Stage 10 - Mimosa Rocks National Park
           (Bermagui to Tathra)

Bermagui to Bunga Beach

That evening we loaded up our packs with camping gear, food and water and were ready for our next major challenge, the three-day crossing of Mimosa Rocks National Park, when the first peal of thunder rolled across Bermagui Point. As we were treated to the brilliant spectacle of a series of coastal thunderstorms and the rain drummed down on the roof of our cabin, we contemplated the wisdom of the venture.

However, true to form, the South Coast was just clearing the air and we woke to bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. Time to get going - because the weather had been very dry and freshwater was uncertain along the route, we were carrying all our water, the heaviest load to date. Our footsteps were certainly not light as we trudged over Blue Point and headed out of Bermagui along the southern section of the coastal walking track.


The route south - coastal cliffs south of Bermagui

The "coastal walking track" is not really a defined track; more a line on a map, following at first the streets of Bermagui, then paralleling the Bermagui-Tathra road, ducking in at a number of points along dirt roads and walking paths, and along sections of beach before ending 8 km south of Bermagui at Cuttagee Beach. It does however, pass along some splendid coastal forest, with gaps and the odd lookout, such as at Jerimbut Point, that reveal glimpses of the incredible orange -coloured line of cliffs south of Bermagui.

Looking north from Jerimbut Point

Looking south from Jerimbut Point

Near Baragoot Point, it passed through a dense thicket of sweet pittosporum and acacias, before rejoining a bridge to cross Baragoot Lake. From here it entered a small coastal fragment of Biamanga National Park preserving a forest of paperbarks, coastal banksias and eucalypts, before re-emerging in the middle of 3 km long Baragoot Beach.

Banksia, acacia and pittosporum heath

Track through the sweet pittosporum

Jagger's Beach

In Biamanga National Park

The track crossed the bridge over Cuttagee Lake before dropping back onto the sand and ending at the southern end of Cuttagee Beach. Here we decided for the first time to follow the main road around a headland, as we had been warned of disputes over access to beaches with some of the private properties in this area. However, after 2 km we were able to leave it again and follow a dirt road towards the coastline before picking up a walking track that descended steeply to secluded Armond's Beach, where we stopped for lunch.

Entry to Baragoot Lagoon

Cuttagee Lake

Armond's Beach


A sign advised that this was a nude bathing beach; we don't find this offensive, but nude beachworm collecting is something else. We ate quickly and left as our collector bent over to extract yet another beachworm from the sand!

Pick the odd sign out

Climbing up the southern end of the beach the vague track soon disappeared and for 500 m we followed a GPS bearing through a tussockgrass clearing and across some fairly open eucalypt / burrawang forest, until we picked up another dirt road leading down through the strangely silent forest to the northern end of Murrah Head. Shoes and socks removed, a quick wade across the inlet to Murrah Lagoon saw us on the northern end of Murrah Beach, looking down to the green pasture covered paddocks of Goalen Head.

Ironbark forest

View of the lagoon from Murrah Head

Crossing Murrah Lagoon


Goelan Head


When we reached the end of Murrah Beach and stopped to put on our footwear again, we were joined by a new travelling companion, a boxer whom we called "Dog". Dog accompanied us through the paddocks of Goelan Head as we followed vague wheel tracks in the dense kikuyu. He followed us down on to the northern end of Bunga Beach and only when we climbed up the dunes to cross a barbed wire fence and pick up a narrow grassy road did he leave. I suspect that Dog was just seeing us off the property, but he did so very politely and we enjoyed his company.

Nello and Dog

Looking inland across Murrah Lagoon

On Murrah Beach

One last view of Gulaga from Goelan Head

Looking down Bunga Beach

The track that we had taken paralleled the beach for a kilometre and crossed into the Mimosa Rocks National Park, before opening out on to one of those scenes that soothes the tired spirit of those who have carried a heavy pack for 19 km - a large grassy opening with an old fisherman's hut, complete with fireplace, outdoor loo and water tank, overlooking the beautiful southern part of Bunga Beach and the imposing cliffs of Bunga Head. A track behind the hut led up magical Hidden Valley, where a mob of kangaroos grazed in a clearing in the late afternoon light.

View from the hut to Bunga Head

The Fisherman's hut at Bunga Beach

Hidden Valley

We set up our gear in the shelter of the hut, set a fire with driftwood from the beach and pitched our tent on the dense mat of kikuyu - the extra padding of the grass promising a much more comfortable night than the wooden floor of the hut. As we ate our dinner at sunset, a group of five sea eagles flew in from a day's hunting and disappeared up Hidden Valley to their roost. It seemed that our totem was checking that all was well with us. It was - out to sea, lightning forked occasionally and silently from a distant thunderstorm, while above us the night sky was crystal clear and with a new moon the stars were brilliant. We slept well - it had been a long hard day and we were pleased with what we had done.


Bunga Beach to Picnic Point

The cliffs of Bunga Head are imposing - they say "no pasar", "passage interdit" and "no thoroughfare" to anyone walking down the coast.

We had been warned by a ranger to look for a vague track leading up a gully on the south-west corner of the beach, so next morning fully loaded again, having replenished our water from the small supply in the tank, we headed up the gully. What appeared to be a track disappeared and we were forced to follow a GPS bearing for a few hundred metres until it eventually became clearer, taking us up through relatively open forest to the saddle behind the headland. Here it vanished again, but a disturbed lyrebird racing through the underbrush turned our eyes to a cairn of stones. This led to another, then another, and we followed cairn-marked track along the spur and down the southern sloping gully. The track led us through a small patch of rainforest growing in the lower slopes of this moist gully and out onto one of the camping areas at Aragunnu.

Bunga Head - end of the road
for beach walking!

"Track" up to the saddle of Bunga Head

Rainforest gully on the south side of the head

We made a quick detour along a boardwalk put in by the National Park that led a quiet boulder beach looking out on to the impressive silhouette of Mimosa Rocks. Passing through the Aragunnu camping area revived pleasant memories of time spent here last Christmas.

The stony beach of Mimosa Rocks

At Aragunnu - a memento for Ursula and Lakhdar

Aragunnu vegetation

There is no coastal route from Aragunnu to Picnic Point, so we knew that this section would be difficult. A chance encounter with the ranger gave us good advice about what to expect and a clearer indication that it would be a hard day. It was harder!

After an easy stroll down Aragunnu Beach, we started to pick our way around the rocky headlands. The rocks here are a jumble of sharp edged sandstone, not the place to be carrying heavy packs, and our progress was slow.

Abalone divers at Aragunnu
- can you spot them?

Easy stroll down Aragunnu Beach ......

........ but getting harder around the rocks

Looking back over Aragunnu and Bunga Head

The rocky coastline south of Aragunnu
Eventually rounding the first headland we came to a sheer edge with only sea below. Our only choice was to climb up on to the cliff slope and crash through some dense paperbark scrub until we could descend once more on to the rocks and cross the next small headland.

.... where progress through the scrub
was very slow

A difficult passage

This forced us to climb up to the scrub
on top of the cliffs .......

Here again we were blocked by another sheer wall of rock and, knowing from the ranger that a sea cave blocked a later section, we decided to head deeper inland and not return to the shore until well clear of such obstacles.

Our legs well-scratched already from the first push through dense heath, we zipped on the long legs of our shorts and headed upward, picking our way across an uneven surface where rocks were hidden by deep litter, and the dead branches of paperbarks and casuarinas and thickets of sweet pittosporum or low banksias tried to deny all forward progress. It took three hours to travel two kilometres through this terrain, over two ridges and two creek beds, before the third creek led us back out onto a small beach.

Blocked yet again

Lunch in "lost valley"........

..... and back to the bush-bashing

The rugged beauty of the coastal rocks and the beautiful mossy creek beds, where frogs serenaded us and orchids clung to the rocks, went entirely unappreciated. It is marvellous how 22 kg on your back in a dense scrub can focus the mind on the singular obsession of getting to the other end - we learnt the meaning of stoic. I could imagine the South Coast saying "you think you are so tough getting this far - I could stop you at any time!"

Final passage through the bracken .....

..... to the beach at last

Once back on the beach it was a quick stroll along the sand with a couple of easy rock scrambles to reach Picnic Point camping ground - we had taken 6 hours to walk 8 km! Now we had to decide whether to push on across Bithry Inlet to our original destination of Middle Beach or set up camp here and have a swim and revive. The ocean water was cold but invigorating and we felt better already. Our appreciation in hindsight of the rugged beauty of the rocks and bush through which we had just passed was growing.

One last rock scramble


Clear route to Picnic Point

Picnic Beach

There is a difference between a tough day, when you think "well, that was hard but I enjoyed it" and a very tough day when you think "what the hell am I doing this for!" Today we had had a very tough day, but we made it, and the stars that night were just as beautiful as before.

Picnic Point to Tathra

We got up at sunrise to get ready for final day of our crossing of Mimosa Rocks National Park. It was to be the water crossing day, with both Bithry Inlet and Nelson Lagoon lying between us and our destination at Tathra, and an early start was necessary, as we weren't sure how long these crossings would take. Again we were lucky to catch up with the ranger checking the campsites and get some valuable tips on both places and the possible routes available. Thanks for all the help - it seems a good time to reiterate how impressed we have been with the service and infrastructure provided by the National Parks and Wildlife Service along the south coast.

We set off from Picnic Point, climbing up and over the lightly timbered hill to the south. At the top, where the forest met the grassy paddocks of a property bordering the Park, a picturesque panorama lay before us of Wapengo Lake and its mountainous backdrop. At the bottom of the paddock, a dirt road followed Bithry Inlet from the lake to the sea and just before the entrance we found the narrowest point that looked crossable - where a sand spit stuck out into the channel 200 m across on the southern side.

The cliffs at Picnic Point forced us inland again

Peaceful rural scene at Wapengo Lake

A local resident watches the strange
goings on at the inlet

It was just after high tide and already there was a strong tidal flow heading out to sea through the line of breakers at the entrance. Setting up our packs and getting the air mattress ready as described in earlier stages, we decided that two heavy packs on a single air mattress could be a bit unbalanced and one trip for each pack would be preferable. The art then became to pick the right starting point, so that, as we swam the packs across, the tidal flow would sweep us around onto the sand spit.

The first passage worked perfectly, a few stingrays scooting away on the sand beneath as we paddled our first pack across in a large sweeping curve. However, on our return, the tide pulled us into an arc heading towards the line of breakers at the entrance, cause for a minor adrenalin rush. Fortunately, we found the bottom and waded out just before this point. As we walked back to our second pack, 200 m back along the northern shore, we mused on what people would have made of it if we had been swept out to sea, leaving only one pack on one side of the inlet and another pack on the opposite side - another mystery like that of Mystery Bay, perhaps? Finally, to our great relief, we made our third crossing without a hitch, successfully transporting all our gear to the southern shore of the inlet.

Science at work - now the curve of the trajectory depends
on the speed of our swimming, the perpendicular pull of the
tide, modified by the buoyancy of the air mattress and the
weight of the load .....
ah bugger it, let's just set out from here!

We dried ourselves off to a chorus of bellbirds in the tall spotted gum forest on the southern shore, before heading off again, following a dirt road up over the heavily timbered hills and down to the campsite at Middle Beach. From here, we followed a very pleasant track through a forest of old coastal banksias and along the peaceful shores of Middle Lagoon. The banksias in this part of the coast were by now in full bloom and their pale lemon flowers provided a feast of nectar for wattlebirds, honeyeaters and lorikeets.

Track down to Middle Lagoon

Swans on the lagoon

Walking through a forest full of bellbirds

View over Middle Beach

Middle Lagoon

The track emerged at the broad sand bar blocking the lagoon from the sea and we continued south down the broad expanse of Middle and Gillard's Beaches past a series of sandstone rock formations in every hue from white to orange. A small dark chocolate sandstone promontory, passable only at low tide, separated Gillard's from Cowdroy's Beach, and we wandered down this beach, eyes fixed on the superb pink, white and gold sandstone cliffs of Baronta Head, growing ever larger. A group of surfers were getting some very nice rides in the azure waters in front of the cliffs - what a brilliant backdrop for a good days surfing.

Sandstone formations on Gillard's Beach

Heath covered promontory with Baronta Head in the distance

The pastel shades of Baronta Head

Walking through the Gap to Nelson Lagoon

Nelson Lagoon

To the left of the headland lay the narrow gap that marked our passage through to the northern shore of Nelson Lagoon. Happily, it was now low tide.

Surveying the lagoon for a crossing point, we chanced across Phil and Nathalie returning from an overnight camping trip at Cowdroy's Beach. They showed us the best spot to cross, which involved a long wade across a shallow section, a walk across a soft sand bar and a short swim with our packs on the air mattress across the main channel; much easier than Bithry.


Crossing the shallow part of the lagoon

Like Bithry Inlet, the tall spotted gum forest on the southern shore of Nelson Lagoon was full of bellbirds, whose singing is one of the more cheerful sounds of the bush. We climbed up away from the lagoon on the dirt access road before turning left and making the sharp tree-fern lined 172 step descent to secluded Moon Bay, where a couple of naturists were improving their all over sun tans.

Some of the 172 steps down to Moon Bay

More bellbird habitat

Moon Bay

The climb out of the southern end of Moon Bay was not as steep, following a long gully and gradually climbing up to a timbered spur that ran behind Mogareeka Inlet. Following our 2001 edition of the topographic map and our GPS explicitly, we followed a marked road down to Mogareeka town, right through the backyard gate of a house and out the front drive!! (note: mapping information is generally very good, but don't always rely on it).

Mogareeka Inlet

On Mogareeka

Tathra - what better place to revive after the 3-day crossing of Mimosa Rocks

Rounding the north shore of Mogareeka Inlet, we crossed to the other side on the main road bridge before picking up a bicycle path that led us to our cabin accommodation for the night adjacent to Tathra Beach. As a reward for completing the crossing of Mimosa Rocks, we spent the next two days being normal coastal tourists; sleeping in, reading a good book, having an early morning surf on beautiful Tathra Beach, treating ourselves to a roast lunch at the Tathra Pub with Phil and Nathalie, our fellow lagoon waders, watching the fishermen on the old Tathra wharf and the manta rays beneath it, flying a kite and generally relaxing in the pleasant autumn sunshine.

The old Tathra wharf

2m wide manta ray living at the wharf

Tathra Beach

Tathra pub

Although it has undergone considerable development in recent years, Tathra has not yet lost its small town charm and, with its great beach and surrounding coastline, has to be one of the top spots on the south coast.

Sand python on Tathra Beach

Evening falls over Tathra Beach

Another superb south coast sunset over Tathra Head