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Photographer Ian Smith finds rocky inspiration at four unique destinations on the east coast
Words and Images by: Ian Smith N92935

With an exhibition looming, and a friend in Melbourne artistically inclined, I felt a trip to some of Eastern Australia’s most beguiling rock formations was well and truly overdue.

I started my trip alone with a drive south to Bermagui, NSW, to do some fishing and view Horse Head Rock, a little known feature that was nearby with tricky access. It was at the back of Camel Rock, and only accessible at low tide.

I parked at the Camel Rock car park, loaded my camera, and walked into the unknown, up a slightly worn track to the top of the headland. Others had passed before and when I reached a patch of windblown heathland I was glad they had, as the going would have been nearly impossible otherwise. It cleared, I gazed down from an impromptu lookout. No Horse Head Rock. 

Walking further I could make out the cleavage, but it looked nothing like I’d seen two years ago at Mogo in a photographer’s gallery. Now I’d found the rock, I pondered on what the best route to the beach might be. Both ends were protected by rocks, one a broken headland, the other? A formidable obstacle.

Art propels Ian down cliffs to Horse Head Rock

TO HORSE HEAD ROCK, NSW 

Choosing to go to the seemingly more difficult northern end on the basis that I would then be working backwards, I apprehensively strolled off. The scenery was making the whole experience worthwhile. A cool breeze flexed the headland grasses and as I neared the end, things suddenly seemed a whole lot harder. A narrow razorback strip rose to where I was standing and I studied it at length. I figured my traditional one-step-at-a-time progress might work here, so I carefully edged forward.

It was steep and dangerous, but I’d done stuff like this many times before and was very careful. It was time to edge over the cliff. Dusting off my pants when I reached the base, I stepped out along the smooth sands backed by the cliffs I’d just walked across.

All alone, with the wave wash echoing off the cliff walls, my sense of being at one with nature heightened. Excitement mounted as I neared the hoped-for gap, but there was joy in the journey, too, it’s such a pretty place.

Then the hole appeared, slowly and beguilingly it draws you in, totally changing the appearance of Horse Head into what its name suggests. Somehow, the fact that there’s sky in the middle of the rock makes it so much more appealing. The camera has its moment here, recording the angles and variations of the theme, particularly the reflection in a rock pool that would soon be gone with the coming of the tide.

I moved around to the south, and saw the near-vertical geological uplifting in the layered strata capped with hardy grasses and plants, whose roots probed the gaps, eking out a much-weathered life.

Beyond, I could at last ascertain the common route from the south, it followed the shattered headland and was definitely not to be taken at high tide. I chose to return via the way I’d come, and climbing out proved easier than descending, provided you didn’t look down! 

I camped with still a day up my sleeve and tried my hand at fishing (two fish, no keepers) and golf (a lovely course wasted on me). The next day, after testing out my neutral density filter at Beares Beach, I packed up and headed for Victoria’s Bass Coast. 

The elusive shot made more special by Horse Head Rock's reflection in the transient pool

BEYOND INVERLOCH, VIC

I like Inverloch. I’ve only been  there once before, but sometimes a place just settles easy on you and brings a warm feeling whenever you think about returning. Thus it was, I decided  to spend a night there, parking beside a walk/ride path used by  the healthy set.

Beyond the dunes cloaked with brushy vegetation lay an inlet where fishing was a prominent activity and photographers would seek sunrise and sunsets. Its calm appeal wafts over you, instilling a sense that all is well in the world as you saddle up and drive away.

I was headed to Phillip Island, at last, and had chosen the southern-most route through Wonthaggi, wondering if there was anything worthwhile at Cape Paterson en route. The western end of Gippsland is usually lush, but the toll of climate change had rendered the scenery almost harrowing in some places. Only near the ocean were green patches to be seen.

As I sidled along the line of cliffs, I realised Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park had something to offer. Prominence after prominence jutted out into the ocean, and occasional rock shelves in lieu of beaches appeared with the waning tide.

I paused at one and alighted, taking the stairs to the beach below. As I rock hopped towards the point, differing vistas unfolded until, beyond the point, the holy grail of my search. Some other tourists were also coming out and I almost shouted at them in excitement that Eagles Nest was on the next headland.

With the little accumulated knowledge I’d assumed it was unattainable, but at least I could see it, albeit from a way off. It’s a rock formation of stand-out geography with as many faces as angles. I stumbled back quickly to the motorhome, ascending the stairs like an urgent 5-year-old and headed west. Lo and behold there was a lookout from where you had a nice overview and, whilst taking in the panorama, I noted a staircase to the beach.

There were two other vehicles there but, apparently, the occupants were merely interested in viewing the formation from the lookout at the point. I couldn’t believe my luck at (a) finding  the rock, and (b) being able to descend on to the platform that supported it.

There are platforms here  because the coastline is sheltered to a large degree from the destructive sou’ westerly swells by the distant King Island. Thus, a different shoreline is apparent and it supports a variety of marine vegetation and animal life, 90 per cent of which is found nowhere else on earth.

Into this surreal world I wandered, checking the rock pools occasionally on the semi-tessellated shelf but ever focused on the lonely outcrop drawing me ever closer. Its ragged edges told of hardship and violence but it remains steadfast in defiance.

Getting nearer provides differing viewpoints; the outline changes dramatically with every passing degree. Even looking back at the cape is interesting as the clouds,  in their ever changing mode, drift past on high. 

With cards full of images, and tales to tale, I collected my travelling companion Lorraine Parker in Melbourne, with the view to return to the NSW Coast.

GLASSHOUSE ROCKS, NSW 

You can’t leisurely travel the South Coast without stopping at Central Tilba, so this time, we headed off there for some cheese, after tasting of course, before reaching Narooma.

Our next stop was the seafood platter in Narooma, which as always, was a highlight for us. You get it by contacting the seafood place on the northern end of the bridge and, for $50, you’ll get bugs, scallops, a dozen oysters, crunchy fresh prawns and a few other items. Absolutely scrumptious.

We were on our way to Glasshouse Rocks, Lorraine had read a 5 star-review on it on TripAdvisor. Funny, we’d never heard of it; time to go and have a look.

Apparently, the cemetery was the place to aim for, though there is a sign “Glasshouse Rocks Lookout” on the Princes Highway. 

The road is scenic in its own right and not too far to the lookout. As the report indicated, the view is pleasant, but it doesn’t prepare you for what’s in store later.

We located the small white fence around the furthest graveyard and filtered our way down on the middle of three tracks where they separated. Beneath a spreading gum tree, a path takes you to the beach. It’s the only legal entry to the place, as all land beyond is private property, mainly owned by Justin Hemmes of the House of Merivale.

The first surprise is the chevrons. Where rock layers have been put under immense pressure they’ve buckled severely, scrunched into acute wavy angles of different coloured layers; quite extraordinary. 

As you head south, you’ll find all manner of types of geology here and there, literally a result of a “blast from the past” some hundreds of millions of years ago. I know it’s a big claim but, speaking from a personal point of view, I rate this better than the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. Why? I hear you ask. Well, for a start there are no helicopters flying by, you are as one with nature, soaking up the solitude of the venue and, most important, the formations and types of rock are all so different.

With every few paces, the viewpoint changes dramatically, providing lots of photo opportunities and you can walk among the rocks, with low tide offering the best chance get up close and personal.

Narooma breakwall

A LAST HURRAH

Reluctantly, we moved on finding ourselves much later at Malua Bay, a gorgeous haven on the coast out from Batemans Bay, parallel with Mogo, which inspired our journey. We spent the night here and, very early on the morrow I rock hopped out to the point and was surprised at the colour in the rocks. A lava outflow had once settled among the abundant sandstone, creating a dramatic shift from black to almost white in the rock.

Jagged-edged rock pools were full of Neptune’s necklace providing not only shelter for animals, but a mottled yellow appearance. It served as yet another reminder to me that you should never take travel for granted. In my experience, there’s always something within easy reach of some interest, just keep your mind open and you, too, might unearth something special.


Tags: rock east coast horse head NSW Beyond Inverloch VIC Glasshouse Beares Beach Batemans Bay Narooma
Category: Features
Written: Sun 01 Oct 2017
Printed: October, 2017
Published By:

Article Photos
RV Friendly Towns Nearby
Bermagui Point
Address
Bermagui
, 2546
1.20 kms (approx).

Michael Lerner Lookout
Address
Tathra-Bermagui
Bermagui
New South Wales, 2546
2.28 kms (approx).

Cobargo - NSW RVFT
Address
02 6493 6110
Princes
council@begavalley.nsw.gov.au
New South Wales, 2550
17.75 kms (approx).

Ginns Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2550
20.31 kms (approx).

Bar Rock Lookout
Address
Bar Rock
Narooma
New South Wales, 2546
25.02 kms (approx).

Grants Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2546
25.90 kms (approx).

Wajurda Point Lookout
Address
Mimosa Rocks National Park
New South Wales, 2550
29.89 kms (approx).

Bega - NSW RVFT
Address
02 6499 2222
Lagoon
council@begavalley.nsw.gov.au
New South Wales, 2550
33.99 kms (approx).

Chamberlain Lookout
Address
Kianinny
Tathra
New South Wales, 2550
34.89 kms (approx).

Black Fellows Point Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2545
39.13 kms (approx).

One Tree Point Lookout
Address
Tuross
Tuross Heads
New South Wales, 2537
41.44 kms (approx).

North Tura Beach Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2548
45.94 kms (approx).

Hanging Mountain Lookout
Address
Hanging Mountain Flora Reserve
Wamban
New South Wales, 2537
50.21 kms (approx).

Snowy Mountains Highway
Address
New South Wales, 2550
55.71 kms (approx).

Wolumla Peak Lookout
Address
Wolumla Peak
New South Wales, 2550
57.33 kms (approx).

Tantawangalo Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2550
62.14 kms (approx).

Pinnacles Point Lookout
Address
Ben Boyd National Park
New South Wales, 2551
63.50 kms (approx).

Broulee Lookout
Address
Heath
Broulee
New South Wales, 2537
64.44 kms (approx).

Big Badja Hill Lookout
Address
Badja
New South Wales, 2630
65.96 kms (approx).

Mossy Point Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2537
66.75 kms (approx).

Barlings Beach Lookout
Address
, 2537
67.71 kms (approx).

Boyds Tower Lookout
Address
Ben Boyd National Park
New South Wales, 2551
75.31 kms (approx).

Saltwater Creek
Address
New South Wales, 2551
82.16 kms (approx).

Boulders Hill Lookout
Address
Penthouse
Batemans Bay
New South Wales, 2536
82.28 kms (approx).

The Big Hole Lookout
Address
Deua National Park
New South Wales, 2622
86.95 kms (approx).

Rubbish Removal Point
Address
New South Wales, 2551
87.55 kms (approx).

Disaster Bay Lookout
Address
02 6495 5000
Green Cape
npws.sapphirecoast@environment.nsw.gov.au
New South Wales, 2551
89.61 kms (approx).

Bombala Lookout
Address
Endeavour Reserve
New South Wales, 2632
91.72 kms (approx).

Mount Gladstone Lookout
Address
Snowy Mountains
Cooma
New South Wales, 2630
91.85 kms (approx).

Green Cape Lookout
Address
Green Cape
Ben Boyd National Park
New South Wales, 2551
92.28 kms (approx).

Durras Mountain Lookout
Address
Mountain
New South Wales, 2539
97.72 kms (approx).

Clarke's Lookout
Address
Majors Creek Mountain
New South Wales, 2622
99.67 kms (approx).

Mogood Trig Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2538
105.67 kms (approx).

Osprey Lookout
Address
Nadgee Nature Reserve
New South Wales, 2551
111.94 kms (approx).

Mallacoota Lookout & Picnic Area
Address
Mines
New South Wales, 2551
113.62 kms (approx).

Mealing Hill Lookout
Address
Coopracambra National Park
Victoria, 3890
122.14 kms (approx).

Genoa Peak Lookout
Address
Genoa Peak
Genoa
Victoria, 3891
128.39 kms (approx).

Mt Delegate Lookout
Address
Mt Delegate Scenic Reserve
Victoria, 3888
129.43 kms (approx).

Bulli Lookout
Address
New South Wales, 2628
129.97 kms (approx).

Sisters Lookout
Address
Victoria, 3889
134.59 kms (approx).

Treacy Lookout
Address
Victoria, 3891
135.63 kms (approx).

Waratah Lookout
Address
Errinundra National Park
Victoria, 3889
136.83 kms (approx).

Mount Tingaringy Lookout
Address
Alpine National Park
Victoria, 3888
139.83 kms (approx).

Lambrigg's Lookout
Address
Australian Capital Territory, 2620
141.29 kms (approx).

Ellery View Lookout
Address
Errinundra
Errinundra National Park
Victoria, 3888
148.11 kms (approx).

Ocean View Lookout
Address
Errinundra National Park
Victoria, 3888
153.05 kms (approx).


Journey Details

-36.4326, 150.0786

Summary

GETTING THERE - Beares Beach is 102km south of Batemans Bay, NSW - Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park is 145km south-east of Melbourne, VIC - Narooma is 72km south of Batemans Bay, NSW MORE INFO - Visit www.sapphirecoast.com.au for more on Horse Head Rock and Beares Beach on the Sapphire Coast, NSW. - Visit www.travelvictoria.com.au for more on Inverloch, VIC, and parkweb. vic.gov.au for more on the Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park. - Visit www.eurobodalla.com.au for more on Glasshouse Rocks 5, Narooma and Batemans Bay.