The Canoelands Ridge Walking Track is a challenging 22km return overnight hike that lands you at the remote and stunning Gentlemans Halt campground right between Dangar Island and Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Darug Nation, the traditional land of the Darug people who have occupied and cared for this land for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Panoramic view of the Hawkesbury River
- Canyoning sections
- Tranquil campground by the river
- Black cockatoos abound
The History of Gentlemans Halt
Marramarra is part of the traditional lands of the Darug people, with the name believed to mean ‘many fish.’ Gentlemans Halt, on the other hand, takes its name from being a campground that Governor Phillip stayed at during his second exploration of the Hawkesbury River.
In 1789, Phillip writes that he and his party camped ‘on the most commodious spot we could find, which was a low and marshy point,’ between Dangar Island and Wisemans Ferry.
Day 1 – A Hot Hike Down to The Hawkesbury
From the outset of this overnight hike, a work event the night before had left me feeling just short of amazing after one too many espresso martinis.
The weather man had threatened over 60mm of rainfall over the two days, with humidity levels soaring above 80%. But in my recent experience, meteorologists have always been far from hitting the mark. The need for respite in nature had provided all the motivation I needed to roll out of bed and prepare my pack.
After setting out on the 11km hike just past midday, (most of which is categorised as ‘moderate’ by National Parks NSW and the final 2km categorised as ‘hard’), the heat and humidity truly were in top gear.
Read more: How To Hike in Hot Weather
The beginning portion of the hike takes you along a wide-set fire trail, winding through hilly sections of steep climbs and descents. It’s not long before you’re traversing atop the ridge with panoramic views along the Hawkesbury River and surrounds.
Being mid-February, there were quite a few wildflowers in abundance including Flannel flowers, banksia and at lower points, the Lambertia formosa or ‘mountain devil’ made an appearance too. Ant hills peppered the trail and don’t be surprised to catch a few cobwebs to the face throughout the journey too.
A sprinkling of rain made the environment all the more humid, as we reached the 8km point. At the turn off towards Gentlemans Halt Campground, the path narrowed into a single-file track through thicket before reaching the mountain edge. This section is said to be only 2km long as the crow flies but definitely felt more like 5km on the ground.
Once you pass a second sign for the campground indicating the remaining 1.7km, the hiking turns more into canyoning. There’s a lot of shimmying down rocks and stepping across crevasses which proves difficult with a 10kg+ pack on your back. In the winter months or wet weather, it would definitely be advised to have good grip trail shoes for this section.
At last, we reached the campsite – ready for dipping our feet in the river and wetting the whistle with a bottle of Armagnac after the hot journey. The serenity of this spot really subdues you into a state of relaxation, contemplation, and observation.
A few hours passed just sitting on the rocks by the waterfront, looking for eagles and watching the water ripple as boats passed. The overnight temperature dipped only slightly, making for a comfortable night of rest.
Day 2 – Waking Up by The River
When we woke in the morning, a layer of mist had settled in over the treetops and the white sky was reflected back to us from the river. The silence of the morning was only interrupted by the oscillating noises of cicadas or the first early-riser taking their boat out.
The landscape lends itself to thoughts of the Borneo jungle-meets-Okavango Delta-meets-the bush. The majesty of such a giant waterway, surrounded by sweeping valleys of bushland is truly a spectacular sight that I didn’t expect to see just 1.5 hours outside of Sydney.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
We took off on our return journey a little earlier on the second day, not wanting to repeat the mistakes of yesterday battling the afternoon heat… A nice breeze rolled through that made the humidity a lot more bearable in the early hours.
We deliberated how many uphills versus downhills there’d been on the journey in – turns out, it was about a 70% uphill, 30% downhill split. The return journey took us almost four hours but was interspersed with over eight black cockatoo sightings.
Most physical challenges are always best met with a cold beverage at the end, so we made our way to the Glenorie RSL to rehydrate and refill the tanks. This pub has a great outdoor area with live music on a Sunday afternoon that really lends itself to a recovery meal.
Marramarra and its surrounds are definitely an area I’ll be revisiting again soon to experience more of the tranquillity and scenery it has to offer.
- Two days’ worth of water
- Head torch
- Mosquito repellent
- First aid kit
- Shoes with good grip (in wet weather!)
- Sleep system
- Food for dinner, breakfast, and snacks
How To Get There
Start at the Canoelands Ridge car park, between Forest Glen and Maroota.
If you pass the Canoelands Orchard, you’re heading in the right direction. Limited parking favours the early risers.
Follow the trail for Canoelands Ridge Walking Track for 8km before taking the left turn for Gentlemans Halt.
This is a remote hike, so make sure you know: How To Poo in The Bush
Distance Covered / Elevation gain / Duration
22km return / 779m / 4-5 hours (one way)