Sea Canoeist, vol4, 1980
Scribe Ron Rainbow
This trip had previously been organised for February 10th, but due to several parties of canoeists, including myself, having the Franklin River to contend with around that time, it was put off until a later date. The original trip was to be from Little Swanport River mouth to Oakhampton Beach. However, on advice from Laurie, I decided to finish the trip at Louisville so that we could enjoy the comforts of the recently completed motel tourist complex after our hard day's paddle.
Access to this stretch of coast line has been extremely limited for many years due to the large areas of privately owned farmland without public access. Many years ago, farmers allowed a small minority of people to cross their properties and take advantage of the beautiful coastline. This became short-lived when increasing numbers of surfers trespassed without permission, leaving gates open and causing stock and property damage.
The purpose of this trip was primarily to satisfy my own intrigue and to see for myself the reality of tales told by those fortunate enough to have been there themselves, and what better way to see it.
The party of canoeists included Cecily Butorac, Mike Emery, Philip Reynolds, and myself. We met quite early and made our way to Orford where, due to a slight misunderstanding, lost Philip Reynolds. After leaving Cecily's car at Louisville near the "refreshment quarters" we drove off to Little Swanport and to our relief found Philip on the way.
While Mike organised his gear, Cecily and I enjoyed ourselves surfing the small 0.5-1.0 metre waves that were breaking over the sand bar at the river mouth. This sand bar has quite a reputation supporting some of the best shaped waves available on the East Coast of Tasmania when east to south easterly swells manage to push their way onto the coast.
It was about 10:45 a.m. when Mike joined us. The weather looked rather ominous as we headed east towards Seaford Point and the beginning of our trip south. The four of us were treated to a gentle shower before the weather cleared and made way for a fine day.
On rounding Seaford Point, we noticed the source of the small surf which we had recently left. A moderate south easterly swell was sending beautiful clean swell lines directly onto the coast. East coast swells always tend to have a magic of their own. Although only 1-2 metres, it was a pleasure watching the volumes of clear unpolluted water bashing against the kelp studded rocky coastline.
It was just south of Seaford Point when Mike, taking a short cut between an offshore reef and a projecting rock ledge, was picked up by one such swell and delivered like a piece of driftwood onto the ledge. Mike made quick use of the next swell and paddled out to safety.
The coastline for the first 8 kilometres consisted mainly of cleared sheep grazing land dropping off rather quickly near the shoreline into a series of small rocky bays and vertical 5-6 metre high cliffs. One could well see the effect of easterly swells on the coastline. There was no great change until we rounded Point Bailly. Here we saw the beginning of a long partly interrupted stretch of beautiful pure white sand which backed onto low level marram grass studded sand dunes. Civilization in the form of a farmer's dwelling was noticed at the southern end of this incredibly beautiful private beach (one of the many beautiful beaches to come). A solid dumping surf pounded the beach, illustrating the sudden shallowness of the seabed. We paddled on intrigued by its privacy. The bottom corner of Banwell Beach changed into a series of shallow reefs and small rocky bays. The surfing potential of this area was quite obvious.
We continued south, passing Beckles Hill and onto the Boltons Beach area which is now accessible by public road due to the recent subdivision of foreshore land and the establishment of holiday cottages - now known as Bolton Estate. The beach is several hundred yards long, pure white sand and crystal clear blue water. Until recently, the beach was only enjoyed by the owners and relatives of the Early Rise and Hermitage properties.
It was at this stage when hunger pains caused Cecily to enquire about lunch. We paddled into a small cove about a kilometre south of Boltons Beach near Boltons Bluff. This little cove was no more than 50 metres long, consisting of a sandy beach bordered by vertical cliffs and backing onto a steep bank covered by small shrubs - an ideal spot. We lit a small fire and while eating lunch, listened to Cecily and Mike discussing their schooldays swimming feats.
The next section of this coast, Rough Hill to Grindstone Bay, has been the subject of great interest in surfing circles for many years. Stories tell of two surfers who, having walked for several miles over the hilly Grindstone property, found a point with perfect 10 ft surf peeling along its length and a reef with some of the most hollow surf seen in Tasmania breaking over its rocky bottom and peeling all the way to a peddle beach. On paddling along this coastline, we saw 1.5-2.0 metre surf breaking over the reef and also noticed the pebble beach. One could see how often surf pounded this area. The pebble (boulders to be exact) beach rose to a height of about 10 metres with an incline of about 45 degrees, The area around Grindstone Point looked perfect for diving and with added advantage of access into Boltons Beach this place could be the venue for several summer diving trips.
On rounding Grindstone Point, the coastline changed somewhat. Much more kelp appeared in the water and there was an obvious increase in depth close to the cliffs. The cliffs gradually increased in height and because of the increased depth, the swells were less obvious. We paddled along inspecting the cliffs and small inlets, generally enjoying the scenery. We rounded Middle Bluff paddled past several small coves and came to a rather long concave beach. The sand on this beach was very similar to that at the Clifton and South Arm Roaring Beaches. The contrast in colour and texture was unusually surprising since east coast beaches have predominantly very white sand.
This beach, Plain Place Beach on the map but commonly called Main Oakhampton Beach, faces direct east and picks up any easterly swells. The beach is about 4 kilometres long and had some excellent sand bars. Cecily and I paddled along just outside the surf line watching the hollow waves breaking in the distance. I enjoyed myself for a short time, surfing some of the perfectly shaped 1-1.5 metre waves. At the bottom corner of the beach, some waves were peaking at about 2 metres and throwing out, forming complete tubes. These waves would have been perfect for surfing using surf canoes, but a little too steep on the take off for the Greenlander - unfortunately.
We had paddled a considerable distance by this time and noticed that the day was getting on. We still had a reasonable distance to paddle and the possibility of reaching Louisville before dark was extremely remote. It was 4.30 p.m. and we still had about 14 kilometres to paddle. This was Philip's first long trip and he was obviously feeling the strain. We had covered the most interesting part of the coastline, The remainder consisted of a 5 kilometre stretch of high vertical cliffs and dark water, followed by a long open stretch of water from Lords Bluff to Point Horne lookout and from there to Louisville.
We had rounded Lords Bluff when the lighthouse at Point Horne lookout switched on. It seemed hours before we reached it. The remainer of the trip was paddled in total darkness. It was an enjoyable experience paddling in the dark. We could see the lights of the dreaded woodchip plant above the hill as we entered Spring Bay, followed by the lights of the Louisville Motel in the distance. We paddled quietly towards Louisville enjoying the serenity and peacefulness of the last moments before we landed our canoes on the disappearing man-made beach near the Motel. It was now 7.00 p.m., much later than we had anticipated. With a car shuffle to organise, plus the long trip home and being Sunday night, we importunely did not partake of the refreshments at the bar situated so close to Cecily's car.
In all we had a very enjoyable and enlightening trip. Those who could not make it certainly missed out.