Start: Loftus Train Station
End: Audley Boat Shed, Royal National Park
Time taken: 1 hour walk to Audley + 3 hour canoe hire
USP: Get off the well worn trails and see some incredible wildlife
Distance: 5km walk in and 5km paddling one way
Get a map of our route
Scroll down for a short video of the day
It was the last day of 2016. What better way to spend it than hiking into the Royal National Park from Loftus train station, hiring a canoe from Audley Boat Shed and exploring up Kangaroo Creek.
Being New Year’s Eve and with good weather forecast we knew we had to be up early to beat the crowds. The alarm was set for 6am and by 8.30 we were stepping off the train and into the bush.
At this time of year the nights are nearly as warm as the day and crickets and cicada are in full swing, buzzing and churring from high up in the trees. At points the sound is deafening. Creating a wall of mechanical, electrical humming from hundreds of unseen insects.
The walk down is easy and the trails quiet. We pass dozing Kookaburras and tinkling flocks of Red Browed Finch. Within half an hour we reach the bottom of the canyon and Audley Dance Hall cafe. Although we’d already had breakfast the allure of hot coffee and a muffin was too much, so we grabbed a seat and fuelled up for the paddling ahead.
We hired a two person canoe from Audley Boat Shed. At 124 years old it must be one of the oldest things in NSW. Ancient tin rowing boats are lined up next to brand new carbon and fibreglass Stand Up Paddleboards. Our canoe was somewhere in the middle. An 8ft fibreglass number with a shallow draft, perfect for the knee deep water we’d be gliding over.
Thanks to the early alarm we were one of the first to push out, head around the bend and into Kangaroo Creek. The water was untouched plate glass as we slipped upstream. The sounds of the road being quickly lost and replaced with only our paddles gripping the water.
We continued as far as we could. Finally coming to a section of impassable boulders. Stepping out into the shallow, silty waters we pulled the boat out and soothed hot shoulders with a swim in a deeper section between some boulders. Joking to each other about eels and leeches, it wasn’t until we were just about to get out that a large eel swam out from its hiding place and darted across in front of us!
As we clambered back into the canoe and began to make our way back to the boat shed we started to pass the crowds of late risers making their way upstream. Rounding a bend we heard a commotion from the tree above and quickly located a very agitated Sacred Kingfisher. As we watched, it dive bombed a large Lace Monitor lizard on the bank who was obviously close to sniffing out the kingfisher nest.
As we continued on our way, chatting about what we’d seen, another disturbance caught our eye. This time on the water surface as a Red Bellied Black Snake cruised across the bow of the canoe and into the reeds at the bank!
Our three hour hire was all too quickly up and after checking out some of the water lilies in the main lake, we returned the canoe and retreated to the shade of a large gum tree for a well earned nap. Just as we started to drop off a number of voices close by found their way into our day dreams and brought us round. A HUGE Lace Monitor was ambling towards us across the lawn. It’s forked tongue flicking the air, trying to work out if we had some tasty chicken hidden in our packs. Fortunately we only had our trail mix and it didn’t seem interested, but hung out with us for a while, sunning itself in a nearby patch of sunlight.
With dinosaurs roaming loose, napping was off the cards, so after getting some photos and videos of the beast, we started the long hot walk out of Audley and back to Loftus train station.