The Far South Coast of NSW, from Bermagui to Eden, is known as the Sapphire Coast and it is easy to see why, when you view that blue, blue sea with rolling green farmland running straight down to the beach and discover hidden gems like Hidden Valley, which lies just to the north of Bunga Head and Aragunnu, which I covered in a previous post ‘Summer Dreaming’, and which is also part of Mimosa Rocks National Park.This magical stretch of coastline from Goalen Head in the north to Bunga Head in the south, can be accessed via Hergenhans Rd, 2.8 km off the Tathra-Bermagui Rd. We first visited this area last May and were blown away by the spectacular beauty of the place. The track through the paddock leads down to Bunga Beach and a small creek, which leads back to Bunga Lagoon.Across the creek is a large rocky outcrop, which serves as a wonderful vantage point from which to plan your explorations. To the north, Goalen Head (1st and 2nd photo below) and the south, Bunga Head (3rd and 4th photo below).We started by walking down Bunga Beach South to Hidden Valley and Bunga Head, then returned along an old farm track to Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.
Bunga Beach South is a sandy beach 1.3km long, and is a breeding site of Hooded Plovers (Thinornis rubricollis). We saw a National Park sign the other day, which said there were less than 50 Hooded Plovers left in NSW! Here are a few photos of our journey down the beach. The rocks and their weathering patterns were amazing!The Southern end of the beach is 370m long and has a small creek at its northern end, which feeds into Hidden Valley. Bunga Head lies to the south with its hexagonal columns and dramatic cliffs.Hidden Valley is well-named, as it is tucked in behind the northern side of Bunga Head and can only be accessed on foot via an old farm track through regenerating bushland from the Bunga South car park at the end of Hergenhans Rd or via Bunga Beach South. There is an informal old track (3km) over the 127m high Bunga Head, but it is not easy to find and is not promoted by NPWS, due to cultural sensitivitiesHidden Valley was an old farm and its old sheds, toilet and rainwater tank still remain. Past clearing, grazing, fencing and the establishment of exotic pastures, earthen dams and vehicle tracks have destroyed much of the natural ecology and left the area with weeds like Kikuyu, fireweed, blackberries and Arum lilies.The 105 ha property was gazetted in 1994 under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme, which was established by the NSW Government in 1973 to purchase coastal freehold properties with significant cultural or natural heritage values. Gradually, the area is being revegetated by native coastal banksias (photo above) and coast wattles. There are also a few remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis ), which used to cover much of the area originally, and a few Cabbage Palms (Livistona australis), representing this species’ southernmost limit in NSW.We are really looking forward to camping here in Summer. There is a large grassed area and a wood barbecue and the beach below is 250m wide and protected by both headlands from the southerly and northerly winds. Apparently, you can catch bream, flathead, salmon, mulloway and gummy sharks.
After taking the inland route back to our starting point, we then set out to explore Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.
Bunga Beach North is 200m long and has a cleared grassy slope behind and a rocky reef in the centre. It too has black rounded volcanic boulders. The small creek, which leads to Bunga Lagoon, is usually blocked at its mouth, unless there has been good rain. Bunga Lagoon is home to many local and visiting birds.Goalen Head is composed of highly folded and faulted sedimentary rocks like slate, siltstone, shale and greywacke laid down during the Ordovician Period (which was 430-490 Million years ago). During this time, volcanic gabbro rock intruded into the sedimentary layers.The aborigines used the gabbro for tool production.Today, this gabbro is covered by deep fertile well-drained chocolate soils on the crests and slopes, well-drained loams near bedrock outcrops and poorly drained black earth in the drainage lines.
The original native vegetation communities are thought to have included :
- Bega Dry Grass Forest
- Coastal Scrub
- Bunga Head Rain Forest
- Coastal Warm Temperate Rainforest
- Dune Dry Shrub Forest and
- Coastal Foothills Dry Shrub Forest.
Sadly, none of these original communities remain, due to extensive clearing and grazing, though there are still some remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis). Regrowth thickets of Coastal Banksia and Coast Wattle are reestablishing along the seaward edge of the headland, but the area is predominantly grassy : dense swards of Themeda Grassland, dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) and introduced Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum clandenstinum). This grassland is highly disturbed, but still significant, due to the restricted distribution of this community in the region.We have seen many kangaroos grazing (top photo above), but apparently the Eastern Ground Parrot also feeds on the Goalen Head Grasslands, as do rabbits and the odd deer. There are also numerous weeds including fireweed, blackberry, sea spurge and sea rocket.
Goalen Head was also an old property, which was purchased under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme. The 104 ha farm (Murrah, Goalen Head) was gazetted in 2001 and added a further 3km of coastline to the National Park.From the headland, there are excellent views north to Murrah Beach ( 1st photo above) and south to Bunga Head (2nd photo above). Murrah Beach is 12 km south of Bermagui, but has very difficult access, due to the closure of the road by the owners of the private property, through which it passes. It backs onto Murrah Lagoon, a 110 ha body of shallow water, fed by the Murrah River, and has much bird life and fish, including bream, whiting, flathead, redfin, leatherjackets, mulloway and the odd gummy shark. It sounds like a really interesting spot to explore, but the only access appears to be by walking north along the coast from Goalen Head. We started to attempt this on our second visit to the area, but it is quite a long walk and really requires a whole day itself. Another hidden treasure, another day, another story …!!!
PS. The featured image on this post was a pod of more than 20 dolphins off Goalen Head.