Boating up Bundabah and Bulga Creeks

Navigation sign Bundabah CkjaninerFri, 19/07/2013 - 10:08pm

Navigation sign Bundabah Creek
Boating upstream hazardous


Before the Port Stephens Marine Park was established, Bundabah Creek was our favourite fishing spot. It is now a Sanctuary Zone (no fishing). It is possible to travel up Bundabah Creek a short distance in a larger boat but a tinny is ideal. Even better are kayaks and canoes.

The entrance to Bundabah Creek is just north of Bundabah at the top end of North Arm Cove. It is marked by two channel markers. The channel is narrow with mud flats and oyster racks on both sides.  Some of the oyster leases are current, but even the current leases contain large areas of derelict posts.

The channel markers for the first part of the trip are large timber posts which also mark the edges of the oyster leases. They have very faded red or green paint and are not necessarily official Waterways markers.

Stick to the centre of the channel and keep an eye on the channel markers as the edges of the channel are shallow. I have a 1:25000 map which shows the depth near the entrance of the channel as 0.9m (Indian Spring Low Water). Our depth finder usually shows about 2m in the centre of the channel for the first kilometre. It is also wise to remember that there can be debris in the water, especially after heavy rain.

After about 500m the channel makes a sharp left turn. This is the beginning of a sideways “u” shaped section. At the end of the “u” you are finally near the shore. Turn left and follow the eastern bank up the creek. This stretch of creek is fairly straight and heads north for about 1km. There is a house on the western bank just before the channel turns east again. A small creek enters the main channel at this point and there is a reasonably deep hole.

The creek gradually winds all the way to the Pacific Highway. You can safely navigate about a kilometre past the house. After the second bend past the house, there are rocky outcrops in the creek and it would be wise to stop if you are in a motorized vessel. There is a large sign warning of navigation hazards upstream of this point. Some of our guests actually made it in our tinny as far as the “Rock” Service Centre on a king tide, but they had to be very careful in some rocky areas. There are also derelict oyster leases for about 1km upstream of the house and it is best to stay in the centre of the channel.

I have spent many hours sitting in Bundabah Creek trying to catch flathead. Even when the fishing was poor, it was enjoyable listening to the birds and crabs and on occasions the distant rumble of the Pacific Highway. We often had a bonus of eye contact with a turtle. Usually, by the time you heard the “plop”, it was gone again. We once hit a turtle in the creek, so now we travel slowly.

 If you know the way, you can also get to Bulga Creek from the mid point of the “u” section of Bundabah Creek, provided the tide is high. The way is not marked and I know of a least one accident where a boat hit a derelict post and sank. (One member of the party had to swim for help whilst the others stood on top of the sunken boat waiting for help).

We have even managed to get to Bulga Creek on a low tide via this route. There was no wind and the water was clear. At times the depth was less than 0.4m and we saw lots of flathead in the weed.

There are other unmarked ways of getting to Bulga Creek. There are also lots of derelict oyster racks which have been removed. It only takes one post which has been missed to sink your boat, so unless you have good local knowledge, it is wise to be cautious.

It is possible to navigate up Bulga Creek for about a kilometre. Once you are in Bulga Creek, navigation is easy. Again, if you travel too far upstream, there are rocks and shallow areas. Bulga Creek is also a Sanctuary Zone, so no fishing is allowed.

We once broke down up Bundabah Creek. We realized that if we had a pair of shoes, we could have walked for help. A pair of wet suit boots is also helpful if you get stuck in shallow water or lodged on some old oyster racks and want to get out and give the boat a push. The other thing to watch out for is a change in the weather. We once went fishing knowing that a southerly was due. We thought that we had a few hours but were literally caught up the creek. The return trip was quite scary.


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