Stage 6 - Murramarang Coast
          (Ulladulla to Bateman's Bay)

Ulladulla to Bawley Point

This was one of our longest stages of the walk; a family reunion that took over the entire camp ground at Lake Tabourie obliged us to walk to Bawley Point, 9 km further and 24 km in total.

Starting off in sunshine and sporting new straw hats, we left Ulladulla for the last time and headed south. We dropped off the headland on to Rennie's Beach, quickly crossing a rocky shelf to Racecourse Beach, with its calf-burningly soft sand. The quality of sand is something you become aware of quickly on a coast walk; there have been subtle differences in colour - white sand, ivory sand, tan sand, golden sand and even black sand, texture - shelly sand, coarse sand, fine sand and powdery sand, compaction - firm sand, soft sand, loose sand, and even sound - silent sand, squishy sand and squeaky sand. If Eskimos have 20 words for snow, there must be a similar number in some languages for sand.

Sooty oyster-catchers

Calf-burning soft sands of Racecourse Beach
Burrill Beach

Shoreline of Burrill Lake

As we crossed a rocky point on to Burrill Beach, we were relieved that the sand had become firmer. Passing the entrance of Burrill Lake, we climbed over Lagoon Head and descended on to a flat rock platform. A few hundred metres along we encountered a fairly gruesome spectacle, the decomposing carcass of a whale that had washed up onto the rocks. Carefully keeping upwind, we passed by and rounded the point to be greeted by a magic world of jumbled sandstone boulders on the southern side of the head.

Lagoon Head rock platform

This giant T-bone is actually the remains of a
long-dead whale

Rock Jumble on Lagoon Head

Change in weather approaching over Wairo Beach

Wairo Beach from the rock jumble

We picked our way carefully through the massive obstacle course to reach the northern edge of 4 km long Wairo Beach. We strolled down this wide deserted beach, deep sand dunes to our right, a luminous green Pacific Ocean to our left and the silhouette of Mount Durras growing ever larger ahead of us. By the time that we had reached Lake Tabourie, the South Coast was having one of its mood swings; dark clouds gathered over Mount Durras, and after several efforts to reappear the sun finally left us for the day.

Rainclouds gather over Mount Durras

As we climbed up Termeil Point and crossed over to the next beach, a pair of sea-eagles soared in languid circles above us. Hardly a day of walking has gone by without seeing one of these magnificent creatures.

Sandstone layering at Termeil Point

Meroo Lake

Walking down Termeil Beach, we caught up with a fellow coast walker, Geoff from Sydney, who was walking from Ulladulla to Bateman's Bay to be followed by a trip up the Clyde River in the inflatable canoe that he carried. For him it was a brief escape from the world, a time to meditate and appreciate the coastal landscape.

We walked together for a while over Meroo Head, where spotted gums made their appearance in the coastal vegetation for the first time, past Meroo Lake and on to Meroo Beach. It may or may not surprise you that this is all part of Meroo National Park.

Meroo Beach

Geoff found a good spot to camp, so we bade each other farewell and the two of us continued over the rocky shelf of Nuggan Point, through swampy forest to Willinga Lake, and finally on to Bawley Point.

Nuggan Head

Willinga Lake

Swampy forest near Lake Willinga

Gardens of the Bawley B & B

This stage was not only one of the longest, but one of the more diverse, passing along beaches and rock platforms, over headlands, past estuarine lakes and through different types of forest. We rewarded ourselves that night with a king-size bed looking out over the peaceful gardens and superb spotted gum specimens in the grounds of the Bawley Bed and Breakfast.

Bawley Point to Merry Beach
It rained on and off overnight and we awoke to a grey sky. We slept in, had a late but delicious breakfast of poached eggs, smoked salmon and avocado at the B & B, and finally set off on this shorter 12 km stage.

The sky gradually cleared as we crossed the beaches of Bawley Point, past the narrow channel between the mainland and Brush Island and around the Murramarang Aboriginal Area. This wind-swept, heath-covered, sandy headland contains a large complex of shell middens and aboriginal artefacts and is a culturally important site to the local aboriginal people.

Pigeon House looming behind Gannet Beach

Early morning surfers at Cormorant Beach

View along Murramarang Beach toward Brush Island
and the Aboriginal Heritage Area

Track through the windswept heathland

Dropping off the headland, we once again found ourselves heading down a long stretch of sandy beach. The southerly wind was picking up as we left Racecourse Beach to have a bite of lunch in the protection of the caravan park at this spot.

Looking south towards Kioloa with Durras Mountain in the background

By the time we emerged, the winds were starting to bring in a new band of dark clouds, and a storm out to sea provided a beautiful, but menacing backdrop to our trek down Kioloa Beach and through the casuarina and banksia forest on O'Hara Head.

Storm approaching from the sea on Kioloa Beach

Finally, we arrived at our destination at Merry Beach Tourist Park, not a moment too soon. Barely having checked into our cabin, and bought a few food supplies, the rain set in steadily. It looked like we might be holing up here for the next day or two.

Shades of Camelot, it rained all night and we were greeted by the sun the next morning. Merry Beach is a resort with a picturesque palm fringed swimming pool, a fine surf beach, interesting headlands, the obligatory resident flock of rainbow lorikeets plus a resident mob of kangaroos and flock of wood ducks.

Wiith prospects of some body surfing here and snorkelling in the shelter of nearby Kioloa Bay we decided to stay for the next two days regardless of the weather. This seemed a good spot to celebrate the autumn solstice.

Wood ducks

The pool at Merry Beach Resort

The next two days of gloriously sunny, still weather enabled us to explore and laze on several of the beaches in this region on the northern border of Murramarang National Park.

Kioloa Bay from O'Hara Head

I can't imagine why someone named this place Pretty Beach!

Merry Beach
Like most coastal villages in and near Murramarang National Park, Merry Beach has a big population of kangaroos. If you own a beach house here, you do not need a lawnmower; the 'roos do that for you. You won't need fertiliser either as they offer a full grass upkeep service. What you will need is a keen eye and the ability to side-step quickly when crossing any grassy area.

Merry Beach Lawncare Inc.

A couple of other mammalian encounters - by night and by day


The diversity of this area extends to fungi in the forests and multi-coloured lichens growing on the coastal rocks

Merry Beach to North Durras

Another glorious autumn day in paradise, but it was definitely time to move on. Our trip today would take us through the heart of the Murramarang National Park, first heading inland to climb Durras Mountain and pass through several different forest landscapes, and then descending back to follow the coastline past more beautiful beaches and around one of the nicest rock platforms that I have visited.

Leaving Merry Beach, we followed the track around Snapper Head as a sea-eagle soared overhead (a spectacle that we have almost come to expect), quickly reaching a viewing platform overlooking the magnificent forested coastline of the National Park and our route south. The sky was incredibly clear and from the end of Snapper Point, the coastline stretched far southward with the outline of Mount Dromedary, 80 km distant, visible on the horizon.

The coastline of Murramarang National Park

Farewell to the local mob

We passed through the camping ground at Pretty Beach and farewelled the mob of kangaroos out for their morning repas, before commencing the 280 m climb up to Durras Mountain. The dry sclerophyll forest dominated by spotted gums on the northern slope eventually gave way to a denser more luxurious vegetation as we approached the top. Here there were a few clearings from an abandoned farming venture; these gave glimpses over and through the tall trees of the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean to the east and the lighter shades of blue of the coastal mountain ranges to the west.


Looking back to the north from Durras Mountain

On top of Durras Mountain

One last look at the Budawangs

View southward toward Durras

Alert but not alarmed

Track through the spotted gum forest

Bark of the spotted gum

The track then descended steeply down the south-eastern slope of Durras Mountain through lusher forest, where rainforest patches mixed with spotted gums in the wetter gullies.

Pebbly "Not Pebbly Beach"

Levelling out near the coast, we could hear a distant sound like a thousand jaffas being rolled down the aisle of a theatre at the same time; we were approaching Pebbly Beach. Arriving at a small inlet we were mesmerised, as the surf surged in to the thick steep layers of pebbles on the beach and tumbled them around as it sucked back out again. The soft rising and falling pitch of water-rattled pebbles is a sound to soothe the troubled soul.


Sandy "Pebbly Beach"

However, our souls were light and free, so we headed on over a low headland to the Pebbley Beach campground. It is an interesting piece of trivia that the unnamed beaches on either side of Pebbly Beach are stoney, while the one actually named Pebbly Beach is sandy.

We stopped for lunch here and, no sooner had our sandwiches appeared, than a flock of currawongs appeared ready, willing and able to steal any bit of food that wasn't held or nailed down to the table. Even a couple of bowerbirds joined in. Because of its attractive setting and resident beach kangaroos, Pebbley Beach is a popular spot for mass tourism and, in season, busloads of tourists stop for a brief visit. The local bird life obviously gets too many free handouts from their lunchboxes.

Currawong about to get take a free lunch

Gimme your sandwich or I'll rip your eyes out!!

Old blue eyes reincarnated as a bowerbird

We moved on following the rock platform and crossing another stoney beach, with its soothing rumble tumble of rounded pebbles, in parts graded according to size by the surge and retreat of the surf.

Soon we reached isolated and beautiful Depot Beach, less well known and a jewel in the coastline for that very reason. We sat in the shade of a tree at the northern end for some time watching the waves crashing onto the outer edges of a rock platform and a few surfers catching the breaks where the platform joined the beach proper.

Between Pebbly and Depot Beaches

Rock shelf at the north end of Depot Beach

Depot Beach and Durras Mountain

Rock platform beneath Point Upright


It would have been easy to doze off in this idyllic setting, but we needed to move on and crossed the beach to a long rock platform under the tall sandstone cliffs of Point Upright. The relatively high tide and big seas made for an interesting passage along the platform and both of us ended up with saturated shoes, caught out by the surge of an extra-large wave at the wrong time and place.

Point Upright

Leaving the platform to pass through a narrow section of banksia forest on the southern side of the headland, we emerged to look over the azure waters of the northern end of Beagle Bay to the long sweeping beach at North Durras. This bay is protected from the large ocean swells and, living up to its name, it was too tempting to stay out of the water. After a refreshing swim, we strolled up the beach to North Durras where we had booked in for the night.

View over Beagle Bay

One slight disappointment faced us at the end of a great day; the channel from the sea to Durras Lake - a great place to swim when the tide is rushing in or out - had closed over. At several points along the coast, we had noticed that there appeared to be a build up of sand and this confirmed it. Six months ago the sand finally won and closed off the entrance until the next cycle when a build-up in lake water levels should break through to the sea once again; such is the rhythm of life for many of these coastal lakes.

Although it was no longer possible to swim in the channel, the closed entrance did not detract from the aesthetic qualities of Durras. The view across the lake and dunes to the sea from the deck of our cabin at Joalah Holiday Park is one of those that you could sit and enjoy for hours on end. We spent the next two days at North Durras relaxing and catching up with washing, website updates etc. The village of North Durras is a time warp, where most buildings are still the old style beach houses of the '60s era. This is a pleasant change from many of the ultra-modern new developments. North Durras should be heritage listed!

Early morning on Durras Lake

North Durras beach houses

One afternoon, desperation overtook us and we strolled 3 km down the beach to Murramarang Resort to have a glass of beer, taking the opportunity to have a quick swim in their large resort-style pool. Very relaxing, but probably not very correct as we were not resident guests; sorry Mr Murramarang, perhaps this small plug for your nice resort in its peaceful coastal setting will be adequate recompense.

The following morning, we learnt the basic skills of sea-kayaking with Phil from Bay and Beyond Sea Kayaks in Durras. Together with another pleasant couple, he took us on a trip on the pristine waters of Lake Durras and we learnt how the lake was saved from "progress" as the Friends of Durras took on and defeated the developers who wanted to line it shores with more houses and resorts. Now it is protected forever as part of Murramarang National Park - more power to the little person! Any one of us can make a difference.

Good company and good kayaking on the pristine waters of Durras Lake

North Durras to Bateman's Bay

For the first time in our walk, we had to put on our wet weather gear as we set off around the crab-holed shoreline of Lake Durras under an overcast sky and light drizzle. However, we were happy as, for the first time, we had company on a stage of our walk. Julie and Carol, the better halves of Trevor and Lloyd of Ulladulla fame, were walking this stage with us. The four had joined us at North Durras the night before and, while Julie and Carol walked with us, Trevor and Lloyd went on ahead to set up camp in Bateman's Bay and work out the logistics of our crossing of Bateman's Bay in Trevor's boat. With the prospect of this unusual end to the stage, the day augured well.

Rounding the lake and heading south once again, we passed through a small section of dunes, before dropping back on to Durras Beach, crossing a small headland to Cookie's Beach and climbing up to Murramarang resort. By this time the drizzle had ceased and we had a cappuccino break at the resort. This pattern from beach to headland to beach was to be the rhythm of the day, as we were passing through a rugged deeply indented section of coastline within the southern part of Murramarang National Park.

Cookie's Beach the day before (just to show some sunshine)

Sea-sculpted multicoloured sandstone rocks at Durras

Leaving the resort, we picked up a track leading down to secluded Emily Miller Beach, with its soft golden sands framed by forest and low sandstone cliffs. The track wound through the forest, where large numbers of burrawangs grew under a canopy of spotted gums.

The girls on Emily Miller Beach

Inside a sea cave on Emily Miller Beach

Eventually. We descended to Dark Beach, of great fascination to geologists because it marks the southernmost extent of the Sydney Basin sandstones. This change is quite dramatic, as the northern end of the beach has sedimentary sandstone cliffs and white sand, while the southern end has deeply convoluted layers of metamorphosed chert and phyllite rock with black shingles and sand.

Gnarly spotted gums and burrawangs

Northern sedimentary end of Dark Beach

Southern metamorphic end of Dark Beach

Back into the forest once again, the track led us to Flat Rock Point, where a magnificent view was to be had of the deeply indented coast that we had just walked along, framed by the silhouettes of Durras Mountain and Grasshopper Island.

Looking north toward Durras Mountain from Flat Rock Point

We retraced our steps from the end of the point and dropped down on to Myrtle Beach, where the different geology of the cliffs, with their uplifted jagged layers angled toward the sky, became even more apparent.

The cuttlefish grow big in this part of the world

Myrtle Beach

Jagged metamorphic ribs on Myrtle Beach

Strolling down a forestry road

From Myrtle Beach we joined up to a dirt forestry road, passing through more of the superb spotted gum / burrawang vegetation, before again dropping down to Little Oakey Bay, where the metamorphic rock had uplifted exposing tortuous folding and razor-sharp edges. This coastline must be a geologist's paradise.

The burrawang is a species of cycad - large specimens of these slow growing plants can be several hundred years old. Their dark green foliage contrasts sharply with the greyness of the eucalypts.

Spotted gum

Uplifted metamorphic cliffs at Little Oakey Bay

Do not try this at home!

Black wallaby watching us watching it

The track out of Oakey Beach was a little obscure, but after a brief period of geographic embarrassment and short section of bush-bashing, we found ourselves again on the right track heading to North Head. We stopped for lunch on the coarse black sand of Honeysuckle Bay, before following the track around the headland to North Head Beach, from where we had a first glimpse of the broad expanse of Bateman's Bay.

Lunch at Honeysuckle Bay

View north from the North Head of Bateman's Bay

I know! not another sea-eagle photo!

Here the track finally ended, but with the aid of JPS (Jules Pointing Straight), backed up by GPS, we made a bee-line through the bush and across a series of small headlands and beaches, before descending steeply to the calm waters of Maloney's Beach. Trevor's earlier reconnaissance trip had determined this to be the safest pick up point for the Bay crossing

A few hundred metres off shore, he and Lloyd were waiting in the boat as we reached the beach. A few minutes later, we were speeding our way through the ocean swells on a 6 km crossing from Maloney's Beach to Corrigan's Beach on the southern shores of the Bay, where our cabin awaited us a short 50 m walk from the shore.

Three Island Point - entry to Bateman's Bay

Maloney's Beach

Our transport across the Bay arrives

The weekend was special for another reason - both Carol and the fair Nello were celebrating their birthdays, so, joined by Jenny, another good friend from Canberra, we all celebrated with a great meal at a local restaurant and a birthday cake provided by Julie back at the cabin. We had such a good time that I forgot to take any photos.

The weather may have been a bit dull, but the coastal scenery was spectacular and the company was very bright. Thanks for your help and a great weekend folks!