I came across this large group of mixed birds a few days ago, while a friend and I were finishing up a walk in Botany Bay National Park. Busy chatting, we missed our path and ended up on a residential street, which annoyed us as we had to retrace our steps to the turning we’d missed, but did have the bonus of this sight of a few dozen birds feeding. The pink and grey birds are called galahs (rose-breasted cockatoo, galah cockatoo, pink and grey cockatoo or roseate cockatoo). At bottom left you can see just the out-of-focus yellow feathers of a sulphur-crested cockatoo. You can also see the pointed dark crest and stripes of a small crested pigeon. I’m not sure what the white parrots are called! (Update: pretty sure they are Corellas, thanks to Jude’s suggestion.) But there are enough pink-splashed galahs here to warrant including the photo for In the Pink.
Known simply as “The Spit to Manly”, this is one of Sydney’s best known and most popular walks. About 10km long, it weaves along the edge of the harbour, through national park and residential areas. There are stunning views and beaches in plenty, with quite a variety of terrain. “3.6km of this walk is flat with no steps and another 3km has short steep hills. The remaining (2.6km) has gentle hills with occasional steps.” (source)
The Spit Bridge, where this walk starts, opens at set times throughout the day to let boats pass. You can just make out a sailboat passing through (more visible on the full image). I’d like to say that I timed my walk to take this photo for you, but in truth it was luck. 😉
After the bridge, you soon reach the bottom of this small inlet. It’s clear that the tide is well out, which is a good thing as you’ll learn later.
Dappled shade on the path and a bridge over a stream.
Here be dragons — Eastern Water Dragons, to be precise.
It would be extremely unusual to do this walk and not encounter a number of these reptiles sunning themselves on the path. Generally, though, you only notice them in the heart-lurching moment when a streak of movement at your feet is followed by a crashing and a rustling in the undergrowth as it dashes for safety.
In addition to dragons, there are lots of flowers to be seen along the paths.
This is Clontarf Beach and Reserve. On the weekend it’s standing room only, full of large groups with blankets and picnics. I did the walk on this occasion on the Thursday before Good Friday (29 March), so beaches and the walk itself were quite empty.
What sort of crazy person attacks trees? All the trees in the reserve have these wooden girdles to protect them.
Time for some beach walking! If you have a towel, or the time to relax while the sun dries your feet, this is a great stretch for splashing along in the water.
Remember I said earlier that it’s a good thing the tide is out? Look at the dark strip along the bottom of the stone walls in front of these houses — that’s where the water reaches. That’s more than a mere paddle.
No, I haven’t snuck in a photo from a walk in England! We’ve had quite a bit of rain recently, so there were a few wet patches.
There are many plaques describing various plants along the way.
Typical steps carved into the rocks.
Your own private beach.
The entry to the national park section of the walk. Some years ago, a friend from England came to visit and we did this walk — or tried to! We got as far as this point. The national park segment was closed due to high fire danger. We considered risking it, but didn’t fancy being fined by a lurking park ranger!
Up, and up …
It would be hard to get lost!
Still up. Many of the light-coloured stone stairs you’ll see in these photos were recently (in the past 8 years?) installed. The parks service undertook substantial work to reduce erosion and damage due to the thousands of walkers. You’ll notice too that we’re no longer in forest. It’s much more open up on the ridgeline.
And this is what all the climbing was for! The walk has taken us from sea level to 88m (288ft). That’s South Head across the harbour, then the next land is Chile on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
Woo hoo, it’s the beginning of the boardwalk! (This is also recent.) The boardwalk means one thing: the lunch stop is not far.
Ta da, the lunch stop! It’s just a rock outcrop a few metres off the path. It was much more hidden when I first started coming here (around 2000), but fire or some other event has thinned out the trees. After all that climbing, the shade and the sea breeze are very welcome.
Lunch! Sandwich, plum, water. The Aussie term “Tasty Cheese” (on the sandwich label) always cracks me up. It’s similar to a medium cheddar and, yes, is tasty, but what a name! And what a view! Did you notice the gorgeous colour of the water in the cove below? Opposite is North Head, and just to its left is the former Quarantine Station where immigrants were forced to spend some time upon arrival so that medical staff could check their condition. Today, predictably, it’s an expensive hotel called Q Station.
Back on the path, and past the halfway mark now.
Now here is something I had never seen on this walk. A wallaby! I rounded a corner and there it was, practically in the middle of the path. It stared at me, I stared at it, and I said, “Whoa! A kangaroo!” Perhaps insulted at being mistaken for a kangaroo, the wallaby hopped into the bush. It didn’t go far though, and soon settled down to nibbling at shrubs.
I always think of this spot as the beginning of the end. There are still kilometres to go, but soon we’ll be out of the bush and onto the streets, and this is the last great view. It’s all (almost) downhill or level from here. This panorama is two photos merged in Photoshop. (Click for a much larger shot.) To right of centre you can see the broad path to follow. Opposite is North Head and the old quarantine site, then around to the left is Manly and the ferry wharf, my destination.
This sign has been here at least as long as I’ve been doing this walk (since 2000). When, I wonder, will the area officially be regenerated?
Reef Beach, a lovely spot for a swim. And I have never seen it deserted! Unfortunately, because doing this walk was a spur-of-the-moment decision, I wasn’t at home to pack swimsuit and towel. So I had to gaze at the water longingly and walk past.
The approach to 40 Baskets Beach is another impassable area at high tide. The name “40 Baskets” derives from a time in 1885 when fisherman caught — you’ve guessed it — 40 baskets of fish in the area.
You don’t see these flowers in the national park! This is bouganvillea and tibuchina in a garden.
This commemorative plaque is hidden in a rock, in the shade, at the foot of stairs (more bloody stairs!), and is easily overlooked.
A very pleasant section now of strolling along a meandering paved path, with towering and expensive homes to the left, and the harbour to the right. One of the homes is for sale — how much would you pay for that view?
Another nice place to swim, which today is both unusually calm and unusually deserted. No swimsuit, though, so on we go …
There is, apparently, a thriving colony of Little Penguins in this area. I’ve never seen one, but then again I’d never seen a wallaby on the walk until today.
The end is nigh! The large yellow-and-green ship is the Manly-Circular Quay ferry. I’m getting a much smaller boat though, to take me across the harbour to Watson’s Bay, from where I’ll get a bus to Bondi Beach and home.
Made it, with only 10 minutes to spare. I’d planned to enjoy a well-deserved icy cold beverage at this bar while waiting for the ferry (that’s what the small crowd of people at the end of the wharf is doing) but all this photography took longer than I’d planned.
At Watson’s Bay, there was just enough time before the bus arrived for a quick lime and coconut ice cream. Very refreshing!
For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.
I’ve dubbed this The Three Beaches Walk because it covers Sydney’s three most northerly beaches: it begins at Palm Beach, takes in Whale Beach and ends at Avalon Beach, roughly 9km. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for a map.) I did it last weekend, and as the photos reveal, it was a beautiful spring day, 22C and sunny.
Looking back (north) along Palm Beach from the point I started walking, you can see the lighthouse on Barrenjoey Head.
Looking in the direction of the walk (south), this is where I was headed.
I had to get from sea level to the top of that hill, though. At the end of the beach are stairs. Lots of them.
Once at the top, you can look back to Palm Beach and beyond, and marvel how high you’ve come.
The houses along here are big, expensive, and face the sea. Only walls and roofs can be glimpsed from the road. (According to friends who grew up on Sydney’s North Shore, this is known — unflatteringly — as the Insular Pensinsula.)
Flowering plants aplently!
Here’s the next beach, Whale Beach.
I had a sinking feeling when I spotted that headland at the end of Whale Beach, but luckily didn’t have to scale it. However, I knew the headland beyond this one would have to be tackled.
It was a bit of a trek up the hill at the far end of the beach. In the bottom right you can see Whale Beach, and how tiny the people are.
This bench is hardly a stunning specimen, but it was sturdy and in the shade, so I sat for a bit. 🙂
This louvred door and shrub caught my eye. It looks as if they’re blocking access to something, but in a fun way.
Time to go off road! This is the beginning of the bushwalk at Bangalley Head.
“Relatively hard”. “Highest point”. hmmm
More stairs, of course …
Once at the top, and with my breathing back to normal and heartbeat no longer thumping in my ears, the walking was delightful. Sun-dappled paths through the trees, and glimpses to the right of yachts in secluded bays.
The end is in sight! That’s Avalon Beach in the distance. How to get off this headland, though??
I finally found the path down. More stairs (naturally) but easier to bounce down than up. When I turned a corner in the path and saw this perfectly framed sight, I actually exclaimed, “Wow.”
These cliff edge warning signs were dotted along the Bangalley Head walk. You can see how close the edge is.
Once off the headland and looking back, the height of the drop is all too apparent.
The path continues between cliff edge and front gardens. I hope these people have insurance, because that’s a pretty steep drop.
The end! Here is Avalon Beach.
Now, I’m not a great fan of ocean swimming — too much sand, too much surf, too much getting knocked over by waves. But the pool at the hotel I stayed at that night in Newport is much more my style!
Here’s a Google Maps shot of where the walk is, if you’re not sure of the relation to Sydney.
If you enjoyed this walk, be sure to check out other people’s offerings on Jo’s Monday Walks.
And if you’d like to see more about Palm Beach and the Barrenjoey lighthouse, Jude has a great post.
(A note about the photos. I didn’t want to lug my ‘real’ camera around for three days, so took a smaller ‘point and shoot’. The quality is not as good as I’d like, but that was the trade-off for less weight and bulk. Still, you get the idea!)
Coral is the most amazing stuff. It looks like rock, but it’s alive, and not rock at all but animal. The colonies are formed by millions of tiny soft-bodied polyps which have a hard outer skeleton that attaches to rock or to other (dead) coral skeletons. (More info about coral here.) And what a variety of corals there is! All the colours and textures that you can imagine, often growing around or on top of one another.
While snorkelling or diving around corals, it’s important to avoid touching them — not only can it damage the coral, but a person can get a nasty cut from those sharp edges.
I took some of these photos last week on the Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas (with a GoPro I hired for the day), and some on the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns three years ago (with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT20 I bought for the trip, but it was second hand and died after one outing).
There are so many warnings about the health of the reef and the damage we (and nature, in the form of destructive storms and voracious starfish) are causing, that I feel now is the time to see this astonishing feature — while it’s still there.