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A trip to the Spit and Fingal Island

It has been a while since this article was originally written and with the Spit and Fingal Island being so very popular, we took a walk over there recently to see if we can add anything more about this wonderful and enjoyable day trip.

The Spit is a tidal sand “bridge” between Fingal Bay beach and Fingal Island. Being tidal, it means that it is not always accessible and also subject to changing its form, according to the tides. At the moment (January 2023), the Spit is wide and a lot of sand is in place. Every day is different and each day will see a different ‘shape’ to the Spit.

The Spit is located at the end of Fingal Bay Beach and the easiest way to get there, unless you have a boat (kayak or canoe), is to walk along Fingal Bay Beach to the very end. Park in the car park area near the surf club or along the park area of the beach.

Other ways to explore Fingal Island is to go on one of the eco boat tours that visit the Island. One of the highly recommended tours that it also guided, is run by Aquamarine Adventures. Check out more information about the tour here: https://aquamarineadventures.com.au/all-tours/fingal-island-eco-walk-lighthouse-tour/. This tour also includes access to the lighthouse!

Planning is the key

If you do wish to walk across the Spit and go to Fingal Island, you will need to see if the Spit is accessible.

Check the tides first. You need to make it across when it is just at the beginning of the low tide and make it back again while it is still low enough to cross, and well before high tide. Planning is the key and there is normally a sign in place (especially in peak times), asking everyone to take care. The Spit cannot be safely crossed when there is any water across it – looks do deceive and there have been many people that have had to be rescued and some who have lost their lives as the currents are very deceptive and strong. However, if you watch the tide times, and take care with organising your walk, the walk across the Spit and to the island, is truly a great experience.

Google ‘Fingal Bay tide times’ (not Fingal Head which is located in northern NSW) to find the low tide times and allow 45 to 60 minutes to walk to the Spit from the car park area, and expect the same in return. This will depend on the tides and how low the tide is when you walk to the Spit. Aim to walk to the Spit 60 minutes before the low tide time. Also, check how ‘low’ the tide will be.

This is just one of many sites where you can check the tide at Fingal Bay: https://www.tideschart.com/Australia/New-South-Wales/Port-Stephens-Shire/Fingal-Bay/.

Depending on how low the tide is and how exposed the Spit is, you will be able to gauge how long you can spend on the island. Normally, you will be able to see the exposed Spit from Fingal Bay beach, near the surf club area, even before you commence the walk to it.

What will I need to take with me?

Take decent walking shoes, ensure you have water, a sunhat and sunscreen.

Also remember that the island it is part of the Tomaree National Park so remember to bring back any garbage or waste from your trip to the island. There are no bins on the island or near the Spit. There is also no taps, fresh water or toilets on the Island.

And now more about the Island!

After you have crossed the Spit, head to the path that will lead you up to the island. It is easily visible. The initial sand path is a short, uphill climb and can be a little uneven as it has no steps but it levels out quickly to a flat area and the main path.

The walking trail is easy to follow. It is a 1.2km walk to where the Lighthouse is located so factor this into your time on the island and when you need to return. The path is a lovely, well laid out walk (maintained by National Parks) and you will see remnants of the old settlement along the way – fencing, old telegraph poles, oleanders, apple trees, and other plant species not local to the area.

Descriptive signboards are located at the beginning of the walk and also located close to where the lighthouse is located, explaining more of the history of the island and the lighthouse.

Meander along the main path and you will see a secondary path off to the left – but more about that later! (It is our ‘special’ place).

When you get to the lighthouse area, it opens out to a fantastic vista of the ocean, the rocky shoreline, and of course, the lighthouse! In front of the lighthouse, you will see the remnants of the original lighthouse keepers’ residence. It is now fenced due to the instability of the building and we do hope it can be stabilised so we can wander through it again one day and wonder about the lives of the residents during earlier times. More about the history of the lighthouse and the residence can be found here: More about the fascinating history of the lighthouse and the residence can be found here: https://tomareemuseum.org.au/point-stephens-lighthouse/.

We took an early morning walk to the island, along with our breakfast, and enjoyed sitting on the very top steps of the lighthouse, gazing over the island, the old residence, the rocky shoreline and out to sea. When we have visited before, we also spent time exploring the shoreline and around the lighthouse area.

Fingal Island and its other wonders

A slight diversion! Fingal Island offers other ‘hidden’ treasures to explore, along with the lighthouse.

About halfway along the main track, there is a second track leading off to the north of the island. This pathway is on the left-hand side of the main path when going to the lighthouse or on the right-hand side when coming back. It is also wide and easy to see though it is not marked with any signs.

Fingal Island showing the paths to the lighthouse and to the north of the island.

This track leads to two locations and will split into 2 paths as you walk along it.

To the right, the path leads down to where a wharf used to be located, that was used to ferry supplies to the lighthouse keeper families. It is also a great spot to snorkel but the scramble down the rocks is difficult and is not for the faint-hearted!

However, the main destination for us is the track to the left. The path meanders through a pine tree grove and bushland and then splits into 2 smaller paths (take the right path but either track is fine!) and this will take you to a small beach – we just love this little bay and beach, which is protected in a circle of red rock and has sweeping views out to the islands.

We love this spot to rest and relax (depending on the tides of course!) and enjoy swimming, snorkeling and exploring along the shoreline for sea glass and other flotsam and jetsam.

On the way back…

The view back along the Spit and Fingal Beach is truly spectacular – take the time to soak it all in and the absolute delight is taking a refreshing dip when you are back on the beach, after leaving the island.

And then the ‘hike’ back along the beach! It always – to us – seems so much longer to get home than to get to the Island! Needless to say, it is simply that we are always so excited to get to the Spit and the island in the first place. The walk back gives us time to reflect on the day, and that every time we go to the island, we have a unique, special, and memorable experience.

More information

More information about Fingal island and the lighthouse can be found here:

NSW National Parks: https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/historic-buildings-places/point-stephens-lighthouse-and-fingal-island