Croajingolong National Park
After a crazy, exhausting drive on a twisty, corrugated dirt track through Croajingolong National Park, attentively peering out into the darkness either side of the road for surprise wallabies, we finally pull up at Thurra River’s camping site and choose a dry spot.
This is a big site with 46 unpowered spots with space up to 6 people each, next to Thurra River. This campsite had great facilities too, clean drop toilets, information on various interesting hiking trails and a barbecue area with benches and fire pits. It was $26.80 a night per pitch paid into an honestly box. Firewood could be purchased from the wardens who visited in the afternoons, as using wood from the forest here is a fineable offence.
The sound of the water nearby was soothing as we carried our firewood from the car into the fire pit, to light the surrounding forest clearing.
Pre-cooked sausages and left-over curry were warmed and believe me, was the perfect camping meal to end the long day’s journey.
Settling in to the tent, the sounds of foreign birds fading into the night, we drifted off to sleep.
Point Hicks and Cook’s Cottage
Waking up to the sounds of many morning bird calls was so peaceful.
The pattering of the rain on the ground around me as I warmed myself up in the forest with some gentle yoga made me feel connected with the delicate ecosystem out here in Australia. No wonder they have such strict border control to protect their unique and wonderful environment.
Checking the multitude of interesting hikes on the campground board, we chose to follow the path to the beach, which lead to Point Hicks.
Point Hicks was the point that James Cook aboard the Endeavour, first sighted Australia. He named it after Zachary Hicks, who was the individual to first see the land on the 20th of April, 1770. The Ship’s log recorded the sighting as the day before, as they had not accounted for passing through 24 hours of time zones at that point.
There is an obelisk here erected to mark the importance of this very small peninsula, and later this compass indicating the direction of different places in NZ and Australia as a memento of L.T. James Cook’s 200th Anniversary of sighting Australia.
An identical obelisk to the one here was made from the rock quarried from Point Hicks in 1934 by Sir Russell Grimwade. The granite was shipped to Great Ayton in Yorkshire, England where the obelisk was built there and stands at the site which Cook’s parents’ cottage existed.
In 1933, the owner of the Cook’s Parents’ cottage had decided to sell it. In a patriotic attempt to prevent it being taken to the United States by Americans, she had made a condition of sale that the building remained in England.
However, she was persuaded by Sir Russell Grimwade to change “England” to “The Empire”, and accepted the Australian bid of £800 for it, over a local bid of £300. He wanted to buy the cottage outright as a gift for the people of Victoria as a focus for the centennial celebrations.
The cottage was then disassembled brick by brick and numbered, put into barrels and shipped from Great Ayton. It was then rebuilt in 1934 in the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne.
You can go inside for an admission ticket of $6.70, and wander around the herb garden out the back in 18th century dress if you wish.
The tallest lighthouse (37m) on Australia’s mainland sits upon Point Hicks, serving as a warning beacon for ships in the southern reaches of the Tasman Sea. It was built in 1887-1888 from concrete, with timber keepers quarters nearby which are now holiday houses for the public. We were lucky enough to befriend the ladies working there to let us up outside of tour hours.
Inside is a really attractive staircase, unusual too as its 162 steps are cantilevered from the walls instead of stone steps fixed to a central column.
Breathing hard, we reach the top where a beautiful beacon sits. Before 1965 a lighthouse keeper would maintain a flaming candle up here, which’s light would be magnified by the reflective panels.
Now at the top, this has replaced it.
Thurra River Sand Dunes
Looking out from the top of Point Hicks lighthouse, I see a large expanse of yellow in the distance. Turns out it is Thurra River’s Sand Dunes and there is a 2 hour hiking trail to access them from the campsite.
We set off on an adventure.
Only to be blown away by how vast these dunes are!
Soft, rolling hills and steep accents of pure yellow sand spanned out as far as the eye could see. Immediately I felt like a child again at the beach. I wanted to build intricate sand castles and run up and down the dunes like I had done with my dad when we took trips out to the seaside in England.
Hiking up literally the most ridiculous incline, every step sliding back to the footprint before, reduced us to a crawl on all fours towards the top, we reached an incredible view of the forest with thick rivers winding through at the foot of these steep sand slopes.
Being ski instructors, only one thought came to mind.
“We should have brought our skis…”
Moments after exclaiming those words, I hear the joyful Australian accent chattering from behind us, and turn to find a large family with sleds and skis. They clearly have known about this spot before, and made straight for a slope angled similar to a red run in Niseko.
Definitely on my bucket list now, to return with some old destroyed skis and give it a whirl.
Without equipment of our own and a huge slope to descend, we made the most of it and slid down like on a massive water slide. I was not disappointed! It was hilarious.
Hiking back out however was incredibly challenging and returning to the car drenched and exhausted an hour later, we packed up and moved on to Merimbula.
To be continued…!