Royal NP, NSW
14.0 km (3 hrs )
The Hacking River was my fifth time out on the water, but having been spoilt by pristine locations on some of my previous paddles, this one did not live up to the those standards. Don't get me wrong, paddling the Hacking River is enjoyable, the scenery is beautiful and the going pretty easy, its just that towards Gymea Bay and Yowie Bay, the houses crowd the shores and the motorised traffic takes away from the calm of a day out on the water.
If starting from within the Royal National Park like I did (Reids Flat), the first 3 kilometres are beautiful - a tranquil valley with eucalypts and grass trees bordering the river, with the occasional sandstone outcrop for variety. The river is about 50 metres wide, but do take care as the channel can be narrow in places. There are rocks covered in sharp oyster shells, that depending on the tide, are either exposed or just under the surface. Even with my shallow draft, I came close to running over some on my return journey when the tide was a little higher.
It does get a little busy at Swallow Rock in Grays Point, a popular picnic area and boat ramp. The channel is also quite narrow here with a long sandy spit jutting out into the river. Houses begin to appear at Grays Point and then become prolific around Gymea Bay and Yowie Bay. This is also where you may feel the effects of the tides and wind, as the bays are more open and exposed than the Hacking River.
Taking it slowly (with plenty of stops as well), the return trip took me just over 3 hours to complete. The highlight is the stretch from Audley weir to Swallow Point i.e. the section within the Royal National Park.