Stage 12 - Ben Boyd National Park
           (Pambula to Twofold Bay)

Pambula Beach to Eden

It was one of those magical moments that you wished might never end.

We had just passed the 500 km mark of our walk and were sitting on a rise at the end of Pinnacle Beach looking back to where we had come from. To the right of the narrow ribbon of pale golden sand, the sea shimmered silver in the reflected light of the sun. To the left, a touch of orange in the low cliff line hinted at the riotous colours of the eroded sandstone walls that we had just passed. In the distance, 80 km to the north, we could make out the distinctive silhouette of Gulaga. The soft white clouds drifted by and the tinkling sound of a distant chorus of bellbirds floated across from the nearby forest.

What dreams are made of

Earlier in the day we were also sitting and waiting, this time by the Pambula River mouth waiting for low tide. Has anyone ever seen that infinitesimally small period of time when the tide actually changes direction? We sat and watched as the outward flow slowed and, with just the slightest pull to the ocean, waded out to the end of the sand bar and set adrift with our packs on our air mattress. Experience is a wonderful thing and, with our past crossings to learn from, we had timed this to perfection. The slight curve of our path landed us gently on the small sandy beach opposite to and slightly left of the bar.

Looking back to our crossing point at the
Pambula River mouth

White sand - sapphire sea


On Barmouth Beach

In the forests of Ben Boyd

View across Merimbula Bay from Barmouth Beach

Looking down Haycock Beach

We followed the shoreline around to Barmouth Beach, where some steps led us up to a dirt road in Ben Boyd National Park. This road led us quickly east across the promontory on the southern side of the river, through the quiet of the tall eucalypt forests, to the coastal heathland at the northern end of Haycock Beach. To our left lay the dark silhouette of Haystack Rocks and to our right the broad low dunes and wide beaches, Haycock, Quondolo and Pinnacles, extending over 6 km to the south. A few hundred metres from the access track there were no more footprints and we once again ambled along the sand, alone with our thoughts, the sounds of the sea and the shadow of a sea-eagle drifting over us. Walking along a long stretch of isolated beach is truly a form of meditation.


At Quondolo Point the dunes narrow as low pink and cream streaked sandstone ridges start to appear, hinting at what is to come. After the point, the eyes are focussed on the bright yellow sandstone barrier of Quoraburagan Point, jutting out to the waterline to separate Quondolo and Pinnacles Beaches.

Iron-rich sandstone rocks on Quondolo Beach

Quoraburagan Point - what lies beyond?

The beauty of walking north to south on this beach is that you do not realise that Quoraburagan is keeping a secret and, as soon as you pass it, you enter a magical world of sandstone rainbows; a 2 km stretch of low eroded cliffs and gullies in a riot of colours from the purest white, through cream, yellow, orange, red and pink to the deep maroons and burgundies of iron-rich outcrops.

The pinnacles of Quraburagan

Approaching Terrace Point

As we neared the end of Pinnacles Beach, the sea became virtually flat, with just the gentlest of waves, protected by the jutting prow of Terrace Point. We wondered where we had seen this combination of green-clad cliffs plunging into a sapphire coloured sea and edged by a pale golden sand beach before; it was the Halkidiki Peninsula, in Greece.


Southern end of Pinnacles Beach

Reflections on reflections
We only met two people that day - the surfing builders from Cathie Lake who had taken a week to try out the South Coast surf spots and were checking out the waves at the southern end Pinnacles Beach. We chatted a while about the beautiful spots on the coast that we had all seen, before they hopped into their van and left in search of the perfect wave. We left in search of whatever it is that drives you to walk 500 km along the coast of New South Wales.

Back in the forest


Heading inland once again, we climbed steadily up through the tall forest along a dirt access road, the grey-green of the forest vegetation broken by the occasional splash of colour from an autumn flowering wattle or banksia. Reaching the spur, we found an old walking track heading down through dense forest toward Eden.

View over Eden and Twofold Bay

After a kilometre the track emerged onto the new residential subdivision of Eden Cove, where we picked our way across to the northern end of Aslings Beach on Twofold Bay. From here it was a quick walk along the road between the beach and Curalo Lagoon, before joining a boardwalk around the lagoon that took us to the tourist park where we were staying.

This had certainly been one of our favourite stages of the walk.

Curalo Lagoon


Boardwalk on Curalo Lagoon

Eden to the Towamba River

Sometimes when events don't go as planned, they turn out even better than expected. This stage provided such an experience. We had originally intended to cross Twofold Bay by boat, but having tried everyone from the harbour master to the charter operator to the fisherman's association, we could not find a boat to take us to the southern side of the bay. Nothing for it but to walk around the perimeter of the bay, which we did, and which gave us the opportunity to stay in a cabin in a beautiful bush setting overlooking the Towamba River, providing an experience of the South Coast that we may otherwise have missed. More of that later

We started our stage by walking across the back streets of Eden to Cattle Wharf and picking up a local track that followed the shoreline of the bay. Across the water a large bulk chip carrier was moored at the wharf of the chip mill. Wood-chipping remains a controversial industry and has seen confrontation between environmentalists and forestry workers. It highlights some of the ongoing tensions over land-use on the South Coast.

Continuing on, we crossed small beaches and followed the low cliff lines, past the rafts of mussel farms, until the track ended at the local yacht club at Quarantine Bay.

View over the Cattle Wharf to Eden Harbour

Large bulk chip carrier being loaded at the chip mill wharf
on the southern side of Twofold Bay

Part of the rocky northern shore of Twofold Bay

Mount Imlay overlooking mussel rafts in Twofold Bay

Yachts at Quarantine Bay

Rock formations at the western end of the bay

From here we picked our way around the rocks of one headland, then headed inland to follow a track to the Nullica River Bridge on the Prince's Highway. Crossing this, we quickly left the highway to return to Boydtown Beach, which we followed down to the Seahorse Inn, built in the 1840s by Ben Boyd as a base for his planned whaling, timber and pastoral empire.

Boyd's venture failed, his town remains largely undeveloped and Eden has become the principal centre on Twofold Bay. Nonetheless his name remains attached to many places in the area - most curiously Ben Boyd National Park is named in honour of someone who would most likely have cut down the trees for timber or transformed it into pastures.

Nullica River mouth

The Seahorse Inn built in the 1840s and currently being renovated

Boydtown landscape

Old hut ruins in the bush

From Boydtown, we headed up over a wooded hill on a dirt road, where we saw for the first time a pair of red-tailed black cockatoos. Descending the hill, the road faded away to a track and eventually vanished near the ruins of an old shed. Crossing a fence line, we picked our way through the trees to a dry sandy creek bed, which led us out to the Towamba River, a tidal river at the south-western corner of Twofold Bay.

Dry sandy creek bed near Kiah Inlet

The Towamba River - the cabins are
on the hill at the rear

At this point, our passage seemed blocked, as our side of the river was steep with dense understorey and vines in the tall eucalypt forest and the deep channel of the river ran along side it. We scrambled up the steep bank and, to our great relief, found a track leading along the edge. This track led us directly to the Kiah River Cabins high on a bend above the Towamba River. and 4 km in from Twofold Bay. We later learnt that our host, Neil, had personally cut this walking track along the river, for which we were very grateful.

These cabins, crafted from stone and local timbers, have floor to ceiling glass windows looking over a grassy flat directly down the Towamba River toward Twofold Bay. Tall eucalypts lining the valleys of the river and creeks running into it completed the peaceful and secluded bush setting in which we found ourselves. It was the perfect place to "get away from it all" and we made a mental note to return here one day with a kayak to get to know this beautiful river and valley even better.

Tree-lined banks of the Towamba

View from the Kiah River cabins

Late evening over the Towamba River