Smoky Cape – Lighthouse to Gaol

A walk through forest and heath, with wildlife, coastal views and heritage at Trial Bay Gaol.

Trail information

Captain Cook named this 300m high granite outcrop Smoky Cape in 1770, when he spied the smoke from the fires of the Dunghutti people from his ship. Later, a lighthouse was built – the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland. We start this walk near the lighthouse, at Captain Cooks lookout.

The Jack Perkins track leads down to the beach, but we take the other track traversing the slopes of Big Smoky. There are cabbage tree palms and ferns in a rainforest gully, eucalypts, casuarinas, tea tree and grass trees on the hillsides.

The route joins Gap Beach Rd for a section. Turning off the road, the track ?limbs up then descends into heath where there are some lookouts over the coast. We spotted whales and a turtle in the clear water below, from our sunny perch on granite rocks. Below this we walk by the Overshot Dam, built to supply the Gaol and Arakoon, and then reach Little Bay picnic area.

The first wing of the Trial Bay Gaol was completed in 1886 and housed convicts tasked with building a breakwater. The sea relentlessly destroyed the efforts the breakwater was abandoned. The Gaol was re-established to house World War 1 prisoners.

From Little Bay, we climbed the hill to the German Monument, built to remember prisoners who died while interned at the Gaol. The current monument was rebuilt in 1960, after being blown up by returning diggers in 1919.

There are numerous interpretative signs on Monument Hill, and great views of Trial Bay north to Coffs Harbour, and inland over the Macleay valley. We saw a lace monitor on the path and a kangaroo. When we reached the Gaol, we wandered down to we enjoy our lunch at a seaside picnic table in the shade.


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