‘It’s worth a shot! Cathedral Rocks, Kiama is one of Australia’s best views’

Aug 31, 2019
Cathedral Rocks after sunrise. Source: Ian Smith

They kept popping up on the internet, almost regularly, so I figured it was time to go and have a look. I thought I’d actually seen them once but the pictures I was viewing were from close up. Maybe I hadn’t. Luckily, Miss Direction knew where they were and, as I roused myself at 5:30am, I knew I had to rely on someone else because it was dark and I’d never been in this neck of the woods before.

The signs pointed me towards a seaside reserve, but since it was still half an hour before dawn, I had trouble when I started walking to find a path of any description down to where I suspected Cathedral Rocks, Kiama Downs in New South Wales actually was. Compounding the issue was the fact that when I did reach the rocky shoreline I occasionally stepped in pools of water because I couldn’t make them out in the dark. Progress was pitifully slow and it became obvious that the southern side was not the best entry point.

Next I tried above, moving just beyond people’s backyards but they’d planted gardens beyond to deter people like me. The cliff was almost sheer and unnegotiable unless you had ropes and were a rock climber. Still, now I could actually see them and I knew they were a formation unfamiliar to me.

Source: Ian Smith

I found a couple of scary cliff edge sites and blazed away. After I stuffed up my first four shots I realised I had to switch my anti-vibration mechanism off because, if you leave it on when you’re doing long time exposures, it actually vibrates itself!

I did the best I could but now thought I could see where I might get access as the sun’s light reflected off the atmosphere and showed up the smoother rocky slabs on the northern side. Time to go and have some breakfast.

At a carpark somewhere at North Kiama I packed up my gear and headed off yet again. The weather was gorgeous and I stepped out confidently along the sand, just enjoying being there. There’s something about beaches in autumn and winter that I love. You get more offshore winds, hardly anyone is there after the dawn walkers have gone and each splash of a wave is as fresh as the last. Already it was apparent that some access could be gained and I may have speeded up just a little, pushing the sand a little deeper in my stride.

“The weather was gorgeous and I stepped out confidently along the sand, just enjoying being there.” Source: Ian Smith

The way around the northern headland seemed clear the nearer I got but the rocks resembled no cathedral I’d ever seen. Perhaps, as I rounded the corner, a vivid imagination could visualise the cliffs as the walls, the stark rocks as pulpits and the small cave as a confessional. As a devout atheist I readily dismissed such possibilities.

I could understand worshippers of Poseidon giving their thanks when confronted with such a scene however. True, the rocks weren’t as large as many I’d seen or as dramatically shaped as others I’d viewed, but they were photogenic and that was all that mattered as far as I was concerned.

Those photogenic scenes at dawn. Source: Ian Smith

Unlike the vast majority of the population, I can sit and watch a scene like this for an hour or two; moving occasionally to get a better viewpoint, watching the swells batter the bastions and give forth spume relentlessly around the base. I’m fascinated by the movement of the ocean. Every roller is different, some veer dramatically skywards in a last defiant rendition of spent energy, others merely slide over the receding waters and barely splutter. The tune is always different, the orchestra never stops, the spectacle one to behold.

I worked my way around to the second outcrop but it was risky and not to be done at high tide or a big swell perchance you might end up seriously wet … or worse. Still, it was exhilarating to tread the narrow ledge and watch the rushing waters just below your feet and marvel at the sheer tenacity of the sparse plant life on the cliffs. Being so close to nature, adjacent to a world you can never live in, stirs something in my soul. I couldn’t help but notice that the tide was incoming so I tarried only shortly before retreating to the world that most people are familiar with, i.e., the beach and carpark beyond that typify the southern NSW coastline.

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Have you seen Cathedral Rocks in New South Wales? Do you travel to destinations just for their photographic appeal?

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