Monday, 17 June 2013

Hat Head National Park - Connors Track

The beauty of our coastline should not be taken for granted. All too often we head inland seeking adventure and remote locations. The coast, however, has a more expansive wildness to offer. Hat Head National Park is a perfect example with its long, undeveloped stretches of coast where dolphins surf endless breaks and vast beaches are broken by rugged forested headlands, where whales pass within a whisper of the rocks below and birds of prey drift by at eye level cruising the on-shore winds.

For our most recent trip to this park we explored more of the rugged, rocky headlands by creating a little loop walk that could easily be done in a day but which we turned into an overnight excursion just because we like being out there for as long as possible!

Our walk started and finished at the small coastal town of the same name: Hat Head, population 326, a classic sleepy old coastal village with minimal development. The starting point was The Gap carpark and from there we walked west along the mangrove lined creek towards the turnoff to Hungry Gate Campground. From here it was a matter of following the road towards the campground, about 4 km, and despite the trudge along dirt road we enjoyed watching superb blue wrens in the roadside scrub. White cheeked honeyeaters and eastern spinebills were feeding on flowering banksias and a beautifully striped goanna scuttled off up the trunk of a nearby bloodwood.   

Past the turn off to the National Parks' camp ground we side tripped up to Kinchela Trig Lookout, although views were limited by the encroaching coastal heath. Continuing to the end of the dirt road we eventually made it to Connors Walking Track. The track led us out to Kemps Corner, a grassy open headland offering views southwards down a 15km long beach to distant Crescent Head. 

This headland would be our overnight spot and it illustrated why it's such a good idea to turn a day walk into an overnighter - an afternoon spent watching a brahminy kite gliding above the headland; a most extraordinary encounter with a mob of grey kangaroos who found me relaxing in the sun in what was obviously their evening rest spot; then an Australian Hobby Falcon hovering over the rocks hunting large insects; extraordinary afternoon light illuminating the wind-whipped ocean. Time enough for me to feel as if every day could be this uncomplicated. 

The next morning we walked the rest of Connors Track, just 3km or so back to car. It took us down onto Third Beach and Connors Beach with wild storm clouds building to the south. The small secluded beaches were littered with driftwood and home to nervous sooty oyster catchers. Huge screw palms provided shady resting spots amongst the rocks and grass.

Back at the car we dumped our packs but kept walking, adding on the Korogoro Loop Track around Hat Head headland, another 3.2 km. This rugged little track gives stunning coastal views and clumps of flannel flowers dotted the steep hillside. The south western slope has a pocket of rare littoral rainforest and in whale migration season walkers can watch the humpbacks from the many vista points along the track.

Certainly, with such an abundance of wildlife and scenery, Hat Head National Park is a coastline that doesn't let you take it for granted. Always changing, forever interesting, filled with wildlife living on the currents of their landscape. There is no doubting the wilderness effect here. There is no doubting the beauty that works on you.

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