Monthly Archives: June 2010

Whale Tails from Cape Solander

Willing whale watcher

Whilst still waiting for Jones baby number two to make an appearance, we decided last Thursday to head down to Cape Solander in Kamay Botany Bay National Park to see if we could spot some whales on their migration North. On the way down I had been careful to set expectations with my two and a half year old that we might not see any whales (or dolphins) as they could be “hiding” underneath the water. Luckily I was wrong.

At the Cape we joined a small crowd of others, lucky enough to be free for a spot of ocean gazing on a Thursday afternoon. Unless you can get out in a suitable vessel there is a much smaller window of opportunity to watch the whales from the shore during the winter since on the trip North they travel further inshore to avoid the Eastern Australian Current whereas on the migration South back to the Antarctic they head offshore to take advantage of the favourable current.

There are quite a few spots in Sydney where you can watch from the shore including Long reef and North Head. Cape Solander is a good spot for people who are less mobile as you can drive right up to the lookout spot and gaze out to sea from your car.

The view South

However if you are taking small children it is advisable to have plenty of pairs of hands to supervise as although there is a barrier, it is not childproof and the cliff edge is only about 10 metres from the roadway. If you want to concentrate on the whale spotting you’ll need another adult around to take turns.

Superb Blue Wren or Variegated Wren?

We got out and had a look from the viewing platform where a group of volunteers are camped out counting the whales as they pass. They also were able to tell us that the majority of sightings including the ones we saw were humpbacks and they post the tally on a white board nearby.

We were lucky enough to spot about ten whales in four separate groups and got a good look at them through the binoculars. I even managed to capture a few on camera, but sadly, like my Jibbon Beach dolphins the photos are purely evidence that we were not telling tales!

What a fluke!

What I found particularly interesting was the speed at which each pod was passing us. They certainly had a bit of pace on, keen to reach the warmer waters of Queensland, which I can completely understand!

Even though you don’t get to see these beautiful creatures as clearly as you would from a whale watching vessel, for me the pleasure is in simply seeing enough of a splash to know that they are there, making their annual trip North as they have done for centuries.

Useful Information

Cape Solander is also a good starting point for a number of coastal walks South through Botany Bay National Park and into the Royal. Unfortunately for us the start to the walk had been cordoned off for some reason.

The National Park has a visitor centre which includes a discovery centre as well as an environmental education centre that is used by school groups. The visitor centre has an exhibition that depicts the first meeting between aboriginal people and the crew of the Endeavour as well as some beautiful marine art on display. There is also a small theatre that screens a short film of whale footage in the bay and surrounding coastline as well as recordings of whale songs which Tess was not completely convinced about!

The visitor centre also provides some useful information and pamphlets on whale watching and wildlife in the park, plus a gift shop and kiosk.

Getting There

Cape Solander is about one hour drive South of Sydney CBD. Parking is available at the visitor centre and a shuttle bus runs on weekends to take you to the lookout. There is also parking at the point which was plentiful on a weekday but may be crowded on a weekend.

Google Map

Other popular whale watching spots in NSW

  • Cape Byron
  • Iluka Bluff
  • Angourie Headland
  • Muttonbird Island
  • Smoky Cape
  • Tacking Point
  • Point Perpendicular
  • Seal Rocks Lighthouse
  • Boat Harbour
  • Newcastle Headlands
  • Wybung Head
  • Norah Head
  • Crackneck Lookout
  • The Skillion
  • Coppacabana
  • Gerrin Point
  • Box Head
  • Barrenjoey Head
  • Bilgola Head
  • Long Reef Point
  • North Head
  • Dobroyd Head
  • South Head
  • Bondi’s Ben Buckler
  • Stanwell Tops
  • Jervis Bay
  • Moruya Head
  • Montague Island
  • Eden
  • Boyds Tower
  • Green Cape


Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Wildlife Preservation Society Australia

International Fund for Animal Welfare (Whale pages)

Australian Society of Marine Artists

Capturing a Whiff of Salty Air

This little chap is a long way from his clifftop home in Cornwall

There seems to have been a bit of a theme running in my recent posts about getting outside despite the weather and embracing winter. As the arrival of baby Jones number two fast approaches, accompanied by some serious nesting behaviour I have now had to get my head around the prospect of spending more than a few weeks in the vicinity of home.

They say our homes are a reflection of our personalities and for me this is about bringing the outdoors in and unleashing the amateur interior stylist in me!

Here are a few quick snapshots of favourite treasures collected on my travels that transport me to the sea when there won’t be a whiff of salt in the air for a while.

Whilst I am closer to home I’ll endeavour to write some more practical posts; look out for “Choosing lifejackets for kids and dogs”, lots of great book reviews and some winter warmers on the recipe front. All being  well we’ll be back on, in or arond the water very soon!

Books on Boats and Things That Float

My Old Man and the Sea...

Whatever it is in life that floats your boat, is there anyone who doesn’t enjoy a couple of hours fossicking about in a book shop, flicking through the pristine pages of books on your favourite topic?

Over the years I have gathered a bit of a collection of nautical books, which when combined with Reg’s collection is the beginnings of a maritime library. When it’s cold, wet and windy outside, and for whatever reason you’re not at sea, what better way to while away the afternoon than with your nose stuck in K Adlard Cole’s classic “Heavy Weather Sailing” or a big colourful coffee table book showcasing the best of Beken of Cowes marine photography? It is for this very reason that Reg refuses to part company with twenty years worth of Yachting World, Australian Sailing and Offshore subscriptions. I have a dream that one day I’ll be able to dedicate an entire room of the house to boat books, a sailor’s drawing room if you like. Yes, I’m a boat book geek.

Step inside...if you have a few hours to spare....

This afternoon, in the absence of such a refuge, I indulged in a couple of hours of blissful arm chair sailing when I popped in to Boat Books in Crows Nest. If you’re a sailor, boater or a fan of anything remotely nautical or of a coastal inclination and you haven’t heard of Boat Books then keep reading.

Established for over thirty years and now with shops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as a comprehensive online catalogue, Boat Books is the one stop shop for marine literature, charts and chart software. The thing that strikes you most when you browse through the shelves is the volume and variety of marine related books in stock. Far more than you’d be able to locate at the biggest general book store (5500 items in stock to be precise). Everything from the practicalities of repairing and maintaining diesel engines, mending sails, building wooden boats and plotting a safe course, through to seafood cookery books, marine and naval history, novels, marine photography and poetry, would appear to be available. There is something for everybody and if not I’m sure enquiries could be made to source what you are looking for.

Natural history meets Navy

Boat Books is also an official agent for Australian, British Admiralty, New Zealand and Fijian charts and offers a correcting service for charts you may already have. You can also purchase your digital charts and navigational software here whether for commercial or recreational purposes.


A tea towel for the galley?

With titles like “Do Whales Get the Bends?”, “Dinner with the Fishwife” and “If Matthew Flinders Had Wings” it was a miracle I came out empty handed on this occasion. The only thing missing from the Boat Books experience was a nice cup of tea to sip whilst flicking through the pages of my next Christmas, birthday, anniversary present etc. Next time you are stuck for a gift for a boating enthusiast check out the online catalogue. In the meantime the gallery below will give you a flavour of what’s available.  Boat Books will have a stand at the Sydney Boat Show at Darling Harbour where Jessica Watson will be signing copies of her new book: True Spirit.

My trip to the book shop got me thinking about whether there is an absolute all time classic boat book. Perhaps its Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World or Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons? What’s your all time favourite?


Boat Books Australia

Sydney  International Boat Show

Rain Fairies Work Their Mushroom Magic

Magic Mushrooms

There seemed no end to the rain this week. Today the sun did come out and even though a hectic birthday party circuit put pay to a tinny trip this weekend, I did spot this amazing explosion of fungi bursting from a tree trunk at Gray’s Point when taking Rhubarb down to the point for swim.

I think the tree may have been dead or dying and the fungi visual proof of the rotting wood inside the trunk, boosted by the recent heavy rainfall. Not having an Australian fungi field guide, I turned to the internet to try and identify them and came across a great site with lots of photos. I think they might be “Orange Fan Brackets” or Anthracophyllum archeri,  described by Bill Leithhead as: “Cap to 35 mm, pale orange to bright red, usually reddish-brown. Gills decurrent, shallow and widely spaced, paler colour than cap, duller; maybe adnate to very short lateral stem. Spore print white. Australian forests and woodlands.” Although they may not be orange enough? Are there any fungi folk out there in the blogosphere? 

The aroma of the fungi was almost as impressive as the vision; if I could have identified them as edible they’d have been whipped into my favourite Antonio Carluccio mushroom risotto to warm the cockles!

Bad Weather Always Looks Worse Through a Window

Sunshine on a rainy day

I couldn’t agree more with whoever penned this anonymous anecdote. Despite the fact that I have lately been complaining on the domestic front about the incessant rain we have had in Sydney, we did manage to get out in the tinny between the showers, the Sunday before last. I have been so busy catching up on washing and drying since that I haven’t had time to write about it.

Its also true that kids don’t notice the cold and only care about getting wet when adults make a fuss. I’m also a great believer in going outside and getting cold, just so you can come back in, put the kettle on and get warm again, not to mention the lack of crowds at the boat ramp.

So with all this in mind we rugged up and headed down to Southwest Arm to get out of the house and cure the encroaching cabin fever, armed with a thermos full of Bill Granger’s tomato soup and “healthier” chocolate brownies.

Lucky Dip

Even if you don’t have a tinny I highly recommend embracing the rain and getting out into some native bush to blow away the cobwebs. There will be lots of waterfalls running and the moisture really brings out that unmistakable blend of eucalypt, moss and sandy Sydney soil. If you’re still not convinced here’s a couple of rainy day quotes to coax you into it.

Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.  ~Author Unknown

For the man sound in body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.  ~George Gissing, “Winter,” The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, 1903

I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains.  One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness.  ~Adeline Knapp

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