Croajingolong National Park: Shipwreck Creek to Thurra River Hike – Day 2 – Wingan Inlet

Day 2 of my hike in Croajingolong, this was the hardest day for me, Liz and I differ on whether day 2 or 3 was tougher, but I had creaky knees when we made it to Wingan Inlet so I’m stating that the second day was the toughest.

If you haven’t read the preceding day, I suggest you start here

Hike Details
Hike Details
Number of Days3 day hike - (Day 2)
Length & Time:Day 2: 16KM, approx. 8 - 10 Hours.
Difficulty:Hard
Trip Type:One-way
Start Location:Benedore River Campground
End Location:Wingan Inlet Campground
GPX Data:
Permit Required:Yes Contact parks office at Mallacoota
Closest Town:Mallacoota

Waking up early, we were on the way after a quick brekky; no time to mess about, we wanted to make sure that we made it to Wingan Inlet before sunset. After the first day, and the incredible speed in which we tracked across the terrain, I was quite confident that we would be able to get to Wingan in good time. Hopefully if everything went well we could be at Wingan by 6pm. That was the plan anyway, unfortunately the thought ” how long could 14km take us anyway?” was quite far off the mark. Firstly it was actually 16km, contrary to the map, I suspect that the discrepancy comes from the fact that the 14km is to the actual inlet, whereas there is roughly 2km in from the beach to the actual site. This meant an additional 2km to the quoted distances on both days 2 and 3. Although I had no idea about this until we arrived at Wingan Inlet.

Ben with Sandpatch point in the background

Thats me, with Sandpatch point in the background

Secondly I haven’t done many coastal rock-crossings as tough as the ones that were in store for Day 2 of our hike. Benedore river to Wingan inlet ended up taking us approximately 10 hours; unfortunately when re-packing my bag at Thurra river before leaving, I checked I checked I had spare batteries for my GPS, why unfortunate? because I put them on the table instead of back in my bag. Early in Day 2 my GPS died, so we don’t have real GPS data for that day, except for the start and end points. (ill explain how I did day 3 later!)

Now, I know that 10 hours seems like a long time to complete a 16km hike, but wait until you try and do rock crossings like the ones below; then you will start to understand. They are slow going, especially with large packs, and on Day 2, there are a few kms of crossings. Again, I’m going on what I remember rather than GPS facts as I missed out on the data for this day. (Frustrating!!)

Rock crossings west of Sandpatch point

Rock crossings west of Sandpatch point2

Its definitely worth noting that just after crossing the first beach out of Benelong, there are some stairs up to the Sandpatch track. Just near those stairs is access to a small spring. As with all natural water, its no doubt transient, but we hadn’t had any rain for a while, and it had been blisteringly hot. So the fact there was water there is definitely a good sign. This would be a good place to fill up if you were so-inclined.

Water at the base of Sandpatch Track

The Stairs at the start of Sandpatch Wilderness track, and the small spring in the background

Water at the base of Sandpatch Track2

Be careful, Snakes love to hang out near water on hot days. A group we were talking to ran into a Tiger snake right here

Sandpatch point has a great feel, and is relatively easily to traverse which was a definite blessing. There are open areas along the bluffs that are similar to the ones near Seal Cove but also some great enclosed areas with heavy tea tree and gums. One bummer is that quite a few parts of the track on day 2 are quite grown over, this is probably due to the fact a lot less people walk this component of the track, but also might be a bit of neglect from Parks Victoria. In particular the Easby and Sandpatch tracks were quite dense is parts. Its probably worth noting that these two tracks are most of the walking you will do on day 2 thats not beach or rock crossings.

Walking condition were poor sandpatch track

The track along Sandpatch Point; Its not that bad, but it got a lot more dense than depicted here!

Once you’re along the Sandpatch track, there are a few parts where you’ll have to go slow to figure out exactly where the track is heading, the track does a few strange turns due to fallen trees and heavily overgrown track forcing people to walk around obstacles. The best thing to do along here is just make sure you’re aware of where you need to be going. There are a few splits in the track, but they are all well marked. Make sure that you know what the next river or campsite is so that you’re always heading in the right direction. Most of the Sandpatch track is far enough back from the point that you won’t see much of the coast until you are almost on-top of Red river, which is when you will get this view.

Red River croajingolong

No prizes for figuring out why its called "Red River"

From there its a matter of going up and down a few dunes and coming out just east of the mouth of the river. It was closed while we were there, but there is always the potential that any of these rivers can be open and feeding into the ocean. If thats the case, you’ll find its most likely no more than knee deep, so its just a matter of being smart about where you cross and you’ll be on your way before you know it. Red river has another set of campsites, if you are spacing these differently to how we did, you can potentially stop here and camp. The site is nice, and I have no doubt that the water would be fresh enough to drink if you head a kilometre or two upriver. My caveat here is that you should still make sure you’re prepared for the possibility that the water is too brackish to drink or cook with. I recommend having at least a day of spare water at any time. (I carried the water for the whole three days to be sure).

From red river, its another beach crossing to Easby creek, potentially another crossing here, again it was closed when we arrived but there is no guarantee. Finally after crossing Easby you head up the easby track. The track was unnervingly hard to find, a few times I thought that I might have over-shot the track access, which wouldn’t have been ideal but eventually we found the Totem Pole sticking out of the beach. The Pole is basically a treated pine pole about 3 meters tall which stands out of the scrub. It has an orange reflector on it so it should be pretty easy to spot once you are in line of sight. You can cross along the rocks again from Easby to Wingan, but I suspect this will take you a lot longer  and may even be further. Ill make note again that the easby track was in relatively poor condition with a lot of over-grown spots where it was hard to even see where we were putting our feet. It wasn’t that hard going, but I would be aware of critters on the track.

transparent leaf

I have absolutely no idea how Liz spotted this amazing leaf

Once you finish the easby track, you’ll be standing on the bank of the Wingan Inlet, most people we know of flag down a boat if they can. There is nearly always people out on the inlet so catching a lift into Wingan might be on the cards if you’re lucky enough. We however weren’t. The wingan inlet, unlike all the other crossings doesn’t close. Its a lot larger and considerably deeper, this being said it can still be traversed by well prepared people. So, 14KM into our hike, and as the sun was beginning to set, Liz and I prepared to cross Wingan Inlet. We’re both strong swimmers, and I strongly suggest that if you’re going to try crossing, you are too. While your feet will be on the ground, there is quite a strong current (especially around the late afternoon when you will arrive) and it would easily be possible for somebody to be swept out toward the sea.

Liz crossing Wingan inlet

It got deeper than this, roughly arm-pit depth for me and oh-my-goodness it was cold!

Wingan inlet boardwalk

The Wingan Inlet boardwalk (taken in daylight)

After crossing Wingan Inlet, we head along the beach to the access trail which goes the 2km along the western side of the Inlet up to the campsite. This final two kilometres is not too bad, its almost flat and in parts its actually board walk. So put your poles on your pack and trudge the final stretch to the campsites. The overnight campers sites are right at the far end of the campground so follow the track right down to near the jetty and you’ll find the overnight campground. Its spacious which allows for some room, but its not very private and is shared with car-campers.  There used to be a small seepage which filled a cradle with water near the over-night camping but this has dried up in recent years, so be aware that filling up here might not be possible and don’t rely on it unless you’ve checked with Parks or the host on site and they have assured you of water.

When you arrive at Wingan make sure to have a chat with the camp host, they will ask about wildlife you have seen recently and where it was, so try to keep an eye out and remember where you saw it. This is important as there are a few marsupials that appear to be returning to the Wingan area, which could be great news. Apparently, I spotted one such creature, though its name now escapes me it was some kind of marsupial mouse that hasn’t been spotted in the area for years a good sign indeed for the local wildlife.

Id like to say a big thank you to the two ladies who brought us some Golden dumplings when they saw us trudging into the campsite after sun-set. I’m almost convinced that those dumplings are the only reason that I’m alive today.

Thankyou for reading day 2 of our Croajingolong trek, we will hike on soon with day 3.

3 Responses to Croajingolong National Park: Shipwreck Creek to Thurra River Hike – Day 2 – Wingan Inlet

  1. Hey top post! I like it, 10 hours to do 16km does sound tough, and a inlet crossing to finish you off! Enjoyable read, keen to hike out on this track now, you’ve removed all doubt I had in my mind to do it. Intrigued to see how you get your GPS back working again…

    • Hi Jez

      Thanks! Getting the GPS work was unfortunately nothing too Macgyver, I did get me thinking about a small portable solar panel though for charging batteries (so many posts, so little time!) I had my iPhone in a water-tight bag in my bag. I used Runkeeper on the third day to track our progress, then pulled the GPX file from Runkeeper.com and put it into Google Earth. Once I had Day 1 and 3 it was easy enough to build day 2′s GPX.

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