Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Coast Track Via Kayak: Cronulla to Stanwell Park

In 2012, Doug and I walked the Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford through the Royal National Park. We never gave a thought to kayaking this spectacular section of coast, but, as we spent more and more time in our kayaks, the idea of kayaking the Coast track became more and more appealing.

Near Burning Palms on the Coast Track

Jump forward four years and we found ourselves in Loftus after being rained out from a Blue Mountains climbing trip. What better way to spend a day between storms than paddling the east coast of the Royal National Park.

Mount Boyce waterfall after rain

Logistics for a car shuttle are relatively easy if time consuming. The South Coast rail line has hourly trains that stop at all the little stations south of - and including - Stanwell Park. So, if you launch from Cronulla it is convenient, if not quick, to walk to the train station from where ever you are able to land and take the train (two changes) back to Cronulla to retrieve your vehicle.

Sea cliff paddling south of Wattamolla

The first sheltered landing once you pass beyond the National Park boundary at Otford is Austinmer, although even this could be tricky with a northerly swell. We hoped to land at Stanwell Park, but were prepared to continue on to Austinmer.

Kilometres of sandstone cliffs

Sydney is so busy that even at 6.15 am the traffic was heavy on the suburban streets and it took 30 minutes to drive the short distance from Loftus to Cronulla. The boat ramp at Tonkin Park, just behind Cronulla train station, has about a dozen day long parking spaces so we launched from there.

It's hard to beat early mornings in a kayak

Paddling out to Jibbon Head, the sun was low in the sky and a gentle rolling swell was coming from the east. It was a fine day to spend on the water.
The first beaches and landing spots are at Marley which seems to come quickly as you enjoy the fantastic cliffs lining this section of the coast. It would have been easy to land at Marley, but we wanted to paddle in to the fresh waterfalls at Wattamolla Lagoon so carried on. Wattamolla is a deep bay sheltered in all weather and with the recent rainy weather, there were two waterfalls running over the sandstone cliffs into Wattamolla Lagoon. We had breakfast and a swim before continuing south.

Waterfalls at Wattamolla

Past Wattamolla, the cliffs get taller and the sandstone formations wilder. The little rocky bay at Curracurang is beautiful but it is the cliff top waterfalls at Curracurrong that are really spectacular. Curracurrong Creek was falling in a sheer twin drop over the 40 metre cliffs into clear green water below. Curra Brook was also running forming a third waterfall in this small rocky enclave. Past Curra Brook we started seeing huge schools of fish shoaling in the clear water. There are seaweed forests and rocky underwater reefs all easily visible from the kayak.

Curracurrong Falls

Garie North Head signals the end of the continuous cliff line. Beyond this point there are small wave washed beaches separated by shorter sections of cliff and the small enclaves of cabins tucked in semi-sheltered corner beaches. We landed at North Era for lunch noting that there was a lot more water in the creek than when we camped there 4 years before when we walked the Coast Track.

Curra Brook

Paddling south, there are more cliffs and small beaches, more schools of flashing fish until finally a couple of big landmarks appear - the elevated Sea Cliff Bridge south of Coalcliff and the paragliders launch site above Stanwell Park.

Near Curracurrang

Stanwell Park beach is steep, faces southeast and has no real shelter from the ocean swells. A nasty shore dump was running the length of the beach and it was hard to say any one place was better than another to land. We landed near the Surf Club because there were shelters and a big storm was obviously brewing. After carrying the boats up the beach, I trotted up a bush track, along suburban streets, past the shops, and across a pedestrian bridge to the railway station.

Doug landing at Stanwell Park in friendly conditions

Two changes of trains (Waterfall and Sutherland) later, as the rain was lashing down in sheets, I jogged along the streets to get the car. Doug, meanwhile, was sheltering in the stairwell of the Surf Club - at least until they locked the doors. In torrential rain, I drove from Cronulla to Stanwell Park chafing at the heavy traffic that is now a constant throughout Sydney. Amazingly, we got a break in the rain at Stanwell Park to load the boats on the roof before it began anew.