The Darkinjung people aptly named the prominent headland between Bateau Bay and Forresters Beach ‘Wyrrabalong’, meaning ‘headland looking over the sea’. It was officially listed as Wyrrabalong by the Assistant Surveyor Felton Mathew in 1831, but was not designated as a national park until 1991, saving the area from the threat of proposed sand mining for all time.
Wyrrabalong National Park conserves the last patch of coastal rainforest on the Central Coast. Its 620 hectares stretch from North Wyrrabalong (north of The Entrance), to South Wyrrabalong (south of The Entrance) and four islands within Tuggerah Lake (Pelican Island, Terilbah Island and two unnamed islands known locally as Bird Islands).
The Coast Walking Track lies between Forresters Beach and Bateau Bay and boasts as many features as one could wish for on a walking trail — from its wide variety of native flora and fauna to the breathtaking views from Crackneck Lookout, and the echoing sounds of the waves crashing onto the rock platforms below.
Crackneck is said to have been so named for cattle falling over the top of the cliff. (See Once Upon a Time in… Bateau Bay in COAST Spring issue 2019.)
The great thing about this trail is that you can choose one of three starting points: Bateau Bay Picnic area, Cromarty Hill or, as we did, Crackneck Lookout which shortens the walk to just over 3 km return, and is clearly sign-posted.
The start of the trail is lined with stunning, overhanging Sydney Red Gums or Angophoras that lure you onward with a taste of what lies ahead. You will meander along clifftops that let you savour the spectacular coastal views as you go. The walk runs through the long, thin strip of coastal forest before returning via the quarry of boulders that majestically consume the shoreline along its beaches.
A significant population of the vulnerable melaleuca can also be found behind the safety fence directly south of Wyrrabalong Lookout. There are woodlands of blackbutt, spotted gum and bloodwood along the plateau, with shrubs and heath (mostly coastal banksia and she-oak) on the gentler slopes to the west. Look for the cabbage tree palm forests, and formidable vine thickets, as well as trees like swamp mahogany, bangalay, corkwood, hard quandong and endangered magenta lillypilly.
Crackneck Lookout is a popular spot for both hang-gliding, as well as paragliding and the kids love watching the adrenaline seekers take flight. Wyrrabalong Lookout is 130 metres above sea level and is the highest point on the coast between Sydney and Newcastle. From here you can see Forresters, Wamberal and Terrigal beaches in the distance.
The Bateau Bay Picnic area at the northern end trail has the only public toilets on the whole Coast Walking Track and no drinking water, so please be prepared to bring plenty of water.
The NSW Wildlife Atlas has records of the park as home to 144 bird, 29 mammal, 19 reptile and 8 amphibian species within the park.
June, July, October and November are the best times for whale watching so bringing a pair of binoculars is a no-brainer as the sight of the ‘mighty migration’ from Crackneck Lookout is not to be missed.
The total elevation of this walk is only 52 metres and is rated as a grade 3 so it’s suitable for all fitness levels. However, being a sandy trail it can be somewhat demanding underfoot and gives the calf muscles a good workout. The most challenging sections are the metal staircase and the final climb to the Wyrrabalong Lookout.
Distance 3 km return
Time suggested 1 hour 15 mins to 1 hour 45 mins
Rated Grade 3
What to bring sunscreen, hat, drinking water. Remember to take your binoculars if you want to bird watch or whale watch.
Parking From Crackneck Lookout, at the end of Hilltop Street, Bateau Bay. From Forresters Beach, at Cromarty Hill Road. and photos Kim Cole