There are two walking tracks into the Mangkalba (Cedar Bay) seciton of Ngalba Bulal National Park—the 17 kilometre Home Rule track and the six kilometre Gap Creek track. Both are rough, steep and difficult tracks that should only be undertaken by fit and experienced walkers. Both tracks can be undertaken as return trips or can be walked as a circuit starting at the beginning of either track. If walking the circuit you will need to arrange for transport from your finishing point.... more
This track begins on the private property of the Home Rule Rainforest Lodge. The lodge managers allow access to their property and provide detailed advice to walkers. Overnight camping at the lodge is allowed by prior arrangement with the owners, allowing walkers an early morning start. Camping is also allowed at the western crossing of Slaty Creek and just north of the Slaty Creek and Granite Creek junciton for those walkers who don't want to walk the whole 17 kilometres in one day. The track traverses attractive rainforest, ascending and descending steeply before arriving at the northern end of Cedar Bay. The early part of the walk follows an old road and involves several creek crossings. The road narrows to a track before Slaty Creek, then ascends to Black Snake Rocks where red-bellied black snakes may be encountered. Remember these snakes are venomous and should be avoided, but are protected. The track then enters the national park on a ridge that affords a glimpse of the sea and descends steeply along an old tin mining track that leads to the beach. A walk south along the beach will take you to the camping area. When returning to Home Rule, remember that the first part of the walk will involve a walk north along the beach then a very steep climb off the beach to the ridge.
Home Rule track
Distance: 17 kilometres one way.
Time: allow 6-8 hours walking time.
Gap Creek track begins on the eastern side of the Cooktown-Bloomfield Road and heads straight into the national park. Be prepared for a strenuous hike, involving a steep climb and descent with an elevation change of approximately 500 metres. The track should not be attempted when heavy rain has fallen or is forecast. It crosses several creeks and steep sections can become slippery in wet weather. Follow the orange flagging tape and track markers from the eastern side of the road into the rainforest. Initially the track runs parallel to the road before descending to cross Gap Creek. Use caution crossing Gap Creek—unbuckle packs before crossing and do not cross when the current is too strong. Slippery boulders in Gap Creek make rock hopping dangerous. From Gap Creek, climb a spur in a north-east and then south-east direction for about 1.5 kilometres to the summit. Once the summit is reached turn sharply north. Follow the ridge north for about 200 metres, then veer north-east and descend the spur in an easterly direction for just over a kilometre. Beware of thick stands of wait-a-while. Near the base of the spur, above a large fig tree, veer north-east. Descend the north-eastern slope and cross an intermittently flowing gully (marked as Flowing Stone Creek crossing on the map). Take care here as the rocks are slippery, particularly when wet. Follow the triangle markers out of the gully and continue in a north-east direction. The track descends gradually over the next kilometre, crossing several minor spurs and gullies, to reach Fig Tree Junction. Here a large fig tree stands at the junction of the northern and southern branches of Centre Garden Creek. From Fig Tree Junction, follow Centre Garden Creek downstream for just over a kilometre. Centre Garden is on the south side of Centre Garden Creek, just west of the camping area at the southern end of Cedar Bay beach. Be aware that estuarine crocodiles may be present in lower Centre Garden Creek and along the coast.
For both walks, carry at least one form of communication equipment. Satellite phones and personal locator beacons (PLBs) are the most effective. Mobile phone coverage is unreliable. Inform a reliable person of your itinerary including starting and finishing times. Make sure to tell them when you return to avoid an unnecessary search.
Gap Creek track
Distance: six kilometres one way.
Time: allow 4-6 hours walking time.... less
Only fit walkers should attempt this steep track.
Wear a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent. Take drinking water and a first aid kit. Water is not available along the route.
Avoid disturbing snakes (some are venomous).
You can bushcamp in the park. No facilities are provided.
The dry season from May to October is the best time to visit, for both safety and ease of access. It is essential to start the walk in the morning - the earlier the better - to arrive at the bay before nightfall.
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