Smoky Cape picnic area

Hat Head National Park

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Overview

Smoky Cape picnic area is located beneath Smoky Cape lighthouse in Hat Head National Park, near South West Rocks on the NSW north coast. It's a great spot for picnics, whale watching and scenic views.

Type
Picnic areas
Accessibility
Medium
Entry fees
Park entry fees apply

For a scenic treat, make your way to Smoky Cape picnic area at the base of Smoky Cape lighthouse. Pause to feel the salty breeze as you gaze out over the Tasman Sea and Hat Head National Park.

Visit between May and July to see southern right and humpback whales swimming past the headland. Or catch them on their return trip between August and October. Playful dolphins can be seen in the area too.

As well as being an ideal spot for whale watchers, Smoky Cape picnic area is great for birdwatchers too. Although you don’t even have to watch anything at all if you’d prefer – just sit back, enjoy the clifftop picnic area and feel on top of the world. If you feel like something more energetic, try Jack Perkins walking track or the longer Little Bay to Smoky Cape.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Map


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Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/picnic-areas/smoky-cape-picnic-area/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about the Smoky Cape picnic area.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Smoky Cape picnic area is in the Smoky Cape precinct of Hat Head National Park. To get there:

    • Take Arakoon Road from South West Rocks
    • Turn onto Lighthouse Road and drive to the end where it terminates at Smoky Cape Lighthouse carpark.

    Road quality

    • Sealed roads

    Vehicle access

    • 2WD vehicles

    Weather restrictions

    • All weather

    Parking

    Parking is available at Smoky Cape picnic area, including 2 accessible parking spots.

    Best times to visit

    This park's sweeping beaches are extremely inviting during summer, but its wildlife and walking tracks make it a joy to visit all year round.

    Spring

    A birdwatcher's delight as the heath shrubland bursts into a kaleidoscope of wild flowers and birds come from all around, listen out for the guttural call of glossy black cockatoos.

    Summer

    Take a coastal bushwalk to experience wildflower displays amongst the banksias.

    Winter

    Spot humpback and southern right whales migrating to northern waters between May and July.

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature

    Average

    19°C and 26°C

    Highest recorded

    41.7°C (1968)

    Winter temperature

    Average

    13°C and 20°C

    Lowest recorded

    4°C (1997)

    Rainfall

    Wettest month

    March

    The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

    343.7mm

    Facilities

    Toilets

    • Flush toilets

    Picnic tables

    Barbecue facilities

    There's 1 electric barbecue at the picnic area, near the toilet block.

    • Gas/electric barbecues (free)

    Step-free access

    There's step-free access around the picnic area with a concrete path that leads from Lighthouse Road, past the facilities and to the nearby walking tracks.

    • Step-free outdoor pathways

    Seats and resting points

    There are 2 bench seats with backrests in the picnic area, near the accessible parking spaces. There's also a bench seat just outside the toilet block.

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    Beach safety

    Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents. These beach safety tips will help you and your family stay safe in the water.

    Mobile safety

    Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency Plus app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

    Accessibility

    Disability access level - medium

    The picnic area is flat and step-free, with a concrete path that leads from Lighthouse Road, past the facilities and to the nearby walking tracks. Accessible facilities include:

    • 2 accessible parking spots in the carpark
    • Accessible flush toilets that are set along a concrete pathway
    • 3 bench seats for resting

    From the concrete pathway, you'll need to cross over a short stretch of flat grass to get to the picnic tables and bench seats.

    Prohibited

    Pets

    Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

    Smoking

    NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

    Learn more

    Smoky Cape picnic area is in Hat Head National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

    A long story to tell

    Gap Beach, Hat Head National Park. Photo: Barbara Webster

    The park is part of the traditional land of the Dunghutti people and remains a significant place. The sea, rivers and wetlands provided a rich source of food like fish and shellfish and the strong Aboriginal heritage is evident today. The park is culturally important to Aboriginal people as it contains ceremonial grounds, burial sites, shell middens and campsites.

    A place to play

    Views of the beach in Hat Head National Park. Photo: Debbie McGerty

    Hat Head National Park protects an extraordinary amount of landscapes, birds and animals, but also offers countless opportunities for secluded relaxation, recreation and enjoyment. Sweeping beaches, rainforests, impressive dunes, and rocky headlands make it the perfect holiday or day trip for walking, swimming, hiking, bird watching and fishing.

    • Green Island walking track Green Island walking track goes through coastal heathland to a lookout with scenic views to Smoky Cape Lighthouse, offering excellent birdwatching and whale watching.
    • Smoky Cape Lighthouse Hat Head National Park on the mid-north coast of NSW near South West Rocks is a natural paradise. Explore the lighthouse, camp by the beach and go fishing and swimming.

    Biodiversity

    Glossy black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami), Hat Head National Park. Photo: John Spencer

    Hat Head National Park is rich with birdlife such as black swans, egrets, herons, fantails, and honeyeaters. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a hawk, falcon or eagle soaring above the cliffs. During the spring, you might catch a rare glimpse of a glossy black cockatoo - listen out for the raucous call of this endangered species as it visits the park to feed on ripe she-oak fruit seeds. Resident wildlife at Hat Head includes red-necked and swamp wallabies as well as grey kangaroos and sugar gliders. You're bound to see butterflies fluttering past you in Hat Head National Park. One type, the regent skipper, is only found in Hat Head National Park and Limeburners Creek National Park. With black wings and a range of yellow and red dots and stripes, you might see the regent skipper feeding on tuckeroos in the park's rainforest.

    • Little Bay to Gap Beach walking track Little Bay to Gap Beach walking track is a challenging walk offering birdwatching, swimming, fishing and scenic views in Hat Head National Park, near South West Rocks.

    Striking landscapes

    Little Bay to Smoky Cape walk, Hat Head National Park. Photo: John Spencer

    Some of the largest in New South Wales, the park's enormous sand dunes can't help but catch your eye. The dunes provide a buffer from the ocean, protecting the land from salty winds and waves. They are slowing growing and moving inland, gradually taking over the park's wetlands. See if you can make it to the top of the dunes - you'll get a bird's eye view and feel like you're on top of the world.

    • Smoky Cape Lighthouse tour Walk alongside an NPWS ranger on an intimate tour of Smoky Cape lighthouse, the highest lighthouse in New South Wales. Take in the stunning coastal scenery, in your own small group.
    • Smoky Cape Range walking track Discover the beauty of the South West Rocks region on the Smoky Cape Range walking track. Hike this 5.5km coast walk and enjoy sensational views.

    Plants and animals protected in this park

    Animals

    • White-bellied sea eagle. Photo: John Turbill

      White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

      White-bellied sea eagles can be easily identified by their white tail and dark grey wings. These raptors are often spotted cruising the coastal breezes throughout Australia, and make for some scenic bird watching. Powerful Australian birds of prey, they are known to mate for life, and return each year to the same nest to breed.

    • Closeup of a laughing kookaburra's head and body. Photo: Rosie Nicolai/OEH

      Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

      Of the 2 species of kookaburra found in Australia, the laughing kookaburra is the best-known and the largest of the native kingfishers. With its distinctive riotous call, the laughing kookaburra is commonly heard in open woodlands and forests throughout NSW national parks, making these ideal spots for bird watching.

    • Echidna. Photo: Ken Stepnell

      Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

      One of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world, the short-beaked echidna is one of the most widespread of Australian native animals. Covered in spines, or quills, they’re equipped with a keen sense of smell and a tube-like snout which they use to break apart termite mounds in search of ants.

    Plants

    •  Black sheoak. Photo: Barry Collier

      Black sheoak (Allocasuarina littoralis)

      The black sheoak is one of a number of casuarina species found across the east coast of Australia and nearby tablelands. Growing to a height of 5-15m, these hardy Australian native plants can survive in poor or sandy soils. The barrel-shaped cone of the black sheoak grows to 10-30mm long.

    • Grass trees, Sugarloaf State Conservation Area. Photo: Michael Van Ewijk

      Grass tree (Xanthorrea spp.)

      An iconic part of the Australian landscape, the grass tree is widespread across eastern NSW. These Australian native plants have a thick fire-blackened trunk and long spiked leaves. They are found in heath and open forests across eastern NSW. The grass tree grows 1-5m in height and produces striking white-flowered spikes which grow up to 1m long.

    Environments in this park

    Education resources (1)