These pics are from our second time up The Castle (847m), one of NSW’s most challenging and spectacular day walks, situated in Morton National Park on the South Coast of NSW near Ulladulla. The views are probably the best I’ve seen in NSW, and with just enough exposure near the top to get the adrenaline flowing, it makes a memorable walk for any fit bushwalker.
You don’t walk all that far (11 or 12 kms) but the terrain slows you down in some sections, and there’s a decent change in elevation of about 800m. Starting in rainforest, you’ll soon ascend into dryer forest, then skirt the western edge of the Castle’s lower walls with views of Mt Nibelung and Mt Owen. It’s then up through cliffs with progressively more expansive views of the Budawangs, until you reach the summit plateau. Make sure you walk to the southern end for the best views of Byangee Walls. There’s a box for a log book there, but I think the better views are a few minutes to the left (east) of this.
The drive from Ulladulla or Milton takes a bit over an hour on mostly dirt roads, (or faster if you have AWD and some clearance).
The Castle Track: The Scenery
This video is from our first time up the Castle, when the wind was blowing a gale! Sophia almost gets blown off her feet at one point.
You’ll need good track notes for this walk as it’s easy to get lost and waste time if you’ve not done it before. There are decent notes in two books we own – Take a Walk in Southern NSW & the ACT and Best Bush, Coast and Village Walks of The Shoalhaven, but I think we used notes from the Bushwalking NSW website when we did it the first time. It helps to go with someone who’s done the walk before. We did it 90 minutes quicker the second time around, partially due to increased confidence with route finding. I’d allocate at least 10 hours for the return walk if it’s your first time.
There are sections to the west of the Castle that can take time, climbing over tree routes and big boulders. It’s also possible to lose the track a bit but you won’t get seriously lost (I hope!) The hardest section is finding the way up onto the Castle – one wrong turn takes you to a more challenging rock climb using ropes. I’ve never been there (only read about it) but the easier route is possible to climb up without ropes, but there were a couple of fixed ropes in place which definitely made it easier. You can see some of these sections in my photos. Note you are advised not to use the ropes without someone checking their condition first, but like most people you might like to live on the edge a bit 😉
If you are interested in other walks on the NSW South Coast then have a browse through some that I’ve done below. Many have been in the Budawangs and a few along the nearby coastline. The walk into Monolith Valley from the same start as the Castle is another absolute classic that I highly recommend (and there’s no scary exposure on this walk).
One of the classic NSW day walks, the trek into Monolith Valley is often overshadowed by an ascent of the Castle. For sure the Castle is a must-do walk, but Monolith Valley is an excellent alternative for a different kind of spectacular. The walk into the area along the Castle walls is already awesome, and the views of Monolith Valley are first seen by continuing just past a chained section of Nibelung Pass. There you can climb one of the smaller monoliths for 360 degree views of huge textured rock landforms and distant cliff faces.
The Mount Bushwalker Track provides really wide open views of many significant features in the Budawangs Mountain Range, and all for relatively modest effort. There’s also a short side trip worth taking into an atmospheric place called The Gaolhouse, a pocket of rainforest in the crack created by a section of rock falling away from the main cliff face. (more…)
This circuit walk in Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve exceeded expectations. It starts in fairly open forest and heads towards the coast, then passes through an area containing many cycads, ancient and attractive plants that predate conifers on the evolutionary timeline. It then runs south along Conjola Beach to the many colourful rocks on Buckley’s Point, further on to Narrawallee Creek itself, and then back to the start through a variety of open forest. There’s various bird life along the way, including sea birds nesting along Narrawallee Creek, and black cockatoos in the forest bordering the creek. (more…)
This longish circuit walk in Murramarang National Park near Ulladulla takes in a very pleasant section of the NSW South Coast, and also rises up about 525m to the top of Durras Mountain. The mountain is forested and doesn’t provide much in the way of views, but it’s a nice enough section and contains lots of cycads, which I don’t see much of. On the coastal stretch there are lots of sandy beaches, rock platforms, bays and headlands. (more…)