Where has the time gone! Another week has seemingly slipped by and we are already seven months into the year. It has been a while since my last blog post too (thank you for the gentle reminder Kenneth) and although I am accomplishing much, the days are ending far too quickly.
I have been getting a little snowed under lately too with ‘doing’ so I thought I would take some time for a little Zen ………and a smattering of meaningful gratitude never goes astray. So with a ‘no work and no commitments’ day on the agenda, I decided to hike a longer version of the Bathers Way Coastal Walk.
This delightful walk not only highlights the beaches of Newcastle but it also provides the perfect opportunity to explore our stunning coastline of jagged cliffs, steep headlands, reefs, rock pools and the rich environments of the rock platforms. Newcastle also has some serious bragging rights by offering up some of the most beautiful beaches and surf sites in the world and you do get to truly appreciate them on this walk. This is also a great way to spot some wildlife, explore historic sites and brush up on the indigenous and convict history which has so significantly shaped this area.
This walk can take as long or as short as you like depending on the pace you set, which tracks you travel and what you do along the way. I stopped at each of the beaches, navigated the stunning rock platforms and deviated well off the sealed pathways which lengthened my walk considerably. I like to think that of all the paths we take in our lifetime, making time to seek out and wander the areas less travelled can be the most rewarding.
Now I love to walk and I pretty much walk everywhere. To me, walking is a little like love. It can be your most wonderful journey that never really has an ending. Walking also clears my mind, gives perspective to my thoughts and it allows me to unwind. It is during these times that I really do ‘my best thinking’. It is just me and a big world and tiny shards of peace and calm.
So, fueled up on a breakfast of Uncle Toby’s oats and a banana smoothie I began my walk at Nobbys beach and finished near the lovely coastal wilderness of the Glenrock State Conservation Reserve in the south. The winter weather was perfect. Blue skies and mostly sunny so here’s the skinny on how I spent my day……
Horseshoe Beach: I had decided to begin my walk from the end of the breakwall just up from Nobbys Lighthouse so to get there I took a short cut through Horseshoe Beach. This is a leash-free-dog-friendly beach. Moments of pure happiness look so different from a dog’s point of view and I don’t think there is anything more endearing than a happy dog.
Nobbys Breakwall: This impressive man-made structure, 1.8 kilometers in length, is located at the entrance to the Newcastle harbor and my daily walks often bring me here a couple of times a week. From this imposing vantage point you can whale watch and spot pods of bottle nosed dolphins. And how lovely is this……a couple of long nosed fur seals have taken up residence on the breakwall. They arrive around the same time each year to spend their days swimming, fishing, soaking up a few rays, raising their sweet little pups which are birthed here and they have been known to hitch a ride upon the rudders of passing ships. Out on the breakwall you do need to watch for the occasional rogue wave and strong gale force winds but apart from that it is pretty near perfect.
Nobbys Beach: A huge favorite with Novacastrians and for all of the right reasons. This beautiful beach is perfect for body surfing, swimming and those learning to surf. It has a 6 day a week lifeguard service and on Sundays the volunteers from the Nobbys Surf Lifesaving Club provide beach patrols. Nobbys is the first beach on the Bathers Way Coastal Walk…or the last depending on which end you start at. It is a beautiful beach and one of my favorite haunts where I regularly hit the surf.
Historic Soldiers Baths Rock Pool: This enchanting ocean pool was constructed in 1882. I love ocean pools and the ones dotted around the Newcastle coastline date back to the convict era. This is also one of the loveliest of places to snorkel.
Cowrie Hole: Cowrie Hole with its rocky platforms, pelicans, rock fishermen and its lovely rock pools is a beautiful spot. It has also been described as having the most perfect yet sharp, unforgiving reef break around. I come to this little part of the world almost daily. It is also here on the beach that I find my rare sea glass, more precious to me than diamonds and rubies. It can get pretty packed out on the waves and it is a break for the experienced surfer plus you also need to watch for rips and the occasional shark but to me, Cowrie Hole is winsome beyond imagination.
Newcastle Ocean Baths: This distinctively beautiful art deco pavilion is one of this city’s most impressive and historic landmarks. Construction of the baths began in 1910 and they are still as popular today as they were when first built.
The Canoe Pool: How sweet is this. Though long buried by sand and sea water, this little pool has an old concrete map of the world etched into its floor. It was constructed around the same time as the Ocean Baths were being built.
Newcastle Beach: Undoubtedly one of the best surf locations and where you are guaranteed to catch the perfect wave. It can get packed and busy out there on the waves and a little bloodletting does occur every now and then…..I think they call it friendly rivalry but it is fascinating to watch. Apart from that it is a beautiful beach and perfect for swimming. It is patrolled, adjacent to the Time Tunnel Mural and it is pretty much smack bang in the heart of the city. The surf here can get BIG…..and very beautiful so it is another of my favorite haunts. From the rock platforms, you can also watch the many pods of dolphins leap-fishing among the waves. What could be more lovely…..
The endangered ecological Themeda Grasslands which are also commonly known as Kangaroo grass. Winter has colored much of the landscape and grasslands around Newcastle.
Shepherds Hill Fort: Remnants of a key defence post used from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. This historic fortification, rich with history, will now be considered for the highest level of heritage protection.
Bogey Hole: This beautiful, heritage listed sea bath and swimming hole was amazingly cut into the rock by convict labor in 1819. It is also thought to be the oldest surviving European construction in the city.
Bathers Way also encompasses Newcastle’s Memorial Walk: This walk was opened at sunset on April 24th 2015 to commemorate the centenary of World War I and the opening of the BHP Newcastle Steel works in 1915. This memorial is thought provoking with its stunning backdrop of the Newcastle coast line.
From vantage points along my walk I stood and watched the languid movement of the ocean, pods of dolphins and the whales whose lovely journey seems to move along slower than forever. We are seeing several hundred whales a day pass by our coast line now and they are coming in closer to the shoreline too.
When off the beaten track I saw the tussocky native Mat Rush grasses, coastal spinifex, Banksia, pig face with is lovely magenta flowers, wattles, tea trees, rushes and fan flowers.
At each of the beaches along the way you will also find signs which have been posted among the dunes. These are Landcare signs. Landcare is a volunteer organization, who along with local Council’s Bushland Services team, work together to rehabilitate, preserve and restore each of the local coastal dune systems which are incredibly fragile and vulnerable. Landcare also works toward bush regeneration, dune stabilization, the propagation of seeds of native and indigenous plants for Landcare sites and they also record local flora and fauna. It is an invaluable and wonderful community organization…….hope to see you at a Landcare site soon.
Bar Beach: A lovely family beach with a rock pool however it does get some big powerful swells. It is also the perfect place to watch the hang gliders who launch from Strzelecki Lookout.
Dixon Park Beach: I dug my feet in the wet sand searching for pipi’s while watching the sea birds. It was peaceful and very quiet here although it does get busy in summer…..as most beaches tend to do.
Merewether Beach: Home to Surfest. More than three decades on, this surfing comp has become one of the largest surfing festivals in Australia. Merewether also offers up amazing waves and great board riding conditions and although very popular, it is a nice place to hang out for a while. If the weather turns a little persnickety, and it does, then you have the Beach hotel directly opposite which makes for an excellent viewing platform of all things oceanic.
Merewether Ocean Baths: Just a short stroll from Merewether beach, these ocean baths feature the historic Ladies Rock Pool and the Surf House which is heritage listed. The baths are also home to the famous Merewether Mackerels Winter Swimming club. It is also the largest ocean baths complex in the southern hemisphere.
Glenrock State Reserve: I ended my walk at the tranquil reserve of Glenrock. This is a protected conservation area with walking tracks, trails, waterfalls and beaches. It is next on my list for exploration.
Something quiet charming also happened while on my walk. I took my wetsuit with me, rolled up in my backpack, so I could stop and have a body surf at the end of the day. The water temp was around 12 degrees which I did find a tad cold but the waves were around two feet, lovely and rolling which I found absolutely perfect. After my surf, I sat on the beach with a steaming mug of coffee in a bid to get some warmth back into my bones. I was looking at my skin, fascinated by the varying shades of blue it can turn when I am in the water in winter when a man, clad only in board shorts, jogged past. He looked over seventy, was seriously fit and well tanned. He turned around and jogged past me again before stopping in front of me. Facing the ocean, he then performed several star jumps, planking and some very impressive yoga stretches and postures. He winked at me then jogged off down the beach, his silhouette eventually disappearing amid the heavy sea haze. I was so taken with his bravado and I truly delighted in this very Monty Pythonesque moment. Good on him, life is far too short not to live it up a little I say.
On this walk, round trip beginning from my front door, I covered 27.8 kilometers which is around 17 plus miles. I guess every now and then you just need a moment or a hike or something quite wonderful like a very flexible septuagenarian to make you realize that very often the best adventure is in what lies ahead………xx