Snorkeling a Burnt Out Jetty // Catherine Hill Bay (NSW)

If you like your water adventures with stunning scenery and a dash of abandoned building exploration, then Catherine Hill Bay has got you covered.


Highlights

  • An epic abandoned jetty
  • A slice of Australia’s coal mining history
  • Good surfing waves
  • Fishing and spearfishing for mulloway, snapper, bream and groper

The Lowdown

The town of Catherine Hill Bay itself is a weird throwback to Australia’s coal mining past. Most of the 400 or so occupants still live in small miner’s cottages painted in a variety of pastel shades. Not-so-fun fact: The town was named after the ship Catherine Hill that ran aground there in a storm in 1867. Two of the crew died and the rest washed up on the beach completely naked because the seas were so rough it ripped off their clothes.

But what you really want to see is the jetty. At the south end of the beach this colossal structure stretches out into the ocean, still waiting for a coal delivery that will never arrive. It would be dangerous enough with its huge rusting struts and frail wooden beams getting pounded by the surf, but then a fire ripped through in 2013. There’s a steel fence with barbed wire preventing access to the jetty from above but there are still creative ways that graffiti artists, photographers and urban explorers like to exploit.

Instead of climbing up, my partner and I went down and snorkelled around the base of the jetty. We circled the giant pylons that sunk into the ocean floor, covered with barnacles and coral. Fish darted beneath us and sometimes we found ourselves surrounded by shimmering moon jellyfish. The waves were rough and threatened to push us into the pylons, but down below the underwater world was calm with sea life swimming intricate paths through the remnants of human colonisation.

Essential Gear

  • snorkel, mask, fins
  • wetsuit
  • sunblock
  • swimming costume, towel
  • water & snacks
  • optional dive gloves, dive torch, knife

How To Get There

You’ll find the jetty on the south end of the Catherine Hill Bay Beach, accessed via Flowers Drive. To get there, travel north from Sydney on the Pacific Motorway (M1), then turn right onto the Pacific Highway. Take a right onto Montefiore Street, left onto Clarke Street and then onto Flowers Drive that runs parallel to the beach on your right. The best parking is at the south end of the beach next to the Catherine Hill Bay SLSC.

Activities

  • snorkeling
  • surfing
  • swimming
  • fishing
  • spearfishing
  • photography
  • urban exploration.

Skill level

Intermediate. Advised for strong to moderate swimmers comfortable with ocean swimming due to the presence of multiple rips, waves and currents.


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