Sunday, December 27, 2015

Corner Inlet Sea Kayaking

Way, way back in 2013, soon after we had moved to Australia, we did a six day sea kayak trip around the eastern islands of Nooramunga Marine Park getting as far west as Snake Island. It was a grand trip, protected waters to paddle in, very little power boat traffic, amazing bird and ocean life, pleasant campsites and easy access to the wild 90 Mile Beach. Our memories of the trip were so good we wanted to go back again and paddle the area to the west of Snake Island, the Corner Inlet area. 

 Pied Oystercatcher Eggs

Day One: Port Welshpool to Biddies Cove

Without much of a plan in mind - every thing seemed to depend on the winds - we set off from Port Welshpool on a cloudy day with light winds blowing. There is a $10 per day fee to park at and use the boat ramp, but the beach to the east, near the old jetty is free to use and to park, so that is where we launched. At low tides, this could be a bit problematic as you might have a long carry, but we managed to pack up near high tide and, while we had breakfast in the caravan, we secured the boats to the old jetty. Although we thought they were in deep enough water, both were high and dry on rocks when we came to launch.

We were paddling against the tide which did not seem to slow us down too much. Then again, I might be just used to going very slow. Paddling out through Lewis Channel past Little Snake Island we had to stay a fair way off-shore due to low water, but, were able to pull in to Snake Island pretty easily where a channel comes close into shore. You could camp anywhere along this west side of Snake Island all the way down to Townsend Point without difficulty. There were a ton of powerboats of all sizes out fishing in Singapore Deep but luckily not driving around constantly as power boaters sometimes (frequently) seem to do.


From Snake Island we crossed Singapore Deep - some small standing waves - using Mount Singapore on Wilsons Promontory as a reference point and landed at the lovely Biddies Cove. While we had lunch, we debated whether or not to camp where we were or carry on. It was a stellar camp. Some granite slabs to sit and cook on, a really long beach to walk - you can walk all the way to John Souey Cove - even bouldering slabs behind camp (wish I had brought my rock shoes). We weren't really tired, however, as we had only paddled about 16 km.

But, we really had no plan. The weather forecast was for a mix of strong easterlies and westerlies, so it was hard to plan a trip that did not involve a lot of slogging into headwinds. Any one way trip - the premier trip is a paddle right around Wilsons Promontory - requires two vehicles as there is no public transit available. In the end, we just decided to camp and walk down the beach for the afternoon. Hindsight always brings clarity and, were I in this situation again, I would probably paddle down to John Souey Cove for the night then return the next day, although I much prefer either a one way through trip or a circle route. Sunset from camp was spectacular, the most vibrant mix of reds and oranges I have ever seen, worth camping at Biddies Cove to see.

Now that's a sunset

Day Two: Biddies Cove to Tin Mine Cove to Swashway Jetty

Tin Mine Cove is supposed to be a really nice place to camp, at least all the sea kayak tours go there, so we wanted to paddle around and have a look. Once again, we were against the tide but it was a nice paddle and we had no where to go in a hurry. Even with virtually no wind, there were a lot of standing waves off the unnamed point to the north of Freshwater Cove where the deep water comes close in to shore. In windy conditions this spot could get bumpy fast.

You pass a couple of small beaches and coves before you reach Tin Mine Cove. I remember Freshwater Cove in particular as it has a prominent "no camping" sign. We had breakfast at Tin Mine Cove and noted that the track that heads south to Chinaman Long Beach had been freshly brushed out. The beach is nice, but I did not think as nice as Biddies Cove. At high tide there would be very little beach left and the camping area is a bit tight. Although there are a couple more spots hacked out of dense brush up the hill, those sites are sloping and not convenient for kayakers.

Tin Mine Cove

The forecast was for 20 knot westerlies in the afternoon followed by 20 knot easterlies the next day, so we decided to head east up Nooramunga, then come back west the following day. We paddled back across Singapore Deep and with the tide rising were able to paddle into the channel between Little Snake and Snake Islands. There is a channel marked all the way through but at low tide the water gets pretty shallow. Good for kayaks, not good for power boats.

We stopped on Little Snake Island for lunch as Victoria Parks shows a campsite on their Nooramunga brochure which we wanted to check out. After walking up and down the beach we finally found a little fairly overgrown spot in long grass behind the beach which is completely covered at high tide (the beach, not the camp). Not really a great camp. 

Camp at Biddies Cove

With the wind behind us we seemed to speed east along the channel to Swashway Jetty which has a nice campsite. The water in channel is pretty clear and it is a favourite spot with rays. I saw about a dozen, some quite large. We had covered about 25 km by now, enough for a couple of old out-of-shape paddlers, but, for some reason, we decided to go on to The Gulf campsite, about five kilometres away. We arrived quickly as we had both wind and current with us, but, as we rounded the point we saw a big bogan camp with a smoky campfire billowing toxic fumes out. I hate these camps where there are too many men - there are never any women - and too much beer. They make me very uncomfortable, fearful even, so, I persuaded Doug to turn around and paddle back to Swashway Jetty to camp.

It was going on for 3.30 pm and we were both feeling a wee bit tired as we had started paddling soon after 7.30 am so plugging back the way we had come into a headwind was a bit confronting, but, sea kayaking in Victoria seems to almost always mean paddling into the wind so we are, at least a little bit, inured to it. Paddling steadily, we made it back in just under an hour and were soon having some afternoon tea and enjoying a really nice campsite. I went for a wander on the tracks around camp and saw a couple of Hogg Deer and there was a Pied Oystercatcher nest on the jetty. At sunset, all the kangaroos came out and went down to the rapidly receding channel and drank sea water. It was pretty interesting as I have never seen kangaroos drink sea water before but perhaps that is how they get salt.

Apparently, kangaroos drink sea water

Day Three: Swashway Jetty to Port Welshpool

We had a lazy morning enjoying a couple of cups of coffee while our tent dried out from the previous nights heavy due. It was a gorgeous sunny day and it felt foolish to paddle back to Port Welshpool but the forecast was for a series of strong westerlies, and, the truth is, we had paddled to the east, and we'd paddled to the west. There really was not anywhere new to go and, as we are all about novelty, we packed up and lazily paddled back to Port Welshpool.

It was interesting to reflect on our previous trip when we just getting back into sea kayaking and the area to paddle in Nooramunga/Corner Inlet seemed huge. Three years later, I realised that a complete loop around Nooramunga/Corner Inlet is about 200 km and that is possible in five or six days. Still a beautiful place to paddle but suddenly not so large seeming anymore. 

 Doug leaving Biddies Cove

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