Toukley, New South Wales: Travel guide and things to do

Tuggerah Lake and Budgewoi Lake are two interconnected lakes on the Central Coast of NSW. They are divided by two narrow strips of land which jut out from the western and eastern shores so there is a narrow channel which allows the interchange of waters between the two lakes. This gap is spanned by Wallarah Point Bridge. On the western side of the bridge is Gorokan and on the eastern side is Toukley, 107 km north of Sydney via the Newcastle Freeway.

Toukley is an expanding residential and holiday resort area of the Central Coast. The name is of indigenous origin but the original meaning is now uncertain. Two very different theories are that 'toukley' means 'many brambles', or that 'toukley ouckley' means 'rough on one side, smooth on the other', interpreted as referring to Tuggerah Lake and Budgewoi Lake. The last Aborigine to frequent Tuggerah Lake on his bark canoe was Billy Fawkner who died in 1875. He was known as 'the last of the Brisbane Water blackfellows', the remainder of his tribe killed by disease and dispossessed of their land by force.

Tuggerah Lake is the principal coastal lagoon of an interconnected 80 sq km lake system which includes Lake Munmorah and Budgewoi Lake. The three lagoons are separated from the Pacific Ocean by large sand peninsulas but share common access to the ocean at The Entrance. Less than 2 m deep on average, shark-free and fed by small streams such as Wyong Creek they are ideal for waterskiing, canoeing, sailing, rowing and sailboarding. The lakes and foreshores were cleaned up and restored in the late 1980s.

Tuggerah Lake is also ideal for anglers. Blackfish, whiting, mullet, snapper, bream, flounder, tailor, flathead, jewfish, tarwhine and crabs can all be caught from the foreshores. Prawns are usually plentiful in mid-summer and can be snared at night with a lamp and net by wading into the shallows. Lake Budgewoi is particularly good for bream.

The first Europeans to discover the lakes were a search party looking for some shipwrecked fisherman who landed on the coast in 1796. With the construction of the Sydney-Newcastle railway in the 1880s and a new emphasis on health and leisure in the culture urbanites began to travel by boat, train and horse-drawn vehicle to the fishing, bathing and walking opportunities afforded by the lakes and it was in the wake of the railway that Toukley emerged.

Things to see

Tourist Information and Parks
The town has a Tourist Information Office (and a small gallery) in Wallarah Point Park at the corner of Wallarah Rd and The Corso in Gorokan. It is open 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m., Tuesday to Friday and from 10.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. on weekends and public holidays, contact (02) 4334 4213. The park faces out across Budgewoi Lake. The stacks of Munmorah Power Station are readily discernible on the far side of the lake and, in the distance, those of Vales Point Power Station on the southern shore of Lake Macquarie.

Smokey Mountain and Grizzley Flats Steam Railroad
Smokey Mountain and Grizzley Flats Steam Railroad offer a half-hour ride through 4 km of bushland along a 300-mm track. It is located at Mountain Rd, Warnervale, 8.5 km west of the Wallarah Pt Bridge. They are open on the first and last Sundays of the month and on most public holidays, from 11.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. but closed from November-December. Contact (02) 4392 7644 for the NSW school holidays schedule.

Canton Beach
A major local tourist attraction is Canton Beach on the southern side of Toukley and the northern shore of Tuggerah Lake. The shark-free lake is an ideal and safe swimming spot for children. There are also plenty of camping and caravan areas with picnic, barbecue and playground facilities. The beach apparently owes its name to the fact that Chinese fishermen used it as a base of operations in the early to mid 19th century, catching and curing fish which they sent off to Queensland, to the goldfields and back to China.

The foreshore at the eastern side of the beach is backed by some pleasant parkland where there are picnic and barbecue facilities and where Top Cat Catamaran Hire hire out sailboards, paddleboats, surf skis, canoes and, of course, catamarans, contact (018) 208 587. There is a tourist park in Oleander St, contact (02) 4396 3252.

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Osborne Park
Another spot for a picnic is Osborne Park in Peel St which has a playground and boat ramp on the shore of Budgewoi Lake. Toukley Golf Course lies just up the road.

Noraville House
At the eastern end of Toukley, by the ocean shore, is the area known as Noraville which was named after Noraville House, built by Edward Hargraves, the prospector who, in 1851, discovered the first payable gold in Australia.

Attracted by the beauty of the district Hargraves bought 640 acres at Noraville in the 1850s and built the home later in the decade. It was one of the first houses in the district. A replica of his grandfather's residence in England, it still stands on the clifftop overlooking Hargraves Beach and the ocean below. Noraville House is located at 3 Elizabeth St (turn off Scenic Rd).

Hargraves' wife was the first white woman to live in the district and she tended the estate after his death. Made of cedar it is not a remarkable house but it does have a large verandah with intricately carved supporting posts and pilasters and an elaborate front gate. It is private property and thus is not open for internal inspection but it can be seen from the roadside.

Cabbage Tree Harbour
South of Noraville House and Hargraves Beach is Jenny Dixon Beach. From there the coastline curves south-eastwards out to a massive headland known as Norah Head. If you start at the roundabout in Noraville where Wilfred Barrett Drive, Budgewoi Rd and Main Rd intersect, head south along Wilfred Barrett Drive and take the first left into Bungary Rd which runs in a south-easterly direction parallel to the coastline. After a little over a kilometre turn left into Maitland St then take the first left into Bald St. There is a carpark on the upper tier and the views are very good. However, it is best to walk down the short roadway to Cabbage Tree Harbour, a lovely little bay enclosed by small rocky cliffs on either side which faces northwards up the coastline. There is a boat ramp and ocean pool and some houses perched on the hillside with what must be beautiful views.

Norah Head Lighthouse
The Norah Head lighthouse was built in 1903. It is considered one of the major coastal lights in NSW. The beam has been seen 28 km out to sea. Only two ships have been lost off Norah Head. In 1917 the small 219-tonne Nerong was wrecked and in 1940 the 1052-tonne Nimbin was sunk after hitting a German mine with seven lives lost.

Around the lighthouse is a viewing area which offers an excellent perspective over the coastline, lakes and westwards to the mountains. The stacks of Munmorah and Vales Point are again plainly visible to the north-west. Looking north along the shoreline the view is similar to that of Cabbage Tree Harbour. Wybung Head is some 10 km away. Beyond that Stockton Beach can be seen in the distance making its way eastwards to the tip of the Tomaree Peninsula, around the corner from Port Stephens, nearly 80 km distant. Tiny Jewfish Pt is visible just offshore 3.5 km to the north with Bird Island further north and out to sea. To the south is Pebbley Beach with Soldiers Point at its end.

Below the lighthouse is an enormous rock platform, ideal for catching salmon, drummer, tailor, jewfish and snapper. Indeed, there are large rock platforms off each of the headlands to the immediate south.

Soldiers Point
Return along Bush Rd/Maitland St, across Bungary Rd and turn right at the next cross-street into Soldiers Point Drive which continues south-east to Soldiers Point which is an expansive, grassy headland where there are showers, toilets, a kiosk and views down over Pebbley Beach on the northern side and to Soldiers Beach on the southern side, a major surfing beach in the area. The view southwards from the point is extensive, from The Entrance to First Point (south of Avoca Beach) and on to Barrenjoey Head at the tip of the Sydney beaches.

Wyrrabalong National Park
At the southern end of Soldiers Beach is Pelican Point which marks the northernmost point of Wyrrabalong National Park. The park covers 597 ha but is divided into two quite distinct and physically separate sections. Wyrrabalong, meaning 'headland looking over the sea' is a word of the Darkinjung people who once occupied the narrow strip of coastline between Bateau Bay and Forresters Beach, which now constitutes the southern section of the park.

The park's northern section covers most of the North Entrance Peninsula. There is a considerable diversity of fauna and flora, including the lace monitor, flying fox, bandicoot, squirrel glider, diamond python, possum, New Holland Mouse, antechinus and many birds.

The ocean side is mostly coastal dunes with beach access via Pelican Beach Rd (at the northern end) and the Tuggerah Beach Walking Track (700 m) which leads to a popular but unpatrolled surfing and fishing area.

On the western side of the road there is a lovely strip of red gum forest though there are also remnants of littoral rainforest and some open scrubland and wetlands. All can be explored by means of colour-coded walking tracks, accessed mainly from two carparks on the western side of Barrett Drive. The wetlands trail extends northwards to the rim of the main sand dune where there are viewing platforms.

Lakes Beach
From Toukley, Scenic Drive heads north along Budgewoi Peninsula which separates Budgewoi Lake from the ocean. 1.5 km from the Noraville roundabout, on the eastern side of the road, is the carpark of the surf lifesaving club at the southern end of Lakes Beach, which is one of the area's better surfing beaches. Jewfish Point lies just offshore. The beach stretches northwards for 8 km, becoming Budgewoi Beach then Birdie Beach.

Budgewoi
Just 3 km north of Noraville is Budgewoi (meaning 'young grass'). It occupies two small portions of land which mark the boundary between Budgewoi Lake and Lake Munmorah. One is effectively a shoulder bulging westwards from the shoreline of Budgewoi Peninsula and the other is a stubby finger of land extending eastwards from the mainland. The two almost meet, leaving only a narrow channel. There are boat ramps on opposite sides of the channel.

Just as you enter Budgewoi from the south you will see a well-shaded picnic-barbeque area (known as John Slade Rotary Park) to the left as the road bends westwards. A cycleway heads south alongside Budgewoi Rd. The park is located at the north-eastern corner of Budgewoi Lake and there are good views across to the tip of Toukley Golf Course (but one kilometre away) and south-west to the Wallarah Pt Bridge which separates Budgewoi and Tuggerah Lakes.

At the north-western tip of the eastern section is another large and very fine reserve with lots of trees, picnic-barbecue facilities and a footbridge across to a tiny island. The waters of the channel are exceedingly calm and shallow making this a popular and ideal spot for family outings and anglers. There are also clear views northwards over Lake Munmorah. Nearby, in Weemala St, is a tourist park, contact (02) 4390 9019.

Munmorah State Recreation Area
Turn into Ouringa St before you cross the bridge at Budgewoi. Cross over Weemala St and continue north along Mimosa Rd which becomes Elizabeth Bay Rd which heads along the Budgewoi Peninsula, past Elizabeth Bay (where there is a boat ramp and views southwards over Lake Munmorah). After 7 km it reaches a set of traffic lights at the intersection with the Pacific Highway. Turn right here and follow the highway for 2 km to the signposted right turn into Blue Wren Drive where there is a toll booth marking the entranceway to the main body of 1444-ha Munmorah State Recreation Area where scenic driving, sailing, fishing, surfing, bushwalking and picnicking can all be enjoyed. There are also some truly spectacular views. The reserve contains a number of ecosystems - wetlands, forests, woodlands, littoral rainforests and heath communities.

You can obtain a pamphlet from the toll booth which charts the reserve's roadways. Blue Wren Drive heads south-east. 700 m from the highway the Melaleuca Walking Track departs yo the right.

Blue Wren Drive continues on past Campbell Drive, to Birdie Beach Drive. Turn left and follow the latter past the turnoff, to the left, to Freemans Camping Area. It is a tranquil location a few minutes from Birdie Beach and it caters mostly to tent campers though there is limited caravan access.

Birdie Beach Drive continues on to Tea Tree Picnic Area by the coast. It is a beautiful and well-maintained spot with excellent facilities enclosed by coastal tea tree which, together with its remoteness and the scarcity of other human beings, gives it a secluded Edenic feel. It is but a short walk to Birdie Beach, a remote, scenic and lengthy beach. Red Ochre Beach at the northernmost end is open to nude bathing.

Return along Blue Wren Drive then take the right into Campbell Drive. About 800 m along the road the Geebung Heath Walking Track, to the right, follows the cliffline to Birdie Beach Lookout. About 2 km from Blue Wren Drive turn right into Wybung Head Rd. About 1 km along this road is a barely distinguishable parking bay where you can pull over and take in what are probably the finest views to be found on the entire Central Coast - south over Bird Island to Norah Head Lighthouse, south-west over Lake Munmorah, Budgewoi, Budgewoi Lake and Munmorah Power Station, west to Chain Valley Bay and beyond to the mountains, north-west over Lake Macquarie to the stacks of Eraring Power Station and north to the ships in Newcastle Harbour and beyond to Stockton Beach.

Just past this roadside lookout are walking tracks headed north to Frazer Beach and south to Birdie Beach Lookout. At the end of the road is a carpark looking down over Wybung Head itself. There are also excellent perspectives, albeit more localised ones - north along the immediate coastline into beautiful, sequestered Frazer Beach, with Snapper Point at its northern end and Flat Rocks Pt nearly 3 km away.

The dramatic rock forms are the product of years of jolting, warping, erosion and ruptures of a surface formed in part by the sedimentation deposited by a river which used to run from the mountains in the west and which had its estuary at this location. Walk down on to the spectacular headland where fishing is popular from the rock platforms.

Return along Wybung Head Rd and turn right into Campbell Drive then take the first right to Frazer Beach Rd. 200 m along this road, to the left, is The Palms Picnic Area and an excellent loop track through a section of littoral rainforest and open eucalypt forest. The road also leads, of course, to Frazer Beach, noted for its surfing and fishing. There is a walking track north to tiny Timber Beach on the other side of Bongon Head.

Return along the road to Campbell Drive and turn right again following the roadway out to the carpark at Snapper Point and the rather small Frazer Camping Area, set within a tranquill and secluded gully of the Frazer Valley. It is but a short walk to Frazer Beach and to Snapper Point which also has fine views and is popular with anglers. It is still possible to see the remains of an old gravel operation which used a deep-sea cave at Snapper Pt. Bookings are essential.

There are also plenty of excellent walking tracks in the park -

In spring Munmorah offers the visitor a beautiful wildflower display. All up it is a very worthwhile day out, particularly if you are looking for something more pacific and secluded and something a cut above the popular family beaches and sights of the Central Coast.

Follow the Pacific Highway for 2 km to the signposted right turn into Blue Wren Drive where there is a toll booth marking the entranceway to the main body of 1444-ha Munmorah State Recreation Area where scenic driving, sailing, fishing, surfing, bushwalking and picnicking can all be enjoyed. There are also some truly spectacular views. The reserve contains a number of ecosystems - wetlands, forests, woodlands, littoral rainforests and heath communities.

You can obtain a pamphlet from the toll booth which charts the reserve's roadways. Blue Wren Drive heads south-east. 700 m from the highway the Melaleuca Walking Track departs to the right.

There are a large number of attractions in the park. Birdie Beach is a remote, scenic and lengthy beach. Red Ochre Beach at the northernmost end is open to nude bathing. The Geebung Heath Walking Track follows the cliffline to Birdie Beach Lookout. About 1 km along Wybung Head Rd is a barely distinguishable parking bay where you can pull over and take in what are probably the finest views to be found on the entire Central Coast - south over Bird Island to Norah Head Lighthouse, south-west over Lake Munmorah, Budgewoi, Budgewoi Lake and Munmorah Power Station, west to Chain Valley Bay and beyond to the mountains, north-west over Lake Macquarie to the stacks of Eraring Power Station and north to the ships in Newcastle Harbour and beyond to Stockton Beach.

Just past this roadside lookout are walking tracks headed north to Frazer Beach and south to Birdie Beach Lookout. At the ends of the road is a carpark looking down over Wybung Head itself. Walk down on to the spectacular headland where fishing is popular from the rock platforms.

Return along Wybung Head Rd and turn right into Campbell Drive then take the first right to Frazer Beach Rd. 200 m along this road, to the left, is The Palms Picnic Area and an excellent loop track through a section of littoral rainforest and open eucalypt forest. The road also leads to Frazer Beach noted for its surfing and fishing. There is a walking track north to tiny Timber Beach on the other side of Bongon Head.

Return along the road to Campbell Drive and turn right again following the roadway out to the carpark at Snapper Point and the rather small Frazer Camping Area. It is a short walk to Frazer Beach and to Snapper Point which also has fine views and is popular with anglers.

Markets and Festivals
The Toukley markets are held in Toukley Shopping Centre Carpark on Canton Beach Rd, every Sunday from 8-2. The Azalea Festival is held annually in August or September and the Cycle Classic in October.

Tours and Services
The Beachcomber Resort, on Main Rd, has jetskis, waterskiing, tennis, catamarans and a seaplane service for joy flights, contact (02) 4389 7454. Boats can be hired from Toukley Bridge Boat Hire at 2 Main Rd, contact (02) 4396 5855. Top Cat Catamaran Hire hire out, not only catamarans, but sailboards, paddleboats, surf skis and canoes, contact (018) 208 587.

A number of operators will pick up clients from their homes, though this may depend upon whether there are sufficient numbers. Central Coast Kayak Tours will pick people up from most Central Coast train stations (there is also a daily coach service from Sydney), contact (02) 4381 0342. Meals are provided and no experience is necessary. Aeroflite offer scenic flights over the Central Coast for up to seven passengers, as well as charter flights. They depart from Warnervale aerodrome, just north of Wyong, contact (02) 4392 4199.

Alcheringa Tours at 20 Sierra Crescent, East Gosford, offer tours for small groups of varying duration into the local caves and national parks, contact (02) 4325 5966. It's Easy Tours organise luxury coach holidays with day tours of the Central Coast and out to Wisemans Ferry, contact (02) 4340 1037. Fresh Tracks Safaris specialise in 4WD tours of the Central Coast, the Hunter Vineyards and Aboriginal sites, contact (02) 4385 3024.

Tourist Information

Gosford Visitor Information Centre
200 Mann St (near the corner with Burns Crescent) Gosford
Toukley NSW 2250
Telephone: 1800 806 258

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