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Watson's Bay to Coogee

Watson's Bay to Coogee
Home > Diaries > 2022 > 1023


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THE DAY dawned perfectly still and sunny without a cloud in the sky. I caught the train to Circular Cay and boarded the Watsons Bay ferry. The harbour was the calmest I have seen over this trip with the still water ruffled only by the wakes of the numerous ferries and other boats making the most of the ideal conditions.

The ferry sped around the points of the southern half of the harbour, heading into Rose Bay before heading further up to Watson's Bay. Upon reaching the wharf, I headed off it and started walking along the foreshore over the almost mirror smooth turquoise water until reaching the next headland where a large obelisk marked a boom which once crossed the bay during World War II to help protect the harbour. After continuing around the headland, the path followed a narrow street to come out at Camp Cove, which was already very busy. Walking across the end of the beach I reached the Hornby Lighthouse walkway.

I followed it around the increasingly rugged headland with a military base to my right. The rocky headland was broken only by a small sandy patch at Lady Bay Beach. Shortly after this the terrain flattened to a grassy flat with an old lighthouse keeper's cottage built in 1858. As I passed the cottage I could see across the entrance of the harbour to Manly Head where I had hiked four days ago and perhaps just two kilometres away. The track turned passing the end of the headland and reaching the red and white striped lighthouse. From here I could see down to the exposed ocean with waves breaking at the bottom of the rugged cliffs. I stopped here for a while.

Continuing past the lighthouse, I reached another battlement built in the 1850s before the track descended to end the loop. From here I walked back down the short trail to Camp Cove Beach crossing the end of it again before continuing along the trail following the black and yellow fish signs winding up the hill avoiding the military base. Passing an old flat grassy area where soldiers once marched, the track entered scrubby bush ascending to the top of the ridge where I reached a lookout with high wire fence around it, perhaps to stop people from jumping off down the cliff below. From here the view of the rugged cliffs in either direction was very impressive.

From the lookout the track descended to another lookout at The Gap, where the cliffs reach their lowest point before rising to another hill. The path headed up this hill passing another old gun emplacement followed by another lookout with an overhanging sandstone slab over it. From here the track continued rising and falling over the hills near the edge of the cliffs passing more gun emplacements at Signal Reserve at the top of one hill. Nearby was a large white lighthouse with a radar towering above it. This replaces the first ever signals used here in Australia, with a signal flag used from 1790 and the first navigation light set up here in 1793.

By now the hills were not as rugged as they had been before. The path wound its way over the grass, but there was one lookout where a mirror pointed directly down to the waves crashing against the bottom of the cliff a long way below. A little further along the hill I passed another large white lighthouse before the track started to descend towards Clarke Reserve following a residential area. Upon reaching the bottom of the gully I had to divert around a residential area as the boardwalk starting here was closed due to storm damage. It was not long before I rejoined the track following a grassy area between the cliff and houses. Rising steeply towards the top of the hill but diverting again around more residential areas before reaching a playground at Weonga Reserve where the track followed the grass above the cliffs again. I passed an area famous for radio astronomy equipment used here between 1946 and 1954 making this spot one of the most important radio astronomy sites in the world. Some of the equipment still remained in the area.

The track continued along the grass to another park where it followed the footpath along a long road gradually descending into Bondi Beach. The long sweeping beach was the first I've seen since Manly Beach several days ago. Although there were clouds lining the southern horizon, the sky was otherwise still and clear and the temperature in the mid 20s. Making the most of this great weather were perhaps thousands of people on the beach and in the water in the breaking waves.

Here at this end of the beach the eighty kilometre Manly to Bondi walk concluded. From here on there were no black and yellow fish to look for. Just below where I was standing was a large rock swimming pool. After a brief rest here I walked along the crowded path above the beach. The path was very tidy, with a stone wall with nicely painted murals on it. Upon reaching the end of the beach, I followed the busy Bondi to Coogee path above the beach.

The view over the beach from here was amazing. In the distance was the outline of a large storm cloud heading towards the Newcastle area. Fortunately no storms were approaching this area. I followed the path above the rugged rock formations with large waves breaking out of the bright blue sea onto them. The wide paths had the occasional staircase negotiating its way up or down the sandstone formations. Passing a lookout at the end of the point at Mark's Park, the track descended rounding Tamarama Point into Tamarama Beach. The track went around the narrow beach stretching quite a way in. From here the track rose over the next point before descending into the pretty Bronte Bay. The beach was crowded but fairly short before I reached Bronte Baths and the track rose to go around the next headland.

Upon reaching the top of Lookout Point, I stopped and looked back along the coast where I could see back to the headland before Bondi Beach. Rounding more headlands and passing a large cemetery the coast swung around and the track descended to the long Shark Bay which was full of people.

Another headland climb and fall led to Gordon's Bay. There was not much of a beach here, but a lot of dinghys were tied up to some wooden framework on the rocks. The track rose onto the large grassy Goldstein Reserve before gradually descending to Coogee Beach.

I followed the path above the crowded beach until reaching the main village about half way along the beach. Here I finished the 19.2 kilometre hike from Watson's Bay, making a total 146.8 kilometres in seven days.

From the shops I caught a bus through the suburbs into the city centre stopping opposite the Hyde Park war memorial from where I was just two blocks away from where I was staying.


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