Nadgee Howe Wilderness Walk The Facts Walk date: November 2016 Location: far south coast NSW and eastern Victoria Distance: 55 km Type: one way Days: 3-4 National park rating: grade 5 – ‘Very experienced bushwalkers’ Who’s it for: someone with several hikes under their belt, is capable of navigation with minimal trail marking and doesn’t mind an overgrown path with some bush bashing. When: all seasons (drinking water can be harder to find in summer). Permit/cost: register with Parks NSW and receive a permit $10 per night (here). The ranger will ask for your trip plan and provide contact details for the ferry driver. Group size is limited to 8 and only 30 people are allowed in the area at any one time. Best bits: beautiful sea caves and a real sense of wildness Worst bits: the long hot moors (not my favourite type of veg) Tip: pack some tea tree oil, as ticks can be a problem. When you register with Parks they provide a map with water holes marked. The black water symbols are reliable water and grey water symbols can sometimes be dry. The further up-stream you travel along the rivers the fresher the water becomes.
The Fluff This is a great costal hike with a sense of being out in the wilderness. The trail is generally easy to follow although there are overgrown sections and at times concentration is required not to wander off track. The ocean is spectacular and while I was there the strong wind really whipped up a swell and made it feel all the more rugged and wild. I completed this hike to end a 700 km hike on the Great South Coast Walk so I was ‘hiking fit’ and covering long distances. If I were to do it again, I’d consider taking four days.
The walk formally starts at the Ranger’s Station but I actually started from the town of Wonboyn Lake, travelling north to south. This added an extra 10 km to the day, with the first 2km on a low traffic bitumen road and the next 8km on a well-maintained dirt track. I really enjoyed the walk to the Ranger’s Station as lyrebirds were calling and darting around. I even startled a dingo that was trotting down the trail towards me before seeing me and dashing off into the bush!
This hike can also be linked to the Light to Light hike by walking along Wonboyn Beach, over Wonboyn Hill, crossing Merrica River and following the Merrica River Firetrail. This link can be difficult with bush bashing and significant navigation skills required. The Merrica River crossing near the coast can be difficult due to deep water and strong currents.
Arriving at Merrica River and the Ranger’s Station (which is just a toilet and a semi collapsed water tank) I filled my water from the river and wrote in the logbook. Cleaning my shoes, I was off on the formal start to the walk. An old dirt track provides easy walking through the tall forest. As you approach Newton’s Beach there is a small rock cairn near an embankment. Take this left turn; off the dirt road towards the northern end of the beach to visit the sea caves (safest at low tide). The dirt road continues on to the southern end of Newton’s Beach and is unremarkable.
The northern end of Newtons is beautiful with rocky sea cliffs and a creek that has carved its way out to the sea. Walk north on the beach to the sea caves. It’s easiest and safest to do this on a low tide but possible at other times just watch out for the odd big wave (Tide Predictions, select VIC and Gabo Island). The caves aren’t terribly deep but a head torch could be helpful. This area is really special so take your time to enjoy, but just keep one eye on the tide.
There is no need to return to the dirt road, simply follow Newton’s Beach south. Towards the southern end of Newtons, buoys hang from trees marking the site of a wonderful beach camp. The trail continues behind the beach camp and there are several grassy sheltered campsites just back from the beach.
I camped on the beach and set up just in time for a storm. That night the storm started to rage with massive gusting winds. I should have moved camp but couldn’t be bothered. The solution was to go ‘burrito style’ in my tarp. The wind was so strong I huddled under the tarp and cuddled my pack to feel like I wouldn’t blow away. It was kind of fun but I was happy when the storm eased and I got some sleep.
The next day I packed up camp and watched a mother whale and her calf frolicking off the beach. Whale sightings are common in this area mid September until late November (Wild about Whales).I headed inland and found the trail heading south. The old dirt road popped out near Table Creek about 3.5 km further south. Keep an eye out for a fallen wooden sign with nothing written on it and some burn marks. The sign marks a path to the right (west) follow it if you want to get some fresh water upstream in Table Creek. Where Table Creek meets the ocean it is a bit too salty.
To the south of table creek there is a large sandy flat and a nice, but somewhat exposed camping area. I met a school group here that were really friendly and packing up to head north. Entering the tree line near the campsite the trail continues south for about 2km. The track divides and you can either go left via the coast and Impressa Moor or right via the inland route. Both trails are on old 4wd tracks but are overgrown making slower walking. I took the inland route to check out the Nadgee River and an old hut. To be honest, the walking was mildly unpleasant and as the trail became more overgrown, but at least the wet weather was keeping the ticks away!
It took some time to cover the 2 km to Nadgee River and the hut. The river is beautiful and a large log makes crossing easy. The hut is, well a hut, there was nothing terribly exciting about it (it is possible to camp inside but I preferred the ocean camps). From here the track deteriorated further and I had to concentrate not to lose it. Faded flagging tape helped reassure me I was in the right place.
The overgrown wet track heading towards the ocean had me craving the sun and open expanse of the beach once more. After about 4 km the track reconnects with the trail from Impressa Moor. To continue the walk turn south (right), but I wanted to check out the beach and Osprey lookout so I turned north. After about 700 m of overgrown track I immerged at the southern end of Nadgee Beach. There are some glorious camping sites at either end of this beach. I’ll definitely aim to camp here next time. I even got a couple of bars of Telstra reception at the southern end. I enjoyed the sun and exploring the headland near Osprey lookout. Apparently there is a fresh water beach soak from the Nadgee River just up-stream but it is not reliable in summer. Next time I’ll definitely skip the inland route and go the Impressa Moor route, as this beach is beautiful.
I retraced my steps to the intersection and headed south for about 6 km passing Nadgee lake and the Bunyip Hole (fresh water). Crossing the Endeavour Moor was not my favourite type of hiking and the numerous, although respectful, snakes made wearing gaiters a must. Maybe I was feeling tired and grumpy, but the Bunyip Hole was quite frankly a bit of a hole. The campsite wedged between the Bunyip Hole and the ocean was ok and well protected from the wind by the large sand dunes.
I continued south for about 1.4 km, along the short beach and followed the ocean with some boulder hopping to the Victorian border. You can go a little further inland across the large sand dunes but I really enjoyed sticking to the ocean shore. The massive swell and epic wind had an energy that invigorated me. The ocean was so wild it really added to the experience of being on a rugged wilderness coast. There were a couple of freshwater soaks breaking though the sand dunes onto the rocky shore but these probably only run when there has been recent rainfall.
The rest of the hike is on long stretches of beach so check out the tides, as its much easier walking on the firm sand of a lower tide. The wind can also be really helpful or quite the challenge, depending on which way it is blowing. Unfortunately for me I had a strong head wind.
The rugged coastline is spectacular, especially Gabo Island and the grand lighthouse. I trudged on to Lake Wauka, but had trouble locating the camp at first. I was looking on the eastern side of the lake/river as the map suggests, there must be a camp here somewhere but I couldn’t find it. To my relief I spotted trees decorated with buoys and light bulbs on the western side of the lake. I made my way (with a little bush bashing) to a spectacular and sheltered campsite on the lake’s western edge. I think the water level in the lake may normally be lower and you can just walk along its edge to the camp. Be careful near the lake edge as the high water content in the sand can sometimes liquefy causing you so sink knee deep.
The water at the campsite was salty but I had enough to last. There may be fresh water further up-stream. This was a long day given all the diversions for exploring and the epic headwind. I highly recommend a visit back to the beach after dark to checkout the lighthouse doing it’s thing.
The next day I was up and hiking appreciating the easy navigation – just follow the beach. Passing spectacular Gabo Island and then the wreck of the SS Riverina, mostly submerged in the mid tide. I started to pick up patchy mobile reception, as I got closer to Mallacoota. Pushing on I took a side trip into Lake Barracoota for an early lunch stop and welcome relief from the wind. The turnoff is signposted with a large upright wooden log. The side trip is well worth it to visit this beautiful fresh water lake. There is nice small campsite here that is well protected from the southern winds but I’d imagine it wouldn’t be very nice if a strong wind was coming from the north.
Back on the beach it was less than 3 km of beach walking to the signposted turnoff to the boat pickup at Lake View. It’s fun starting a walk in one state and finishing in another, in NSW the trail is marked but only minimally, while in Victoria the track had more markers with details of where each track leads. Both styles have their pros and cons, it was a welcome relief knowing I was on the right track, but there is also something charming about the NSW side where you feel more like you have to discover the trail.
At the turnoff I dropped my pack and followed the beach all the way to the end of the Mallacoota Inlet, about a 10 km return trip. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about regarding the ‘dangerous’ river crossing. Arriving on low tide the crossing appeared to be manageable but obviously weather conditions and varying amounts of sand build-up can change this. I’d crossed far worse on the Great South Coast Walk but I understand the encouragement by Parks for people to take a boat. River crossings are not much fun with a full pack and can go horribly wrong horribly quick. The boat ride, although annoying to organise, is actually really fun.
Returning to my pack I headed north along a well signposted 4wd track that was a bit of a swamp. I skirted puddles for a long time before realising resistance was futile and taking the plunge, walking in ankle deep water for the next kilometre. After the swampy area the track emerges on the most beautiful forest with large old hollow bearing trees that would provide shelter and nest sites for many of our native species. About 1 km from the Lake View jetty there is an interesting ruin and a nice view. There are several trails that lead off in different directions but the well signposted intersections made navigation easy. At the jetty I had time to remove my shoes, sit in the shade and reflect on this wonderful trip. I spotted my boat ride flying across the water and soon was greeted by Dale, his friend and a little Jack Russel. Dale even brought me a beer, not the standard treatment but as it was the end of my 700 km hike from Sydney he thought it worthy of a celebration. I didn’t complain! They dropped me on the wharf next to my accommodation where I met up with some mates for a weekend of fishing!