An out and back along North Arm Track in the bush on the foreshores of Sugarloaf Bay makes an undulating 2 hours fitness training walk. Add in the ridge top loops in Explosives Reserve and you have a good 3 hours 10km walk, with 350m climbing. Join them up with a suburban diversion along Willis Rd to see historic Innisfallen Castle.
North Arm Track
North Arm Reserve is an area of foreshore bush in Castle Cove named for the North Arm of Sugarloaf Bay. I park at the intersection of Cammaray Rd and Emerstan Rd, at the end of the Castle Cove peninsula. The marked path descends from here towards the old HC Press picnic grounds and dance hall. HC Press was a renowned sailor and boat builder, who also established a recreational area where visitors arrived in boats to swim, picnic and dance between 1910 and 1964.
The path follows the foreshore, past some interesting rock features and lookouts, and eventually crosses Scotts Creek. Here there are interpretative signs indicating the creek is home to the Azure Kingfisher. All I saw was a large turkey mound next to the wooden bridge across the creek, with a brush turkey hard at work maintaining it. The path climbs after the creek, then descends to an area of Grey Mangroves, which are a valuable part of a healthy estuarine ecosystem. Turn around at the end of the track, when you reach North Arm road.
On the return walk, I turn off the North Arm Track up towards Willis Rd, to have a closer look at heritage listed Innisfallen Castle. Innisfallen is a Gothic castle which was built with local sandstone by Henry Willis in 1904. It has a three storey tower, turrets and battlements and was originally surrounded by 21ha of bushland and only accessible by water. It had its own water cisterns until connected to town water and electricity in the 1960s. It was occupied by the Willis family until 1988.
Continue up Willis Rd, then right into Cammaray until you reach the marked entrance to the Explosives Reserve.
The area of the bushland at the end of the Castle Cove peninsula was reserved for defence purposes in 1878. Additional bushland reserves were added later to provide a buffer for the magazine storage at Bantry Bay, just across the water. This led to the common name – Explosives Reserve. The best map of the area is the STEP map.
It’s a beautiful area of bush, with flowering heath on the loop walk that climbs to the top of the knoll from where you have a clear view all the way across to South Head and the lighthouse at Dover Heights. This makes a great tea spot. A second loop includes sandstone ridgetop forested areas and runs around the peninsula, with views off Middle Harbour. At the peninsula end, a footpad can be seen descending through the casuarinas towards the water. Another footpad, shown on the STEP map, allows a short cut back to the car.
Dog walkers might note that although Explosive and North Arm Reserves are wildlife protected areas, dogs on leash are permitted.