Latitude -31.058669, Longitude 153.05912
Located in the Mid North Coast Region of NSW, nearest town Hat Head
The main features of Hat Head National Park are the long sweeping shorelines of Smoky and Killick Beaches, the dramatic and geologically significant headlands of Smoky Cape and Korogoro Point, and the highest lighthouse in Australia, also located at Smoky Cape.
The park has strong associations with the voyage of Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook along Australia's eastern coast. It was Cook who named the striking headland in the park "Smoky Cape", in recognition of the fires he observed there during May 1770. Aboriginal history abounds in this area, with numerous recorded sites, and an abundance of dreaming and contact stories associated with the park. Some of the shield trees currently on display in the Australian Museum in Sydney were removed from the Smoky Cape Escarpment.
The coastal headlands of the Macleay Valley are Permian sedimentary rocks with a small outcrop of Permian granite at Smoky Cape, while the landscape of Hat Head National Park is a complex mix of coastal depositional and erosional landforms. Some of the most scenically impressive features to be seen are former offshore islands at Smoky Cape and Korogoro Point: these have been "tied" to the mainland by sand deposition occurring over the last 6,000 years. These depositional landforms include irregular longitudinal sand ridges, through which meander freshwater and saline drainage depressions and swamps.
In the north of Hat Head National Park, the Smoky Cape Range is the dominant feature in the otherwise flat landscape of the Macleay River flood plain. The range's two prominent peaks, Big Smoky (309m) and Little Smoky (210m), are joined by a north-south trending ridge line from which falls a series of secondary ridges and steep valleys. The northern part of Smoky Cape is composed of the intruded rock types adamellite and aplite; the southern part is composed of sedimentary rocks from the Kempsey Beds. The geologically interesting contact zone between the two rock types lies just to the north of Gap Beach.
Landward of the Smoky Cape Range, bed-rock is covered by alluvial deposits overlain by recent fluvial and estuarine sediments. These form the Salt Water Lagoon and associated wetlands which make up the northern extremity of Hat Head National Park.
Smoky Beach extends 17 km south from Smoky Cape to Hat Head Village at Korogoro Point/Hat Hill (164m). This feature is an outcrop of massive conglomerate, (known as the Kullatine Formation from the Permian period), which extends 4km to the south to Hungry Hill (96m). The park then extends 12 km south along Killick Beach to its southern boundary adjacent to the coastal village of Crescent Head.
Immediately behind the sand dunes on both Smoky and Killick beaches are extensive narrow freshwater wetlands which parallel the dunal systems. These sand dunes are highly mobile on both beaches and are invading the wetlands at a rate in excess of 1m/year. In the case of Smoky Beach, the dunes have become mobile through a combination of fire and grazing destruction on the natural stabilising vegetation prior to dedication of the park. At Killick Beach, the area was mined for mineral sands prior to reservation and thereafter not successfully stabilised largely due to sand drifting from outside of the mining path. In both cases the introduced weed, bitou bush, has led to tussock erosion exacerbating the problem of wetland inundation by these mobile dunes.
In 1986 the Soil Conservation Service of NSW prepared a report on the rehabilitation of both Smoky Beach and Killick Beach. The Soil Conservation Service found that according to 1981 aerial photographs, there were approximately 700 hectares of active coastal sand drift and the estimated rate of drift was up to 6 metres per year. In one section of the park some 70 hectares of valuable coastal wetlands had been destroyed since 1942.
The coastal plain of the Macleay River is generally flat and low-lying country. To the east, within the park, there are some large windblown back dunes, particularly south of Smoky Cape and Hat Head, which consist of medium-grained clean sand. Indurated 'coffee rock' (hardened sands and sediments) is found in many places about 3 metres below ground surface. The low lying, floodprone flats and wetlands consist of fine silts, clayey sands and clays.
Extensive areas of Hat Head National Park are underlain by ground water which is an extension of the Macleay floodplain. There are three bore fields (operated under licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service by Kempsey Council) for supplying water to the villages of Hat Head, South West Rocks and Crescent Head.
For around fifty years, sandmining was a significant activity in Hat Head National Park for the extraction of rutile, zircon, monazite and ilmenite (these minerals are often seen on beaches as black particles overlaying the sand in the wet zone). All mining operations have now ceased.
Hat Head National Park is located on the North Coast of NSW between the village of Crescent Head and the town of South West Rocks and is approximately 36km from the regional centre of Kempsey. There are camp grounds available in the park and lots of walking tracks to choose from, as well as excellent fishing, whale and bird watching opportunities abounds. Park entry fees apply.