NSW Sea Kayak Club – Melaleuca Revisited [75]

by James Johnson

The Bathurst Harbour/Port Davey area is a spectacular wilderness area and a wonderful playground for sea kayakers. Last edition of the magazine (Issue 74) described a trip with Roaring 40s, a tour operator running sea kayak trips which has a base within Bathurst Harbour. All the logistics are taken care of, the guides can share local knowledge and it makes for a very convenient trip.

But paddling with a tour group doesn’t suit everybody and paddling on your own has its virtues too. I spent a week in this area of the South West in January 2009 and the following are some thoughts to consider if going on your own.

Access

I flew in to the airstrip at Melaleuca with a folding kayak with Par Avion, based in Hobart. The flight takes 50 minutes and costs $370 return, plus some freight ($3 per kilo). The freight seems a little flexible. A normal pack is included in the airfare, so providing your gear isn’t excessive, you will probably only pay for the weight of the kayak.

The South West is a “fuel stove only” area but you cannot take fuel on the flight. You can buy fuel (shellite, metho etc) from Par Avion before you go ($6 per litre) and take delivery when you arrive. Don’t forget to take your own fuel bottles — they decant fuel from their bulk supply at Melaleuca.

The put in point at Melaleuca Creek is a pontoon a short walk by duck board track from the north-western end of the airstrip. Both Roaring 40s and Par Avion have power boats moored at the pontoon here and Roaring 40s keeps its hard shell doubles nearby. There is a wheelbarrow at the shelter shed at the airstrip which makes moving gear easy.

You can travel by boat to Port Davey. I have heard of people with kayaks paying to be taken around by fishing trawler from Hobart. A 57 foot charter vessel operates from Kettering and will take kayakers and kayaks for $1100 return, $750 one way. You might be able to combine this with renting a hard shell kayak from Roaring 40s which is based in Kettering.

It is possible to paddle from Recherche Bay or from Strahan — not an undertaking to be taken lightly and one which is very much subject to the weather.

Background Information

One of the delights of my trip was reading a biography of Denny King, called King of the Wilderness — The Life of Denny King. It brought to life the places that I was visiting.

Water is everywhere, but knowing beforehand where camping sites can be found is important for trip planning. It was useful reading reports of old trips and talking to club members who had been there before.

At a pinch you could squeeze into spots just above the tide line if you had to, but with a group you might be pressed to find comfortable accommodation without doing a degree of harm to vegetation.

Spain Bay was great. Another favourite was the camp on the eastern side of Bramble Cove, an established campsite with deep water access, a view of the sunset over the Breaksea Islands, near a creek and with a comfy table and benches. Mind the marsupials though.

The hut at Clayton’s Corner was a pleasant surprise; clean, with a track up to Mt Beattie for a view and the perfect shelter when it rained and sleeted all night.

Safety

Finally, it probably doesn’t need to be said to members of a club which has such an emphasis on safety, but as well as leaving a trip plan with someone responsible, take the appropriate first aid and safety gear, including an EPIRB.

Talk with Par Avion ahead of time about getting flares in if you want to take them. It can get cold even in summer, the weather changes quickly and it is remote. Even if you intend staying in Bathurst Harbour and you don’t think you will need the club’s required minimum gear, you might, and if you do need to be rescued you will look less of a goose if you can show you were prepared.

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