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Blog: Whale tales

Paul Chai journeyed up the NSW coastline during the 2012 whale migrating season. Recount his trip.

Northern light

Posted by: Paul Chai | 05 November 2012 | 0 comments
Barrenjoey Head Aquatic Reserve walk

Sure, the aim may be a spot of whale-watching, but on a gorgeous day at Barrenjoey Lighthouse there are plenty of other distractions.

Who needs an excuse to visit Sydney’s stunningly beautiful Palm Beach? We may be about to walk up to Barrenjoey lighthouse in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park under the guise of a whale-watching excursion but in this case — on a sultry early-spring day, the air redolent with early morning heat — the journey really is more important than the destination.

Carry on up the path

The Barrenjoey Head Aquatic Reserve walk to the lighthouse starts with a stroll along a small patch of beach, where jet skis create swirls of whitewash in Pittwater and our kids chase each other around with slimy seaweed swords. When the track curls inland we have decision: straight ahead on the Service Road or the steeper, shorter Smugglers Track. Our eldest opts for the irresistibly named Smugglers way, which actually takes its monicker from the good guys — the customs officers who built the track to spot smugglers in Broken Bay in the late 19th century. Halfway up and you get an amazing view back along the twin crescents of Palm Beach and Pittwater, that bracket the lush headland (albeit sandy parentheses that face the wrong way around). The bushes along the path are also full of flitting birdlife that keeps our resident birder busy though he decides his binoculars are too heavy, I have little sympathy as the rough-hewn stairs mean I am now shouldering a toddler who has the best view of us all.

Top spot

But it’s worth it at the summit, almost 100 metres above sea level, where the sandstone lighthouse watches for whales all year round. We scan the choppy seas for a spout or a breach with the binoculars, but there’s nowt around today. Tours to the top of the light run regularly but having recently scaled the Cape Byron Lighthouse I opt to spend a bit more time hopefully scanning the surf, but there is just a lone sailboat cutting through the seas.

We opt for the windy service trail on the way back just for variety and it provides a more open view of the peninsula and my wife, once a lighthouse regular on Forest High school trips, notes the track is a far cry from the rocky scrabble she remembers. Despite this our five-year-old manages a tumble and a grazed knee, so I have an even heavier cargo on my back on the return journey — but it’s not much of a burden on a ripping ramble like this.

Barrenjoey Lighthouse

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