Whales, sea cliffs, sand dunes, lighthouse, historical monuments, sunshine … our last day walk had it all! This may become one of those walks we repeat year to year, provided we can all put up with the 1½ hour drive to the start point at Kurnell.
The travel distance and the relative obscurity of the visitors’ centre meant that gathering us all together was a challenge. As we slowly came together the need for coffee became a problem; there was only one person on duty in the visitors’ centre to take the $7 per vehicle parking fee, answer questions and run the kiosk. It was a very slow start for our eight Cartophiles: Annie, David, Gabriel, Kit, Janet (for her first Cartophiles experience), Paul, Sue and Virginia.
Botany Bay National Park was created in 1984, although the land around Captain Cooks Landing Place was first dedicated for public recreation in 1899. The dual name Kamay Botany Bay National Park was adopted in 2002 to affirm Aboriginal links with the land, acknowledging the significance of the area for both the local Dharawal people and European settlers. Kamay is the Dharawal name for the area.
Our visit consisted of two walks. The Burrawang Walk is an easy 1.1km circuit that passes several historical memorials, including Captain Cook’s landing place. We spent a lot of time reading the information plaques and trying to work out which buoy marked the place where the Endeavour was anchored.
From there we drove to the end of Solander Drive to the start of the Cape Baily walk, a moderate-rated 8km circuit to the Cape Baily lighthouse. This started with a visit to the Cape Solander viewing platform where a team of NPWS volunteers was counting migrating whales. The generously lent us some binoculars so that we could see the pod of five or six humpback whales just offshore. In fact, for the remainder of the walk we could easily see individual and small groups of whales swimming north up the coast in their annual migration between their Antarctic feeding grounds and the warmer tropical waters off north-eastern Australia where they breed.
The weather was a delightful blend of gentle breeze and bright sunshine that was perfect for walking. We started off with a wonderfully flat walk along the cliff tops with the sea a startling blue to our left before meeting the one steep climb up a sand dune. There was a lot of water on the sandstone so we were constantly walking around pools and puddles.
We also passed several hanging swamps including the Blue Hole swamp, which looked for all the word like an English crop circle.
We stopped for lunch just below the lighthouse so we could enjoy the view of small boats out whale watching and teams of scuba divers exploring the waters below the cliffs. David even managed a brief snooze in the sun before we climbed the hill to look at the Cape Baily lighthouse.
This purely functional structure is an uninspiring block that does nothing to conjure up the magic of lonely lighthouse keepers. From the hill on which it stands you can see all the way to the city of Sydney to the north and to Bundeena to the south. In the clear air the city buildings looked like a model.
We made our way back to the car park and bought ice creams from the van there before departing separately. For the first time in a long time we didn’t gather for the traditional Cartophiles debrief possibly because so many of us were keen to listen to the Australia-France rugby test match.
The next Cartophiles walk is the overnight hike along the Old Great Northern Road on the weekend 28/29 June.