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Best winter walks and hikes in coastal national parks

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Wild About Whales
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National parks
The Coast Track, Royal National Park. Photo: D.Finnegan

Whale watch while you walk

We all know how important exercise is for our physical and mental wellbeing. Yet during winter it can be hard to build up the motivation to get moving. So why not use whale watching to spur you into action? Use the opportunity to search for these magnificent creatures on their annual migration. While you’re at it, you can explore a little of the expansive NSW east coast, spend quality time with friends or family, and clock up a few extra steps on your pedometer.

Here are five superb walks in NSW national parks that are sure to get those legs pumping and your senses re-tuned into nature.

1. Cape Byron walking track

The Cape Byron walking track is set out on the tip of the Cape Byron Conservation Area on NSW’s far north coast. A 3.7km loop takes you through exquisite rainforest, beaches, grassland and over spectacular clifftops. It’s a perfect trek to take to search for whales, particularly when you reach the Cape Byron Lighthouse.

Allow at least two hours so you have plenty of time to search the seascape, and you may even get to see turtles, dolphins and stingrays too. Or make a day of it and stop for a bite to eat at the Cape Byron Lighthouse Café, where you can stay for a while to soak in the views across the hinterland.

Cape Byron walking track, Cape Byron State Conservation Area

2. Tomaree Head Summit walk

Located near Port Stephens, Tomaree Head Summit walk provides breathtaking views of the NSW north coast.

Park at the Zenith Beach carpark, then start the ascent. It’s only a short walk and it will take you 161 metres above the Port Stephens entrance. Catch your breath while you explore the coastline, where on a clear day you can see Cabbage Tree and Boondelbah islands. Binoculars are a must when you reach the summit so you can scan for any breaching humpback whales.

Tomaree Head Summit walk, Tomaree National Park

Have a rest with a picnic, then take a detour on Fort Tomaree walk to reflect on some of Australia’s military history at the World War II gun emplacements.

3. Coast track

In Sydney’s Royal National Park you’ll find the renowned Coast track (pictured at top of article), offering unlimited viewing and exploration options over its 26km stretch.

For most of us, the track is best broken into sections. You could stay overnight in the bush at the North Era campground or just take on a shorter treks over different visits. But if you are fit and ready for a challenge, hike the track in one day! Either way, you’ll be greeted by sandstone cliffs, scenic views, impressive waves, and hopefully a few whale watching opportunities.

Given its length, make sure you take along a Royal National Park map, plenty of drinking water and sunscreen.

4. White sands walk

Just as it sounds, this walk will envelope the senses with white sandy beaches and glistening, salty seas. The interconnected White Sands walk and Scribbly Gums track offer a nice, easy 2.5km loop in the heart of Jervis Bay National Park.

White Sands and Scribbly Gum track, Jervis Bay National Park. Photo: D. Finnegan/OEH

You can start off at Greenfield Beach picnic area and become captivated by pristine beaches like Hyams Beach, which is said to have the whitest sand in the world. Look out across the many bays for sea life as you continue your walk.

Then, on your return leg, the Scribbly Gum track takes you through tall forest and woodland, where you might be lucky enough to glimpse local possums and gliders.

This radiant walk also offers plenty of detours to keep your adventure going, so allow some extra time to explore some of the alternative paths.

5. Light to Light walk

Heading to the far south coast in winter is a must for a weekend getaway. While there, try the enticing Light to Light walk over 30km from historic Boyds Tower to Green Cape lookout and Lightstation.

During winter, you’ll find the banksias in bloom, plenty of stunning seabirds and a range of vantage points for whale watching.

Light to Light walk, Ben Boyd National Park

If you plan to trek the entire walk, get prepared with a map, compass or GPS, and familiarise yourself with the accommodation options in the area.

After a long walk, indulge in the comfort Green Cape Lightstation Keepers’ cottages and get a special offer during the whale watching season.

Discover and share

Now is the time to draw in that clean crisp air, get moving and keep a look out for the annual whale migration along the coast.

But don’t keep all your whale sightings to yourself! Whether you spot humpbacks or other species of whales, wildlife or sea life, tell others so they know where to go.

Download the Wild About Whales mobile app before you go so you can upload your photos and sightings.

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Montague Island Head Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage. Photo: Justin Gilligan

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