Huw reckons this 35km paddle, which hops across a narrow isthmus to complete the loop, is the best sea kayak in NSW – and you don’t even need to car shuffle!
- See the Drum and Drumsticks sea stacks
- Paddling beneath huge cliffs and peering into caverns
- Single-day loop with the option of an overnighter
‘I’ve lost my bloody prescription sunnies and…’ The words trailed off as I surfed the wave into Target Beach. Looking right, I saw a dolphin enjoying the same wave, rather more gracefully than I. He was welcome to drop in anytime. Looking left, there, just beyond my paddle, was a yellow float holding up Rob’s glasses. I backpaddled furiously, trying to stop but the wave pushed me toward the beach.
I brought my sea kayak around as quickly as I could and paddled back out through the waves. Unbelievably, given the size of the target, I paddled right onto Rob’s $500 glasses. Lucky boy.
Jervis Bay is one of the great coastal playgrounds of the NSW South Coast. The bay, shaped like your old grandma’s head (complete with hair up in a bun) has 60km of sheltered beaches, the whitest of sand and is less than 3 hours from Sydney. Gran brings divers, fisherfolk, campers, windsurfers, dolphin watchers, rock climbers and beachcombers into her cranium. Then, if you venture past her neck, out beyond the pearl necklace of Bowen Island, and turn down her southern or up her northern shoulder, you’re onto wild coasts of towering sea cliffs, deep sea caves and smelly seals.
Calling All Sea Kayakers
Around Jervis Bay you’ll find some of the finest sea kayaking on the coast. Now most sea kayak trips, like most river trips, require a time and fuel consuming car shuttle. Island circumnavigations dispense with such annoyances but there aren’t a lot of those in NSW. Imagine then, a day-long paddle that takes in both the innards and outtards of Jervis Bay. One that doesn’t return over the same ground and allows you to paddle away from your car and back to it?
The Beecroft Peninsula forms the eastern landmass of Jervis Bay. Mellow coastline occupies its bay side but, at aptly named Point Perpendicular, massive sea cliffs take over for the run up its ocean side before they taper off around to the village of Currarong and Warrain Beach.
Fortunately for paddlers, an errant hair has escaped from grandma’s bun and curls, in the form of Carama Creek, to touch Currarong Road at the narrowest part of the peninsula. From here a mere 200 metres takes you across to Warrain Beach and along to Currarong. Bingo – a 35km paddle with a little portage!
A warning. This is no beginner’s sea kayak trip. A good half of it follows exposed coast, cliffs all the way, with only one, often marginal, spot for a landing. Even in relatively benign conditions, rebound off the cliffs can make for uncomfortable, choppy paddling. If you’re new to the sport, build up your skills (The NSW Sea Kayak Club is a great place to start), check forecasts and sea conditions and go with competent mates.
On a round trip you can of course start anywhere. You could park near where Carama Creek hits the road. Sadly last time we did this, one of our cars was broken into. Bizarrely the only thing stolen was a pair of undies. If you do decide to park here then take your underwear with you.
Setting Off From Currarong
Let’s park at Currarong and, imagining a light nor’ easter blowing or forecast, you’ve decided to go clockwise. Currarong boat ramp is a good place to launch. Make sure you’re well-fed and watered as you won’t be landing for a while. Soon you’re past Abrahams Bosom Beach then, once around Little Beecroft Head, you’re emphatically on the ocean. Shearwaters will be skimming the surface and crashing over your bow as it carves through the invariably choppy waters.
If you’re lucky enough to be out on a calm day there are endless opportunities to reverse into huge sea caves or canyon-like inlets. The swell pushing into the end of these gurgles and booms like the scariest of monsters.
Occasionally a lethargic seal will slither off some rocks, perhaps popping up again to give you the once over.
The Drum and Drumsticks
Some 7km from Currarong and perhaps 1.5 hours from your start you’ll have spotted the sea stacks of Drum and Drumsticks. Apparently there used to be more drums and drumsticks but, in less enlightened times (actually, could there be any period less enlightened than now?), the Australian Navy used them for target practice and reduced a few to rubble on the ocean floor. Beecroft Peninsula is still an active weapons range with restrictions on when you can visit and thus do this paddle, so check their Facebook page for the latest updates
Before you reach the sea stacks you’ll have noted Gum Getters Inlet on the map. The canyon of Echo Ravine runs down to the sea here and offers a tiny, rocky, north-facing spot for a handful of kayaks to squeeze into for shelter and a leg stretch. As often as not you’ll find yourself standing knee-deep or more in the water holding your kayak. But Gum Getters is the only resting possibility before you arrive inside Jervis Bay.
On down the cliffs you go, in awe of the geology of the place. Devils Gorge, Three Graves, Crocodile Cave, Thunderbird Wall, Smugglers Cavern. Just the names give a sense of the place, a place where you can feel very insignificant.
After 14km, some three hours in perhaps, you round Point Perpendicular itself. The keen-eyed might spot not only visitors to the lookout near the lighthouse above you, but rock-climbers scaling the 80 metre cliffs beneath it.
As I peer up at the lighthouse, I’m reminded of a past life I almost led…
The Lighthouse Keeper
When I first came to Australia, fresh out of uni on a working holiday visa, I tired of people asking me where I was from, what I did and more. So occasionally I’d have a bit of fun. Once, sitting in a pub in Hobart’s Salamanca, I got to chatting to a man. ‘What do you do then lad?’ was the obvious question. ‘I’m a lighthouse keeper’ I replied ‘I work a light on an island off the west coast of Scotland. It fits perfectly with my love of travel as I do six months on, six months off.’ He eyed me quizzically.
‘What sort of light is it?’ he enquired. ‘Well it’s bright, flashes, electric’. I started to shift on my barstool a little. ‘How many lumens?’ was his final question, one to which he received no answer. ‘Enough about me. What do you do?’ was mine. ‘I’m the last lighthouse keeper in Tasmania, on Maatsuyker Island’ he replied and broke into a broad smile. He was indeed and I was outed. Of all the jobs in all the world! I bought him a beer.
Paddling Into Jervis Bay
Once around the Point, you’re into Jervis Bay itself. Depending on wind and sea, things are usually much more sheltered for the rest of the trip. You’ll also be ready for lunch, a good stretch and perhaps a swim or snorkel. There’s no finer spot than Black Boat Cove, a couple of kilometres into the bay. Invariably sheltered, a long entrance drops you onto a little sandy beach. As good a place as any to start to absorb the beauty of your morning’s efforts.
Cut across from here to Longnose Point, bypassing Target Beach unless you’re fishing for sunglasses, and on past the rusting hull of a long shipwrecked yacht in Silica Cove. A straight run up the Groper Coast brings you somewhere that could easily chop this day trip from one into two. The perfect tiny horseshoe of Honeymoon Bay holds a campsite, but it’s only available on weekends and bookings can’t be made for periods outside the NSW summer school holiday period. If you’ve the time then it’s a fine place to kick back, go for a wander and enjoy more of Jervis Bay’s many charms.
Onward though, now pulling up anywhere you like, mesmerised on a sunny day by the turquoise waters. Paddling NE from Green Point you’re drawn into the embrace of Carama Creek. Now I probably should have mentioned this earlier. You’ll want to time your approach to an hour or so either side of high tide. You don’t want to be up the creek with a paddle but without enough water. And in particular, you’ll want to avoid the short stretch of cloying tidal mud right at the end.
And a Cheeky Portage to Finish
The creek will lead you to within 20 metres of the Currarong road, 5km from your put in point. Now you could hitch a ride to fetch your car. But isn’t that like stopping 200 metres below a mountain top and taking a helicopter to the summit?
So, with your companion’s help, your kayak trolley or both, portage your gear across the narrows onto Warrain Beach and launch into the surf. A final, triumphant 4km paddle will have you back at Currarong boat ramp.
And who knows, in a future with rising sea levels, you might one day paddle all the way.
- Sea kayak, paddle, personal floatation device, and open ocean skills
- Sun protection
- Water and food supplies
- Locator beacon
- Kayak trolley (optional)
How To Get There
To get to Currarong Boat Ramp, turn off the Princes Highway south of Nowra at Forest Rd and drive 28km into Currarong. The boat ramp is at the northern end of the town. You’ll pass your portage point on the way!
This is a trip for well-equipped and experienced sea kayakers. Build up your skills by joining a sea kayak club like the NSW Sea Kayak Club who run various courses. The Balanced Boater also offers lessons in Sydney.
35km round trip