Somersby Falls is, deservedly, the best known and most visited of all the Central Coast
waterfalls. it is located on Floods Creek within the Brisbane Water National Park at
Somersby, and has a well-maintained picnic area, complete with toilets and barbecues.
With its cascading waters, lush rainforest, cool and green boulder-covered creek bed
and abundance of native birdlife, it’s a draw for both nature lovers and photographers.
Somersby Falls has a great picnic area, and is just 15 minutes’ drive from downtown Gosford.
THE TOP FALLS
The track to the bottom of the Top Falls (also known as the Main Falls) is well signposted and a short easy-to-moderate five-minute walk with a couple of optional detours on the way to lookouts. The falls are very picturesque and well worth visiting at any time, but really put on a show after heavy rain.
A short detour off to the left while on your way to the Top Falls will take you to what’s informally known as the Side Falls. Turn left soon after coming down the stairs towards the Top Falls from the picnic area and the pretty Side Falls are only a few metres along the left-hand track. These falls really only come into their own after heavy rain, but are still worth checking out as it’s such a quick and easy detour to get to them.
After spending some time at the Top Falls it’s worthwhile following the main track downstream to what’s known as Bottom Falls. The track is once again well signposted and maintained, and is only a further five-to-10 minutes’ easy-to-moderate walk from Top Falls. Once you get down the timber stairs, you’re almost there, but watch your step on the last few stone stairs as they can be quite slippery.
These falls and the small cascades around them are quite captivating, and can look so different depending on the amount of water flowing. It is cool and shady at the base of the falls so it’s a really good spot to take a moment and relax on a hot day. Bottom Falls is named so because it is at the base of the main part of the track but, for the slightly more adventurous, the track does continue downstream to more waterfalls and pools. It’s not quite as well maintained and a bit more difficult, but well worth the extra walk.
This waterfall is my personal favourite at Somersby Falls. It flows over a large overhanging rock and, after climbing down the right-hand side of the falls (facing downstream), you can walk in behind the falls(stooping so you don’t bang your head) and come out on the other side. From here you can get some good photos of the falls from a different angle and you can also continue further downstream. Another fantastic perspective is from behind the falls looking out through the curtain of water. A two-tiered rock shelf in front of the falls also provides a great spot for photographing the falls and the reflections in the surrounding pools of water.
POOL OF SERENITY
About another 10 minutes’ downstream from the Lower Falls is a serene and shady pool, fed by a small waterfall tumbling over a rock shelf. I don’t believe this pool has a formal name so I’ve called it the Pool of Serenity as it seems to describe it perfectly. The track to this spot is not as easy to follow and at times requires a bit more scrambling over the rocks and boulders of the creek bed, so it’s probably not recommended for the less agile.
It’s possible to detour off the main track about half way back up the track from Bottom Falls to the Top Falls to check out what I’ll call Second Falls. It’s a smaller waterfall just down stream from the Top Falls where the creek tumbles over a rock shelf into a small pool. Without heavy rain it is not much more than a trickle, but it is completely transformed after rain.
GIRRAKOOL LOOP TRACK WATERFALLS
Girrakool is probably the second most popular spot for waterfalls on the Central Coast. it’s located in the Brisbane Water National Park and, like Somersby Falls, has a picnic area with toilets and barbecues. National Park fees apply.
To see the best of the area’s waterfalls, follow the Girrakool looptrack, a moderate track about 2 km in length that takes about 30 to 40 minutes to complete (without stops).
PILES CREEK CASCADES
Start at the signposted entry to the track below the car park and behind the old picnic shelter to do the loop in a clockwise direction, and just follow the track for about five to 10 minutes to reach the first waterfall. Here you will find Piles Creek Cascades, a small set of cascades running over a rock platform and ending in a small waterfall. There’s not much to see here if there hasn’t been recent rain.
PILES CREEK FALLS
Head back to the track and continue until you see the signs for Broula Lookout and Bundilla Lookout, both of which have limited views of Piles Creek Falls, the largest of the waterfalls on this walk (Bundilla is the better of the two).
Continue on for another five to 10 minutes until you can hear (and possibly catch a glimpse of) a small waterfall off to the left of the track. To get to the falls you need to venture off the track and clamber down to the side of the creek. It’s not hard to climb down, but is easy to miss. This small un-named waterfall tumbling over a rock shelf is very picturesque with a sweeping branch of a gum tree reaching across the creek and lush green ferns to the right of the falls.
LEASK CREEK FALLS (ALSO KNOW AS ANDAMIRA WATERFALL)
Return to the track to continue on to Andamira Lookout, where you will get a filtered view of Leask Creek Falls.The falls are really beautiful after rain when they will be the undisputed highlight of the walk. But they do tend to dry up pretty quickly, in which case they will present as a mere trickle. It’s a lovely shaded spot and always worth a stop on this walk, with the hum of distant traffic from the M1 motorway the only thing spoiling the serenity. Once again, you need to climb down from the track to the side of the creek to get close to these falls and see them at their best, which is in front and centre. After enjoying Leask Creek Falls it’s back to the track for a relatively short walk back to the picnic area and carpark.
KARIONG BROOK FALLS
Kariong Brook Falls, located in the Brisbane Water National Park is one of the most beautiful and inviting of the Central Coast waterfalls. Surrounded by rock ledges and lush rainforest, with a delightful swimming hole at the base of the falls, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a peaceful oasis (especially if you visit on a quiet day, which, fortunately, is most days outside school holidays).
The rock ledges make great picnic/rest spots and the pool at the bottom of the falls is big and deep enough for a proper swim and is kept cool and refreshing thanks to shade from the trees.
There are a few scenic walks through the park that access the falls, but the shortest and most direct is from Woy Woy Rd in Kariong. The start of the track is about 300 metres’ south (in the direction of Woy Woy) of Staples Lookout, and is the best place to park.
Once again, these falls are most impressive after heavy rain, although it’s a lovely spot to visit at any time. If you’re so inclined, there may even be a rope swing hanging over the pool (use at your own risk).
The walk to and from Kariong Brook Falls is about a six-kilometre round trip. While most of the walk is on wide fire trails with a slight slope, the last few hundred metres is a relatively steep clamber on a narrow trail over rocks from the plateau down into the secluded, rainforest gully. Although it’s challenging, it’s my favourite part of the walk in (I’m not quite so keen on it when climbing back up). To be safe, allow 90 minutes to two hours for the return walk, plus some time to enjoy the falls and pool once you arrive.
Starting at Staples Lookout, head south (towards Woy Woy) walking along the edge of Woy Woy Rd. Take care as the cars travel past pretty quickly at this part of the road (there’s a bit more room on the verge, on the same side as Staples Lookout). Keep an eye out on the other side of the road for a locked fire trail gate and a sign to The Great North Walk about 300 metres along from the lookout where you can cross the road to the start of the trail. (Note: There is no signage at this point regarding Kariong Brook Falls.)
Stay on Tommos Loop Trail for about 2km until you reach an intersection with the Hawkesbury Track. Turn right onto the Hawkesbury Track, which will then take you all the way down to the falls. (Just before this turn-off there is a sign saying this track goes to Girrakool. There is no mention of Kariong Brook Falls.
Strickland Falls is located in the Strickland State Forest with the entrance on Strickland Rd (off Mangrove Rd) in Somersby. This forest is the ecotourism gem of the Central Coast and for a small forest – it’s only 5 sq. km – it has an amazing diversity of fauna and flora.
According to the NSW State Forestry Corporation’s website, its impressive variety of flora and fauna species, includes about 350 plants – wildflowers, heath woodland, tall eucalyptus and lush rainforest – 98 birds, 29 reptiles, 27 mammals, 20 amphibians and four fish species.
Strickland State Forest was inducted into the Hunter Central Coast Tourism Awards Hall of Fame after winning the Gold Award for Ecotourism three years in a row (in 2011, 2012 and 2013). It was also awarded Silver Award for Ecotourism at the NSW Tourism Awards in both 2013 and 2014.
STRICKLAND FALLS WALK
The Strickland Falls walk is one of a number of bushwalks in Strickland State Forest and is a 1.6-kilometre circuit of moderate difficulty, starting from the Banksia carpark. The falls are about half way along the circuit and, of all the Central Coast’s waterfalls, they are the most dependent on heavy rains. You really need to visit very soon after heavy rain (or during) to see the falls flowing freely as most times there is barely a trickle of water flowing over the falls.
Don’t let this dissuade you from visiting the forest and enjoying this and the other walks, as they are among the most lush and beautiful in the region. The forest has excellent picnic facilities including a shelter, picnic tables and toilets and access is free.
Ironbark Falls at Mangrove Mountain is a hidden and relatively unknown gem among the Central Coast’s waterfalls. the signage indicates it is a Central Coast Council reserve, but it isn’t listed in the reserves on the Council’s website and there is very little information about the falls online.
Once you arrive at the start of the walk on Ironbark Rd it’s a very short and accessible walk to the falls where you’ll be greeted with a surprisingly impressive and very picturesque waterfall tumbling into a lush and serene little hideaway. As with most waterfalls, Ironbark Falls is at its best after heavy rains.
The track to the falls is pretty neglected and, although we spotted a wooden picnic table with benches off to the side of the track, it was heavily overgrown and a bit of a rough-and-ready spot for a picnic. Don’t let this deter you from a visit as there are spots in front of the falls to rest and have a picnic with the beautiful backdrop of the falls and its serene surroundings.
To get to Ironbark Falls Reserve just put Ironbark Rd, Mangrove Mountain into your GPS (or Maps in your phone)and track about 1 km down Ironbark Rd from the turn-off from Wisemans Ferry Rd. Look for the old Council sign for ‘Ironbark Falls Reserve’ on your right and you will see a small area off the road on this side to park.
It’s less than a 10-minute walk from here to the falls, but look out for the overgrown information sign on your left a short way down the track and take the left branch of the track. Going straight ahead will take you to a man-made weir instead of the falls.
WORDS AND PHOTOS KEVIN MORGAN, MAGIC LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY