Stage 13 - Lighthouse to Lighthouse Walk

Towamba River to Ben Boyd Tower

It had rained fairly heavily during the night, so we were very relieved to wake up to a sunny morning. A light mist was rising off the river up through the trees in the gullies, adding to the idyllic nature of this bush setting. We had no choice but to travel today as we were meeting our friends, Mike and Trish, at Saltwater Creek that evening. The previous night we had been speaking to our hosts, Neil and Anna, about our trip and they had very kindly offered to take us back up the Towamba River and drop us on the opposite shore at Kiah Inlet, where it entered Twofold Bay, saving us at least an hour of walking back along the river's edge.

Mist rising off the Towamba River

We boarded the boat with Anna and, with her son Marcus at the helm, we were soon heading north up the tree-lined Towamba, past shady gullies, broad sandbanks and assorted waterbirds. The sun was shining brightly on as we reached the broad still waters of Kiah Inlet, but to the right dark clouds hung ominously over the mountain backdrop to Twofold Bay. Finally we reached the beach at the old Davidson whaling station, a reminder of the industry that helped to develop the Twofold Bay area. Whales are still very important to the local economy, but now we watch them rather than hunt them.

We jumped on to the beach, the first four kilometres of this stage covered in 15 pleasant minutes. Thanks, Anna, Neil and Marcus, for your help and for the relaxing time we had at the Kiah River Cabins.

Mount Imlay behind the tree-lined shores of the Towamba

Dark clouds gathering over the mountains behind Kiah Inlet

Thanks Anna and Marcus

Old Davidson whaling station

We walked quickly up through the nicely restored buildings of the whaling station and followed a dirt road down to Fisheries Flat. A chorus of frogs, croaking happily in anticipation of rain greeted us on the flat and the first drops began to fall as we climbed up the far end of the beach toward Edrom Lodge, an historic old homestead on the southern side of the bay. We were sitting comfortably in a sofa on the wide front verandah of Edrom as we watched the sheets of rain sweeping in across Twofold Bay and over us.

Track down to Fisheries Flat

Storm coming in over Fisheries Beach

Edrom Lodge

View from the verandah at Edrom
Ben Boyd Tower to Saltwater Creek (Lighthouse to Lighthouse Walk)

Half an hour later, the sky had cleared and we headed on. Quickly passing the access roads to the new naval facility and the wood-chip mill, we turned down another dirt road for one kilometre to reach Boyd's Tower. This tower was built by Ben Boyd in the 1840s as a gateway to his planned empire in Twofold Bay and was used to spot whales for hunting. Today it marks the start of the Lighthouse to Lighthouse Walk, one of the most picturesque walking tracks along the coast. Looking south from the tower, we could see the line of rugged cliffs disappearing to the south, the twisted and sheared form of rocks belying their turbulent geological past. These wine-red and chocolate siltstones and sandstones are the oldest rocks on the New South Wales coast.


View south from Boyd's tower

Boyd's tower

The coastline is formed by ancient brown and red
siltstone and sandstone rocks
The track south spends much of its time away from the actual cliffs, but passes through a never-ending change in vegetation habitats; bracken-filled banksia woodlands, still grey monocultures of paperbark, taller ironbark and woollybutt eucalypt forests and low, scrubby heaths. Every so often, there is a gap providing a glimpse back along the cliff line to Boyd's Tower or looking out over a rocky inlet.

A glimpse of the coastline southward

View back to Boyd's Tower

One of the numerous rocky inlets along this coastline

By the time we reached the boulder-lined shore of Leatherjacket Bay, the skies had once again darkened and a peal of thunder rolled across the coastal forest. No verandah or comfortable sofa here; we spent the next 30 minutes in our wet weather gear huddled beneath the canopy of a sweet pittosporum thicket as the storm passed over. It was the first time that we had been caught out in the rain in the 11 weeks of our walk so we felt that we couldn't complain. The thicket served as best it could and we emerged, slightly damp instead of soaked, to continue along the track through tall eucalypt forest toward Mowarry Point. The scent of the wet bush as we walked along kept our spirits high.

Two different vegetation habitats along the walk

Storm approaching Leatherjacket Bay

Sheltering in a pittosporum thicket

After the rain it was a bit bleak ..................... but the sun soon returned
A large mob of kangaroos calls Mowarry Point home

Mowarry Point has a large grassy open area, with scattered tea-trees, that is home to a large mob of kangaroos.

Here's looking at you!

As we walked out on to it, the sun came out once again providing a magnificent panorama of the coastline as far north as Gulaga. We stopped for a while at a stony beach just to the south of the point to admire how the sunlight brought out the richness of the red siltstone platform, set against the deep blue of the sea.

Looking back from Mowarry Point

Almost garish - the rich wine-red siltstone meets the dark blue Pacific

Sorry - I can't resist the red rocks

South of Mowarry, the track led us through more open heathland before eventually descending through a paperbark forest to the beach at Saltwater Creek, the first sandy stretch of coast since Boyd's Tower and our stop for the night.

Fairy ring at Saltwater Creek

More open banksia woodland

The beach at Saltwater Creek

Saltwater sunset

Trish and Mike arrived by car soon after and we set up camp in the lovely campground, set back from the beach with the dark tannin-stained waters of the two lagoons on either side. As we set up camp, the scrub wrens and a yellow robin hopped about our feet to check out if there was anything of interest. It was a pleasant night beside the fire at Saltwater Creek, enjoying a good meal with good company, which included the local possums who wandered fearlessly about investigating everything that might remotely contain food. The next morning we shared a breakfast of egg and bacon with Trish and Mike; the possums had already dined on our muesli after stealing it from our pack the night before.


OK - so what can I find to go with the muesli?

Saltwater Creek to Green Cape (Lighthouse to Lighthouse Track)

We awoke to a fine morning, though camping out for the first time in a while, we realised how much the temperature had dropped since we set out on our walk 2 months ago. In the last week, there had been a distinct change in weather regime and cold nights with brisk mornings were the order of the day.

Trish and Mike accompanied us as we crossed the beach at Saltwater Creek to rejoin the lighthouse to lighthouse track. The reflections in the still dark waters of the lagoon on the southern end of the beach were superb. Trish left us here, heading back to Eden by car to buy fresh seafood and supplies for our overnight stay at a Green Cape lighthouse keeper's cottage; she would then head there and set up for our arrival.

Reflections in the still tea-coloured
waters of Saltwater Lagoon

The track from the beach climbed up through more paperbark forest, passing through areas of open heath and banksia woodlands, before crossing an expanse of heathland. Here we caught our first glimpse of Green Cape lighthouse, our destination for the night.

Pacific gull

A first glimpse of Green Cape and its lighthouse

View across the heath and back along the coast

One more red rock inlet

Life can be hard for some in the bush

A small creek flows down through the
coastal forest
Descending down to Hegarty's Bay. we picked our way across the boulders and rocky ribs protruding on to the beach. Near the small rivulet at the head of the Bay we encountered a flock of yellow-tailed black cockatoos feasting on wood grubs in the paperbark trunks. An even better encounter was to follow as we crossed the low shrubby heath south of Hegarty's. The ground parrot is one of Australia's rarest birds and is restricted to a few locations with coastal heath; two of these special birds flushed out from beneath the low bushes as we passed and skimmed across their tops in a flurry of wings.

Hegarty's Bay

Peekaboo cockatoo

Flock of yellow-tail black cockatoos watching us pass

The track then followed a large arc around the cliffs on the north side of Bittangabee Bay, giving splendid views of the entry of this long, narrow inlet, before re-entering the heath. The vegetation changed to taller eucalypt forest, as the track headed further inland and crossed the creek at the headwaters of Bittangabee.

Another beautiful coastal stream

Overlooking the entry to Bittangabee Bay - the rainclouds appear

Forest near Bittangabee

It then took us along the southern side of the bay to where the ruins of an old depot used to supply Green Cape lighthouse stood. Bittangabee Bay was the nearest location to the lighthouse where a boat could be safely moored. It was also the location where the cold front that had been promised by the bureau of meteorology finally caught us. A cold wind sprang up and a gentle drizzle started to fall as we donned our wet weather gear and headed off through the bush toward the Cape. The track followed the old overgrown supply route taken by horse drawn carts between Bittangabee and Green Cape and the first part was through a range of forest types. Wearing wet weather gear in the rain tends to focus the gaze downward, but it was easy to recognize the different vegetation habitats from the litter-covered path; some times the serrated leaves of coastal banksias, sometimes the thin needles of casuarinas and other times the gently curved or tapering leaves of different eucalypts lay underfoot.

It was good having Mike on this part of the trip, as the rain also focussed attention on various animal footprints, scratchings and droppings. Mike is a vertebrate ecologist and his expertise soon had us recognising such things as, where lyrebirds had been scratching and how wombats use their poo as territorial markers. There certainly must have been a dense population of wombats in the forest!

Rock pool in Bittangabee Creek

Finally the forest gave way to a broad expanse of low heath land as we headed out on the promontory of Green Cape. Out of the protection of the forest, the wind was stronger, colder and the rain seemed heavier. The dull wet greenness of the heath was broken from time to time by splashes of colour from the pink and white bells of Epacris flowers and the orange candles of banksias. In the distance we could at last see the top of the Green Cape lighthouse and the promise of shelter. It was a relief to finally arrive at the lighthouse and the assistant lighthouse keeper's cottage, which the National Parks and Wildlife Service have restored and transformed into accommodation for rent. A hot shower, dry clothes and a fire crackling away in the fireplace of the lounge room soon had us in good spirits.


By late afternoon, the rain had moved on and the sun broke through low in the western sky, bathing the lighthouse and cape in a pale glow against the darkness of the receding storm clouds. The green of the grass and low tea-trees and banksia heath was luminous in this light. The clarity of the light was intense - 110 km to the north, the silhouette of Gulaga appeared as though an offshore island (surely this is the the last point on the coast from where we will see it) and 40 km to the south, the high sand dunes of Cape Howe glowing in the sunlight, marked our destination at the New South Wales - Victoria border. The fierce cold wind that had driven away the clouds blew in across the wide expanse of Disaster Bay. It was exhilarating.

I am describing this in particular detail because, when uploading the flash memory card from my camera to the notebook, the card had a catastrophic failure, and the last half of the photos stored on it were lost. This also included one of another rare ground parrot that posed for a full portrait in front of a tussock of grass below the lighthouse. I suspect that you need to be a photographer to experience the anguish I felt after the euphoria of talking such a photo.

In memory of lost photos

Memo to self: next January 1 make a resolution not to feel that you have to capture everything beautiful or inspiring that you see on film - to enjoy the moment and hold
the memory of it in your mind is reward enough.

The following morning I got up early to try and get
another portrait of a ground parrot - although I saw
two more birds they were not as obliging and this
grainy enlargement is all that I could manage

It was a special night at Green Cape - good wine, a fine dinner of prawns, oysters and flathead tails and an enjoyable evening with friends in front of the fire. Again we made a mental note to return to this isolated and beautiful part of the South Coast.

Our accommodation at Green Cape - taken the following morning

Green Cape Lighthouse - the name of the cape is self-evident
"Lost" images of Green Cape

Herewith a selection of images recovered from the "crashed" smart media card. After returning home, I found the old card and on an off-chance took it to a camera store - they were able to recover all the photos from the corrupted card!! The moral is; do not despair when your card crashes - the pictures may well still be recoverable.

Ruins of the old depot at Bittangabee Inlet

Crossing the rain-soaked heathland of Green Cape heading for the warmth of the fireplace at the light-house keeper's cottages

Post-storm evening light at Green Cape

New Holland honeyeater - one of the more common
heathland birds

The rare and endangered ground parrot - well-camouflaged
amidst the tussock grasses of Green Cape