Bondi to Coogee walk with a sprinkling of Sculptures by the Sea on top.

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Bondi to Coogee walk with a sprinkling of Sculptures by the Sea on top.

Sunday 30th October was an overcast day in Sydney but I decided to head out to get some fresh air along the world famous Bondi to Coogee walk. (http://www.bonditocoogeewalk.com.au/)

The awesome thing about doing this time of year is that you can also enjoy Sculptures by the Sea (http://sculpturebythesea.com/), it is the largest free to the public sculpture exhibitions in the world!

The walk itself is world class. It stretches 6km and generally starts at the Bondi Icebergs and continues along the beaches, rockpools, parks and spectacular coastal views until you reach Coogee. It can take anywhere between 1-1.5 hours to complete depending upon the pedestrian traffic!

I would describe the walk as "easy". The paths are well maintained and the overall track is reasonably flat. A significant storm hit Sydney earlier this year which resulted in some damage to the walk. The local Council has since repaired the track and it is in better condition than ever.

Sculptures by the Sea really is spectacular when you come across it. Seeing the various pieces laid out across the sand and parkland really needs to be seen to be believed. A couple of my favorite pieces below.

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Walk: Burning Palms, New South Wales

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Walk: Burning Palms, New South Wales

Ben Healy: Sunday 2nd October was a glorious day in Sydney. 26 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The perfect day to hike to the often spoken about Figure Eight Rock Pools in the Royal National Park just south of Sydney. 

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Walk: Mt Iron, Wanaka, New Zealand

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Walk: Mt Iron, Wanaka, New Zealand

 

Mount Iron above Wanaka in New Zealand is one of my favourite hikes. One of those wonderful walks that gives you the exhiliration of reaching a summit and the joy of gaining altitude with a view, very close to a town and only a short hike.

Mount Iron sits behind the Wanaka town centre and frames the town which has mountains on three sides and lake on the other. The hike itself can take anywhere between 40 mins and 1.5 hours depending on your pace.

Starting in the car park on the main road or off Mt Iron Drive, you start off with a steep incline up well made switch backs. Height is gained quickly and before long you are looking down to the rooftops below and the surrounding lake. After a series of sheep ascents the track flattens and heads inland to the summit marker with amazing 360 degree views over the entire area. 

There is an option to walk off the backside of the mount for a loop track past the local rock climbing crags, however, the view is so good from the front that the up and back route is recommended.

All up the walk is only about 3kms and not to be missed. Try it at different times of day to enjoy the different lights dancing off the valley, lake and mountains.

Cheers

Toby

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Ski: Cardrona, Wanaka, New Zealand

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Ski: Cardrona, Wanaka, New Zealand

 

As part of my current trip to New Zealand we’ve been enjoying a few days skiing at the Cardrona Alpine Resort.  I’m not a big skier, but have done around 6 or 7 times over the years and always enjoy it.  The fun part about this trip was getting the kids out on skis for the first time.

I can still remember the first time I skied with my family at Perisher in New South Wales, Australia – I must have been around 7 or 8 years old.  I recall that trip started with a complete breakdown in fear on the beginner slope and then crashing my mum into a pole off the t-bar, so I was somewhat nervous about getting the kids started.

Fortunately Cardrona had an array of beginner options and “magic carpet” treadmills to get the kids started and ease their way up to more challenging slopes.  By the end of 3.5 days they were both up the chairlift and had taken to it like ducks to water.

Cardrona is one of the most popular ski resorts in New Zealand with a mix of runs and the largest terrain park in the Southern Hemisphere. Four chair lifts service the resort with about half the runs suitable for beginner and intermediate. Freestyle snowboarders and skiers can make use of 2 half pipes and 4 terrain parks.

Snowmaking is used to supplement the resort meaning that it is often open when other resorts in the area are not – essential for us at this time of year.

An abundance of ski coaches offer group and private lessons for all levels.

The resort itself is situated on the stunning Crown Range Road between Queenstown and Wanaka and offers brilliant views of the surrounding area. The township of Cardrona is small and provides accomodation and a local historic pub, but very few other amenities. The drive up from Cardrona itself is about 14km long and takes around 25 -30 mins on the windy road.

The nearest town centre is Wanaka about 20 mins drive away which offers full amenities.

In summer Cardrona Alpine Resort doubles as a mountain biking venue.

For more information check out Lake Wanaka Tourism.

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Walk: Bouddi Coastal Walk, NSW, Australia

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Walk: Bouddi Coastal Walk, NSW, Australia

 

The Bouddi Coastal Walk is another of the magnificent coastal walks near Sydney that traverses stunning headlands, beaches and coastal bushland.

The track goes between Putty Beach and McMasters on the New South Wales Central Coast.  In total it is approximately 8km long and can be completed in 3-4 hours one way. There are plenty of access points along the way to break the walk into shorter sections if your prefer such as:

– Putty Beach to Maitland Bay (3km)

– Maitland Bay to Little Beach (3.5km)

– Little Beach to MacMasters Beach (1.7km)

The track is well maintained the whole way with sections of bitumen, wooden boards, bush trail, beach and fire trail. For the most part there are plenty of directional signs although in some sections it is hard to tell whether the tracks that fork off to the side are through tracks or dead ends. I ended up taking an unnecessary turn down the 2nd Trail route and having to double back. 

The only downside of the track is that at the time of writing the route did not appear to connect to McMasters beach directly. Shortly after leaving the 2nd Trail I ended up back on the roads with a section on narrow streets back around to the beach.

Overall highly recommended, and also good for a trail run which I did yesterday from Maitland Bay to Copacabana Beach.

More information including a link through to the Google Trek View of the route is available from National Parks and Wildlife.

Check out more walks here.

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Walk: Otford to Bundeena - The Coast Walk

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Walk: Otford to Bundeena - The Coast Walk

 

On Sunday I successfully completed the walk from Otford to Bundeena with a small group of friends. It was my fifth time doing the track and first time in about three years after having to abort due to weather last year.

This time around the walk was threatened by the worsening bushfire crisis in NSW. On Friday Sydney was covered in a thick smoke haze and a small fire burning near the start of the track looked like scuttling us again. However, the weather cleared and after a call to the local National Parks and Wildlife Office the walk was on.

With temperatures forecast to hit the high 20s we opted to make an early start. That nearly backfired when we cut things about as tight as possible on the train from Sutherland to Otford – running down the steps and straight onto the train. A good thing given the next train was a 2 hour wait!

About a dozen people disembarked from the train at Otford and set off on the walk. We swapped places with a group of five several times between Otford and Garie Beach but otherwise largely had the track to ourselves other than passing the odd person in the other direction.

The walk starts with a stiff climb up from the station to the top of the escarpment – always good to get the heart started. One of our group came without water so we swung past the famous apple pie shop near the start of the track in search of a tap but didn’t have any luck with that or getting pie for breakfast. Instead we set off, spread our water supply and made do until we could top up along the way.

The track starts with breathtaking views up and down the coast including south to the Seacliff Bridge cut into the coast.

The walk then follows a tree lined bush track along the coast linking with a good fire trail along the top of the escarpment before you reach an intersection and turn right along the Burning Palms Track. From there the track is interspersed with views of the coast before dropping down towards sea level.

After a couple of kilometres of fairly tricky terrain pushing through foliage and stepping over tree roots you burst out into the sun and the coastal plains heading towards Burning Palms.

Burning Palms itself is a wonderful spot and up there with my favourite secluded beaches – access by foot only with a quaint surf club at the northern end and nothing but a handful of beach shacks.

The shacks themselves are a remnant from the Depression years and were built by people hauling materials in on foot. There has been many years of controversy over the shacks and lobbying by resident groups. The some 200 odd shacks that exist in this section of the track are now subject to a 20 year licence arrangement. The shacks are enjoyed by a handful of lucky residents and it is not uncommon to see a barbecue or supplies being carted in on foot. One resident has even taken to building a retaining wall out of used beer bottles to avoid having to carry them out!

From Burning Palms the track passes the camp ground and Aboriginal midden at North Era ascending a series of headlands increasing in size. At low tide you can skirt around some avoiding a climb, but on this occasion we weren’t so lucky. We took a morning tea break at Garie Surf Club to steel ourselves for the push up the biggest climb of the walk at the northern end of Garie Beach.

Hot and sweaty, we took stock at the top of the climb to enjoy the view before continuing on our way.

From there the track winds on along the top of the cliffs ducking in and out of the coastal shrubbery for another 1.5-2 hours before reaching Wattamolla which is a good stop for lunch and a popular swimming hole for locals. There are a series of unique rock formations along the way including the prominent Eagle Rock.

Wattamolla was packed with people enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and lots of people jumping off the cliff into the water hole – which I didn’t do despite the temptation. After a break for lunch we set off for the shorter afternoon section. About 5 hours down, 3 to go.

The afternoon section of the walk continues in the same vein along cliff tops and crossing beaches. It is equally stunning although I prefer the southern section of the track – then again that could just be the fatigue of having already walked for half a day!

The excitement of the afternoon section came in the form of probably the biggest brown snake I’ve come across lazily impeding the track. After a tactical negotiation we succeeded in convincing the snake off the track and scurried past without any danger to our party. But it certainly elevated heart rates all around!

The afternoon finished with a swim at Bundeena and a hamburger stop at Sydney’s famous Paul’s Hamburgers. A great day out and fantastic to have the company of friends. Looking forward to reprising the group for another walk in a couple of months’ time.

For full track notes and a map of the track check out Wild Walks.

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Walk: A Taste of Tassie - 5 Great Short Walks

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Walk: A Taste of Tassie - 5 Great Short Walks

A colleague at work is heading to Tasmania for a break and we were discussing options for short walks. They are following the classic touring route from Launceston to Hobart via the West Coast and taking in Bruny Island. Here are a selection of some of the best short or half-day walks I’ve done on that route.

1. Cataract Gorge, Launceston

Located centrally in Launceston, this walk is the perfect way to kick off any trip to Tasmania. The walk starts just near town off Basin Road and can be accessed on foot from the city centre. It follows the South Esk River which forms a spectacular gorge. The track is easy walking and can be broken down into walks of different length ranging from the short 2.7km circuit around the Gorge to the full 13.6km circuit including Trevallyn Dam.

The walk crosses the old Kings Bridge very close to Stillwater Restaurant – to this day probably the best degustation menu I’ve enjoyed, the night before I set off on the Overland Track.

2. Crater Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain

Slightly more challenging for a half day walk, but well worth the effort. This has to be one of the best half-day walks in Australia. Starting out at the Ronny Creek Car Park where you can often see wombats, the walk follows the Overland Track for the first 4.5km, ascending to Marion’s Lookout. The first time I did this section of track was on the Overland Track – pouring rain and mist so thick you couldn’t even see Cradle Mountain sitting right in front of you. On a clear day, you get unrivalled views of Cradle Mountain and the entire northern section of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.

The walk can be done as an out and back to Marion’s Lookout and if you are feeling tired turn around there – it is a relatively quick walk down hill walk back to the car park. But for a half day out I’d recommend continuing on to join the Horse Track and return via Crater Peak. The walk is slightly longer, but on a good day you can enjoy brilliant open walking and a stop for lunch without having to navigate back down the awkward climb to Marion’s Lookout.

The full circuit is 9.4km in total and can be comfortably completed in 5 hours. While the climb to Marion’s Lookout can be daunting, it is very accessible and a variety of steps, hand holds and chains makes it perfectly doable for walkers of all standards.

The perfect way to warm up for an afternoon enjoying the day spa at Cradle Mountain Lodge and a good bottle of wine from the walk in cellar at the lodge’s restaurant.

3. Echo Point to Cynthia Bay, Lake St Clair

After driving around the west coast you come to the small township of Derwent Bridge – the gateway to Lake St Clair and the southern end of the Overland Track. There are many short walks to be enjoyed in this area including the 40 minute stroll to Donaghys Hill off the Lyel Highway where you get a nice view of Frenchmans Cap and the wilderness of the South West.

For a walk of a few hours, Echo Point to Cynthia bay is the pick for me and has the added advantage that it can be combined with a ferry ride on Lake St Clair. Get the ferry from the wharf near the visitor centre at Lake St Clair – best to book in advance to make sure it is operating in off peak times. The boat ride gives you great views of the surrounding peaks including Mt Rufus (one of my favourite day walks in the area) and Mt Ida (pictured). You can get the ferry either to Narcissus Hut at the end of the lake or Echo Point Hut, about half way along. The track runs all the way along the western edge of the lake. From Echo Point Hut the walk back to the visitor centre is about 8km and can be comfortably completed in a couple of hours.

Depending on the time of day you can enjoy a coffee at the visitor centre afterwards or head back to the Derwent Bridge Hotel for a beer and pub meal in front of the fire. The Wall in the Wilderness wood carving is well worth a look on the way out of the area.

4. Fluted Cape, Bruny Island

There are loads of walks to be enjoyed on Bruny Island taking in the magnificent sea cliffs and views. Or you can just enjoy a day out on the boat ride that circumnavigates the island. My favourite of the walks is the Fluted Cape. It starts out near the Captain Cook Monument just east of Adventure Bay. The walk is a circuit that climbs approximately 272m to the top of the sheer dolerite sea cliffs. On a good day the views are spectacular taking in the cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula. The rock formations are remarkably similar to those that can be found on Mt Wellington in Hobart.

From the top of the cape the walk follows the coast around Grass Point and back to the start point. Approximately 6.5km in total that can be completed comfortably in a couple of hours.

5. Fern Tree to Mt Wellington Summit, Hobart

Mt Wellington, right outside Hobart, is a mecca for adventure activities and is littered with walking routes that I have only begun to explore. My favourites so far are the Organ Pipes Track and the well known route from Fern Tree. Fern Tree is about half way up the mountain as you are driving. You can park your car there and head up the track immediately opposite. The track joins the Radfords Track, Pinnacle Track and then Zig Zag track providing great views to the north on the way up before opening up on the summit. The vegetation and rock formations along the way are varied and there are even some old ruined shelters to discover. The walk up is about 5.3km. You can do it out and back for a 10km, 4.5 hour walk, join it up with other tracks to make a longer circuit back to Fern Tree or arrange transport from the top back to Fern Tree which I did last time.

The best part is you are right near Hobart for easy access to a fabulous post-walk meal at one of Hobart’s many restaurants. The Henry Jones is brilliant for fine dining, Annapurnas in North Hobart for yummy Indian or Jackman and McRoss for a lighter lunch.

Just thinking about it makes you want to get down there again!

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Walk: Avalon to Whale Beach

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Walk: Avalon to Whale Beach

 

Completed another section of Sydney’s Great Coastal Walk today, this time the short but incredibly scenic section of coast between Avalon and Whale Beach.

We sometimes forget what is on our back doorstep. While not as remote as some of the famous coastal walking tracks like Abel Tasman in New Zealand, this section of track is just as enjoyable and shares some similar characteristics.

The walk can be done in either direction and traverses Bangalley Head. From Avalon, after a short section along the quiet backstreets, you turn down a side track and emerge on the grassed slopes of the headland which are somewhat reminiscent of the start of the Royal NP track.

The track then enters the tree line and follows a well kept and meandering bush track up and over the headland. As you gain height there are good views all the way back over the nearby headlands towards the city in the distance to the South.

The summit at 116m is the tallest point between North Head and the Central Coast. Unfortunately the peak is somewhat over grown and the customary trig marker has seen better days making the top something of an anti-climax.

However there are still plenty of great views to be had from the rocky outcrops that line the headland, although the story told to me by locals afterwards of someone being killed when a rock ledge collapsed from the headland gave new meaning to the many safety signs passed along the track.

From the trig the track gives way to views over Barrenjoey Head and the Central Coast and features some classic Australian coastal bush land.

All up the section from Avalon to Whale Beach is around 4km and can be covered comfortably in an hour and a half with kids in tow and time to play at the park at Whale Beach.

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Walk: Curl Curl to Dee Why

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Walk: Curl Curl to Dee Why

 

Summer is giving us an extra bonus in Sydney at the moment - we’ve been blessed with unseasonal beach weather, with blue skies and temperatures into the high 20s. This morning I made the most of it to do another of my favourite short walks – the Curl Curl to Dee Why Coastal Walk. The walk forms part of the Northern Beaches Walk and can be extended along the coast in either direction as far as Palm Beach to the North and Manly to the South. This section of the track starts at the North Curl Curl Surf Club and follows a bush track for approximately 2km along the escarpment before coming out at Dee Why Beach.

This morning the experience was made even better by a surfing competition at Curl Curl Beach – the CurlyMalJam – sponsored by Patagonia’s Manly store where I scored some Patagonia stickers and browsed the stalls before setting out. The walk features some stunning views, particularly to the North where you can see past Long Reef all the way along the Northern Beaches.

The walk is a terrific one to do with kids with lots of different features along the way such as boardwalks, a trig point to mark the highest section of the headland and arrows to show the way.

Not to mention the reward of a park, cafe, ice cream and swim in the Dee Why ocean bathes at the end of the track.

The ocean was as calm as I’ve seen it around the headland today which made me wish I was out on my kayak. If the weather conditions hold I’ll try to get out tomorrow and paddle from Balmoral to Dee Why, something I’ve been hoping to do for a while.

 

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