Gap Beach walking track
Hat Head National Park
Gap Beach walking track is a challenging walk offering birdwatching, swimming, fishing, and scenic views in Hat Head National Park near South West Rocks.
- Hat Head National Park
- 6km return
- Time suggested
- 2 - 3hrs
- Grade 5
- Entry fees
- Park entry fees apply
- What to
- Hat, sunscreen, drinking water
- Please note
- Remember to take your binoculars if you want to bird watch or whale watch.
If you’re after a heart-pumping trek, then grab your hiking boots and head for Gap Beach walking track, in Hat Head National Park. Near South West Rocks, it’s a great walk for experienced bushwalkers, birdwatchers, and those who love a challenge.
The track starts from Overshot Dam at Little Bay picnic area, the Dam once supplied water to historic Trial Bay Gaol and the surrounding township. Winding steeply through heathland, you’ll climb Little Smoky Mountain before descending through a forest of grass trees and rare coastal rainforest to North Gap Beach.
After you’ve worked up a sweat, dive in for a refreshing swim in the clear waves. Tuck into a leisurely picnic in the shade of the palms as you scan the ocean for frolicking dolphins. Osprey and sea-eagles are often spotted flying above the nearby shores.
For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/gap-beach-walking-track/local-alerts
- National Parks Contact Centre
- 7am to 7pm daily
- 1300 072 757 (13000 PARKS) for the cost of a local call within Australia excluding mobiles
- in Hat Head National Park in the North Coast region
Hat Head National Park is open sunrise to sunset but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.
Park entry fees:
$8 per vehicle per day at Hungry Head and Smoky Beach. The park has coin-operated pay and display machines - please bring correct coins.Buy annual pass.
All the practical information you need to know about Gap Beach walking track.
Grade 5Learn more about the grading system Features of this track
2 - 3hrs
Quality of markings
No directional signage
Quality of path
Rough track, many obstacles
Some bushwalking experience recommended
Getting there and parking
Get driving directions
Gap beach walking track starts at Little Bay picnic area in the Trial Bay Gaol precinct of the adjoining Arakoon National Arakoon National Park. To get there:
From South West Rocks:
- Follow Phillip Drive (it becomes Wilson Street)
- Turn right onto Gladstone Street which becomes Carri Street
- Continue along Carri Street until you reach Little Bay picnic area
- Follow the signs to Overshot Dam where the track begins
Park entry points
- North gap carpark See on map
Parking is available at Overshot Dam or the nearby Little Bay picnic area.
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.
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.
Take the Connors track beach walk to experience wildflower displays amongst the banksias .
Spot humpback and southern right whales migrating to northern waters between May and July.
Weather, temperature and rainfall
19°C and 26°C
13°C and 20°C
The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day
Maps and downloads
A current NSW recreational fishing licence is required when fishing in all waters.
Kempsey (31 km)
Kempsey is a historic river town close to national parks and majestic beaches. Kempsey is a convenient place for an overnight stop for anyone driving between Sydney and the North Coast.
Macksville (24 km)
Macksville is a relaxed fishing and oyster-farming town centre of a rich rural district. It's on low-lying land around the Nambucca River.
South West Rocks (4 km)
South West Rocks is a sleepy coastal retreat at its barefoot best. It's an oceanfront holiday town on north-facing Trial Bay.
Gap Beach walking track is in Hat Head National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:
A long story to tell
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
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.
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.
- Gap Beach walking track Gap Beach walking track is a challenging walk offering birdwatching, swimming, fishing, and scenic views in Hat Head National Park near South West Rocks.
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.
- Little Bay to Smoky Cape Discover the beauty of the South West Rocks region on the Little Bay to Smoky Cape walk. Hike this 10km coast walk and enjoy sensational views.
- Rainforest walking track The family will love this short walk in the northern precinct of Hat Head National Park. It offers scenic views, wetlands, wildlife and birdwatching.
Plants and animals you may see
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.
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.
Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
The grey-headed flying fox is one of several threatened Australian animals and the largest Australian native bat, with a wingspan that extends up to 1m. Known to inhabit woodlands, rainforests and urban regions, these fascinating nocturnal mammals congregate in large roost sites along the east coast of NSW.
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.
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 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.