Red Rock marks the end of the Yuraygir Coastal Walk, which a group of Sole Sisters are planning to walk in September. But today, a glorious blue sky winters day, we put on our packs at Red Rock with our excited dog on her lead, and head south for 60km on the Solitary Island Coastal Walk from Red Rock to Sawtell.
We moved to the glorious Coffs Coast in the winter of 2019 – see more of our mid north coast walks at CoffsTrails.com. But the dog is tugging at her lead, so lets get moving.
Red Rock to Woolgoolga
We’ve divided the walk into four day sections, beginning with 18km of beaches from Red Rock to Woolgoolga. Red Rock is named for the ancient jasper rock. We pause for a moment at the plague on the headland to contemplate the tragic loss of lives in the aboriginal blood rock massacre.
We have a long sweep of beach to Corinidi and beyond. There is a lot of time to think about nothing. A good swell is rolling in today, and I listen to the sonic boom of the dumpers followed by the rustle of waves as they rush up the sloping gravelly beach and quickly soak back. Later on the flat sand of Woolgoolga, the sea is much quieter, with just a gentle fizz from the outgoing tide.
At Arrawarra we pause for a drink and admire the ancient fish traps. Thankfully, Ocean View beach and Mullaway beach are short, interspersed with grassy headlands, and soon we are on Darkum beach and then the final curve of the bay, past the wooden remnants of the the Buster ship wreck into Woolgoolga village.
There is a lot of beach on this walk. Small discoveries on the sand break the monotony. There are bits of plants: mangrove seeds, pandanus fruit, seaweed. We see snail tracks, crab balls, dead fish, crustacean exoskeletons. There are shells, coloured stones, and various tidal drainage patterns providing texture, all overlaid with human, bird and dog prints.
The Burger Tour
A family member has helped us with logistics for this trip – driving us to the start and fetching us from the finish. His reward is food, so our Solitary Island Coastal Walk becomes a Burger Tour. Today we try the burgers from “The Box Factory” – mine is a vegetarian burger called “Jerk Off” with tofu, yams fry, lime emulsion which we eat at an outside table washed down with a Blood Orange. There is a butcher shop next door, so the dog scores a bone.
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Woolgoolga to Moonee
The dog stays home today: our 16km Walk includes Moonee nature reserve which is off limits to dogs.
We loop around Woolgoolga Headland (no whales today), past the water tower that had been a distant beacon on the first day. Woolgoolga Back Beach and Pipeclay are busy with fisherman, dog walkers and 4WD vehicles. Over Bare Bluff and across pretty Fiddamans Beach to the even lovelier Emerald Beach. On Look at Me Now Headland, the roos are grazing. We pause at the gravestones to read the history of a long ago shipwreck.
The tide is very low when we step onto the impossibly wide Moonee Beach, and google maps track us walking in the sea. An osprey drifts on the thermals, gulls and oystercatchers strut on the sand. Moonee beach ranks in the top 10 beaches in Australia. We might have appreciated it more if there hadn’t been a headwind and if it was five kilometres shorter. We are relieved to finally reach the estuary and wade across to the finish line.
Although most of the Solitary Island Coastal walk is beach, we appreciate the short stretches of cool and shady littoral rainforest. There arealso swamp oaks, coastal banksia, vegetated dunes, paperbark, and endangered Themeda grass headlands.
The Burger Tour
We stop at “Exit 59” near Moonee Tavern. They have a lengthy burger menu, but I opt for a classic bacon and egg burger with a bottle of water. No need for dinner after that calorific overload.
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Moonee to Jetty
We cross the bridge over the creek at Moonee for the next 14km south into Coffs Harbour. From Green Bluff, Sapphire Beach curls to White Bluff, then there are a string of shorter beaches. I get my timing wrong on the dash around the headland at Campbells, and waves swamp my shoes and trousers. Oh well, it will dry, and then I’ll get it all wet again when we cross Coffs Creek later.
The headlands at Korora, Diggers, Macauleys get the heart rate up and provide some scenic variety in the walking. All to soon we are on Park Beach with Muttonbird Island beckoning.
Solitary Islands Marine Park
The various Solitary Islands (named by Captain James Coook) and reefs in the Solitary Island Marine Park provide a great measure of our progress on this walk. At Red Rock, the Lighthouse island is far to the south, then it draws level, and its well behind us by the time we get to Jetty. At some points, we can line up three islands or look directly through the split in Split Island, then they too are gone.
The Burger Tour
“Attitude Burgers” on Marina Drive has water bowls for dogs and beer and cider on tap for thirsty people. Our driver has a steamed bao burger while I opt for a barramundi burger.
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Jetty to Sawtell
Our final leg is the shortest, just 12km from Jetty to Bonville Headland. Most of it is off-leash on Boambee beach, although we’ll need to skirt around Jetty Beach and Sawtell Beach where dogs are not welcome.
Boambee beach is wide and flat, with the airport just over the dunes. The beach is used by horses from the nearby stables, and open to 4WD vehicles. There are few landmarks for us to hinge our progress to, we can barely see the distant headland. Instead we focus on various vehicles parked in the sand – I’m not happy when our target vehicle decides to drives away! We watch the planes take off and land, measuring our progress down the beach against their landing approach.
We cross Boambee creek on a structure hooked to the side of the railway bridge, then up over the grassy headland to Murrays Beach. Soon we leave the beach and wander through Sawtell to Bonville Headland. And just like that, our long 60km Solitary Islands Coastal walk is over.
The Burger Tour
“Village Takeaway” is the burger destination in Sawtell. I have a Zen Burger appropriately complemented with a Holy Grapefruit. The dog slops her water bowl under our table in the shade on First Avenue, then sprawls on the pavement ready for pats from admirers who pass by.
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Next month, I’ll be walking 65km from Angourie to Red Rock on the Yuraygir Coastal Walk.
But up on Bonville headland, on yet another perfect winter day, we look south across Sawtell Rock pool and Bonville creek to the long sweep of beach to Bundagen headland in the hazy distance and wonder how far we can go if we just keep walking. The answer is on CoffsTrails.com!
National Parks website has more information on the 60km Solitary Islands Coastal walk.
The walk is easiest at low tide, as this makes the sand firmer and the creek crossing easier, as well as the headland at Campbells beach. We walked north to south, so that the sun was behind us. There are toilets and cafes at various points along the walk.
Dogs on-leash are permitted on a number of sections of the walk with some beaches being off-leash. However dogs are not permitted in national parks nor on some beaches including Emerald, Diggers, Jetty and Sawtell. Read the NPWS website and council website for up to date information on where you can and can’t take your dog.
Don’t let your dog disturb shorebirds. Be mindful of the safety of your pet with 4WDs on some beaches. Take some water for your dog, and of course bags to pick up after your pet and dispose responsibly.