Jack Perkins walking track

Hat Head National Park

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Overview

The short Jack Perkins walking track, near Smoky Cape picnic area, offers scenic views, wildlife, rainforest, and golden beaches in Hat Head National Park near Kempsey.

Distance
2km return
Time suggested
30min - 1hr
Grade
Grade 3
Entry fees
Park entry fees apply
What to
bring
Drinking water, hat, sunscreen
Please note
Remember to take your binoculars if you want to bird watch or whale watch

Jack Perkins walking track is a short walk that boasts some of the best views in Hat Head National Park, only a short drive from Kempsey. Take in spectacular views across the Tasman Sea from Smoky Cape picnic area before stepping out on Jack Perkins walking track.

The track leads downhill through whispering she-oaks. In the branches, you might catch a glimpse of a magnificent glossy black cockatoo, with its red wing tips. Passing through lush rainforest, entwined with liana vines and dotted with cabbage palms, a swamp wallaby may cross your path. Dappled light filters through the dense canopy and the forest comes alive with extraordinary black dragonflies in the warmer months.

The track opens up to heathland, where a boardwalk leads down to the picturesque palm-fringed North Smoky Beach. Refresh yourself with a swim in the turquoise waves before heading back up the path.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Map


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/walking-tracks/jack-perkins-walking-track/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Jack Perkins walking track.

Track grading

Features of this track

Distance

2km return

Time

30min - 1hr

Quality of markings

Limited signage

Experience required

No experience required

Gradient

Short steep hills

Steps

Many steps

Quality of path

Formed track, some obstacles

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Jack Perkins walking track starts at Captain Cook’s lookout in the Smoky Cape precinct of Hat Head National Park. To get there:

    • Take Arakoon Road from South West Rocks
    • Turn into Lighthouse Road and follow the signs to Smoky Cape Lighthouse
    • The walk begins near Captain Cook’s lookout

    Parking

    Parking is available at Captain Cook’s lookout.

    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

    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.

    Bushwalking safety

    If you're keen to head out on a longer walk or a backpack camp, always be prepared. Read these bushwalking safety tips before you set off on a walking adventure in national parks.

    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).

    Permitted

    Fishing

    Fishing from a boat, the beach or by the river is a popular activity for many national park visitors. If you’re planning a day out fishing, check out these fishing safety tips.

    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

    Jack Perkins 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

    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 tallest lighthouse in NSW. 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)