The Aboriginal Heritage Walk in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a must do! Nothing will recalibrate your spirit like a daytrip to this stunning park – it holds a plethora of treasures; both natural and cultural.
Just a 45 minute drive from Sydney CBD, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is home to Sydney’s much loved The Basin campground, iconic West Head Lookout and rich cultural heritage of the Guringai people – traditional custodians of these lands. It’s home to one of the largest known concentrations of recorded Aboriginal sites in Australia. Incredible.
First things first – prepare to open your mind, spirit…and your lunchbox. Grab walking shoes, hat, sunscreen. Throw in some swimmers and a towel for a mid-trail ocean dip. Pack some drinking water (we’d suggest around 2L per person), plus lunch and snacks. Ready? Let’s roll.
Pro Tip: Trail mix is always a welcome find in the bottom of your backpack.
Where to start
And you’re off… Crunching russet leaves underfoot, the fresh smell of discovery in the air. The Aboriginal Heritage walk, sometimes called the Resolute Loop Trail, serves up a choice.
2) Make for Resolute Beach via the Resolute Track (estimated 1-1.5 hours), taking in a culturally significant an important engraving site.
Either way, remember it’s a looping trail so you’re only choosing the order. Follow the signs and you won’t miss a thing. The total walk is around 5km, estimated to take around 3-3.5 hours. Add extra time for beaching, picnicking, and reflecting; a sure sign that you’ve connected with the sacred history and often devastating stories of this place.
No matter which way you go, here are key sites to look out for.
Red Hands Cave
The Red Hands Caves Walking track – Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a short walk (0.6km and 30-45 mins) from the Resolute picnic area. It’s an important site for the Guringai People as it provides physical evidence of tribal ancestors – and a spiritual connection to the past. Handprints tell the story in the sandstone. Avoid the temptation to overlay your hand on these prints; the acids on your skin will damage them.
Did you know? Elders would leave their imprints higher up on the wall of the cave, including their wrists and forearms which indicated their more senior status. Younger members’ prints are lower down. Also, the hand impressions were created by two methods: ochre blown over an outstretched hand produced a ‘negative’ impression, and a hand covered in wet clay and pressed against the rock left a ‘positive’ print.
At 60m wide, rock-free, and a million miles from Bondi – this beach defines the term ‘hidden gem’. Throw in calm waters and shade – this sandy stretch sure does deliver. As you sink your toes in, consider the traditional custodians owners of the land and how they might have experienced this place.
Did you know? Guringai women would launch their stringybark canoes from the sands of Resolute Beach, fishing with lines made from twined hair and plant fibre. It’s said they often sang as they fished.
West Head Lookout
It’s impossible not to take a photo here, but harder still to capture the breathtaking nature of this epic vantage point in digital format. But go on – try! And remember to tag #NSWParks
Once the camera is away, rest and ‘be’ for a moment. From here the Guringai People would have seen the large European ships with their weathered sails arriving. The first fleet that would change the trajectory of their people and their way of life for eternity.
Did you know? In April 1798 a sudden and unusual epidemic of smallpox was reported amongst the Port Jackson Aboriginal tribes. This had a devastating and irreconcilable impact on communities all along the coast. The Guringai people were decimated with up to 90 per cent of the community succumbing to the disease. Those aged five to fourteen were reportedly the least susceptible to the virus – so many children were left to continue on and reimagine their societies without their Elders and mothers’ guidance.
Carved into the grand, flat sandstone by the Guringai People are figures; both human and animal, and tools for hunting. It’s hard to know exactly how old these engravings are, but others in the park have been estimated to be well over 5,000 years old. The engravings are best viewed early in the morning or late afternoon as the light casts deeper shadow, allowing for better viewing.
I could try to describe the beauty of the bush, plants, bird calls, insects and reptiles that cross the path, all these things rich with meaning, story, and significance, but you really just need to go see for yourself.
Did you know? Over 900 plant species thrive in Ku-ring-gai Chase, including the highly-poisonous Burrawang Palm. The Guringai People were said to have soaked these palm kernels in water, refreshed daily, for over a week before roasting and eating them. This wisdom and knowledge of Mother Earth and her fruits lies at the core of Aboriginal peoples’ highly sophisticated and sustainable connection to Country.
By now you’ll be making your way back to Resolute Picnic grounds and your wheels to head home. Whichever way you look at it, there WILL be stairs! Quite a number of them! Take your time – by now the bush will have left its imprint on you; a bit more journey, a little less destination.
If you’re ready for refreshments, there are some great spots at Church Point, and all along the northern beaches (take a left, not a right at the end of McCarrs Creek Rd).
And there is your micro-adventure. You are now in a relationship with the beautiful, the abundant and mesmerising Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Want to learn more about this stunning area?
- Tours of the park are available.
- Learn from an expert on the local culture, taking a boat ride up the Hawkesbury to view more historic engravings – learning about life as it was 200+ years ago.
- Check out Guringai Tours or Sydney Outback tours, both operating in Ku-ring-gai.
For anyone interesting in learning more about Australia’s first peoples and the arriving colonists – these books are essential reading: The Secret River by Kate Grenville tells the story of life from the perspective of an arriving convict and his growing family who seek to settle along the banks of the Hawkesbury River. Pemulwuy: The Rainbow Warrior by Eric Willmot. Famed as the leader of the Aboriginal resistance movement, Pemulwuy of the Eora nation fought passionately to defend his people from expanding British settlement.