Treks: Galway (Gillespies) Beach Tramping, Fox Glacier
Gillespies Beach Car Park –> Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk (1932 Gold Dredge) –> Gillespies Beach –> Gillespies Lagoon (bridge) –> Galway Beach Seal Colony –> Miners Tunnel (backtrack) –> Gillespies Lagoon –> Gillespies Beach –> Gillespies Beach Car Park
6.8 km (4.2 miles)
Total Average Walk Time:
~ 6 – 7 hours (with plenty of time to get lost, take great shots and respites (lunch) when necessary)
🙂 🙂 🙂
This was a much anticipated trek when in Fox Glacier township. With the description on Google saying that we could actually trek to see a colony of seals with beady black eyes, I voted ‘Why Not!’ instantly! With no fences or viewing glass that impedes, just pure wilderness and wild fur seals, it was an opportunity I wouldn’t want to miss- with great hope that nature would be on our side for us to spot them for afar of course.
How to get there?
An approximately 25 minutes drive from Fox Glacier Township, head on Cook Flat Road, and turn right onto the gravel- made Gillespies Beach Road. The journey could be slow and draggy due to the nature of the road, and the view, well… … isn’t that all awe-inspiring, but just bare with it!
Blast on music and enjoy the bumpy ride, because the corollary is just too sweet to not hold on to it! Just keep thinking of those fur seals; wild and untouched; that’s the main goal (gold) here. 😉
But of course, we were pretty lucky to see an amazingly tranquil sight when the weather changes and the sun starts to cuddle up for the night. On the journey back after the trek, we had views that were just inexplicably breath-taking that we had to stop the car and snap!
Trekking Route + What you might experience?
This route we took, well… took us a minuscule bit of time to figure out and to maneuver about because there is just so many routes you could actually take and things you could see all within the same vicinity. With a variety of route choices, and not enough time, we need to make wise decisions. So let me ease this out for you and you could totally skip certain routes that doesn’t interest you!
At the car park you will be first greeted by a massive rustic suction dredge machinery designed by Edward Von Schmidt in the 1800s. With parts of the machine gone, and rust flakes all over the entire dredge, it was time to step into the time capsule and take us back a few hundred years.
You have the options to take the ‘Gillespies Suction Dredge Walk’ which is a short 15 minutes loop or the 5 minutes ‘Miners Cemetery Walking Track’. However, we decided to head for the 1932 Gold Dredge a.ka. the Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk instead.
1. Gillespies Beach (detour appetizer before the main trek)
Before that, I was curious to where the route with the signage on the left labelled ‘Beach’ would take us. Obviously the beach… Duh! But I was just interested to see the beach first alright? That’s not a crime right? 😛
Gillespies beach is just perfect for anyone who wants solace. Placid; with only the waves crashing against the shore, and the late morning sea breeze howling, it was a cool way (literally) to start any day, any time!
The insanely many rocks that awash and shrouded the sand on the beach was definitely a unique sight for me. I have never seen so many pebbles and rocks on a beach that people actually could stack pebble-made sculptures; which I must add, do act as good photography pieces- not complaining here. 😛
2. Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk (1932 Gold Dredge)
This is the start of the main trekking route towards the seal colony! Whoo hoo!
We started off with walking amongst the tall shrubs, bushes, certain animal poopies and friendly flies that always come along with the poopies. Not pointing fingers here but I reckon the culprit… … the sheep. I really do. We saw a few of them en route to the car park; just saying… … 😛
Soon we saw a few more rustic machineries that were half submerge in the pond; with a massive part of them still sticking out. I really cannot help but think of Tow Mater from the Disney movie Cars upon the sight of all of these!
Ambling along a very narrow walkway under some shade and admiring, these machineries are so rusted and ancient that it was just unbelievable that they were so close to reach (not that I actually touched them).
3. Gillespies Lagoon (bridge); getting lost?
Part 2 for the walk was to head towards Gillespies Lagoon. To do that, we had to head pass the shrubs and bushes towards the beach (just follow the signage).
Once you see the beach with huge chunks of dried logs sprawled on the sand at intervals with countless rocks and pebbles, head right towards the Lagoon. However, if you think that you have seen enough, you could head left, and you would be on your merry way back to the car park via Gillespies Beach.
Now here comes the hard part.
We got a little carried away with walking along the beach that we pass our turn to the right which will lead us to the bridge. We even thought we had to climb boulders and across waters to get across. But none of such difficult tasks were needed, not to worry.
We saw the lagoon but thought that the lagoon wasn’t the right one as we could not see the bridge. Well, it turns out that we had to turn right BEFORE passing the lagoon and walk along it. Because sooner enough there would be a signage on the right (amongst the bushes) that says… … Hey what do you know, ‘Bridge 3 minutes’. Feeling stupid then we were. Haha! A little setback here, but not to worry; the day was still long!
We spend more time by the bridge and the tannin lagoon taking massive photos, and of course, had some snacks for lunch and watched a couple of duckies roamed in the lagoon! It was a nice serene moment for respite.
4. Galway Beach Seal Colony
From here onwards, the route starts to be a little more rocky and challenging. So if you want to head back after seeing the bridge, DON’T. Push yourself a bit further through the forest, and at least make it to the Miners Tunnels. Anyway, it is only about 10 – 15 minutes (ish) from the bridge (with no muddy sections)! I’m sure with a slow walk, it would be fine! And after that, if you still feel you cannot carry on, then backtrack. 🙂
For us, we decided to leave the Miners Tunnel for when we come back from Galway Beach Seal Colony because we all know; once we got stuck at a place for photos, we would spend an ungodly amount of time at that one place. And at that moment, time was a factor. It was already long past noon (we probably spend too much time by the lagoon and lost track of time). This was great evidence for us to keep moving or we will never make it back before sundown! Haha! 😀
The gravel route in the dense forest soon turned muddy. I mean, real muddy. Too muddy that at times, your only option was to brave through it and sink yourself, close to ankle deep, into the mud. Hhhmmm… … What a way to get close to nature. But of course, I would try not succumb to such.
I would think of ways like hopping and leaping from one dry(ish) spot to the next and walked gingerly close to the edge if I had to, just to avoid the thick mud if it was possible. J would followed suit, but at times she decided to take another way across and got her shoes a tad bit closer to nature. There were also other times when she was faster at maneuvering through them than I was, and well… … when she sunk in, we both knew it was a danger zone, and I would then avoid it. So for the times when she sunk in, I really do have her to thank for that. Oops! Haha! :S
Sometimes, whoever was faster to cross over the more challenging mud section, that person would help pull the other over, or just communicate with the other on the next step of action if the other party was stuck in a muddy predicament. Sounds like we are in an obstacle course, and it did felt like it for awhile. But since there were so many muddy sections, soon we were immune to them, and maneuvering around them were quicker.
There were some logs at intervals in the muddy sections to help people cross over it, but sometimes, the logs aren’t at all stable, and stepping on them may cause you to slip and fall into the puddle of mud. So do be extra prudent.
There you have it, what you may experience on this trek!
I did however came out of this with minimal damage; though with some minor cuts from branches, and some form of sinking into the mud; which was surely unavoidable. And yes, I am proud of myself for that. Haha! 😀
I do not have pictures to show for the muddy routes as we pretty much had our hands filled (filth) from dodging around the mud. Haha! But trust me, it was muddy. We passed a friendly old couple who were on their way back to the car park, and his wife had accidentally sunk into the mud, kneecap down. Oh man, what a sight it was. But kudos to the couple, who did not allow age to get in their way for an experience of adventure. Salute!
After all the hard work which seems like an eternity of dense forest mud dodging, we were exhilarated when we saw a flight of metal stairway to paradise. We, I mean, I, climbed down the steep wet stairway hurriedly and hopped boulder to boulder to the beach.
Oh man, it was amazing to have finally arrived. And the hunt (not literally of course) for the fur seal begun once J ambled over! Whee…! I must say, it wasn’t easy to search for the colony. We had to walk a long way along the beach through the boulders slowly, and be consistently on alert mode as we do not want to be found in a situation where we were too close and trapped within the colony. The key is to espy the wild from a distance, yeah?
And we found them! Well, not a colony, but just a few sprawling on the sand. But I’ll take it! Better than nothing right? Maybe it was the time we arrived, it was already late afternoon by then.
Regardless, elated as we were, we tried to contain our excitement so as to not scare them. All the mud dodging in the forest earlier was worth it! 😀
The way back to the car park was backtracking; meaning another round of mud dodging through the dense forest. Whee… … … … … …. I cannot wait… …
5. Miners Tunnel (backtrack)
The Miners Tunnel was a nice checkpoint to assure us that we were out of the dense forest, and we could actually make it out in one piece by sundown. Melodramatic much? But yeah… … It was really getting late, and there weren’t a single soul trekking with us in the forest.
The view of the ocean was breath-taking. A nice aerial view of everything, and on good days I heard you may actually see the seals from way up here at the viewpoint! Alas we weren’t this lucky that day, but hey, seeing them at the beach earlier, that was good enough! 😀
(a) Good time to start the trek? EARLY!
How early is early? Well… … It’s really up to you. But I reckon, if I would do this again, 8 am (ish) is a nice time to work with.
This way you will imperatively have plenty of time to admire the scenery by Galway Beach where the seal colony is. I mean with all the hard work put into get there, the least you could do to reward yourself is to spend a little bit more time by the beach lunching (away from the seal colony of course) don’t you think so?
I recall we did not get enough time to soak in the beach at all, and was compelled to head back soon. 🙁 It was very close to sunset and we were still only halfway through the muddy sections on the trek back. This frightened us a little. Okay, a lot. Because this means we aren’t even close to the Miners Tunnels, which also meant that we were still in the dense forest, and light-less is definitely not the way to maneuver around in the forest; with no flashlight. I bet even Jessie J can’t help you here. #justsaying
Hence, it is always good to have ample day light to work with, no?
(b) Take photo of the signage with the trekking map printed on it!
Either with your mobile phone or camera, make it a habit to snap a photo of the signage with a map at the start of any trek.
First of all, you can always refer to it to remind yourself how long the journey would be, because sometimes the signage does indicate the duration of the trek; which I must add is not always accurate- speaking for many experiences. So back to the first TIP? Start your trek EARLY!
Secondly, the map on the signage would help you if you were to get lost and there ain’t a soul to ask for directions. We really relied on photos like these on quite a few occasions, so don’t underestimate these simple photographs- they can go a long way.
And lastly, a good photo to use as documentation for your trekking trip! Haha! 😀
(c) En route back to the car park; walk along Gillespies beach instead
When passing the bridge the second time on the way back to the car park, take a stroll along the beach instead! There is no need to literally backtrack unless you really do want to experience the Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk (1932 Gold Dredge) one more time.
In my opinion, saunter along the beach when it is close to nightfall beats walking through the shrubs, bushes and animal poopies. Furthermore, you could have the opportunity to maybe spot one or two fur seals chillaxing by the beach too (speaking from experience)! So keep your eyes peeled like J did, because thanks to her we managed to have a second round of fur seal watching! This time it was by Gillespies Beach near the car park; so we have all the time in the world to admire it from afar without fear of being trapped in the forest without a flashlight! Yay! 😀
Hope this goads you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!
So remember to Travel Whenever!