First 3 days written by Caroline, with helpful reminders from the rest of the crew each evening. Last 2 days written by Lucie.
It should be noted that this is the final stage of our 2016 Victorian Coastline Challenge, completed 3 years late, over Easter 2019. Better late than never!
To plan our hike we used a selection of the Croajingolong National Park/Wilderness Coast parknotes, a topo map, Maps.me, Walking in Australia Lonely Planet guide, and Walking the Wilderness Coast by Peter Cook and Chris Dowd. We found some discrepancies in distances, water locations etc. and have tried to clarify key milestones and facilities in this blog.
Mark, Lucie and Vanessa set off from Melbourne around 4.30pm, with Jens, Jon & Caroline heading off at 5.45pm, for this incredibly long drive. With the help of WikiCamps, we found a truck stop/camping spot to stay at on the side of the road – Murrungowar Rest Area, which wasn’t too far from the start of our hike. While not spectacular, it has flat grass to pitch our tents, pit toilets, water and picnic tables. The trucks flying by were kinda loud but we all managed a good night’s sleep nonetheless – probably too exhausted from the long drive.
Bemm River to Clinton Rocks, 24km
Following on from our rather strange Bemm River to Marlo adventure 3 years earlier, we started this adventure at Bemm River/Sydenham Inlet by driving down Pearl Point Track to where the parknotes shows the walk beginning.
Car shuffle details: both cars drive to Pearl Point Track, to begin the hike from the aptly but boringly named Ocean Beach. Jens and Jon joined Mark, Lucie, Vanessa & Caroline for a short walk, then drove both cars to Mallacoota Inlet (where this adventure ends), left one car there, and returned in the other (4-wheel drive) car to Clinton Rocks, our campsite for the night. This car then hopped along to Thurra River for the end of day 2, Wingan Inlet for the end of day 3, and then returned to Melbourne.
From Ocean Beach, the 6 of us walked half a km or so, then checked the distance on Maps.me to Clinton Rocks. We were rather alarmed to discover our first day of walking was to be 24km, rather than 14km as stated on the Croajingolong National Park parknotes. After we got over our frustration at that, Jens and Jon took off for the above-mentioned car shuffle, while Mark, Lucie, Vanessa & Caroline walked on in trepidation – picking up the pace! Unfortunately, because we were aiming for low tide at Sydenham Inlet at 11am, we’d had a relaxed morning and a rather late start, and had a lot of ground to cover!
Most of day 1 was sand walking – kinda soft, and kinda sloped, so this made for a tough day. We arrived at Sydenham Inlet (where Walking the Wilderness Coast lists a campsite – this would be on the beach somewhere and without fresh water because we were told that Sydenham Inlet is always salty and not good to drink), a little after low tide. Lucie investigated crossing inlet towards ocean, but the current was very strong and the water was at least waist deep (even deeper for Vanessa), show it didn’t seem particularly pleasant. Further inland the water was even deeper and the current was still quite strong.
Vanessa flagged down a boat to help with crossing further up. They were unimpressed, wondered why were so unprepared but were ultimately happy to help take us across in twos – Vanessa & Caroline, then Mark & Lucie. Mark did explain to them that we’d done a bit of research, but come across conflicting information about whether the inlet was open to the ocean or closed, and whether or not you could cross it if it was open!
Our boat saviours had earlier in the day been let off receiving a $300 speeding fine and a $300 no life jacket fine, and lo and behold, the water police showed up again, commenting about us not wearing life jackets either! They retorted that taking us across the inlet was their good deed for the day, and the police left it at that.
We enjoyed a sheltered lunch on the other side of the inlet. We trudged on in more sand to Tamboon Inlet, then had afternoon tea. There was basically a headwind and sand walking for the majority of this day! Tamboon Inlet (also salty) was closed to the ocean – so no dramas as we could just walk across on the sand. We watched an awesome sunset looking back over inlet as we passed, however, unfortunately this meant no more light for the rest of our hike.
Mark found enough phone reception to text Jon & Jens that we would probably arrive at 6.30pm, rather than our earlier estimate of 5.30pm.
We walked on in the dark. Then we got to the rocky outcrop section… (Walking the Wilderness Coast lists a campsite just before these rocks, and a small creek. We were in the dark but didn’t see anything) we traversed 3 sections of rocks in the dark against all odds – with one headlamp, phone torches and the tide quickly rising. The weather was still warm, luckily, and the rising moon was stunning.
Eventually we found a very worried Jens & Jon at the third lot of rocks. Turns out they had not received our text. Everyone was relieved, and we were exhausted. We weren’t too far from the ‘campsite’, which is listed on the parknotes as being at the end of Clinton Rocks Track. We probably wouldn’t have found the track if it wasn’t for Jens & Jon coming from there – it’s up a steep hill, the sign is obscured by bushes (we didn’t see it until the morning) and the path is quite overgrown. There are no facilities and we basically camped on a small dirt turning circle at the end of a poor quality 4WD trail which Jens & Jon had some trouble navigating. There was just enough space for our three tents. You could also camp on the beach above the high tide line. We had dinner as fast as we could and fell into bed, exhausted, at about 9pm.
Day 1 logistics summary: 24km, all on the beach. There is no drinking water until at least Clinton Rocks campsite (west of the rocks), but we didn’t find it. You may need to arrange boat transport to get across Sydenham and Tamboon inlets – Sydenham Bait and Tackle Shop (03 5158 6465) can help with this.
Clinton Rocks to Thurra River, 13km
We had to get a much earlier start than the previous day as Jens had to get Jon to a bus in Cann River by 9am – this meant the car + all the gear left by 8am.
Mark, Lucie, Vanessa & Caroline headed off soon afterwards and walked completely on sand to West Beach. However, the sand was far better than the previous day – not as sloped, no headwind, not quite as soft.
We were lucky enough to have an amazing skinny dip at West Beach – clear, calm, beautiful and not a soul around! Shortly afterwards a group of 10 arrived – turns out you can reach this spot easily as a day walk. Whoops.
After West Beach, we climbed inland on the West Beach Track, quite relieved to be away from sand for a bit. While climbing away from the beach we noticed a small trickle of fresh water to the left of the track.
We turned right at the fork to take the Sledge Track to the Point Hicks Lighthouse and monument. After a small detour (700m return) on the Saros Track to see an old shipwreck and viewpoint, we headed to the Point Hicks Lighthouse and monument.
A coincidental moment at the monument/sand dial – we looked down to see it was commemorating Point Hicks being sighted by the HMS Endeavour (captained by James Cook) on 20 April 1770. This was the first bit the east coast of Australia to be seen by Europeans and is named after Lieutenant Zachary Hicks who made the sighting. Caroline looked at her phone to discover it was also the 20th April! Amazing!
There’s a water tank at the lighthouse, as well as some accommodation, but we didn’t find out of the tank had drinkable water or not. There’s also a car park at the lighthouse, which was a little unexpected.
We followed a vehicle track to Honeymoon Bay where we had lunch in a lovely grassy spot in the shade, overlooking the beautiful bay, and Caroline braved a swim in the choppy water, and Mark & Lucie had a paddle. There’s a lovely potential camp spot to the right of Honeymoon Bay.
We continued on the vehicle track to Thurra River campground with two other hiker friends we’d encountered at the lighthouse, who had also camped at Clinton Rocks (on the beach) the night before. We found Jens and the car at the Thurra River Campground, and set up camp at the now very crowded designated hiker campsite (which we unfortunately had to share with a cougher, a snorer, and a smoker!).
We were relieved to have completed a relatively easy 14km day, compared to the previous day, and to have the afternoon free – so we wandered to the beach, and then down to Thurra River to investigate how to cross for the next morning.
Mark and Caroline had an awesome swim, and while they were swimming, the river opened to the ocean, causing an extremely rapid water level drop. By the time we got out of the water the water line had massively receded.
Mark and Jens went to investigate the rushing river that had been created, and what this would now mean for our crossing the next day, while Lucie, Vanessa and Caroline enjoyed some chill time.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner then an early night for an early start the next morning to catch low tide.
Day 2 logistics summary: 13km, about half of which is on sand. don’t attempt to go around Point Hicks on the rocks, instead take the inland route past the lighthouse. It is possible to collect fresh (tannin-rich) water from Thurra River if you walk a little further from the ocean. We did not do this as Jens brought us water in the car. There was a trickle of water just above West Beach and a water tank at the lighthouse.
Thurra River to Wingan Inlet, 21km
In the night, Thurra River had receded even further, and we were able to easily cross in ankle deep water.
We spent some time on the other side patching blisters etc, then farewelled Jens and headed off for a 10km walk on the beach. Mueller inlet was closed and very pretty and we could just about see the Mueller Inlet campsite (marked as a second Thurra River campsite on Maps.me) on the western banks of the water. We reached Petrel Point campsite on Gale Hill Track, marked by a post on top of the sand dune – nothing much to see (though we didn’t climb the cliff to the campsite proper). Just past Petrel Point Campsite were the remains of approximately 20 beached pilot whales and one humpback or southern right whale :(. The carcasses were mostly skeletal, with some leathery skin still attached in places and the odd bit of flesh remaining. This made for unpleasant walking as it was very stinky. At end of the beach and the start of Petrel Point Rocks, we stopped for a swim and first lunch in the shade. It was more of a paddle/wash – we didn’t go far into the water because the current was pulling out to sea very strongly. We had also heard reports of increased shark activity because of all the dead whales. We were pretty relieved the majority of the beach walking for the day had come to an end.
Then the rock hopping began – about 3 km – which was loads of fun, but very hot! In some sections we ended up walking through the shrubs and had to tread carefully to not disturb any nesting birds. There were lots of interesting geological layers and fossils to look at in the rocks too. Around the end of the section was a small water source (1.5km before turn off for inland section) – fresh water with tannin – it seemed ok to drink.
After walking along another beach section, we reached a steep climb up a dune to the inland section. Caroline was sadly denied a swim and second lunch, and instead had to be content with a snack. We loved the variety of the inland walking and especially the shade and lack of sand.
We learned from running into a couple of hikers heading the other way that Fly Cove was great for a swim, and to not bother with the side trip to Rame Head – boring and no view. We were relieved to not bother with a side trip on an already long day. News of Fly Cove gave us new energy. We enjoyed a second swim and second lunch at Fly Cove – awesome. Only a couple more km to go and we reached another small inland section.
Here began a lovely trail and then a boardwalk along Wingan Inlet to Wingan Inlet Campground, where we were happily reunited with Jens. Luxury here with toilets, tap and running water (though it needs to be treated). We found the hiker campsite, set up camp, and then Mark and Caroline went for a third swim at the Inlet, via the boat ramp. There were quite a lot of mosquitoes around at dusk. Then, it was time for dinner, chocolate, a game of best and worst, then early to bed!
Day 3 logistics summary: 21km, more than half of which is on sand. Don’t walk around Rame Head on the rocks, instead take the inland route. You can get water at Wingan Inlet campsite and there was a small trickle of water at the eastern end of the rock hopping section.
Wingan Inlet to Benedore River, 16km
We backtracked to the beach to access a point where we could cross Wingan Inlet, which is always open to the ocean. Jens and Caroline saw Mark, Lucie & Vanessa safely across Wingan Inlet (which was hilarious – everyone stripped naked and Mark carried all the packs across above his head, in pack liners, while the others walked/swam!), and then they headed back to Melbourne on a very loooong drive.
We (Mark, Lucie and Vanessa) crossed at low tide but even then the water was waist deep and rapidly rising to be chest deep. Fortunately however, there was very little current. By the time all three were across and dressed, the sand bank that had separated the main inlet from a smaller channel of water had disappeared and the crossing became one very wide and deep channel. Sometimes a boat is required to cross the inlet.
Despite being a little apprehensive about an early morning swim, we found that it was quite invigorating, and not even very cold! We admired the huge number of oysters on the east bank of the inlet and then set off into the trees.
Our inland walk was only about 1km long and we soon hopped out on the beach at Easby Creek (we could not find the creek). We said good morning our fellow hikers from the lighthouse – Michael and Carrie-Anne (sp??) – and walked a short way up the beach before hopping over a few rocks and rounding a headland. We came to another section of beach and saw lots and lots of animal prints in the sand. It looked like a pack of wild dogs or dingoes had been playing on the sand, and maybe a deer or two (we’d previously seen the prints for wombat and wallaby/roo too).
Over another set of rocks (which included lowering ourselves down a particularly large drop with the aid of a length of rope that seems to be there permanently) we caught up with two more hikers: Mina and Darby. We talked as we walked along the beach. We passed Red River, which was closed to the ocean and extremely dark in colour and then spied some fishing gear standing up on the dune. Here, the path went inland and we came to a ute (perhaps belonging to the fisher?) and a spot to stop for morning tea next to a small track that gave access to the river.
The track stayed inland for the rest of the morning, coming to a T-junction once, where we turned right to head towards the coast. It dropped back down a short way before Benedore River and just before we (we now consisted of Mark, Lucie, Vanessa, Mina and Darby) reached the beach, we found a sign for water and took a 20m detour to fill up from a very small creek but flowing creek, and get eaten a lot by mosquitoes. We knew that this was the last water before camp and had been told that Benedore River is not good to drink.
After getting water we continued down the last 20 steps (actual downhill steps) to the beach. It was very windy and we found a sheltered area for lunch, nestling in toward the cliffs. After lunch, it was only about 15 minutes along the beach to Benedore River, which was closed to the ocean and ended in a nice lake.
There are two campsites at Benedore River. From the beach, you can skirt around the dune on the western (left hand) side and climb up a short way to campsite number one. This was a few metres above the water, had some benches around a fire pit and space for two tents, plus a bit more space a short scramble up the hillside. On the eastern side of the river, we continued along the official trail, skirting the river’s right hand side a few metres up the hill. We then reached campsite number two, which had a little bit more space for tents, a small fire pit with a few logs and easier access to the water for a swim. We decided to take campsite number two and Michael and Carrie-Anne soon arrived and took the campsite on the western bank.
After setting up the tents we went for a wash and a swim in the river, watched the black swans, the sunset and the fish that were jumping out of the river. We had read an account of a previous hiker who woke up in the middle of the night, worried that the water level had risen and was lapping at tent. When they got up to investigate, they discovered that the noises were caused by fish jumping out of the water (and splashing back in). We saw a few tiny scorpions around the campsite too, including one which found its way into Vanessa’s tent when she went to bed! We had dinner around a campfire before turning in.
Day 4 logistics summary: 16km, mixed terrain. You might need a boat to cross Wingan Inlet or look for the submerged sandbanks about 100-200m upriver. Water is available about 1km before Benedore River.
Benedore River to Mallacoota Pebbly Beach, 15km
Lucie woke up early and went to the beach to watch the sunrise. It was a beautiful display, mad even more spectacular when she spied a pod of dolphins in the waves! She ran along the beach to get closer and followed then as they slowly moved westwards. Each time there was a large wave, three or four dolphins would surf in towards the beach. Eventually, the dolphins turned around a headland and Lucie went back, stopping for a splash in the waves herself.
Back at camp, the tents were already down and the rest of the group was doing yoga on the shore of Benedore River. Then, we had breakfast and set off along an inland trail. The path was mostly quite open, with thick, but low bush and the occasional banksia tree on either side. We almost expect to see giraffe! We didn’t see any, although we did disturb a large snake. We could easily see the ocean on the other side of the headland and could make out Gabo Island lighthouse off in the distance. We ignored a side trip to Little Rame Head, because it was a 3.4km return trip, and we didn’t think it would be that spectacular.
We reached Seal Creek beach for morning tea, had a swim and met two hikers who were travelling the other way. After our break it was straight back on an inland path (the trail only went on the beach for about 30m). This was a 3km section to Shipwreck Creek and had lots of lovely wildflowers and grasshoppers (or something similar) with bright yellow under the wings. The track split several times in this section, but sticking to the right-hand side took us to the next beach.
The beach at Shipwreck Creek had a few people on it. We walked along the beach and then climbed up inland where we found some toilets and a picnic table. We stuck to the right to keep walking east and made our way to Pebbly Beach.
Pebbly Beach was not very pebbly. In fact, we only found one tiny mound of pebbles in the whole place! At the end of the beach we climbed up the hill to where the car was parked. There was a proper path to follow, which we had managed to miss – the path goes up the west (left) side of the creek (which was closed to the ocean) and then there is a bridge to cross the creek and a path up to the car park.
We hopped into the car and drove Caroline’s old, blue Camry to Darby and Mina’s, almost-as-old green Camry, which was parked between Secret Beach and Quarry Beach. We then went to Quarry Beach for a final swim and a picnic lunch, surrounded by some really interesting rock formations and layering in the cliffs.
Finally, we went to the Mallacoota Motel for a celebratory beer in the beer garden, and then started the long drive to our respective destinations.
Day 5 logistics summary: 15km, mixed terrain. Water is available at Mallacoota.
- Direction: The ideal hiking direction is towards NSW to walk with the prevailing winds behind you.
- Tides: Take a tide chart and walk at low tide as much as possible for safety and to be able to walk on the cmpacted sand. Several of the inlets cannot be crossed except at low tides and the rock hopping sections can be more difficult at high tide – although there is usually a way through. Call Parks Victoria on 13 1963 to check on tides and inlets.
- Weather: Prepare for cold, wet, hot and sunny. Take plenty of sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses etc. because there is very little shade for long sections.
- Water: Plan your water supplies carefully. We didn’t find many places where we could refill.
- Insects: Check yourself all over for ticks at the end of each day and after walking through any shrubs because the area is known for having lots of ticks (although we did not have any bites). Be prepared for mosquitoes, sand flies and march flies.
- Snakes: Keep an eye out for snakes on the inland sections.
- Birds: Be careful not to disturb nesting birds, such as the Hooded Plover, on or near the sand dunes. In general stay off the dunes unless you have to be up there because it is a fragile environment.
- Food: Protect your food from possums at night. Don’t take it into your tent.
- Gear: Consider taking sand pegs for your tent. We preferred trail runners over boots.
- There is 2-wheel drive access to Bemm River, Thurra River, Wingan Inlet and Shipwreck Creek
- Permits: Permits are required for camping or boat access and the maximum group size is eight
- Sandpatch Zone: Shipwreck Creek to Wingan Inlet. Map: Mallacoota 8822-N.
- Rame Head Zone: Wingan Inlet to Thurra River. Book this section to camp at Wingan Inlet in the overnight hikers area. Map: Cann–Point Hicks 8722-N.
- Clinton Rocks Zone: Thurra River to Bemm River. Map: Cann–Point Hicks Map 8722-N.