Cockle Creek sits on beautiful Recherche Bay at the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and is the furthest point south that one can drive in Australia. It’s a place of tranquil coves and sandy beaches. Distant mountain peaks, make a spectacular backdrop to the calm waters. This is one of those anchorages yachties dream about and we were thinking that Our Dreamtime would look perfect anchored out there in the bay.
Tip: You will need a Tasmanian park entry pass to enter the National Park. It is easy to organise before you arrive in Tasmania here
It is here that tannin-rich streams meet the ocean, ending their meandering journey through buttongrass plains. The sheltered coastline and forested hills are home to an abundance of wildlife including shorebirds. That unlike other birds of the same species don’t want to steel your chips but are happy with the fresh catch from the sea.
A rich cultural history exists, being the homeland of the Lyluequonny Aboriginal people. For centuries this was their harvest ground for the once abundant cockles, oysters and mussels found at its mouth as it enters the sea. Middens in the region speak of the aboriginal presence here, well before Europeans arrived.
The encounters between the indigenous people and Europeans is well documented, thanks to a French expedition, that sailed into Recherche Bay in 1792 on a mission to find the lost explorer La Perouse. However Bruni D`Entrecasteaux’s voyage had another purpose beyond the rescue of La Perouse. The voyage was also invested with the task of recording and documenting the environment and the people of the new lands that they encountered.
The expedition carried scientists and cartographers, gardeners, artists and hydrographers – who, variously, planted, identified, mapped, and marked the countries that they visited. They first visited the southern region of Tasmania in April 1792, and, desperate for water, they harboured in a bay that they later named Recherche Bay, after one of their sailing ships.
The meeting of the local indigenous people and the crew were very harmonious. The readings from this voyage are very interesting and it was portrayed as a joyful experience meeting, conversing and learning from the local inhabitants. The remains of a garden planted by the French were found here in 2003, resulting in the creation of a reserve to protect the area.
But the area was not settled but the French. The British initially settled in the area as a base for whaling, timber and coal industries in the early 1830’s, the settlement was given the name Ramsgate, when land was officially surveyed and subdivided. The many whaling stations were manned mostly by free settlers and ticket-of-leave convicts. Whilst many of the early habitations were crude and short-lived, some dwellings or buildings made use of convict-made bricks from Southport; some remnants can still be seen, such as the whaling hotel at Fishers Point.
Once a settlement with over 2,000 residents, its rich history is found today in Aboriginal sites, abandoned tramways, gravestones and ruins. Sheltered among the tranquil cove of Recherche Bay, Cockle Creek has campsites and basic facilities but no shops or services. There are two separate camping areas and each provide a number of campsite options. These days it’s a departure point for treks into the South West National Park, or for those wanting to kick back and relax. A simple stroll along the beach at Recherche Bay is enough to take in the peace, quiet and beauty of this remote place.
There is even more of Tasmania, south from Recherche Bay, including Australia’s southern most point. So often we hear of the legends of Cape York Peninsula, those who have made the trek north to one of Australia’s ‘last frontiers’. But how often do you hear of those who have been to the most southern point in Australia. Google it and see what you find. For two pages you will find that the reference talks of the southern points on the mainland. Little is said about one of the most southern points in the world before Antartica.
And many Australian’s couldn’t name it, it is simply known as South East Cape. It is said ”Drive to the end of the road at Cockle Creek, then a well maintained walking track takes you to Tasmania’s South Coast. Stand on the cliffs of South East Cape bay, a bracing wind blowing from Antarctica, surf rolling in from the Southern Ocean. You are the southern most people in all Australia”.
As sailors it is one of the inherently crazy things that is talked about whenever the subject arises of circumnavigation. South East Cape being one of the 5 great capes of the southern ocean, and yet so few know of its existence.
We were fortunate to score the most southern campsite, we were quick to make came and then settle in to watch the sunset on another magnificent day of travel.
The following day we woke to the sound of the waves lapping the shoreline. Time to discover more of Cockle Creek. After a long walk along the beach to take in the beauty of this remote place. We then continued to Fishers Point Navigation Light and Pilot Station Ruins visiting the Whale monument along the way. Where we stood at the whale sculpture at Cockle Creek, 30kms south near South East Cape, we were in fact closer to Antarctica than to Cairns, and were feeling it too, despite it being summer. Cockle Creek is the most southerly point able to be reached by road in Australia. From nearby South East Cape, if you were to somehow sail due west, the next landfall you’d make would be South America, and to the east it would be the narrow sliver of New Zealand with nothing beyond that until South America came around again.
We decided that we weren’t going to do the walk to the South East Cape, we have been on the go it seems since we arrived in Tassie and this place was so quiet we wanted to just sit and take it all in. Maybe we will regret not doing the walk but some times it’s not about ticking a box but truly enjoying the moment.
For those wanting the information about the walk to South East Cape, this is the info friends of ours who live in the area told us. Behind the Rangers’ hut, there is a walkers carpark and walk registration both.
The first 3km the trail undulates across rocky ground and light forest, then becomes duck board as it crosses the buttongrass moorland. Wonderful wildflowers in late spring. A little more undulation and coastal scrub, until you suddenly emerge onto the windy cliff top overlooking South East Cape Bay. Brace yourself for the wind here blows up from Antarctica, surf rolling in from the Southern Ocean: As an optional extension, continuing down the staircase provided on the western side of the cliffs. South Cape Beach is about 1km long to the western end where there are toilets. For those interested in a challenging hike there are organised trekking in Tasmania and one of their popular treks is the 3 Cape Track. located on the south-east coast, the route opened in December 2015 and remains one of Australia’s most coveted and essential hikes. Just 48 people are allowed on the track each morning. The four-day, three-night journey begins at the historical penal colony of Port Arthur.
Following are a collection of photographs of this magical place.
Cockle Creek is a very popular destination for families, offering a variety of recreational activities such as bushwalking, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, fishing and bird-watching.
The shady campground within the Southwest National Park is known as Boltons Green. Approximately 10 sites are available here for tent and caravan camping. Although caravans can access this campground, please be aware that the road is rough and flat campsites are limited.
An additional 3-4 small tent sites can be found further along the road before you reach the ‘NO TENTS beyond this point’ sign. Beyond this point there are limited sites available which are only for self-contained RV campers. Sites are not numbered so please try not to spread out too much, allowing for other groups to utilise the campground.
Basic facilities include pit toilets and a water tank at Boltons Green. Water is untreated and must be boiled before drinking. There is a public pay phone available at the visitor information shelter.
The Southwest National Park is a fuel stove only area, no fires are permitted.
Dogs are not permitted once you cross the bridge at Cockle Creek and enter the Southwest National Park.
The following map shows the zones outside the Southwest National Park where dogs are permitted, where dogs must be on lead and the off lead dog zones.
Map of Designated Areas- Southern Section – Cockle Creek – Recherche Bay NRA (4Mb)
If you prefer to have a campfire or are bringing your dog on a lead, you can choose a campsite north of the bridge within the Recherche Bay Nature Recreation Area.
There are a number of camping areas on the northern side of the Cockle Creek bridge and further north at Catamaran, Finns Beach and Gillams Beach. See Recherche Bay camping for these sites.
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Join us next time when we discover Bruny Island.