Forester Beach Camp to Bay of Fires Lodge
Start - Forester Beach Camp
Finish - Bay of Fires Lodge
Length - 15.7km (One Way)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Beach, Rocks, Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 170m
Time - 5-8 hours
Cost - See TWC website
Date Hiked - 22nd April 2019
The Hike - After an awesome Day One on the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, both Caris and I had a broken sleep but that was nothing compared to our guides, Joel and Jessie. After we had gone to bed they told the group their plans to sleep under the stars that night on the beach.
I knew the only rain forecast for the whole trip was for around midnight on the first night and can't remember if I shared that with everyone (I obviously didn't). The boys found out the hard way and apparently had to drag their mattresses and sleeping bags back to the tent in the pouring rain, much to everyone's amusement at the breakfast table the following morning. One of the things I'd planned to do on this trip was wake up for every sunrise and watch every sunset so I'd set my alarm early. I was up early anyway so snuck off in silence so I didn't disturb anyone else trying to sleep in and made my way up to the dunes to capture what turned out to be a pretty epic sunrise.
With no wind around the only sound was the waves lapping on the shore as the pre-dawn light glowed a lovely pink and purple. As time went on the oranges and blues replaced the pinks and purples and with some pretty cool cloud formations it looked spectacular. By the time the sun actually peaked above the horizon the grey clouds had set in and it was a bit of a fizzle so I was happy to see the bit bit of the morning. Caris had awoken early too and gone looking for me as I returned to the tent to find her missing. She was on the beach enjoying the sunrise and with the spectacle over we headed to the main dining area to see what the breakfast situation was.
Joel and Jessie were up preparing the morning for everyone and to my delight there was a fresh pot of coffee ready so I enjoyed a brew while we waited for everyone else to rise and shine. Breakfast was an assortment of cereals and the boys had cooked up some porridge including a gluten free version that Jessie had lovingly made for Tom with lots of help from Amy who Jessie jokingly kept asking advice from for no good reason. When we had finished breakfast Joel explained what was in store for the day and with more hiking and even better beaches, it sounded like we were in for a treat. Packing up our stuff and leaving the tents as we found them, we were soon all gathered in the morning sun ready to head out on the day's adventure.
The skies had cleared as we set off along the first beach of the day that also turned out to be one of the smallest. 300m into the day and already we were heading inland for some variety and to hopefully see some wildlife. I stuck to the front of the group as Joel led us to the marsupial lawns that provide a year round grazing opportunity for the wallabies and kangaroos that inhabit the national park. As we entered the first lawn we spotted a couple of wallabies having a morning feed and were lucky when one decided to stick around. Feeling buoyed by this early wildlife sighting I begun to think that maybe we'd spot another wombat or even one of the Tasmanian Devils that have been reintroduced to the area after the horrible face tumour epidemic has affected so much of the population.
Filled with hope we moved on through the coastal heath that ranged from grass trees to banksia to a patch of almost tropical looking ferns. Joel stopped us in one area as he noticed what looked like Tasmanian Devil scat and explained why he thought that (signs of bones were the big clue) along with some cool facts about the iconic Tasmanian predator. Another cool Joel moment came when he explained a fantastic use for the yellow banksia flowers that were found everywhere along the coast. The indigenous population used them to transport fire from one location to another when the rains were approaching. Peeling off the colourful portion of the flower, the remaining cylinder acts as slow burning yet insulated torch, cool enough to carry around and slow burning enough to last long enough to survive the passing rains.
Moving through the marsupial lawns we spotted our first kangaroo before it jumped off into the bushes so it was turning out to be a good wildlife day. We popped out into an open area on the edge of a waterway and was told that this was Broad Creek. The Broad name is significant for Caris' family as it was her mother's maiden name (and thus Candy's family name too). They both posed for a token photo in front of the creek to show Caris' grandmother when we returned home. Walking along the edge of the creek everyone was amazed at the colours on the other side of the water. The grassy vegetation there seemed to be multicoloured in the lighting, giving off a rainbow effect. I'm happy it translated to the camera as it was a very impressive sight that I would love to know more about.
With it being autumn and a pretty dry one at that we maintained dry boots as we walked along the edge of the creek back towards the ocean. As we reached the white sands a couple of swan flew overhead and I was struggling to remember if I'd seen a swan fly before. It's certainly an odd spectacle as their long necks and heavy bodies mean it isn't the most graceful of movements but we did get to see their beautiful white feathers on display. As we reached the beach and continued down towards the water we noticed quite a few pairs floating in the surf. This would be the end of the inland walking for a while but I was happy to be on the white beaches again with the bright sun shining.
Back on the sand we knew the drill, head down to the water's edge and continue to enjoy the amazing scenery. With a bit of seaweed hanging around this bay, I believe this is the area that Tom and Charlie found an almost round ball of seaweed that would become a staple of the trip for the next few days (including many games of cricket/baseball with large bits of bull kelp). What was noticeable from this point was the dune system becoming bigger and wilder. On Day One it was fairly flat affair but on this stretch they were much taller with little crowns of vegetation holding the structure in place. After a fairly relaxing and easy beach walk we rounded a small headland and made our way towards the only creek crossing of the day at Deep Creek.
Before we arrived at the crossing there was a variety of bird life to enjoy including a few Pacific Gulls, a giant version of the regular beach chicken (aka common seagull). Caris has a thing about these birds and was really excited to show me one of our last trip (where I wasn't that impressed) so it's now a running thing where I become super exited to see one now and comment on their size. As we rounded the beach near Deep Creek we noticed some beach shacks just inland and Joel explained the history behind them and how the owners have some very strict rules on what they can do with them because they are within a national park.
With that slight distraction from our walk Joel set about explaining to everyone that we would have to get slightly wet and cross the raging Deep Creek where it entered the ocean. At a lovely turquoise sliver of water we all took our boots off and rolled up our pants to begin the treacherous journey across the still creek. I let everyone go first so I could take photos of the crossing and also the excellent orange of the granite boulders. I had a bit of a lighthearted laugh as Caris crossed as she did the "dog with socks" walk through the water in her sand people outfit. Once I made it the other side I watched everyone climb over the boulders to the other side of the headland before doing so myself. Joel and Jessie were great at helping everyone over the rocks as not everyone was comfortable with the scrambling. The other side (called Picnic Rocks) was home to some of the best examples of the lichen covered granite that I was really excited to photograph and with the lovely blue skies I was loving it.
After a quick snack and drinks break to reattach boots to feet and brush off all the sand we moved on to one of the longer beach sections of the day. From the start of this bay Joel pointed to the lighthouse in the distance and told us that that was the goal for the morning and lunch would be near there. It seemed so far away but it's not like the scenery was terrible and it felt like a trudge, exactly the opposite. This beach was one of the most idyllic of all the beaches being very flat with hard sand and stretching out for ages. A family had setup a picnic near the water, enjoying what was turning out to be another warm morning but this time with sun. As we walked along the shores I had fun capturing the crashing waves, enjoying the bright turquoise colours. Hal made a comment about the guy from WA being impressed with great beaches and crashing waves but what can I say, I'm a simple guy that enjoys the simple things.
One landmark in the distance that would be with us for a while was a roundish protrusion of orange and grey rocks in the water that Joel said he thought looked like four different things as you moved along and changed perspective. I had a few guesses based off what I saw but he didn't confirm any of them so I guess you see what you want to see sometimes (I thought it was a dog's head and a map of Australia as we moved along this beach section). As we got to the closest point to that particular rock we turned off the beach and into an access point for day trippers and campers. I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting so many reminders of civilisation on this trip after the Three Capes but I guess they have limitations being in a publicly accessible national park. After a quick stop we were going to be heading along a 4x4 track that wasn't exactly pleasant but it didn't last long and soon we were on a single track leading back towards the beach.
Hiking through the coastal heath was once again a pleasant experience and served to break up the monotony of the beach walking, not that the beach walking was particularly difficult or unpleasant. Arriving back at another beach it would be a very short section before we reached the headland containing the lighthouse and the halfway point in the day. Another weird reminder of civilisation was the emergence of one of my hates enemies in life, onions. Weirdly there were maybe five or six of the devil's vegetable washed up on the beach and Caris had fun reminding me of my dislike for them. With everyone gathered up at the end, Joel found the path exiting the beach and we climbed up through the dunes and on to the lunch location for the day.
Reaching the road that leads down to the lighthouse we followed that for a little bit before coming across a sign pointing us to the official Bay of Fires Beach. With a bit more coastal heath to get through we dipped up and down through the dune system before finally getting glimpses of the coastline spreading out before us. It was a super impressive sight to see it from this perspective as before this point we had really only seen the upcoming beaches from sea level. Granted we weren't super high up but enough to appreciate the majesty of the coastline leading all the way to Mount Pearson and The Shades way off in the distance. The gorgeous white sand of the dune system was lovely to walk through and pretty soon we were on the beach gawking at the most impressive beach yet.
Having covered nine kilometres already it was time for a lunch stop so Joel and Jessie led us to the left and towards a very cool cove of jagged rocks. Setting our stuff down and chowing down on a well deserved lunch of salad wraps (with optional tuna), Jessie set about lighting the Trangia for hot drinks. Having finished my lunch I took my boots off and headed further down the beach to explore and photograph the amazing patterns and colours of the rocks. With the lighthouse in the distance, more turquoise water just offshore and some interesting cloud patterns, I was thoroughly enjoying this spot. It was tough narrowing down the photos for the galleries as I had over 200 that I had to cull down to fit into a reasonable sized report. Charlie decided to brave the freezing waters and went for a refreshing swim, something I would have loved to do if my towel wasn't the size of a postage stamp.
After lunch Joel took everyone that wanted to go off to the Eddystone Point Lighthouse to check out the building that had been a speck in the distance for most of the day. Climbing over the beautiful rocks I was photographing before we walked along a small beach before rising up through the heath towards the lighthouse cottages. Beautifully restored, these postcard perfect buildings are actually the accommodation for the Wukalina Walk, a similar experience to this trip but run by an indigenous company. Just past the cottages is the lighthouse and it's a very impressive monument to the rough oceans, guiding ships through troubled waters and was actually paid for mostly by the Victorian Government who kept losing ships in the area as they transported goods up the east coast of Tasmania. These days it is all automated and the light source is tiny compared to the old lantern and mirror arrangement that used to be manned by the lighthouse keeper.
Joel mentioned that there is a guides challenge that some attempt to do where you try and get around the circumference of the lighthouse without touching the ground. Being an avid rock climber it wasn't too hard to goad Joel into an attempt and he ended up completing it with ease, making going under a staircase and over the main door look like nothing. With great applause we took one last look at the lighthouse and returned back to the beach where Jessie was waiting with our packs. For this next section it was just over three kilometres of beach walking along very smooth and flat ground so it was the perfect opportunity to ditch the boots and walk barefoot.
Hal joined me in a spot of "grounding" and I have to say if was very refreshing feeling the cool waters of the Southern Ocean against my legs. Keeping the pants rolled up and in a comfortable position was an ongoing battle but one I would happily fight given the enjoyable nature of the walking along here. Everyone got into their own rhythm and soon we were spread out all over the shop. Given I was stopping every now and then to take photos I was at the rear of the group, also keeping Caris company as she trooped along. With a wide open beach, blue skies and golden sands this was another one of those "I Still Call Australia Home" moments I have occasionally where I just randomly get the song playing in my head because of how good the scenery is. This time I actually decided to whip my phone out and play it for real as I was on my own and I could have been in a Qantas ad from the 90s if I really wanted to believe it (I did).
This beach actually reminded me of another of those times and that was along the really long beach leading from Point Ann to Point Charles on the Mamang Trail in Fitzgerald River National Park. It was almost an exact clone of that scene but flipped the other way with Mount Pearson and The Shades filling in for the Mid Barrens. I was wishing that this section wouldn't end though as the fluffy clouds reflecting in the wash of the waves, the refreshing water on my feet and the warm air made this an excellent stretch of walking. All good things must come to an end though and we reached the group as they rested at the end of the beach on some rocks, enjoying the chocolate that Jessie had whipped out. I had more fun photographing the sea snails and almost gold molluscs that had attached themselves to the rocks. After putting my shoes back on it was time to move on again and onto the first of many impressive shell beaches.
Different to the indigenous middens that we saw on Day One, these are naturally occurring shell deposits and are a sight to be seen. Similar to Hearsons Cove near Karratha, the crunch is a weird feeling under your feet and it's a natural reaction to try and avoid stepping on the shells to avoid breaking any but that's impossible so you end up trying to do your best (or at least I did). Caris was in her element here as she loves picking through shell and beach debris finding cool patterns or interesting colours. The finish to the day would take us up and over several rocky headlands as we made our way to the private beach below the Bay of Fires Lodge. Passing through several more shell beaches, this was the most dramatic section of the day with lots of orange boulders and scrambling required. Adding to the dramatic feeling was the cloud cover rolling in from the west, contrasting nicely with the still sunny conditions out to sea.
After a seemingly never ending but thoroughly enjoyable series of small bays we reached the final beach and what we had heard described by members of our group on the Three Capes as a tough ascent up the hill to the lodge. It ended up being not too difficult as the lodge only sits 32m above sea level, I think that after a long day of hiking for the target demographic for these hikes it may seem tough. We were greeted at the steps up to the lodge by Francisco, the lodge manager where he had laid out refreshments for us to enjoy as we waited for everyone to arrive. Once everyone was gathered around he took us on a tour of the lodge showing us the library/chill room, our rooms, the bathrooms, the main lounge/kitchen/dining area and the western deck where a surprise was waiting. Lined up in front of the benches was a basin of warm water, salts and peppermint oil so we could soak our weary feet. Here we enjoyed a glass of our preferred alcoholic beverage and toasted to another great day walking the Bay of Fires.
When everyone was ready they grabbed their stuff and selected a room in the eastern section of the lodge. One thing that we were told by the guides early on was that the lodge supports two groups simultaneously (I should have read the trip notes better) so there was a different group of ten that we would be staying with on each night. There was plenty of room for everyone and it was fun having a larger group at meal times to interact with and share stories of the day's events. After a very enjoyable shower we chilled out for the afternoon, watching a lovely sunset from both the eastern and western decks (not at the same time obviously) before dinner was served at nightfall. On the menu this evening was polenta crisps on a bed of mashed potato, roasted veggies and for us pescatarians, some halloumi. Dessert was an almond cake with pear and coconut yogurt. To finish a thoroughly enjoyable day we sat by the fire in the lounge with some wine and convinced Jessie to grab one of the guitars and play songs for us. A young and talented musician, it wouldn't surprise me in a few years to find Jessie with his own record and touring the country as he was very good. I recorded a few videos of him playing and might end our Real Trail Talk episode (coming soon) about this trip with his singing. After many song requests and lots of singing by everyone we retired to our room for a very restful sleep.
Final Thoughts - With Day One serving as an excellent warm-up to the trip, Day Two was the beginning of the highly enjoyable and spectacular hiking that this area is famous for.
The longest day of the trip, there is a great variety to the day that it feels much longer than the 16km that my GPS logged. I could describe this as the perfect day with a breathtaking sunrise, a clear and warm day of beach hiking, plenty of wildlife, some stunning colours to photograph and finishing at what is a stunning eco lodge (I'll talk more about it in future posts).
I'm happy the photos truly capture what a fantastic day this was (at least I hope they do) and there were so many more that I could have posted.
I was blown away by this experience and it will forever be a day that I remember so long as I live.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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