DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
Being situated north and south of Twofold Bay and protecting some 30 kilometres of NSW South Coast shoreline, Ben Boyd National Park is viewed as a summer playground by most tourists. However, the spectacular coastal scenery and historic relics at Ben Boyd National Park make it an attractive destination even when it’s a tad cold to do much more in the way of water sports than drop a line or paddle your feet.
In addition to historical maritime features, the Park is renowned for its colourful and rugged coastline.
The different colours and textures of the rocky headlands are the result of extensive geologic folding in the area and if you’re lucky enough to visit on a still day or with an offshore breeze blowing you’ll see why the area is known as the Sapphire Coast.
This coastal scenery that’s a match for anywhere along the NSW coast and a range of sheltered and surfing beaches are outstanding features of Ben Boyd National Park.
It’s also easy to spend a couple of days in Eden and a visit to the Killer Whale Museum is an absolute must. The symbiotic relationship between the Eden whalers and the orcas is well explained and the skeleton of one of the most famous killer whales, Old Tom, is on display.
As with many national parks Ben Boyd is best appreciated by setting up your van and then driving and walking to experience the attractions. Nearly all the gravel and dirt roads in the Park are suitable for 2WD vehicles, but there are some 4WD-only tracks in the northern section.
Designated campsites are at Saltwater Creek and Bittangabee Bay, in the southern section of the Park. Camping is basic – rainwater tanks and pit dunnies – and is a tad squeezy at most times of the year and awful during Xmas and Easter holidays.
An alternative is to camp outside the Park and drive in each day. On our trip to Ben Boyd National Park we set up our camper the first night in Eden and then moved south of the Park to Timbillica.
Picnicking, swimming, fishing and exploring the coastal environment are popular activities within the Park. The Light-to-Light walking track runs 30 kilometres from Boyd’s Tower to Green Cape Lighthouse and backpack camping is available at Hegartys Bay.
Access to the northern section of the Park is via Haycock Road, which runs east, off the Princes Highway, eight kilometres north of Eden.
There is another entry into the 4WD section of the northern part of the Park that isn’t signposted. This turnoff is a usually-unmarked track running beside the Waste Recycling Depot, 22.4km along Haycock Road and leads to the relatively deserted areas of Terrace Beach, Lennards Island and North Head. It’s possible to walk out to Lennards Island at low tide, but be sure to watch for the turning tide! We drove this section in a Toyota FJ Cruiser, but our mates had a Nissan Murano that had no trouble negotiating the track conditions.
Along the 2WD section of Haycock Road are turnoffs to The Pinnacles, Quondolo Point, Severs Beach, North Long Beach and Barmouth Beach; all are worth the short drives and walks. We spent an entire day strolling around the sites in the northern section of the Park.
The southern section of the Park is different, having great historical interest. Access is via Edrom Road, which runs east from the Princes Highway, 18 kilometres south of Eden. There’s a seven-dollar National Park Use Fee per vehicle, per day, in the southern section, payable on top of camping fees.
First stop is at the Davidson Whaling Station Historic Site, located just off the road leading to Boyd’s Tower. This partly restored site provides a good opportunity to appreciate the way in which shore-based whaling operations were undertaken at Eden in the 19th century.
Boyd’s Tower is the best-known landmark in Ben Boyd National Park. In British architecture a building like this is known as a ‘folly’ and that’s pretty accurate in terms or our vernacular as well. To understand why, it’s necessary to dig a little into the background of the mysterious character who gave this National Park and the area its name.
Ben Boyd – larger than life
In 1825 Benjamin Boyd began a career as a stockbroker in London, after spending his school years in Scotland.
Australia attracted him and he founded the Royal Bank of Australia, mainly to finance his exploits, soon after his arrival in Sydney in July 1842. Only two years later, with significant backing from London financiers, Ben Boyd owned more than 2.3 million acres of fertile land in what are now the Riverina and Monaro regions of NSW.
In need of an export port for meat, hide, tallow and other produce from his properties he established Boydtown and East Boyd, on Twofold Bay on the NSW South Coast.
There was already an established whaling industry in Twofold Bay and Boyd lost little time getting involved. One of Boyd’s initiatives was to erect a tower at the southern entrance to Twofold Bay. He didn’t receive a licence to operate the tower as a lighthouse, but it did make a handy lookout point for many years, from where Eden’s shore-based whalers could watch for whales migrating along the coastline.
Some of the sandstone building blocks were used as chess boards by the whale-watchers and the grid marks in the stones are still visible.
However, whaling and port development expenses drained Boyd’s capital away. Drought affected his pastoral business and a maritime disaster cost another small fortune, so Boyd’s London financiers voted him out and dispatched his cousin William Boyd to Australia to salvage the business, but it was too late.
Ben Boyd was left with only his schooner ‘Wanderer’, in which he headed off to the California gold rush in 1849. He had no luck in the gold-fields and set sail to return to Australia in 1851.
The schooner put into the Solomon Islands en route and Ben Boyd went ashore to shoot game. He was never seen again, but the now-restored tower survives as his memorial.
The real lighthouse – Green Cape Lighthouse – is situated much more appropriately at the northern tip of the aptly-named Disaster Bay is further along Edrom Road, after spectacular side trips to Pulpit Rock, City Rock and Bittangabee Bay.
The Bittangabee ruins in the south of the Park are remnants of the old supply depot for the Green Cape Lighthouse. Between 1880 and 1927 supply ships offloaded necessities in this sheltered bay, from where they were transported seven kilometres to the Lighthouse by a horse-drawn tramway, made from local hardwood.
Ben Boyd’s Tower figured in the life of Henry Lawson, who met Margaret Midson at the Commercial Hotel, Eden en route to Mallacoota. Lawson was reportedly smitten by this 30-year-old school teacher and it’s believed that he dedicated a poem about the Tower to her.
In this little known poem, ‘Ben Boyd’s Tower’, he describes a love tryst and resulting trouble associated with the Tower. What we don’t know is whether it relates to his own experience or whether he’s reporting an incident he’d heard about:
‘Bright eyes in the ballroom,
Coquetting with two,
Just for love of mischief,
As a girl will do.
‘A quarrel in the bar-room —
All within the hour —
And four men rode from Boyd Town
To Ben Boyd’s Tower.’
There’s also a hint that the girl who inspired the quarrel lived out her life in Eden:
‘There’s an ancient dame in Eden —
Basket on her arm —
And she goes down the Main Street
From the old, old farm.
‘Hood drawn on her forehead —
Withered dame and grey —
She never looks on Boyd Tower
Out across the Bay.’
The NPWS brochure ‘mud map’ on the Park is adequate for a driving tour, but bushwalkers should carry CMA 1:25 000 maps: Pambula 8824-II-S, Eden 8823-I-N and Kiah 8823-I-S
- Camping and permits
Camping facilities are located in the south of the Park at Saltwater Creek and Bittangabee. Camping fees apply and there’s a Park Use Fee per vehicle, per day, payable on top of the camping fees.
To book a site during Christmas and Easter holiday periods write to the
NPWS Merimbula Office, PO Box 656, Merimbula, NSW 2548 or phone (02)
6495 5000, fax: (02) 6495 5055 or email FSCR@environment.nsw.gov.au
A letter should be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope and detail the campground of interest; the number of adults and children, and the preferred dates.
- Timing and vehicles
The best times to visit Ben Boyd National Park are when most other people don’t! Avoid Xmas and Easter holidays if you can, but if you can’t, we suggest you stay outside the Park and do day trips in.
All the roads and tracks in Ben Boyd National Park can be driven in a softroader.