A superb series of coastal walks with plenty of beaches, caves and bays to explore within Munmorah State Conservation area. A quick 90-minute drive from Sydney this National Park is located just north of the Central Coast and east of Lake Macquarie on the Pacific Ocean.
Lake Macquarie Region, NSW
3 days/2 nights car camping (35kms)
Who walked with me?
My local walking group, suffering from months of COVID restrictions, were keen for an adventure that was safe, relatively close to home and did not involve carrying a heavy pack load. Enter the thrill of car-camping without careful preparation or weight considerations. We took what we wanted in our cars and unloaded it right next to our Frazer Beach Campsite. Walks were relatively easy finishing early afternoon. Plenty of time for a quick ocean dip before gravitating to our camp chairs to enjoy a leisurely afternoon of nibbles, wine, great company, and a pleasant sunset. If still hungry, we then prepared our evening meals at the BBQ stove tops or with our camp stoves.
Day 1: Caves Beach to Catherine Hill Bay (12.5km)
After arriving from Sydney, it was straight to the local coffee shop for the obligatory caffeine boost. Only after our coffees could we start seriously hiking. We drove around the corner to the Caves Beach car park and finally started walking south along the beach towards the famous caves for which this beach is renowned. A receding tide was the perfect opportunity for a quick look inside the cave’s impressive nooks and crannies.
Afterwards, we picked up the pace and walked along a coastal path above the rocky headlands southwards towards Catherine Hill Bay. We enjoyed lunch on the cliff’s edge, staring far into the ocean for distant views of migrating whales. I think I spotted a spout.
After walking 6kms, we turned around and returned to our cars. It is a short drive south to the National Park Entry Gate for Munmorah State Conservation Are. After a slow 20-minute dusty and bumpy ride, (almost mandatory AWD) we arrive at Frazer Beach and the designated Campground.
It is early afternoon, with plenty of light, allowing for a hassle-free relaxed camp set up. We soon get into the swing of things and sit once more.
Today’s walk is relatively easy and should suit most skill levels. Some walkers used trekking poles, but I did not find them necessary. For safely scrambling over trickier rocky surfaces I prefer to get low and create three anchor points using my hands and feet rather than use trekking poles which can become cumbersome and get in the way.
Plenty of alternative entry and exit routes exist along the rocky foreshores if you prefer not to scramble. The coastal rocks are great fun to walk on, particularly with the large rock pools that you will find filled with fresh seawater, seaweed, fish, and other marine life.
Day 2: Snapper Point to Catherine Hill Bay (17.5km)
With beautiful spring weather emerging at winter’s end, today was a magic day of walking. Instead of walking from our campsite, we arranged a car shuffle, depositing some cars near Catherine Hill Cemetery at the northern end of today’s walk. The remaining cars returned to pick up the rest of us and drive the walking group to the southern end, west of Snapper Point.
The walk starts on an exposed fire trail with little shade, but spring weather makes conditions ideal. I enjoyed identifying some of the local flora – Coastal banksias, bottlebrush, and pomaderris wildflowers. We enjoy a lovely saunter along Timber Beach to Ghosties Beach Caves.
Unfortunately, the tide was up so no opportunity to explore another great cavernous sandstone cave, but Caves Beach Caves were a great sampler of what is on offer in this area. Returning, we walk the entire length of Ghosties Beach before finding a suitable lunch spot at Flat Rocks Point.
In the afternoon we walk the Moonie Beach Trail and have great fun exploring the headland’s nooks and crannies walking deep into the popular tourist attraction, Deep Cave Bay. Surrounded by pristine aquamarine waters and bountiful fish and bird life, this bay is a popular site for local rock fishermen.
After crossing Hales Bluff, you descend to the sand and walk past the impressive Catherine Hill Bay Pier, or more correctly the Wallarah Jetty.
The New Wallsend Company discovered coal here in the late 19th century. They bought up the surrounding land, built the jetty, and began mining and shipping coal in 1873. They formed the township of Catherine Hill Bay to support the 100 miners employed to work at the Colliery. Rows of modest coal miner’s cottages, now beautifully renovated, line the streets of this small township. Unfortunately, a large sterile white housing development now dwarfs the original township.
When the Wallarah and Moonee collieries ceased mining, the jetty was closed in 2002. The jetty suffered fire damage to timber sections during the 2013 bushfires, but the steel and concrete structure remains sound and is impressive to see. The Wallarah Jetty remains in the hands of Lake Coal. In 2010, they estimated it would cost $3 million to restore the jetty. To-date its fate is still up in the air.
After walking beneath the jetty we return to Catherine Hill Bay, walk past the closed Catho Pub and seek a coffee amid the newly developed area. A return to our cars for the short drive back to the Frazer Beach campsite for more vino, cheese, and copious nibbles. Stuffed to the gills, we still cook our evening meal, thankful to have experienced this beautiful section of New South Wales coastline with favourable weather.
Day 3: Wybung Head and surrounds (5km)
After breakfast, we head out for a quick rock walk around Frazer Beach’s surrounds and venture as far north as Snapper Point. Beneath us we spot another great sea cave spurting sea spray as the waves advance and crash beneath us.
We return to our camp to pack everything away before heading out for one last headland. It is a short drive from our campsite to the end of Wybung Head Road to start the short 800m 20-minute Wybung Head return walk. A wide trail leads you to the end of the headland for grand views up and down the coastline. Beware of many large and crumbly cliffs here. It’s the perfect spot to end our short multi-day car camping and hiking holiday. Once we exit the park on dusty, crumbly roads, it is a quick 90-minute return drive to Sydney via the M1 motorway.
We based ourselves at Frazer Beach Campsite with space for a maximum of 12 tents (2 per site). They have covered the site in artificial grass, making tent setup easy with tent stakes holding solidly on this surface. Toilets, beach shower, and BBQ stovetop facilities are all within close vicinity of the campsite. You can reserve a booking through National Parks or follow this link here.