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Tomaree Coastal Walk – treasured experiences for us all

Tomaree Coastal Walk – treasured experiences for us all

Sue Olsson, Coordinator, National Parks Association Port Stephens Group.

Many of us have enjoyed walking parts of the Tomaree Coastal Walk these last few months. Officially opened on Friday 1st September, with directional signs in place, our magnificent 27 km walk reveals spectacular views, many hidden beauties and is a safer walk for us all. Congratulations to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff and contractors who have worked so hard to bring us this walk in a relatively short time frame.

The Tomaree Coastal Walk has so many benefits for us locally and regionally. With long range views of rocky headlands and sweeping beaches, backed by a rich and diverse coastal vegetation or a shimmering ocean. So many views are uninterrupted by development — something special when our urban environment is so close.

At the walk’s southern end (above), the innovative trailhead overlooks Birubi Beach, with artwork and design celebrating Worimi Country.

At the walk’s northern end, Tomaree Headland’s upgraded trails and parking provide improved access to the iconic sweeping views.

The clearly linked and signed trails provide a much safer experience. Directions are now clear (below). Sympathetic bridging and new lookouts ensure a safer journey for all ages. Everyone can confidentially step out and know they’ll finish their journey more safely – with just a little extra care needed when stepping on and off beaches.

The suitably constructed and managed track network will help ensure more sustainable experiences, encourage people to stay on track, and improve the area’s conservation, benefiting wildlife and everyone.

Tomaree’s late winter and spring wildflowers are magnificent (below) – the colour and diversity will provide an added interest for any walker.

Enriched and informative experiences will help us all, visitors and locals, understand and appreciate the powerful environmental, cultural and heritage stories of the park. With improved experiences hopefully walkers will be more caring and protective of their surroundings.

Walkers can choose their own adventure and undertake the walk as a 2-day or 3-day experience. Shorter half-day and part-day experiences are also available capturing the park’s iconic vantage points. Additionally, there are opportunities for circuit walks using other parts of the park.

The walk has already brought significant local benefit. Many locals are enjoying both the short and longer walk opportunities – we’ve seen an increase in walkers in many areas of the coastal walk. There’s so many health benefits from being in nature, not just from exercising, but also from contemplation and enriched experiences.

The walk should also bring economic benefits to the area, encouraging longer stays in the region away from the summer beach-going peaks. One or two extra overnight stays in any town generally has spin offs not only for the accommodation industry, but for other local businesses too. Walking Tomaree NP during the cooler months of autumn, winter and spring is a treasure, and we’re likely to see an increase in these quieter times. When our cold westerlies from the Barrington Tops chill us to the core, a walk along the east coast is often protected from wind and doused in the warming sun.

Regionally, other economic benefits could include commercial opportunities, whether guided walks or bus pickups from various locations assisting with one-way walk opportunities.

While the walk has upgraded some existing trails, there are also many sections of new trails. From a conservation perspective, we are always concerned that so often scarce park resources are directed into infrastructure to the neglect of managing threatening weed. In many parts of the walk, these depauperate areas are more accessible, and already NPWS had given treatment to the walk’s margins. Hopefully NPWS receive sufficient funding to expand treatment with the increased imperative. Additionally the voluntary community group, the Friends of Tomaree National Park, are already helping manage bitou in some sections. You’re welcome to join us.

Indeed, we are fortunate that there were environmental activists with the foresight to lobby for Tomaree National Park and its subsequent magnificent extensions before the coast was fully developed. Initially the thin coastal strip was gazetted in 1984 and the park celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. We are thankful to the combined early activists, including groups such as the National Parks Association (NPA), EcoNetwork Port Stephens (and its predecessors) as well as other local groups. EcoNetwork celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and the extensions to Tomaree National Park was one of its earliest achievements in conjunction with the NPA.

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Published: 7 Sep 2023