobbin Head Walking Track -- I have no idea how well maintained it is, but it is there.

There is also a track taking off from Appletree Bay which links up to the Mount Kuring-gai to Berowra via Cowan Creek track.

Cottage Point

Getting there: read the instructions for Akuna Bay, but ignore the bit where I say ignore the turnoff to Cottage Point. <>P Cottage Point is one of those unfortunate places in the park where some of the best land has been excised for private holdings. There is a kiosk with cheap foods, and a restaurant where main courses range from $35 to $45, with other prices to match. Parking is at a premium and the road is steep, so this is no place for the disabled, but the views are excellent. At the kiosk today, we had Dutch being spoken to my left, Cantonese behind me and there was an Indian family as well, so clearly we haven't kept this secret as well as we might have done.

There was noise from a nearby boatshed, a sea eagle was soaring overhead and the food was OK, if a bit slow but it was a busy time for them. The coffee was excellent. I am, as I have mentioned elsewhere, a writer, and when I finish a manuscript, I tend to go there to read it through, but I always get sidetracked by the view. Try to get a seat upstairs if you can, as you can see more. If you are down below, look for the fish, just off the jetty.

Walks and views in the area

We explored this area recently, and found three overgrown tracks at the top of the hill, at a point where there is a lot of cleared ground on the southern side, with large boulders in place to stop vehicles encroaching.

You need to be able to discern a faint trail to do this one, and you need to watch your path so you can find your way back, and you need sensible shoes and clothes.

One track on the northern side runs out perhaps 200 metres to a nice vantage point. The most obvious track on the south side goes to a nice rock for sitting on, with very filtered views. Just east of that, a faint track disappears in: I spotted it by several sump busters, concrete blocks intended to damage any vehicles trying to get in. The track is largely overgrown, but leads to rocks with magnificent views of Smiths Creek. Just watch your step, and note the route you followed, so you can find your way out again. If you have no sense of direction, you probably should avoid this one.

The Basin

Walks and views in the area

The Basin track is definitely recommended.

West Head

There are three ways to interpret "West Head". It can mean the entire Lambert Peninsula, the area served by the West Head Road, or it can mean a picnic area, most of the way down the road, or the lookout that is right at the end.

The West Head Road is an absolute must, but it is a waste of time driving without stopping and getting out. You need to know that gangs of thieves work the area, breaking into cars, so avoid leaving any valuables in your car.

The West Head picnic area is OK, but not a necessity. There is water there, but it is not recommended for people who are not Sydneysiders. It comes from a dam and is untreated.

The West Head lookout is an absolute must. At the end, veer left, as the final part of the road turns into a one-way loop. Watch out for wandering pedestrians and cars pulling out without looking!

Walks and views in the area

Walks in KCNP

Here is a link to an
official page of walks.

America Bay Track | Bairne track | Basin track | Challenger track | Flint and Steel track | Mount Kuring-gai to Berowra via Cowan Creek | Red Hand Track | Salvation loop | Topham track | Waratah track | Willunga track

West Head tracks

It will be a while before can get my act together on this section. So until I can walk the tracks, I will fill in a few bits only. Take a look at the NPWS page on Kuring-gai walks as a starter.

There are two kinds of numbered posts along the road. One set are white, and the numbers identify the culvert. Some guides use those, but these days, life is made easier, with specially numbered walk signs. I will use that second system, though I grew up using the culvert numbers, but I will need to check them first. You can get information as you eneter the park: ask when you pay for an information sheet on walks.

The Basin track

Location map: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/PDFs/kurring_map_basin.pdf

This track is a fire trail and service trail. Only official vehicles are allowed, and bicycles, it seems, so watch out for idiots who get carried away on steep sections. This is about 4 km each way, with a drop (and climb) of about 200 metres. You can get water at the bottom (the source is a dam and the water is untreated, so non-Australians should probably not risk it), but take some water, and some food with you. I suggest about 1.5 litres per person, more on very hot days. Note that you can also do this in reverse, catching the Palm Beach ferry across to The Basin. Note that other ferries leave from the same wharf, so make sure you are on the right one.

The walk offers Aboriginal engravings, views, nice places to sit and eat a meal, and more. You walk out along a flat section, with the main set of Aboriginal engravings on the right, clearly signposted. Then walk on, turn left to go down a small hill and up again before dropping seriously, just after a sharp right turn. At that right turn, look for a faint track that goes off to the left: this takes you out onto rocks that offer some excellent views, about 15 metres in.

As you descend, you will come to a less obvious track, running along the side of the hill and more or less level. This goes to a dam that supplies the camping area at The Basin, but it is usually less disturbed, so you have a good chance, if you walk quietly, of seeing a swamp wallaby or three. Stay on the track, as the bush here is riddles with ticks.

Macropods (wallabies and maybe kangaroos) are common in this area: even in the first section, if you check the sand and mud at the edge of the road, you can see tracks that they have left.

Willunga track

This is a short track up to a trig station, offering good views because it is the highest point in the park. As a boy, I learned bushwalking along this peninsula, and we needed to keep the trig station in sight as much as possible, so we could fix ourselves on the map. Trig stations were part of trigonometrical surveying, and used to be on the main high peaks. These days with GPS, who would bother?

Still, the trig station is there, and the views are good, if the trees haven't grown back yet. It's a couple of kilometres, so take some water with you.

Red Hand Track

This is a short trail that is marked out, starting from the West Head picnic area, not the lookout. A gentle and open route, good for beginners and small people.

Topham track

to come

Challenger track

to come

America Bay Track

Aboriginal engraving, Kuring-Gai Chase, America Bay track.This is a pleasant downhill walk, with a fine set of engravings on the right as you go in: look for a track running downhill to the right. There is a waterfall at the end, but it is fairly hard to see it in any detail without dropping over.

These engravings are not protected from people walking over them, so you need to tread with care. the best time to see them is in the later afternoon or the early morning. If you are looking in the middle of the day, winter is better than summer, becasue the sun is lower in the sky.

The engravings (NOT carvings!) were apparently made by marking a shape in charcoal, then pecking a series of holes, probably by hammering a piece of sharp stone, in much the same way that modern people use a percussion drill. Many of the engravings still show traces of these holes, but the next stage was to join the holes by rubbing with another piece of hard stone.

Over time, the grooves have worn down, and one of the main causes is shod feet walking over them. That is why you need to tread with care, to avoid further damage, and it is the reason why you need to have the sun low in the sky, so you can see them more clearly.

Like most enthusiasts, I know where many more are, but I have no intention of recording them here for all-comers.

As you get down the track, streams come in from both the left and the right. Be very careful if you try to wade along the streams, as the rocks are treacherously slippery. In fact, I would go so far as to say DON'T!

On the other hand, most pools have resident yabbies, freshwater crayfish. Try tossing a small piece of meat in, and sit patiently and watch to see what happens.

Salvation loop

You can do this with or without the Wallaroo extension. When you are finished, there is a pleasant picnic area on the other side of the road, about half-way between the two points where the loop joins the road. A fourth-class road was built along the peninsula, during World War II, I think, and the Salvation Loop follows a path that goes around the top of a swamp that surrounds Salvation Creek. From the nature of the surface, I believe this is part of the original gravel road, and that the tar road just cut the loop off.

The swamp is a hanging swamp, and the drains along the side of the track contain a wealth of wildlife, especially tadpoles and frogs. Remember that you are in a National Park, and everything is protected. It may be admired, but not taken, harmed, or put at risk. Handling frogs and tadpoles is generally not good for them.

More to come

Flint and Steel track

This is a quick walk down to a beach on the western side of the peninsula, pleasant enough, but of no great interest. More to come: I need to walk this one again.

Bairne track

You can do this with or without Soldier's Point track. About 500 metres in, just after a sandy patch on the track, you can see waratahs on both sides of the track in spring.

More to come

Waratah track

This is an easy track that stays fairly level, offers a marvellous array of wildflowers in spring, and provides a number of rocks to sit on and relax, eat and drink. It peters out on a rock shelf at the end, but the views along the way make it worthwhile. You need to go back the way you came.

It starts at NPWS post 2, on the western side of the road. Park your car with some thought, so that cyclists are able to use the cycle lane without problems.

Mount Kuring-gai to Berowra via Cowan Creek

This is an excellent walk to do by train, though you can also drive, then get a train back to your start. I suggest catching a train through Hornsby to Mount Kuring-gai. If you get a return ticket, get one to and from Berowra.

There is no water and no food on the track, so go prepared for five or six hours out. It is about 8 km, suitable for ages 8 to 75 (I have just completed it, a few days after my 62nd birthday, and seen a number of older people on it). The track is rough in places, and requires commonsense. It drops 200 metres, and has to climb back to the same level, and it undulates a bit.

The NPWS guide says it is 11.3 km and can be done in 4 hours: I believe it is less, but I recommend that you take longer (I think we took about five, including a stop for lunch). The coastal portion has a number of midden sites. A midden heap invariably marks a spot of scenic beauty, a place where Aboriginal people would sit and eat shellfish before moving on. The entry point to Cowan Creek walks at Mount Kuring-gai. Walking along the track: this is the easy part, suitable for all ages. The track near Mount Kuring-gai.
Pictures above, from left to right:

The track forks: go left for views. The view seen when you follow the left fork at the top of the track. The view seen when you follow the left fork at the top of the track.
Pictures above, from left to right: Yellow-tailed black cockatoo. This is the end of the really easy section, but it isn't a BAD stroll. Termite mound, Kuring-gai Chase.
Pictures above, from left to right: A memorial to four National Parks staff, killed in a controlled burn that went wrong. A memorial to four National Parks staff, killed in a controlled burn that went wrong. Pictures on the right, from left to right: Start the walk at the station by going south to the exit, then turn left, go over the footbridge and walk down Harwood Avenue to the end. The entrance is immediately obvious, so walk along it. When you come to a fork, the right branch goes out to a nice viewpoint, worth a visit. A bit further along, as the going gets a bit rocky, watch for a lookout on the left, where there is a memorial to four young National Parks staff who died during a control burn that went wrong.

There is a curious vegetation distribution that may be fire-related -- notice all the meadowy land to the right of the track. Birds abound: we sighted two yellow-tailed black cockatoos, and heard about 10 other species without even engaging in birding. Just after that, my camera got Flat Battery Disease, so the end of the track is not pictured (yet).

The track winds down to the shore, and joins a track from Appletree Bay, then runs along, generally within about 10 metres of sea level. It skirts three bays before running along the side of Waratah Bay. These are probably tempting to swim in during summer, or at least to splash around in the sandy shallows (there were a few poeple doing just that in late April, from some of the boats moored there, we assumed). At points along the way, you will see banks of shells: these are old middens, left by the Aborigines, and they should be left undisturbed, as they are of historic value.

It took us about three hours to reach Waratah Bay, where we stopped for lunch just a bit sooner than we should, as the most pleasant spot is near the remains of an old boatshed (Windybanks), destroyed by fire in 1972.

The track runs up the slope, and is generally easy to follow, except at one point near the top, where it passes through a cut in the sandstone, about 70 cm high, and then makes a sharp right turn. Another track goes straight ahead, and leads to some views, nothing spectacular. It looks as though most people miss the turn, so watch out for it. From there, you are in weedy disturbed ground. Cross the bridge, and turn left, down to the station.

One the walk up, you will see a number of old pipes, and even sections of telephone cable, apparently remnants of services once delivered to the boatshed. At one point, there was once a road bridge, and it appears that water was picked up from there and delivered to the boatshed, before 'town water' was connected. On the walk up, look down into the ravine below, and up at the cliffs above, as there will always be interesting sites.

If you went by car to the start, you can travel by train back to your starting point. Note that you can do this in either direction, but I would rather come up, not down, the section near Berowra. This was the consensus of four sets of knees which total close to 240 years between them.

This file is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/syd/kcnp.htm, first created on April 14, 2006. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on October 26, 2006.

© The author of this work is Peter Macinnis. You are free to point at this page. Copies of this page or set of pages may be stored on PDAs or printed for personal use. You can't contact me at macinnis@ozemail.com.au, but if you add my first name to the front of that email address, you can -- this is a low-tech way of making it harder to harvest the e-mail address I actually read.
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