When astronauts on the International Space Station gaze down at the Australian coastline at night, the twinkling lights of cities give way to an inky void halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. By dawn’s light this is revealed to be a spectacular and almost continuous chain of national parks and nature reserves, dubbed Australia’s Coastal Wilderness – rich in culture and nature so precious that parts of it have been declared a UNESCO World Biosphere. One of the gems of this ‘Sapphire Coast’ is the Ben Boyd National Park, named after 19th century entrepreneur Benjamin Boyd (1801-1851) who played an important role in the region’s early development.
The park consists of two sections, on either side of Twofold Bay (the third deepest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere) and the town of Eden. The smaller northern section begins at the Pambula River and extends to North Head on Twofold Bay, with the Princes Highway as its western border. This is an ancient floodplain, comprised of sedimentary rock laid down about 60 million years ago, none of it rising more than 100m above sea level. These geological origins are dramatically exposed to view at The Pinnacles, a spectacular multicoloured erosion gully with soft white sand compacted over a stratum of rusty red clay. This earth history hot spot is a popular tourist attraction reached by a pleasant walk through forest to several vantage points. The northern coastline features long sandy beaches but south of Terrace Beach much of the park is edged by cliffs broken by small bays. Lennards Island is connected to the mainland by a rock platform that is exposed at low tide.
South of Eden, the park resumes on the southern arm of Twofold Bay, at Red Point, and continues 30km to Green Cape along a coastline fringed by the sapphire waters of the Pacific Ocean (hence the region’s sobriquet). The geology in this section comprises some of the oldest rocks on the NSW coast, formed about 360 million years ago, with deep crimson, heavily-folded formations visible at aptly named Red Point. The southern landscape’s highest point is Haycock Hill (252m) on a ridgeline along the western boundary that slopes gradually to the coast. Numerous intermittent streams drain from the ridge to feed freshwater wetlands along Woodburn and Bittangabee Creeks, and small estuarine lagoons like the one at Saltwater Creek that forms a popular aquatic playground for campers.