COME SEE Fingal Beach and Split, Hunter. Australia.
FINGAL BEACH AND SPLIT: THE GUIDE
REGION: Hunter Region
ACCESSIBILITY: Private car, limited access via public transport
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer (Dec-Feb)| Temps average 17-30 Celcius.
LOCATION: 2:49mins from Sydney CBD | Open in Google Maps
WALKING DISTANCE: 2km from mainland Fingal beach to the lighthouse on Fingal Island
TIME REQUIRED: 2 hours or more
TOURIST RATING: Mostly just known by locals, not overly touristy yet.
FINGAL BEACH AND SPLIT: THE EXPERIENCE
As told by Zade Grilloni.
It was day two of our Central Coast weekend with the Van and it was also Australia Day so what better way to celebrate then exploring by the beach?. The night before, we decided to park up against the esplanade of Little Beach in Nelson Bay so we were near the water. Waking up and opening the van to the fresh, ocean air and a beach a few meters away… i mean, that’s our idea of a 5 star hotel. The sense of freedom and peace we feel when living out of the van is immeasurable. Not only does it give us these amazing feelings but also gives us an opportunity to re-connect to mother earth and really feel alive!!!
Once we woke up around 6am, we got dressed and headed straight to Fingal Beach to have breakfast and start our first adventure for the day! It was a short 10 minute drive from Nelson Bay to Fingal Beach. We parked up, got our gas burner out to make the essential morning coffee and ohhh damn. Our gas burner broke. luckily there was a cafe next to the surf club! ‘we’ll take two tripple shot coffees please’.
After our quick energy hit and a few bananas we were off to explore! it was probably a minute walk from the car park to the beach through a sand trail. As we were heading up the path, I was attaching the car keys to a metal clip that was on my backpack. A moment later a man quickly and closely moved passed me. 5 minutes later, i realized the keys weren’t attached anymore! commence panic attack. Instantly thinking i mustn’t have attached the keys properly, I quickly started re tracing my steps down the path. I searched through the sand where we walked, telling anyone who passed me to please keep an eye out for them. Every single person or family that passed were very sympathetic and happy to keep an eye out. Some even stopped to help me look!
I notified the cafe and surf club with my number and just kept searching. As I’m using a shovel that one of the Life Savers gave to me, i notice that same guy who was strangely close to me on the walk up. He was with a group of people all helping carry a sea turtle off the beach. So out of everyone that had walked by, i thought surely they wouldn’t have seen the keys. About 20 minutes later, Jackie calls out to me and said some guy found them and told the cafe. That was great news… but he actually refused to give them to the girls at the cafe. We called him and he somehow expected us to come and retrieve them from his house 20 mins away… but he had our damn car keys!! so we politely asked him to return them to the cafe. He huffed and puffed and said he’d be an hour before he could give them back as he had lots of things to do like taking a TURTLE somewhere.
WELL WELL WELL he was the weirdly close to me guy. Who knows but I presume he would’ve latched them off my bag to take them… rescued the turtle and then perhaps realize it was a bad idea to steal them so he told the cafe he had them? STRANGE i know.
Anyway an hour passed… he was still a no show. I called again and he said ‘look, ill be another hour.’ That’s when i got angry. He had already caused us all this wasted time because he didn’t leave them at the damn cafe. ANYWAY he eventually dropped them back to the cafe and we just picked them up when we left the beach. After that whole ordeal, it was about 11am are we were fiiiiiiiiiinally able to start our day! A couple deep breaths and we were back in action.
Besides its scenic surrounding mountains, c shaped shoreline and beautiful clear water, Fingal Beach is mainly known for its number one attraction…“The Split”. What is the Split you say? It’s a long stretch of crossable sandbar that forms on low tide leading from Fingal Beach to Fingal Island. It was a surreal experience as both sides of the split were totally different. The Fingal Beach side had calm and flat water and the Box Beach side had a strong currant and big waves. Sometimes people are a little silly and don’t read the signs or use common sense so there’s been 15 drowning incidents when crossing at high tide!
Don’t let that scare you just make sure its low tide when you visit. It really reminded us of Bon Bon Beach in the Philippines! in fact, it was the only other crossable sandbar we’ve seen. Once we got our drone out to get some photos of the views, we made it to Fingal Island! We heard there was a cute lighthouse and some heritage cottages that used to be the lighthouse keepers cottage back in 1862. There is a short steep commute up a sand dune path to reach the winding path leading to the lighthouse, which in the heat, isn’t very fun but 100% worth it. The walking path through Fingal Island is dreamy. You get Byron Bay vibes the whole way. Luscious greenery all around you accompanied by the sound of crashing waves. Sounds good right?
It was about a 1km easy walk to the lighthouse and ruined cottages. Once we made it to the end, we were in awe of the beauty around us. You felt a strong sense of history here, especially when exploring the ruins. There were 2 cottages. One was for the lighthouse keeper and the other for their assistant. Both with gorgeous fireplaces and arched walkways. It was a photographers heaven so we had to have a quick photo shoot.
We also researched that in some stages of the year between May and November, humpback whales have been spotted many times so keep an eye out for those beauties!
After a while exploring, we checked the time and thought we should start heading back in case the tide had come up over the split. We walked back down the path and onto the beach on Fingal island. There was still about a meter wide path along the split so we still had time to have a well needed dip.
The water was clear and the sand beneath our feet soft and smooth. It was an awesome reward after walking in the heat. Not long after our swim we decided to fly our Drone and get some more shots, a guy near us came over and wanted to know some things about our drone, soon after his kids and wife came over too! Ended up that they were super friendly people and after we got chatting they offered to take us out on their boat the following day to see some dolphins and show us their favorite spots!.
Obviously the answer was yes!. We were so taken back and thankful. There are a few different dolphin cruise companies that operated daily in Port Stephens with tickets going for around $100 for two people. So to get offered that experience from a friendly family for free was unreal. The next day we set out on adventure with them and had dolphins swimming so close to the boat we could almost touch them! it was an unforgettable day and we are forever grateful to have met them!
It was an eventful day but were always so grateful for it all! Lesson learnt… never keep your keys on the outside of your bag!. Overall, Fingal Beach, “The Split” and Fingal Island are a MUST see when coming to Port Stephens. We would highly recommend it to anyone. Sandbars that are crossable seem to be rare around Australia so if you find any, definitely take the time to experience them.