Time taken: 3 hours (including lunch)
USP: Creek-side restaurant
It was only a few days past the winter solstice and with snow forecast across the high ground of NSW and Victoria, this was one of the cooler walks we’ve done. Suitably bundled up, we caught the train from Town Hall to Mount Kuring-Gai station. We’d done a similar walk a few weeks before, exploring Cowan Creek on the trail to Berowra Waters, but this time we planned to explore the opposite direction and head south to Apple Tree Bay, Bobbin Head and up into Cockle Creek.
We also had company on this walk. All of us coming prepared with wooly hats and winter coats, looking like a troop of garden gnomes! As we set off from station the sun was making a valiant effort to burn through the thin, high cloud, but the best it could muster was a milky, flat light.
Our first goal was Bobbin Inn Cafe, nestled in the confluence of Cockle Creek and Cowan Creek. The website promised hot food and a log fire, perfect for a day with a nip in the air.
The initial few kilometers of the trail are easy going, with purpose made stone steps to help walkers down the steep stuff and a steady downhill gradient. At several points there are rock ledges that give away glimpses of the creek and valley below.
Once we reached the creek we turned right to follow the western bank to Apple Tree Bay. Fishermen floated by silently in purpose made kayaks, flicking their lures under shadowy overhangs, hoping for Flathead. A White Bellied Sea Eagle floated overhead, stalking the same prey from the skies. Apart from the occasional buzz of passing boats, the creek is almost silent.
The trail is fairly easy going, with a few muddy patches. We haven’t seen significant rain for a week or so, but after a downpour it could get quite slippery. Definitely one for walking boots. At Apple Tree Bay the path joins a large car park and marina with a lawn area. Masked Plovers and a Grey Butcher Bird were busy chasing insects, while a mob of Rainbow Lorikeets blasted us with their cacophony from a nearby tree.
From here we followed an access road round to Bobbin Head Inn. Open every day except Tuesdays, it’s a great place to stop and soak up the scenery. Small fishing tinnies moor next to luxurious motor yachts and cyclists whizz by in a blur of colour. Although the fire was roaring inside we chose to brave the chill outside and had a tasty hot lunch on the patio. A nice change to the usual squashed sandwiches and a bag of trail mix!
With just enough daylight left before we had to scarper back to Mount Kuring-Gai station, we explored the first section of Cockle Creek and the Mangrove Boardwalk. A small bridge leads to a twisting expanse of decking that winds through a squat mangrove forest. The water was clear enough to see crabs scuttling along the silty bottom, brandishing their red pincers as they went. A party of Variegated Fairy Wren bounced past. A single male maintains a harem of 8 or more dusky, brown females, meaning you have to look through them all to find him in his bright blue and red finery. He was easy to spot this time. The iridescent blue head markings were glowing against the failing light and earthy colours of the mangrove.
The excitement of the Fairy Wren over we realised we would have to get a move on to reach the station in daylight. As the sun dropped below the hills, so did the temperature. With wooly hats back on and hands shoved deep in pockets, our troop of gnomes hurried back along the creek edge, retracing our steps. Only stopping to admire a White Bellied Sea Eagle one more time as it made a final sweep of the creek on upturned wings.
We timed it perfectly. The train arrived shortly after we reached the platform to whisk us back to the city.