Hiking and snorkelling — two activities not usually mentioned in the same sentence. What would you even call it? Horkelling? Sniking? Ridiculous new sport names aside, being lucky enough to live in Australia means there’s plenty of beautiful scenery on land, and underwater, to explore. By bringing your snorkelling gear on your next coastal hike, you’ll have secluded beaches all to yourself, just you and the fish!
Hiking and freediving are two of my favourite pastimes, so when planning to hike the Light To Light Track I recognised a rare opportunity to bring them both together.
The Light To Light Track
The Light To Light Track traverses 30km of New South Wales’ beautiful far South Coast, in Ben Boyd National Park. It is a breathtakingly scenic hike, crossing expansive red rock platforms, populated by lyrebirds, wombats, coastal wildflowers and surrounded by turquoise clear water. The hike is full of opportunities to take just a few steps off track to beautiful secluded beaches, and experience another underwater world of beautiful flora and fauna.
If you’re not interested in a multi-day trek, there are plenty of access points to complete day hikes. Saltwater Creek Campground and Bittangabe Campground are both accessible by car, and make a good entrance point to complete a day hike.
The Snorkel Spots
The Sapphire Coast’s traditional owners, the Yuin Nation, have an incredibly close relationship with the ocean. It’s not hard to see why, as the waters of the Sapphire Coast are full of life, including a number of threatened and endangered species, from tiny weedy seadragons, beautiful fish species like the elegant wrasse, fur seals, grey nurse sharks, to humpback whales, the giants of the ocean, visiting during their migration up and down the coast.
The Sapphire Coast well and truly lived up to its name, with crystal clear turquoise water. With excellent visibility I spotted stingrays, wrasse, an adorable baby cuttlefish, juvenile gropers, and a great variety of seaweeds and anemones.
I went in the water at Leather Jacket Bay, Hegartys Bay and Bittangabee Bay. If you’re not confident in open ocean, Bittangabee is the pick of the lot, as it’s protected and calm, but without as much underwater life as at the other two bays.
Apart from your hiking gear, you won’t need much more than swimmers, a towel and goggles, or a snorkel and mask to get in and enjoy the water. You may not even need those swimmers depending on how private the beach is!
To save weight as you hike, bring only the essential gear. On this trip, I packed swimmers, flippers, my mask and snorkel, and GoPro. The flippers were not essential, but the South Coast has some wild, deserted beaches, with strong currents, so the extra power of flippers helped me get through some hairy moments in big waves and rips. If you’re going to be in more protected or calm waters, consider leaving the flippers at home.
If you want to amp it up and move from snorkeling to freediving, standard freediving gear usually includes a wetsuit, weight belt, big freediving fins and underwater camera like a GoPro. But this is a lot of gear to carry if you’re hiking any farther than a few kilometres.
How To Get There
The Light To Light Walk is on the South Coast of NSW, 18km from the town of Eden. If you have two cars, leave a car at either end of the hike, or the National Parks rangers can drop you at one end (for a fee). Wild Walks has a detailed guide on the Light to Light Walk, and how to get there including GPS locations.
Best Time To Visit
The only thing that would make the Light To Light Track more beautiful would be to see pods of whales traveling past on their way to and from their winter mating grounds. Whale watching season runs from May until November.
Our pick is early May, when water temperatures are still warm enough to swim, and you’ll catch the start of the whale migration. But if you don’t make it in May, The annual Eden Whale Festival is held on the 2-4 of November, and worth a visit before or after you finish the hike.
New South Wales National Parks grades the Light To Light Walk as grade 4 (bushwalking experience recommended). It is rough in places with ankle-breaking boulders to traverse, but the grade is flat, as you follow the coastline. It is also well signposted, and easy to find your way.
If you want to take it deeper than just a snorkel, freediving can be a dangerous sport. The deeper you go, the higher the risk, so make sure you always dive with a buddy, and be aware of your limits! Check out this guide on how to stay safe while freediving. Even better, find a freediving course to learn more.
About 31km on land, and 1km underwater.
While You’re There
Drop in to visit Tathra, an hour north of the Light To Light Track. Tathra was recently hit by bushfires that destroyed over 70 homes in the small coastal town. The historic Tathra Pub, famous Tathra Wharf and all shops are still open, so drop in, have a beer, the best oysters you will ever eat and a chat with the locals and help support the town’s recovery.
Although the Light To Light Track is stunning both above and below water, and definitely worth a visit, you don’t have to be an avid bushwalker or freediver to do a spot of snorkelhiking! Just find a walk-in access only beach and pack your swimmers and goggles! Check out some secret beaches near you!
Adventures Under The Sea