Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Coast To The Hills: Sisters Hills and the Coastal Route in Rocky Cape National Park

Rocky Cape National Park is a small coastal park halfway between Stanley and Wynyard with bare rolling hills, rocky islets, sheltered coves, and prominent peninsulas. One main inland track runs along Sisters Hills, and a series of other shorter tracks lead out to various beaches, bays and coves. You can combine the inland track with a coastal route and do a loop walk covering virtually the length of the park from Sisters Beach to Rocky Cape and back in a reasonable length day. 

 Doug on the coastal route

We started from the west end of Sisters Beach (at the boat ramp) and ambled along a pebbly beach to a track sign where you leave the beach to climb over a headland. The track climbs up about 50 metres through banksia trees to "wet cave" a deep cave with a big pool of water in it - the name seems appropriate.

Continuing on, there is a side trip to Leearcher Cave and we took this track down to the rather unimpressive slot in the cliffs. Instead of hiking back up to the track, we scrambled around the vertically tilted quartzite rocks along the shore to reach the next bay north (Anniversary Bay) where the main track also reaches the beach. 

 Anniversary Point and Rocky Cape

Anniversary Bay is a mix of pebbles, rocky quartzite sections and sandy beach and we walked along this to where a track cuts across the headland at Anniversary Point. This track was a little hard to find as the trail sign had fallen down and the beach in front was piled with sea-weed blown in during storms. There is an optional 3.5 km (return) side trip to Doone Falls which can't be too impressive as the creek is quite small and the surrounding topography quite mellow. 

On the far side of Anniversary Point the route continues along the beach with occasional (and largely unnecessary) pink flagging on faded posts. Basically, amble along the pebbly beach over various small quartzite shelves until you reach the head of the bay where the track moves away from the coast. We had a brief stop beside a sheltered little gulch in which I had a swim before we started walking up the track. 

 Looking back towards Table Cape and Sisters Beach

A short distance up the track there is another side trip down to Cathedral Bay, a beautiful little cove visible from the track. In another 200 metres we came to the junction with Blandfordia Spur. Our original plan was to follow the main track up to Postmans Pass and come back along the inland track, but Blandfordia Spur promised a more interesting route and so we followed this track up to the main inland track instead. This is a very scenic section of the walk up a spur ridge with views back along the coast to Sisters Beach and Table Cape, and even sheets of driving rain did not detract from our enjoyment of this section of the walk. The vegetation is low coastal heath and with the rolling green hills and misty weather it was all reminiscent of walking along the Scottish moors except that the beaches are way nicer. 

 The Sisters Hills from the Blandfordia Spur

At the top of Blandfordia Spur, the trig station on Tinkers Hill is visible and we backtracked along Sisters Hills to take in the view of Stanley and the Nut from the top. We were lucky as the rain and cloud cleared when we got to the trig station so, although it was frightfully windy, the view was wonderful. 

 Doug on Tinkers Lookout

The rest of the walk is an easy ramble along Sisters Hills passing over the top of Spicers Lookout along the way. The vegetation is all low coastal heath so it is very pleasant striding along the winding track, mostly down, but there are a few short climbs. About half an hour from Sisters Beach you pass the Doone Falls track junction that leads back down to Anniversary Bay. There is also another short side track up Broadview Hill, but the rain was moving in again so we carried on down to Sisters Beach after a very enjoyable days walk. 
 Wandering along the Sisters Hills on the Inland Track

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