It was the AFL Grand Final weekend and the weather in the south was looking pretty miserable, so we decided to head to the east coast. I had been checking out a couple of multi-day walks in the area, but in the end we decided to go with the Leeaberra Track in the Douglas Aplsey National Park. Given that we only had the Saturday and Sunday off, we had decided to do it as an overnighter, rather than the 3 days PWS recommends. So that we could get an early start, we drove up after work on Friday and camped at Little Beach, about 10 minutes north of the turn off to the Leeaberra Track on the Tasman Highway.
Day 1: We left Little Beach early and made our way up the E road to the northern end of the National Park. There are two low level creek crossings on the way to the top; these are pretty straight forward but expect to scrape the tow ball, especially on the second one. There is also a small carpark at the start of the walk that can fit a few cars, as well as a decent camping area about 100m back on the left hand side. We quickly ate some breakfast in the car out of the wind, then signed into the registration book just before 8am. To begin with, the track follows an old 4WD road that skirts the Thompson Marshes, before snaking its way down towards the first campsite by the Douglas River. We reached the first campsite in 1 hour and 45 minutes and dropped our packs for the side trip to Heritage and Leeaberra Falls. Note that about half way between the start and the first camp, you will pass the start of the Rainforest Ledge track, which follows the eastern rim of the national park and rejoins the Leeaberra Track about 45 minutes past the first camp.
The track to Heritage Falls had been damaged by flooding so it was easier to just rock hop down the river. It was quite impressive to see just how high the river had risen during the floods, and this was made evident by the log jams present high up on the banks. About 10 minutes downstream you will reach the top of Heritage Falls; to get to the base there is a taped and cairned route on the left hand side (when standing at the top) that initially climbs up before dropping steeply back down, bringing you right to the base. The next set of falls about 2 minutes downstream is Leeaberra Falls. Unfortunately there is no track down, but we did find a way on the right hand side (when standing at the top), that initially climbs up behind a rocky outcrop then drops down a steep and exposed section, before reaching the river about 30m downstream of the falls.
After spending around 2 hours exploring the falls and taking photos, we made our way back to our packs and continued up, out of the valley and onto the highpoint of the Leeaberra Track. We reached the beginning of the Nichols Cap side trip 1 hour and 50 minutes later and again we dropped packs and made our way towards to summit. It only takes ~15 minutes to reach and it is well worth the time. Although it is only 536m in altitude, the view from the top is pretty special. Looking south you can see all the way to the Hazards on the Frecyinet Peninsula.
Our next stop was the second campsite on the Douglas River, where we would set camp for the night. After picking up our packs again, we spent the next hour and 10 minutes making our way back down into the valley. We reached the camp on the other side of the Douglas River and decided to head up river to check out Tevelein Falls. This part of the walk was definitely a highlight, and even though the falls weren’t anywhere near as impressive as the first two, the large water holes and carved sandstone boulders that we passed while rock hoping up the river were truly worth seeing. We reached the falls after 45 minutes and for the most part we were able to stay on the river bed, there were only a couple of larger waterholes that required heading up into the bush on the right hand side in order to get around them.
Day 2: It was the first day of October and we wanted to get another early start. The first part of the day was probably the hardest of the whole trip, with a steep climb out of the valley before reaching another emergency use 4WD track. We were packed up and ready to go just after 8am and I raced up the hill, hoping to get some phone reception to check the result of the previous day’s AFL Grand Final. Unfortunately there was no reception at the top and I just ended up with a very sweaty shirt. From here, the track follows anther old 4WD track that drops back down towards the Denisons Marshes and the third and final campsite. The scrub and cutting grass gets quite thick while crossing the marshes, but there is a lot of recently added tape to guide the way. As a whole, the track was in pretty good condition; a ranger must have come through fairly recently with a chainsaw and cleared the majority of the fallen trees and limbs that ended up on the path. After leaving the Denison camp, the track then climbs up again slightly before dropping back down towards the Apsley River and the end of the Leeaberra Track. We arrived at the car park 4 hours and 10 minutes after leaving our campsite.
Unfortunately my GPS was playing up on the first day and I’m not convinced that the information is truly accurate. With some confidence, I estimate we covered ~31kms including all side trips.
Getting there: The turnoff the to the E road, or East Road, is a few hundred metres past the Templestowe Lagoon. There are no signs to indicate the road, but you will know if you are on the right one as about 500m in you will encounter the first low level crossing. If you are unable or unwilling to cross, expect it to take a bit over an hour to reach the start of the track by foot.