Stage 5 - Jervis Bay to Ulladulla

Jervis Bay to Sussex Inlet

Finally it was time to leave Huskisson and head south. The 23 km route ahead comprised three distinct sections; a coastal walk along the south-eastern rim of Jervis Bay, crossing the Bherwerre peninsula to St George's Basin and a walk along the shores of the basin to Sussex Inlet.

The sky was overcast as we left and, for the first time, we walked without hats as we set off down the bicycle path from Huskisson to Vincentia. The path crossed mangrove-lined Moona Moona Creek and along the "Route of Many Envies", a 2 km stretch of impressively large architect-designed beach houses whose owners were sitting out on their sea view decks sipping their morning coffees. We were not sure why they should be envious - the life of a nomad is available to anyone.

Blenheim Beach

Chinaman's Beach

Sea kayakers refer to this stretch of the bay is "String of Pearls"; reference to the string of white sand beaches - Huskisson, Collingwood, Orion, Blenheim, Greenfield, Chinaman's and Hyam's Beaches - separated by small rocky headlands or stretches of coastal forest.

Emerging at Hyam's Beach, we stopped at the local store for a cappuccino and reminisced about "the good old days" when a group of friends used to hire a house here for a weekend's sailing on Jervis Bay or walking along the bush tracks to the hidden coves and bays of Booderee National Park. Morning cappuccinos at the store were part of the ritual of these stays many years ago - a long time before a fibro beach shack on the waterfront sold for over a million dollars.


Hyam's Beach boasts the whitest sand in the word
- for you to judge

We continued along the beach southward for another kilometre before crossing the dunes and turning inland on the advice of our GPS unit. We turned and took one last look at Jervis Bay. It was a different bay to the calm azure waters that had greeted us several days earlier - the large swell, southerly winds and overcast sky had created an agitated and more menacing sea that had thrown masses of seaweed and kelp onto the white sand beaches. Farewell, Jervis Bay - we love you in all your moods.

Egg case of Port Jackson shark which
breed in the bay

Once again we followed a disappearing - reappearing track under GPS guidance, climbing steadily up through an area of forest that had been burnt by the bushfires that had destroyed a large part of the Park four months earlier. Against the stark background of blackened eucalypt trunks and burnt out heathland, the cycle of nature had started to turn again; green epicormic shoots were appearing on the burnt eucalypt trunks, grass trees were reshooting, banksia cones had exploded in a shower of seed and seedlings of many plant species were appearing in masses in the ash-covered soil. The battle for survival amongst these would soon be on in earnest.


We entered Booderee National Park and quickly turned south again along the 9 km long dirt road to Christian's Minde, a small privately owned block within the National Park that had been settled in the 1880s by a Danish immigrant. The road passed through areas of the Park that had not been affected by fire and we walked under a canopy of white-flowering eucalypts before dropping rapidly down to the shores of St George's Basin.

The road followed the eastern shoreline of this large tranquil body of water and the forest changed character once again, with taller species of eucalypt, cabbage palms and groves of soft tree fern, some over 8 m tall.

Finally, we left St George's Basin, as the road cut across country to reach Christian's Minde facing Sussex Inlet, a narrow 5 km long channel that connects the Basin to the sea. We walked to the end of the small wooden jetty and waved to the boat hire person 50 m across the channel in Sussex Inlet township. He crossed over to pick us up in his boat and drop us on the other side, where a short walk took us to our night's accommodation at a motel overlooking the main channel.


Christian's Minde homestead

We sat outside and ate dinner on the veranda as we watched a passing parade of feathery friends of varying species and boats returning from a day's fishing, while the sky slowly darkened over the still waters of the channel.


Sussex Inlet to Swan Lake

Having crossed Sussex Inlet we entered unchartered territory - this was a part of the coast that we did not know at all. Sussex Inlet is a quiet attractive town and, like many of the coastal villages we had passed through, had an old section, still with many original fibro beach shacks, and a new section of modern large brick houses. In this case they lined a series of canals, each with its own private mooring. We contemplated the transition of the "beach house" from a simple shelter for repose from fishing, swimming and other "beach" activities to a personal statement of style or size. Perhaps this has happened as our generation of baby boomers looks to retirement and sees the coast as a more permanent residence rather than a place to visit on weekends.

Canal estate at Sussex Inlet

Early morning tranquility

We left the village and passed through a kilometre wide stretch of old high dunes, covered with coastal forest. Descending the last dune we trekked down the soft golden sand of Cudmirrah Beach. The high dune backdrop, steep slope of the beach, big surf and stormy skies gave it a wild and isolated feel. Human presence was insignificant in this place.

From what far shore did this
barnacle encrusted coconut come?

Cudmirrah Beach

Approaching storm

Dunes of Cudmirrah

Swanless Swan Lake


Eventually we came to a gap in the dunes that led into the even smaller village of Cudmirrah, nestled between the surf and the quiet waters of Swan Lake.

But something was amiss - had they got the name of the lake wrong? Not a single long-necked black bird was to be seen on the lake, not even a tutu-clad corps de ballet. We suspected that all the black swans might have flown to Lake Woolumboola for the swanfest we had witnessed a week earlier.

Rainbow lorikeet feasting on eucalyptus blossoms

With the threat of rain, we spent the next day at Swan Lake, exploring the shores of the lake, the fossil-rich rocks at the base of Berrara Headland, and being entertained on our deck by those colourful clowns of the bird world, rainbow lorikeets, as they feasted on pollen and nectar in the eucalypt blossoms above our cabin or visited us in the hope of a less natural hand-out. A rich bird life is one of the pleasures of the South Coast.

The clowns

The tentative

The inquisitive

The imperious

Swan Lake to Lake Conjola

We set out from Swan Lake under an unsettled sky. Earlier rains had delayed us by a day and for the first time in a month we were on a time deadline. Having arranged to spend the weekend with our good mate, Trevor the fisherman, at his cabin in Ulladulla, we needed to be at Lake Conjola by 1 pm where he would pick us up (and later drop us off).

Rain clouds gathering over Berrara

Crossing the sleepy streets of Cudmirrah and Berrara, we descended to the beach at Berrara Point. The tide was low and the surf broke over the reef, on which the "Walter Hood", the fastest sailing clipper of its day was wrecked in 1870 with the lost of 11 lives. A band of rain cloud passed over; fortunately an overhang on a rock platform provided a pleasant place to shelter.

A good place to shelter

Heathland burnt in 2002

As we walked down Berrara Beach, we followed the skeletal silhouette of burnt heathland along the dunes. Here, two years earlier a devastating bushfire had raged through the forest and heath, threatening the local coastal villages and stopping only when it ran out of fuel at the beach. We remembered the ash and partly burnt leaves that littered the local beaches for weeks after.

Monument Beach

The sun finally came out as we crossed Monument Beach and approached the village of Bendalong. with its idyllic setting on a north-facing headland where forest meets the ocean, overlooking a quiet beach for swimming, a big wave beach for surfing and a rock platform for the fisherfolk. A group of "oldies" were out surfing on their malibus. A pair of "oldies" watched for a while and moved on, happy to see that the fire had spared this area.

Two mates rock-fishing

From Bendalong, we cut across country to emerge at Manyana. The view from the south-facing headland here was magnificent, with a sweeping vista across beautiful Manyana Beach and Green Island.

We walked along the beach and rounded the point to meet our first serious water challenge - the entrance to Lake Conjola. No hire boats were available here and this was to be our first unassisted water crossing. Out with the inflatable mattress, on with the bathers, repack camera, notebook and valuables into watertight bags, packs and all into a large plastic bag on the air mattress, into the water, and after a 50 m paddle to the amusement of those swimming and fishing nearby, we had successfully ferried our gear across to the other side. We were only 5 minutes late - our mate Trevor was only 5 minutes later.

Re-enactment of "The Crossing of Lake Conjola" - the sandals are missing and the load is smaller but this is more realistic than Cecil B deMille's re-enactment of Moses crossing the Red Sea

The crossing point at Lake Conjola

Lake Conjola foreshore

The long weekend in Ulladulla was extremely pleasant and relaxing. Trevor and our fellow guests, Lloyd and Allison, had a successful fishing expedition in the seas off Ulladulla and that evening we all enjoyed a feast of oysters and freshly caught Cajun-barbecued flathead fillets. The next day found us watching the sun set over Rennie's Beach with old friends from Canberra, Andi and Annie, while enjoying wine on the deck of their house followed by a delicious meal of baked fish and tabouli.

Ulladulla - good place, good food, good friends.

Lake Conjola to Ulladulla

After our R & R, Trevor drove us back to the point where he had picked us up at Lake Conjola. Lake Conjola is one of the more beautiful of the coastal lakes; cutting deep inland and surrounded by the beautiful tall forests of Conjola National Park. The drive in through this forest enabled us to appreciate part of the coast that we would otherwise have missed.

Leaving Trevor, we climbed up and over a boardwalk through thick coastal forest on to the sweeping expanse of Conjola Beach and headed south. Midway we cut inland for a kilometre to parallel the beach along a cycad-lined track under a eucalypt, banksia and melaleuca canopy.

The solitude of Conjola Beach

Lake Conjola

The boardwalk provides wheelchair access
to Conjola Beach

Burrawang (cycad) lined path behind the first line of
sand dunes

Narawallee Inlet

Not long after returning to the beach we reached the mouth of Narawallee inlet, our second unassisted water crossing. Fortunately, it was low tide and reconnaissance of the entrance showed that swimming was not necessary - we were able to wade across chest-deep carrying our gear on our shoulders.

Crossing Narrawallee Inlet

Blue mud crabs

Narrawallee Inlet marked the start of a long stretch of coastal development and we passed by the beach houses and larger residences of Narrawallee, Mollymook and finally Ulladulla. It was clear why people would want to live in this part of the coast with its beautiful beaches and spectacular rock shelves and headlands.

Mollymook Beach

Rock garden south of Mollymook

Some desirable coastal real estate

Ulladulla Head, in particular, is worth a visit for the cultural / historical walk, featuring wood carvings by a local aboriginal artist describing the history of the Budawang people of Gnulla Dulla, complemented by thought-provoking commentary on the impact of white settlement.

Blue-tongue lizard at Ulladulla Head


Aboriginal wood carvings at the the Cultural Walk
on Ulladulla Head

Ulladulla Harbour

We crossed the picturesque boat harbour and climbed back up to the Ulladulla Headland Tourist Park and Trevor's cabin. The three of us sat on the deck of Trevor's cabin in the late afternoon sun, reminiscing with a gin and tonic while watching and listening to the passing parade of lorikeets, crimson rosellas, corellas, wattlebirds, magpies, peewees, crested pigeons, spur-winged plovers and kookaburras.

Life seemed very good.

Ulladulla sunset

A few portraits of feathered friends from Ulladulla

Rainbow lorikeet


Little corella