Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Winters Day In The Bay

June in Newcastle can be get rather cold, so it is tempting just to sit inside, put the television on and wait for the warmer weather to arrive, however some winter days can be just magical.

This Saturday was just on of those special mid winter days, the sun was shining, the temperature hovered around 19° and so Jude and I decided to head off to Port Stephens for lunch at Shoal Bay. Shoal Bay is a wonderful little hideaway and has one of the best takeaway shops that can be found in the area, Aussie Bobs.So making sure I packed my Canon  400D we headed off on the 30 minute drive to the Bay. As well as lunch, since it is also whale migration season (June - October) it is sometimes possible to spot the whales from the headlands and so that is why I preferred the 400D, with its 75 - 300mm telephoto lens as it is ideal for bringing long distance shots into focus.

After our big lunch we decided that it might be a good idea to go for a walk along the bay and just see what we could find on our little adventure, plus walk off those calories. What we did find was the entrance to Tomaree National Park and the walking trail around to the old WWII gun emplacements at Fort Tomaree.

Since it was only a 1 kilometre walk we were well kitted out for our bushwalk, camera, check, a three quarters full bottle of Coke, check, one packet of chewy, check ... so off we went.

The old emplacements are accessed by a relatively easy walk and are well worth the effort. The guns were two 6" Mk.VII BL guns (the same as Fort Scratchley) and were installed in 1942 to cover the entrance to Port Stephens to deny the Japanese Navy easy access to a deep water anchorage, from where they could launch an invasion on Newcastle. The guns, unlike those at Fort Scratchley, were never fired in anger and while the guns have long since been removed, there are still the emplacements, plus other remnants of Australia's WWII history that are still in place and are worth exploring.

On the return journey I noticed that there was a track that led up to the 155 metre summit and it was only a 260 metre walk to the top. Now, this isn't mountain goat country, as it is a well formed path with steps and walkways that allow easy access to the summit, however it still requires a bit of effort to make it all the way to the top. Once you make it to the summit (which was also the WWII radar site), the vista is spectacular, with uninterrupted views north to the Myall Lakes, south to Newcastle, and along the Karuah River that  lazily meanders westward.

The Tomaree Headland is also a great spot to do some whale watching and we were lucky enough to see a couple of these wonderful mammals putting on quite a display as they continue their migration northward to the warmer waters around The Great Barrier Reef (especially The Whitsundays). There is always something special about these displays which can captivate you for hours and makes you wonder how that we humans nearly hunted these wonderful mammals nearly to extinction early last century!

It certainly was a great way to spend a winters day, only next time I go on one of our walking adventures I think I'll pack something a bit better than a bottle of Coke and some chewing gum ... not exactly the best way to bushwalking!


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