Camping on a deserted beach less than an hours drive from Sydney may seem an impossible task. But that was the challenge set. After a bit of research online, a location at Maitland Bay on the lower Central Coast north of Sydney was pinpointed.
So with essential camping hammocks packed and other camping supplies, an arrival at the Bouddi National Park trail entrance to Maitland Bay beach was upon us an hour later. A 2km track led down to the beach which was steep in parts but being paved the entire way made the going easy enough, even with an esky in tow!
The trail opened to the south end of Maitland Bay beach. And what a beautiful bay it was! Cliffs encircling the majority of the 1km long beach. A generous width of golden sands rimmed the shoreline onto which crashed a consistent shore break. The crashing of waves echoed off the surrounding cliffs in a regular meditative fashion. A few people dotted the beach but this lived up to its reputation as a secluded bay.
Scouring the escarpment behind the beach we spied a 200m break in the limestone cliffs where a small stream was attempting to enter the bay held back by the golden sands of the beach. Here also were some thick shrubbery which led on to some more substantial trees further up the slope. These same trees we were now approaching in order to decide how best to hang our beds for the night.
Setting up the hammocks
A quick reconnaissance made it clear there was ample space for a couple of hammocks to hang nicely. With solid tree trunks on the upper slope and well placed branches on the forward lower slope. The only complication to tie a level hanging position. Fortunately a well placed branch provided the necessary access to the upper limbs of the banksia tree. (A side note: The Banksia tree so named after Joseph Banks a botanist on Captain Cook’s trip to discover Australia. Being the Australia Day long weekend, this seemed fitting).
Soon enough we were swinging freely above the ground with an elevated position looking south along the beach watching as the few arrivals to the beach made their entrance from the ascending trail. With part one of our freestyle camping trip complete the camping overnight on a deserted beach was to hopefully follow.
Arriving mid-morning the beach had a few people setup for a swim, a few with umbrellas or under the shade of cliffs. None looked setup for the long haul. In fact, provisioning a long haul required all the gear to be carried from the car park which was quite a trek for campers needing modern comforts or lacking the light weight parachute nylon hammocks as bedding. So our chances looked promising.
After a few swims and keeping shaded in our hammocks amongst the trees from the strong afternoon sun, a small change of cloud cover came through around 6pm which had most if not all the beach goers up to leave. Now while camping is not strictly allowed in Maitland Bay, it is also not expressly forbidden. So our ‘extended stay’ on the beach was at the edge of a semantic loophole. Also, campfires being in this same category, with the exception of cooking food. So, lets just say our slow roasted lamb may take a while to cook… In fact, hammock camping has proven the most environmentally friendly form of camping as damage to the ground is nil and the thick nylon straps cause little to no impact on the trees they are attached to.
Sheltering from the storm
So with food in the belly, a few cool cervezas and a small fire alight to gaze into, it was a pretty satisfying feeling watching the sunset behind the cliff top. Particularly knowing a swinging hammock bed was waiting just above our heads. However just as we were ready to retire, a few light spots of rain were felt, then some more, then the heavens opened!
Having investigated storm options earlier, a small cave gave a protected shelter from wind and rain only 100 metres away. As we retreated temporarily, alas this was also where the one remaining couple of beach goers were also finding refuge using their sun shelter as a tent. They also looked like they were set in for the evening also. We dragged some belongings into one side of the cave before we made a return to the hammocks as the wind was non-existent and the fly covers would provide ample shelter.
Quite correctly once under the shelter the falling rain was captured and dispersed elsewhere keeping us dry the entire night with the pitter patter of raindrops an easy rhythm to fall asleep to.
So while we were not entirely alone on a definitively deserted beach, it was a pretty secluded spot set amongst the trees overlooking the beach. As we woke the next morning a few early walkers and runners went about their morning routine. None the wiser that a couple of campers were swinging in the trees at the back of the beach snug in their hammocks.