Little Bay to Smoky Cape

Hat Head National Park

Overview

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.

Where
Hat Head National Park
Distance
10km one-way
Time suggested
3 - 5hrs
Grade
Grade 5
Price
Free
Entry fees
Park entry fees apply
What to
bring
Drinking water, sunscreen, hat
Please note
  • Starting at Overshot Dam at Little Bay, follow the ridge to The Gap Beach and Smoky Cape tracks. A one-way journey can take up to four hours.
  • You may wish to bring your camera and keep an eye out for whales and birds as you go

If you’re an adventurous walker, you’ll love the Little Bay to Smoky Cape walk.

This 10km coastal track begins near Little Bay picnic area in Arakoon National Park, near Kempsey on the north coast of NSW. Start at historic Overshot Dam, where you can feed the ducks before setting off. Then simply follow the ridge to The Gap Beach and Smoky Cape tracks.

As you walk you’ll come across beautiful, diverse scenery including heathland, rainforest and grassy woodland. Depending on the season, you might see wildflower displays or spot whales from the cliffs.

When you arrive at Smoky Cape, head to Captain Cook’s lookout for a picnic lunch and a tour of the lighthouse. Or you can always do the walk in reverse and finish at the picnic area at Little Bay.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

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/little-bay-to-smoky-cape/local-alerts

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Little Bay to Smoky Cape.

Track grading

Grade 5

Learn more about the grading system Features of this track
  • Time

    3 - 5hrs

  • Quality of markings

    No directional signage

  • Gradient

    Very steep and difficult

  • Distance

    10km one-way

  • Steps

    Occasional steps

  • Quality of path

    Rough track, many obstacles

  • Experience required

    Experienced bushwalkers

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Little Bay to Smoky Cape starts at Little Bay picnic area in the Trial Bay Gaol precinct of the adjoining 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

    Alternatively, if starting from Smoky Cape

    • On entering Hat Head National Park:
    • Take the South West Rocks Road
    • Follow the signs to Smoky Cape lighthouse
    • The walk begins near Captain Cook’s lookout

    Park entry points

    Parking

    Parking is available at Overshot Dam, the nearby Little Bay picnic area or near Captain Cook’s lookout at Smoky Cape.

    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 the Connors track beach walk 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 + 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).

    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.

    Nearby towns

    Kempsey (42 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.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Macksville (12 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.

    www.visitnsw.com

    South West Rocks (5 km)

    South West Rocks is a sleepy coastal retreat at its barefoot best. It's an oceanfront holiday town on north-facing Trial Bay.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Learn more

    Little Bay to Smoky Cape 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.

    • 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.

    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.

    • 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

    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.

    • Grey headed flying fox hanging from a tree branch. Photo: Shane Ruming/OEH

      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 in Ben Boyd National Park. Photo: Sharon Wormleaton/OEH

      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)

    Small delicate purple flower. Photo:Debby McGerty