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Published January 27th 2016
Gosford's Bouddi National Park Shipwreck Walk
If you're lucky enough to visit the Central Coast, you'll be able to explore Gosford's Bouddi National Park. This walk is an easy 8 kilometres, divided into 3 sections if you don't have at least 4 hours to trek the whole journey. As with most of Australia's national parks, Bouddi features varied landscapes, wildlife and historical sites. The best aspects of the park are on display through this walk, including the striking remains of a paddle steamer, wrecked against the reef over 115 years ago.
Maitland Bay (by Alex Proimos at Wikipedia)
From Gosford, drive south for 20 kilometres along Mann St, Avoca Dr and Empire Bay Dr onto The Scenic Rd. Turn right onto Putty Beach Dr, parking near the campgrounds. Begin the walk on Putty Beach, continuing south-east on the wooden planks, turning to the right at the first junction. You've quickly reached Bullimah Beach, a tiny and secluded spot enclosed by the tall rocky cliff sides and thick foliage. Looking south, you may spot Barrenjoey Lighthouse and the ferries sailing north to Palm Beach. Return to the junction to take the other pathway leading east. The sharp turn northward marks Gerrin Point Lookout. From the windy platform, you can slowly gaze at the sweeping panaroma - lush rainforest to your left and warming sunshine glowing over Maitland Bay. Underfoot, the rectangular patterns of tessellated pavement continue expanding from the processes of salt crystallisation and sand erosion.
Tessellated pavement (by Sqityl at Wikipedia)
The ocean waters stretch to the horizon, broken only by migrating humpback whales birthing above the surface and spraying the air with a mist of water from their blow-holes. These giant mammals swim north from May, returning to Antarctic waters after August each year. An army of eager whale-watchers track their progress, recording sighting using the Wild About Whales smartphone app, Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Humpback whale spray (by werner22brigite at Pixabay)
As the walk veers east, you'll have completed 3 kilometres of the 8-km walk when you arrive at Maitland Bay. The creek marks the centre of the bay, named after the S.S. Maitland, the ship you'll shortly see from the water's edge. Follow the edge of the bay as it continues south-east. Step cautiously over the rocky path leading south to an outcrop. Atop the cliff face and at low tide (typically during the morning hours), you'll see the shipwreck of the Maitland. The rusting hull was trapped here ever since a violent gale drove the paddle steamer against the reef, tearing the 100-foot-long ship in half as 24 people slid into the swirling ocean, passing away on that frosty early morning in May, 1898.
Maitland Bay sun's glare (by FotoSleuth at Wikipedia)
Pass the Mount Bouddi walking track on your left, noting the rich earth colours of sandstone strata contrasting with the blues and whites of the Pacific Ocean. The walk curves northward again as you'll cross Caves Gully, a thin stream flowing into the Caves Bay. Heading inland, you'll enter deeper tracts of rainforest, dominated by the red-gum trees standing 30 metres high and glazed with white and red hues as bark is shed like an old snakeskin. Brushing past your legs, native wonga wonga vines weave in all directions, blossoming with delicate white bell flowers. Overhead, flashes of brilliant blue belong to the tiny superb fairy wren, hoping between branches. To the north, then eastward, you'll reach Little Beach, over 6 kilometres from your starting point.
Superb blue wren (by benjamint444 at Wikipedia)
As the forest opens to the ocean again, white-bellied sea eagles also leave the highest branches to pluck fish from 250 hectares of Marine Protected Area. The ocean's surface, ideal to snorkel beneath, hides an intricate reef with sponges, urchins and kelp forests. You can also camp, lulled to sleep by the sea's waves rhythmically lapping against the bay's sands. If you explore the walk at night, listen for the nocturnal inhabitants - sugar gliders sailing through the sky, licking the nectar of native wildflowers and the echoing hoots of masked owls.
When you're ready to re-enter the city, briefly exit the park to the north, stepping onto Beachview Esplanade. Look for any 'for sale' signs if don't want to leave, then turn right at Ocean Dr. Follow the thin path along MacMaster Parade, turning right again into the laneway after number 39 to reach Marine Parade and MacMasters Beach. At the south end of the beach, you can treat yourself to an ice cream or cold drink at Barefoot Cafe (footwear now optional).