I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published October 9th 2012
Peats Crater walk is the ultimate bushwalk at Muogamarra Nature Reserve, which can be found off the Pacific Highway just past Cowan on the northern fringes of Sydney. The walk is the longest available here, at five kilometres each way, and has an expected return time of four hours. Before you set out you will need to register at the entrance so that if you don't return to collect your car, it is clear what trail you are on. If you have never done the walk before, you may want to also collect a map and information sheet, which should be returned before you leave.
I completed the Peats Crater walk in three hours, and it was three hours of very beautiful and varied experiences. Before you even get to the beginning of the trail there is the J D Tipper lookout to enjoy. To find it you just need to follow the path that starts beside the building where you just registered. The lookout will be on your left. Another sight not to be missed in this area is an Aboriginal rock carving of a whale. Just continue along the trail and turn right at the sign for Peats Crater walk. You will find it on your left soon after.
Not far past the whale you will find the beginning of the real Peats Crater walk. The first part consists of wide road that can be quite steep and slippery at times, especially at the end as it zig-zags downwards quite sharply. Unfortunately this section is the one you will face last on your way back - ensure you have enough water and food to get through it. But don't worry, it's not all bad. On this section of the walk you will get the best chance to experience the wildflowers that Muogmarra Nature Reserve is known for.
Once you get to the bottom of the trail you will find Peats Crater, an area which was formed by volcanic activity in the Jurassic age. The crater is a actually a diatreme, which means it was once the root of a short-lived explosive volcano called a marr. It shot steam into the air in a violent reaction between water and hot magma, causing the rocks to cave in and then fill with breccia, which eroded faster than the surrounding sandstone and resulted in the landscape you see today. The soil here is quite fertile, and is only clear of trees because the original vegetation was removed to make farming land.
When registering, I was warned to not stop in this area because of the ticks. On the way through the first time I made sure to follow these instructions, despite seeing the tour taking place paused near some trees with no apparent concern. On the way back however I dawdled a lot more, taking photos now that no-one was around and I am very glad to say I did not experience any problem with ticks. However, it's probably best to be prepared and wear insect repellent. As well as ticks, this section is also known for kangaroos. I saw none, but the amount of kangaroo poo on the ground suggests they frequent the place.
After Peats Crater you will enter the rainforest section of the walk, which then starts to turn into mangroves. There are a few things to look out for along these flatter areas, such as the second crater, which is located to the right of the path just as the mangroves begin and looks like a wide, white sandy area obscured by trees. This area was once used as a cricket ground and was home to the Peats Ferry Cricket Club. Today it is home to the Peats Bight bush regeneration group, which keeps invasive species away.
The next sight to look out for is the remains of Peats Bight Guest House, which was originally the home of Joseph Izard, who built it in the late nineteenth century. To find the house, look out for a stone wall along the left of the path. When you reach it, head into the ferns on your right and you will find the remains of a building, including another wall and some stone blocks. If you have brought the information page along, you can try to match what you find with the house on the sheet.
Turn of the path when you see this wall to find the guest house
On the last part of the walk, you will be able to enjoy a beautiful stroll along the mangroves at the water's edge. The path ends with a jetty, which is really just a rocky section jutting out a little into the water. I had a picnic here (and admittedly took the time to read the information page so I could figure out where the guest house was, which I only located on the way back). It is a small area and it wasn't immediately apparent to me that I had made it to the end because I has expected more, but it does have a clear view of the Hawkesbury River.
The Peats Crater walk can be completed as part of a guided tour or unassisted like I did. However, Muogamarra Nature Reserve is only open from 9am to 4.30pm for six weekends around August and September each year, during the Spring wildflower season. At other times, it is closed to protect the area's sensitive natural and cultural heritage values. It may be difficult, but I recommend trying to work a visit into your schedule.