Sunday, April 27, 2014

Timing Is Everything: Around The Newry Islands

Port Newry, north of Mackay, is a strange doughnut of sheltered water bounded on the south by Point Finlayson and the Red Cliff Islands and on the north by Rabbit, Newry and Outer Newry Islands. At low tide, kilometres of mud flats dry out and the deep water is reduced to a small area, but, from Victor Creek there is a marked channel out to "deep water" that is accessible at all tides. After yet another change of plans, lunch time, and a moderately low tide, found us packing our kayaks on the beach beside the boat ramp. 

Dusk on Outer Newry Island

Luckily, we hadn't unpacked from the trip we didn't do a few days before, so packing was relatively quick and simple, and, at 2.00 pm we launched the boats and, with the tide falling and the wind behind, we sped out the winding channel sunk deep between mud banks and arrived at Outer Newry Island in about an hour. The tide was a long way out, and access to the camping area was via a passage cut between mangroves. We paddled over to Newry Island in case that camping area had better access, but there was a 0.5 km carry on that island too over similar muddy shores. We came back to Outer Newry, unpacked, brought the boats up and found the camping area, a nice cleared area among eucalypts at the top of the island. Before dark, which falls early in the tropics, we just had time to walk down the trail to the rocky east side of Outer Newry Island and explore a little of the fantastic sandstone cliffs that lie along either side of a rocky bay. 

 Doug on the north side of Outer Newry
near Wedding Cake Rock
On Saturday, we set out to circumnavigate the island group, a distance of about 24 to 28 km. We paddled south down the east side of Outer Newry past sandstone cliffs and towers and across to Mausoleum and Rocky Islands. Rounding these on the south side we crossed along the south shore of Acacia Island and pulled in for a break at Tug Point on Rabbit Island where some yobbos were working on the slogan "Australian Yobbo Camps: A New Level Of Filth". We were eager to leave this camp before the yobbos returned and continued north up the east side of Rabbit Island past several nice beaches (at least at this tide) around the north end of the island and then began the slog into the headwind down the west side of the island. This was a race against the tide as the entire west and south side of Rabbit Island dries all the way to the mainland at low tide. The water was very shallow in parts, but we made it to the west side of Newry Island before the tide dried everything to the west down to mud. 

Doug near the rock stack on the east side of Outer Newry Island
Up until 2001, a low key resort operated on Newry Island and track leads from Sunset Beach (the west side) round to the old resort area where a few bits of buildings still stand. We strolled around this 3 km loop and returned to find the passage between Newry and Rabbit Islands completely dry. The south side of Newry Island has water at all tides and we were able to paddle back to our campsite arriving half an hour after a heavy rain storm. 

 Bad timing for the mud flats
We packed up and left about 8 am the next morning as we wanted to catch the tide running into Victor Creek. Just as we launched the boats, a tinny of yobbos arrived. The last thing I heard was "There's plenty of fucking wood here if we want to start a fucking fire" (fires are banned on the islands for obvious reasons). Timing is everything.

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