Secret Water…Somewhere on the Hawkesbury

Autumn Morning Mist on the Hawkesbury

Where’s your Secret Water? Last weekend we were lucky enough to join some friends at their very own secret water on the Hawkesbury, and because they’d like it to stay that way there will be no Google maps or Navionics charts with this post!

The Hawkesbury is one of the major rivers of the coastal region of New South Wales, a river system that virtually encircles the metropolitan area of Sydney. First explored in 1788, the river was a major transport route for food during the 1800s and as such at various locations along its meandering banks is a treasure chest of settler and convict relics; sandstone buildings made to last and convict built wharves peeping out from under the mangroves and gum trees.

A couple of days sitting by the river, an impromptu long lunch with old friends (accessible only by boat) and a brisk morning walk in the bush, had me dreaming once again of a sea change. An hour from Sydney and a million miles from care.  

Tide on the Bend

The 2004 film the Oyster Farmer was filmed on unrevealed locations along the river, epitomising, as the film did, the draw of living in one of the many boat access only communities dotted along its banks.

The Hawkesbury River is home to Australia’s Last River Boat Postman who delivers mail, milk, groceries and newspapers to isolated homes and hamlets. You can cruise the Hawkesbury with the River Boat Postman as he delivers his goods along with an interesting and knowledgeable commentary of the river and its history. But be careful, because if you do pay the ferryman, like me you will likely be Googling Hawkesbury River Real Estate and calculating travel times to work to secure your very own secret water. I hear the Spencer Village Store is up for sale…..

Hidden Treasure up The Georges River

Treasure Hunting

It often happens that when out and about in the tinny there is more to look at and see than can be covered in one blog post, and I return home with a memory card full of photos and a brain buzzing with inspiration. Thus was the case after we’d spent a couple of hours snapping vintage boats at the Variety Club Putt Putt Regatta back in March.  The smell of two stroke and diesel fumes we’d inhaled after loitering around the regatta course was eventually too much for us so we cranked up the Mercury and went exploring up The Georges River. Georges River is quite different to Port Hacking, deeper, less sandy and I’m told offers a higher likelihood of an encounter with a noah (that’s shark for anyone not familiar with the Aussie slang).

This little jaunt was the perfect example of why sometimes its best to just follow the river and see where it takes you.  We cruised up the river at a refreshing 15 knots, admiring the waterside shacks, boatsheds and jetties, belonging to an array of residences ranging from opulent to “shabby chic”. We didn’t get all the way up the river (an adventure for another day) but grumbling tummies led us to stop in Como where we expected to find perhaps a café or kiosk offering the usual marina style fare of fish and chips, ice cream etc.

Hmmm...GPS not updating fast enough!?

To our surprise we came across an unusual combination of chandlery, granny craft and Asian cuisine. We pulled up at the Como marina where you can hire tinnies for the day and browsed around the charming chandlery, an outlet providing for all the practical requirements of the small boat owner and fisherman as well as some nauticalia for your home or boatshed such as mobiles and model boats.

Crab nets... a bargain at twice the price!


Just outside the store was the “Café de Dogge” where your salty sea dog can help himself to a drink and be tied up if necessary. Sadly Rhubarb wasn’t with us to do her own review of the facilities.

Cafe de Dogue

Wandering on we passed a quirky little shop “The Marina Craft Nook”, stocked with beautiful creations from an array of local artists and crafters, seemingly manned by one of their elderly husbands sitting on a deck chair. Beautiful little girls dresses selling for a song that would fetch four times the price in a mosman boutique and knitted tea cosies that tugged at my heart strings saying “pick me”.

Take me home in time for tea!

Marina Craft Nook

We finished the trip with a casual Thai feast enjoyed in the shade of a beautiful garden that belongs to the Thai Rim Nan, a restaurant that resides tastefully in a gorgeous weatherboard heritage cottage at the entrance to the Marina.

The Thai Rim Nam

 Heading home via the boat ramp at Tom Ugly’s bridge where we launched, I had to reconcile myself with the decision not to purchase the pink hobby horse OR the $8 crab net. Much to Chris’ dread I’ll have to go back.

Sorely tempted


Google Map

Tom Ugly’s Boat Ramp

This map shows the marina at Tom Uglys Bridge on the western side of the bridge. We launched the tinny on the eastern side of the bridge which is accessible via a slip road from either side of Princes Highway. The ramp can be a little slippery and easier to launch with two people.

Como Marina Boat Hire

Grays Point to Jibbon Beach: Autumn Days on Port Hacking

Tinny Track to Jibbon Beach

A clearing fog, steam powered chugger, dolphins splashing off Jibbon beach and little boys fishing from the wharfs dotted along the river bank. Just picture it. Well actually you’ll have to because a combination of wriggling toddler, unsympathetic tinny skipper, technical camera problems and having the agility that comes with being  seven months pregnant meant I hardly captured any of it on camera. By the time we got to Jibbon beach the camera was actually confiscated from me due to the ridiculousness of my predicament and the general angst it was causing on board. Imagine the chaos if Rhubarb had been in attendance?

When we got to Jibbon beach my frustration evapourated. What a stunning spot to pull up for morning tea and a dig around in the sand.

Jibbon Beach

No sooner had we laid eyes on the beach and started assessing how to land, I spotted some activity in the water beyond an anchored dive boat; dolphins! I’ve seen my fair share of dolphins on races and deliveries and the thrill of getting close to them never goes away. This time though the thrill was taken to a level I haven’t experienced before. Sharing the moment with your two year old daughter for the first time and who has so far only seen dolphins in story books, was simply magic. I wish I could have bottled the excitement. Of course the confiscated camera was immediately reclaimed but I’m afraid the shots I managed are, at best, just evidence of what we saw, along with a vast number of snaps of splashes and ripples where dolphins had been.

Spot the fin

And a nose....?

Absolute Proof!

The pod of dolphins soon departed and we headed back toward the beach to attempt to land. However not long after we pulled up we realised that the small surge would actually make landing the tinny a bit tricky with the current capabilities of the crew on board so we set the anchor, cracked open the thermos and put the camera away. A happy hour was then spent soaking up the autumn sun.

Useful information and activities

  • Jibbon beach is part of a number of Royal National Park bush walks and makes a great spot for a picnic a swim or as a stop off on the way to surf Jibbon bombora.
  •  The water is very clear (listed on NSW parks and wildlife as the cleanest beach in Port hacking complying with 100% of bacterial indicators) and so is perfect for snorkeling.
  • On May 15th Parks and Wildlife are running a discovery activity “Jibbon Headland and Rock Engraving”. Join an Aboriginal Discovery ranger and take a leisurely stroll along Jibbon Beach to the rock engravings at Jibbon Point, hear why this site is important to the Aboriginal people. For more info click on the link below.

Getting to Jibbon Beach

  • We took the tinny from Swallow Rock Boat ramp at Grays Point, a distance of about 2.5 nautical miles.  If you’d like the navionics track file please drop me an email. I still haven’t managed to upload the file type to the blog yet!
  • You can drive to Bundeena (about a 1 hour and 15 minute trip from Sydney CBD) and then walk along to the beach from the ferry wharf. There are also numerous bush walking tracks that lead to Bundeena including the Jibbon Beach Loop
  • You can also reach Bundeena by ferry from Cronulla (and Cronulla via train on the Illawarra line)

Useful Links

Google Map of Jibbon Beach

Great Information on walking the Jibbon Loop Track from Wild Walks

Swallow Rock Boat Ramp

Cronulla Ferry Time Table

Jibbon Headland and Rock Engraving Discovery Activity (scroll down)

Red Jacks Point: Pelican Amphitheatre

Red Jacks Point

Did you know that April is Children and Nature Awareness Month? Yesterday we signed up for the Great Outdoor Challenge, an event created by 5 Orange Potatoes as part of the US based Children and Nature Network’s efforts to inspire kids to get outdoors.  We’ve done a few trips in the tinny in recent weeks but fur, feathers and foliage have been a little thin on the ground. So with the Great Outdoor Challenge  in mind and a real incentive to get some photos, we headed down to Red Jacks Point on Port Hacking, where thankfully our luck improved.

After a doing a refreshing 20 knots from Deer Park where the no wash zone ends, we pulled up at Redman’s Point in very shallow water, only really suitable for a tinny or flat bottomed boat that is easy to launch from the sand. We switched off the engine and let the tinny drift across the sea grass beds whilst we finished off the CWA fruit cake from the Easter Show, washed down with a cup of tea from the thermos.  Bliss.

We were shortly joined by half a dozen pelicans who were probably attracted by the fish that could also be seen jumping out of and near the surface of the water. Every now and then a cormorant popped its head up and I wondered if they were fishing cooperatively, something that is unique to the little black cormorant species. The pelicans swam around the tinny in a wide circle (probably eyeing Rhubarb with some caution) creating a kind of reverse amphitheatre with the performance on the outside and the audience floating in the middle. I filmed a short piece of footage of two of them paddling past which I can’t seem to load on the blog so will try and post on the facebook page. I love the way their tail ends bob up and down just slightly as they glide along. I’m always amazed at their ability to take off from the water, being such a large and heavy looking bird.

Pelican Performer

Tessa can recognise and identify pelicans but whilst this was being shot was more interested in ferreting out some cheese from the coolbag, as you can hear in the background of the footage. I have learned that an assortment of healthy snacks can do wonders for extending the range of short attention spans on boat trips.

Stingray...De de doo doo doo doo

I was also lucky enough to see a brown stingray cruising through the sea grass beds but unfortunately wasn’t quick enough to catch it on camera; sometimes you just have to focus on looking and observing and enjoy the moment. Although the sea grass beds look quite barren on first glance, I can assure you they host a whole ecosystem of plants and animals just waiting to be investigated with a snorkel (note to self to leave one permanently in the boat).

Lilli Pilli Sand Flat

Hitching a Ride

By now the tide had dropped a fair bit so we all hopped out and dragged the tinny across the shallows back to the main channel, (a good workout for the thighs) and headed over to a sand flat at Lilli Pilli where we all had a swim and Tessa was fascinated by the worm trails in the sand. These little signs of life on the surface of the beach reminded me of the outlines depicted in some of the aboriginal rock carvings that I’ve seen around Sydney.

Secret Tunnellers

Relaxing Reg

To top off a superb autumn morning on the water we spotted the resident sea eagles circling over Grays Point. They were flying high on a thermal so the photo below is purely evidential! I’ll have to get a better zoom!

Grays Point Resident Sea Eagles

Heading for Home

Proof That The Easter Bunny Actually Lives in The Shire

Swallow Rock to Audley

The Port Hacking morning air had a decided chill about it when we launched the tinny this morning, heralding the welcome approach of autumn. With the cooler weather we can look forward to less hustle and bustle on the boat ramps, easier parking and less traffic on the waterways, with only the dedicated boaters out for a fish or a morning cuppa on the river. After a busy Easter weekend at home and a visit to the Easter Show, a trip in the tinny, albeit a short one, was well over due.

We made the short motor up the river from Swallow Rock to Audley to meet some friends for morning tea. The trip would arguably have been easier by driving an extra ten minutes by car, but why drive when you can arrive in style by boat?

Audley Picnic Spot

The trip is a very pretty one, perfect for a short jaunt, which we did several times back in the summer months. During one of these trips we stopped for lunch just short of Audley on a boat ramp beside a little beach. Have you ever wondered where the Easter Bunny spends the summer months? Before we saw it,  Rhubarb alerted us to the presence of a small furry rodent which looked suspiciously like an escaped domesticated tortoisehell rabbit. He didn’t seem at all bothered by our arrival, scoffed the sandwich crusts we offered him and carried on sunning himself on a pile of leaves just next to the edge of the sand. We snapped some photos just to prove we hadn’t been imagining it and left the picnic spot wondering how he came to inhabit the private little beach.

The Easter Bunny?

Meanwhile, back to today’s expedition. When we arrived at the picnic ground, just a little way along from the previously mentioned picnic spot, we decided to try our luck at foraging for some Easter eggs. Just as I thought, the Easter Bunny himself had already visited and deposited clusters of foil wrapped chocolate eggs in mossy hollows and rotting logs. 

Mossy Hollow

Just Out of Reach

Remains of the Simnel Cake

Kookaburra Watching Proceedings

Do You Think We've Found Them All?

 Clearly the upper reaches of the Port Hacking is the preferred location of the Easter Bunny  during the summer months, before meeting his obligations as Autumn approaches the Southern Hemisphere, and then hopping off to warmer climes (Whitsundays perhaps?) to spend the winter.

Day Trippers From Bundeena

Getting There

Audley is located in the Sutherland Shire of NSW, a 50 minute drive from Sydney CBD. Boats can be launched from Swallow Rock Boat Ramp at Grays Point. There is no Marina at Audley and smaller boats can anchor or land on the small beaches at low tide.

Google Map for Audley


The Audley Weir picnic spot is ideal for a family picnic. There are gas/electric BBQ facilities, flush toilets, picnic tables, drinking water, a public phone, and a kiosk selling coffee, tea, cold drinks, light meals, burgers etc. There is also a lovely National Parks Gift Shop and Visitors Information Centre that provides a wealth of information and resources on exploring the Royal National Park. The centre is open every day from 8.30 until 4.30 except for Christmas day.

Audley Visitor Centre

Tel: 02 9542 0648

There is a also a hire company at the weir where paddle boats, kyacks, canoes and bicycles can be hired for the day

Audley Boat Shed

Tel: 02 9544 1400

Useful Links

NSW Parks and Wildlife (Audley)

Boat and Bike Hire at Audley

Ferry Cruise Information

Recipe for Simnel Cake


Picnicers at Audley

Picnic at Swallow Rock

Tea at Swallow Rock

Saturdays for many people are usually pretty busy. Clearing up the debris left over from the working week, taking kids to swimming lessons, school sports or doing the weekly shop. Getting all the boring things out of the way so we can have fun. What often happens is that we get to 3.30pm and decide that “there’s nothing left of the day”. This weekend we decided to not let this be the case and,  mindful of the few remaining weeks of daylight saving, we hitched up the tinny and headed to Port Hacking.

The forecast rain did not eventuate and the ususally busy boatramp at Swallow Rock had a certain “tail end of the season” feel about it. As usual, pushing the boat off the sand and putting down the river past Northwest Arm had its usual calming affect, the business of the week floating away within minutes. I couldn’t do a track on Navionics to share with you as Tessa had wrapped the phone charger round the wheels of the office chair and taken it for spin earlier in the week. So with the Iphone well and truly switched off I surrendered to being completely offline (as one really should) with  the exception of snapping a few photos on the camera.

After ten or 15 minutes of wriggling toddler I’m usually keeping an eye out for a nice patch of sand to land on and pour the tea. But today Chris convinced me of the merits of just finding a shallow spot, switching off the outboard and just floating. What could be more relaxing than listening to the sound of the water lapping on the hull and the cockatoos going through their raucous nesting routine as the sun gradually sinks lower in the sky?

Floating Tea Shoppe

 No time for baking this week so we settled for a premature hot cross bun from Brasserie Bread with our thermos tea. Heaven.  As Henry James said in The Portrait of a Lady; ” There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”. I think he’s quite right, perhaps with the exception of messing about in boats.

Leg Stretching

Labrador Heaven

Rhubarb in a Reflective Mood

The area where we stopped was just off the corner of South West Arm on Port Hacking,  in some shallow water where the river bed was covered in sea grass (note to self to bring snorkels next time). After a rather quick trip up South West Arm and a brief stop on a sandflat for Rhubarb’s benefit, we headed back to Swallow Rock for barbequed snags and what was left in the thermos. No dinner plates to wash when we got back, all that remained was to tip the sleeping toddler into bed, still a little salty,  but oblivious.

Picnic At Swallow Rock

This little excursion has been one of the best so far and was a good reminder not to call it quits on a Saturday afternoon when actually the tail end of the day is the outdoors at its best.

Twighlight Kyack

Swallow Rock is near Gray’s Point, about a 45 minute drive from Sydney CBD. There are public barbeques, a boat ramp, toilet blocks and open air showers. Its a great spot for a late afternoon picnic even if you don’t have a tinny. There’s a sandy beach perfect for children to swim in, and dogs are allowed on leads.

Here’s the google map link:

Swallow Rock

Apple Tree Bay to Little Shark Rock Point

Having had to postpone our romantic valentines picnic for four last weekend due to fevers and rain, today we made the most of some sublime late summer Sydney weather and headed up to the Hawkesbury with the tinny. With a fresh nor’easter forecast we decided that a destination with more protected waters would be a better option for the toddler and the bump. Saturday night was spent checking out a vague route, confirming the presence of a suitable boat ramp at Appletree Bay and ensuring we were adequately provisioned (Tomato and Feta Pan Bagnat, Crunchy Top Lemon Cake and some strawberries and figs). However our research was almost in vain. As we neared the end of Bobbin Head Road we approached the familiar site of a national parks and wildlife ticket booth and my heart sank. With Rhubarb in the boot we were sure to be sent packing back to the Shire. But luckily the booth was unmanned, save the usual sign inidicating no dogs, as well as a larger hand written sign in black texter,  taped to the booth reading “NO DOGS”. Anyway we drove on, willling to take the risk on Rhubarb”s behalf (and restrain her appropriately for the benefit of the wildlife). I will leave it to Rubes to  bring you more detail on the nerve wracking experience that occurs when park ranger and pooch cross paths, in her first “Dog Blog” which will be brought to you later this week.

The road down to the water from the booth at the top of the hill is a beautiful winding drive. I love this part of the Hawkesbury as it has a certain “early settler” atmosphere. This is probably something to do with the tracts of carved out sandstone and beautiful masoned harbour walls that appear when you reach the water. This masonry is likely the work of convict labour and is a refreshing change from the constructions we see in more recenty settled coastal towns.

The boat ramp is pretty busy on a summer weekend but there is plenty of parking ($11 for day with trailer) and room for three trailers abreast on the ramp itself, even at 10am when we arrived, well after the early birds. Once launched we headed off along Cowan Creek at slightly more than a leisurely pace,  and almost immediately noticed an abundance of quite large and majestic golden hued jellyfish in the water which we stopped to photograph.

Majestic Jellyfish

Unfortunately I accidentally forgot to save the Navionics track so I can’t show you the route we took but I can say that we covered about 4nm taking a detour up Smith’s Creek, past Cottage Point Restaurant and a quick nosey up Coal and Candle Creek (the name of which fascinates me so if anyone knows it origins please let me know). From here we had a look up Jerusalem creek and then were in serious search of a sandy spot to land. Our timing wasn’t great as it was only just past high tide. However, we were soon pleased to see Little Shark Rock Point Beach come into view, and even more pleased to see two Jet Skis and a hire boat departing.

We spent a lovely couple of hours on the beach (which was in the shade in the heat of the day). We had a picnic, a swim, dug some sandcastles and had a chat with a couple of lace monitors who were eying off our lemon cake. On the way back we stopped in at the Cottage Point Kiosk for some ice creams. If you cant be bothered to pack a picnic, the kiosk is a great spot for lunch and also hires tinny’s and sells, amongst other things, fishing tackle, tide tables and pedigree chum. Something for everyone.

Little Shark Rock Point Beach

I’d highly recommend exploring the Cowan Creek part of the Hawkesbury. We obviously only scratched the surface in a day so we’ll be back. Rhubarb will just have to don better camouflage.



Lace Monitor

How to Get There

Apple Tree Bay Boat Ramp is about 45 minutes drive north of Sydney CBD and is signposted from Empire Bay Marina at Bobbin Head. Here’s the google map link:

Bobbin Head and Apple Tree Bay

Associated Costs

Parking: $11 including Trailer

Park fees: the booth was unmanned but this can depend on the day. My understanding is you don’t need a pass if you are just launching a boat.

Fuel: Approx $25


  • Little Shark Point Rock Beach
  • The beautiful scenery of the Hawkesbury including some historic architecture
  • Cottage Point Kiosk
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