Frederick Henry Bay: The Dodges Ferry Coastline – Spectacle Head to Carlton River


Previous Post:  Tiger Bay Beach to Spectacle Head

Spectacle Head

Spectacle Head.jpg
Spectacle Head view

By means of the path and the road we reached the summit of Spectacle Head.  It was arguably the most perfect day of summer and we visually wallowed in the landscape about us.

We walked passed the ceramic whale that is a feature of this headland and took a track beneath the casurinas that  border the houses (friendly residents, curious dogs) to another clearing.  Beneath the cliffs we saw a rocky shoreline interrupted by cobbled beaches.  Two 80 year olds drowned off here in the summer of 2017, caught out by rough weather while checking their craypots.

The land was fairly clear of trees on the eastern side of the point and again we lingered, enjoying looking down at the surfers and the long view out along Park and Carlton beaches, with the Carlton river entrance tiny in the distance and Carlton Bluff a heft of shoulder on the far side  looking every bit an island and blocking from our view our onward passage.

The track down the cliff face looked too risky, although locals do use it and we ventured some way along it before turning back.  A lone Pacific Gull perched on the sharp, narrow edge of cliff.  There is no barricade and it would be easy to take a tumble but I liked that it was unfenced and up to individuals to keep themselves safe.

When we got to the bottom by way of  the tamer path, the first thing we did was try to get as far around the headland as we could via the rocks.  If I’m right this was dolerite, jointed and sandwiched in vertical and horizontal directions that created  something of a floral pattern in some areas.  That day, we didn’t get far at all.

Pebbles below Spectacle Point.jpg
Assemblage of pebbles below Spectacle Head

Park and Carlton Beaches (T392)

View of Park and Carlton Beaches from Spectacle Head.jpg

Park and Carlton, popular Hobart surf beaches,  merge into each other with no natural division between them.  Really, it’s a single beach approximately 3 km long IMHO, facing south and copping  the southerly swell.  With the tide reasonably low we wandered barefoot along the swash enjoying the light, offshore breeze and the long ripple lines left behind in the sand.

At the time I did this walk a friend  was keen to buy a place behind the beach while it remained relatively undiscovered and we’d discussed beach erosion and done some Google Earth exploring. The beach is backed by a narrow strip of coastal reserve. But what looked like a single line of dunes online was broader than I’d anticipated when I set foot on the beach.   Marram grass cloaked the incipient dunes in front of taller, older dunes that had been undercut by waves at some point and   it was interesting to try to figure out beach processes here.  Just after this walk a local told me some guinea pig refugees have made a home in these dunes.  She also told me she’s given up fishing.  Apparently the flathead Emmett said were bountiful are not so bountiful anymore.

Dunes near Carlton River.jpg

Carlton River

We reached the Carlton Park Surf Life Saving Club and walked on by.  We rounded the bend at the river mouth where clear green water was streaming out into the bay, swirling around this year’s sandbank, and not far away there were some surfers and people on SUPS.   We were nicely protected from the sea breeze now and walked along in the water with tiny fish swirling around our legs.  Exploring the river mouth made me feel exultant.  My only prior contact with the river had been further inland, crossing it by way of the bridge and following some of its bends along the road.  The modest proportions of this river appeal to me.  In size it’s much like the rivers around the town I grew up in.  I was eager to return with my kayak.

Carlton River with seagulls.jpg

Carlton Bluff, liberally dotted with casurina’s, rises on the other side and someone was walking a path up there.  Behind the dunes the river broadens to form a wetland with houses on the inland slopes.

Carlton River

Pied oyster catchers walked ahead of us, gulls gathered near a fallen tree and a pair of swans were off in the distance, paddling out from the wetland where they seem to like to gather.  I tried to imagine what the river looked like untouched, full of the birds that should have been there but weren’t because of habitat loss –  the great flocks of earlier days now reduced so dramatically the world over.

Carlton River (1).jpg
Carlton River shallows

At Steele’s Island resort we again encountered friendliness and stopped for a while to chat to the owners, who were enjoying the fine day beside the river.  They talked about its shapeshifting tendencies and how they become an island several times a year when the river water rises and fills the wetland and the dry river bed at their entrance.  We walked a big circle around their property, enjoying the birdlife.  There was a  deepness of large shells beneath our feet and in the stratigraphy of the river banks.

Carlton River (2).jpg

The day after this lovely walk, the friend who was hankering after property here asked if I’d come back to explore with her and so I showed her the circuit around Steele’s Island.  This time the tide was higher.  A dozen swans looked at us hesitantly across the vast mudflats and so we kept well away from their territory.

At Carlton River.jpg
Carlton River wetland

Each walk along rivers and beaches throws up new delights.  I studied the layers of shell in the undercut bank, the same shells we were walking  over and tried to imagine the landscapes further down the stratigraphic layers that had once had their time to emblazon this world with beauty.

Carlton River (5).jpg
Circuit path

Feb 2017

Frederick Henry Bay: The Dodges Ferry Coastline – Tiger Bay Beach, Red Ochre Beach, Blue Lagoon Beach and Spectacle Head

Previous post:  Lewisham to Dodges Ferry (Okines Beach)

In 1952 E.T. Emmett wrote, ‘From Sorell to Hobart you have the choice of keeping to the main road which strikes Bellerive at fourteen miles, or of doubling back to Lewisham, ferrying across to Seven Mile Beach, and walking through Rokeby, a distance of something over twenty miles.  I chose the latter.

Lewisham is another old-timer, for this was once the route to Port Arthur, and Pittwater was crossed at Dodge’s Ferry.  Since then three causeways have been built … Lewisham’s main fame today is based on the good fare at the hostelry and the fat flounders in the bay.  The iron bars at the windows of some of the outhouses explain what the buildings were used for a century ago.’

Tiger Bay Beach  (T395)

Emmett travelled south through a different time and landscape.  Our  walk took us north out of Lewisham and along  Tiger Bay Beach, which lies in the lee of Tiger Head between Okines and Red Ochre Beach.  Short (2006) refers to two Red Ochre Beaches, but the locals seem to call the last beach along Blue Lagoon Beach.

The tide we thought would be low was  high, the vast stretches of sand gone.  We picked our way along the water’s edge and around the eroding cliffs of friable sandstone at Tiger Head.  We found a seat, trees with spaces between their roots and the dune, and the visible signs of human concern – tiles and branches once again heaped there to hold back the ocean’s rising intentions.  This beach has boat sheds, there’s a boat ramp and jetties and several boats were moored off the beach.

Red Ochre Beaches 1 and 2 (aka Blue Lagoon Beach)

We encountered a sandstone outcrop here with lovely patterns and strange little indented circles.


Further along we found more boat sheds and this time a significant effort being made to hold back the sea because the path now ran along the top of  carefully placed boulders, yet still the sea was winkling out the fill and the sand.

Red Ochre Beach

We climbed up onto a thin concrete strip on the side of someone’s garden, clutching on to their fence in order to continue.  But returning on a  low tide occasion I found I could walk the sand beneath the boulders with ease.

The Ferry Man

This was a nautical walk, because on Blue Lagoon Beach we found ourselves amongst more boat sheds, moorings and jetties sheltered this time by the bulk of Spectacle Head.

Ralph Dodge called the land he bought at Dodges Ferry  in 1830 Ferry Farm.  It seems he swapped his house in Goulburn Street for these 300 acres and this bit of history still stands, because the house he built can be found at the end of Fourth Avenue, (Southern Beaches Historical Society, 2019), pretty much opposite Sandy Point .

He was a man with an eye for business, because he took the opportunity to establish a ferry service and standing there with the sea breeze filling in, it required no imagination at all to imagine him rowing his neighbours over to Sandy Point on the other side.  If only all rivers had their Ralph Dodges walking coastlines would be easier and a lot more fun.  Imagining Ralph Dodge I remembered an alpine river in Lesotho where the ferry man challenged his wooden boat with generous loads of locals and read the swirls and rapids with consummate skill while those precariously balanced stayed perfectly silent and perfectly still.  In another lifetime perhaps I’ll aspire to being a ferry woman and spend my days napping under a shady tree in a warmer climate, waiting for occasional travellers to come my way.

Spectacle Island

Spectacle Island, one of the Sloping Group of islands, and a mere 3.5 ha lies just offshore.    A small number of pied oystercatchers, 600 pairs of little penguins and 8000 pairs of short-tailed shearwater had burrows on the island when Nigel Brothers surveyed it (Brothers, 2001).  It belongs to the birds, so respect them by kindly staying away.


A seagull observed us from the boat ramp as we discussed continuing along the rocks or taking the path we could see heading up Spectacle Head behind the boat sheds.  We observed the tide and chose the latter.

Spectacle Point

Walked Feb 2017


Brothers, Nigel. 2001. Tasmania’s offshore islands. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.

Emmett, E.T. 1952.  Tasmania by road and track. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Short, Andrew (2006)