27 September 2022.
Rising impressively between the two sublime crescent bays of Crowdy Bay National Park, the little-visited Diamond Head offers up some spectacular views across a remote and rugged stretch of the northern NSW coastline.
Linking together several shorter walking trails, the area is best explored via the Diamond Head Loop Walk which circles the entire headland and guides you past some curious rock formations, beautiful beaches, lush forest and fantastic coastal viewpoints.
It’s the best walking trail in Crowdy Bay National Park and should not be missed!
This short guide includes everything you need to know about hiking the Diamond Head Loop Trail, including what to expect from the walk, how to get there and other places to visit nearby.
Psst… for the full guide on Crowdy Bay National Park, read this post.
Diamond Head lies in the heart of Crowdy Bay National Park on the northern New South Wales coast between Forster and Port Macquarie.
From Sydney, it’s a 350km or 4.5-hour drive travelling up the Pacific Motorway (M1 / A1) where you can enter the national park from either the north or south.
From the south, take the Harrington exit and continue on via Crowdy Head, following Crowdy Bay Road and Diamond Head Road until you reach the Diamond Head Campground.
Alternatively, to enter the park from the north, stay on the highway for an extra 20 minutes and take the Kew exit. Continue onto Laurieton and follow Diamond Head Road through Dunbogan until you reach the Diamond Head Campground.
Unfortunately, the roads within the national park are all gravel and in fairly terrible condition. Think an endless mess of potholes that seems to get worse by the kilometre.
That said, the section between Dunbogan and Diamond Head is reasonably good so if you’re heading straight to Diamond Head and not planning to stop in at Harrington or Crowdy Head on the way, I’d highly recommend sticking on the highway a little longer and entering from the north, particularly if you’re travelling in a small car or pulling a caravan.
There is a third option that goes through Coralville which is likely where Google Maps will direct you. This route is manageable but it covers one of the worst stretches of dirt road so it would be just as quick (and probably better for your car) to still enter via Kew.
Distance | 4.3 km
Duration | 2 hours
Difficulty | Easy
Trailhead | Diamond Head Campground
Starting just behind the entrance to the Diamond Head Campground, the wide trail pitches upwards, climbing gently through open grassland scattered with spindly trees. Behind you, the everpresent North Brother looms in the distance, rising high above the glimmering arch of Dunbogan Beach that stretches out before it.
After just 500m, turn right at the intersection to enter the Forest Walk where the trail is immediately engulfed by overhanging casuarinas that give way to a blanket of ferns and a lush canopy overhead.
In late winter, wildflowers had transformed this leafy pocket into a riot of colour, where boronias and acacias had blossomed filling the air with the sweet scent of honey.
After another kilometre, you’ll emerge beyond the trees at the Indian Head Campground.
From here, either continue straight up onto the headland or, far better, is to take the short detour to the remote and windswept Kylie’s Beach which will add an extra 1.8km to your walk.
To reach the beach, head straight through the campground and join the Kylie’s Hut Trail which is a wide unsealed road that leads to, you guessed it, Kylie’s Hut.
Sadly, this once quaint cabin burnt down during the Black Summer bushfires in 2019 but is currently in the process of being rebuilt atop the remaining foundations.
Local Australian author Kylie Tenant is the namesake for these places and often drew inspiration for her books from these wild landscapes. She used the small hut as a writing retreat and eventually donated this and the surrounding land to form part of the Crowdy Bay National Park.
At the hut, the well-worn fire trail veers off to the left and appears to be the obvious path to follow, however, it soon peters out.
Instead, you’ll need to head right across the grassy patch past the hut to where you’ll see a small sign directing you back into the bush. This narrow trail will guide you around Kylie’s Beach Campground and down to the sand.
Kylie’s Beach stretches all the way to Crowdy Head in the distance and while it was particularly wild during my visit, on a calm day, this vast swathe of sand would make an excellent stop for a swim before making your way back onto the headland.
Once you’ve retraced your steps to the Indian Head Campground and rejoined the main Diamond Head Loop Track, climb 400m up the hill and take in the views from Kylie’s Lookout which stares straight down the endless crescent of the bay.
After the cool shade of the forest, the landscapes up here are rugged and exposed, with tufts of grass that cling to the rocky cliffs and white everlastings which twirl in the breeze. A testament to the harsh winds that batter this side of the headland, preventing virtually anything from growing too high off the ground.
Atop the headland, the trail sticks mainly to the coastline, carrying you across the cliff tops.
A short distance beyond Kylie’s Lookout you’ll reach the Natural Arch which lies just off the coast. Cracked and coloured with ochre lichen, this flat dome of rock is hammered by waves that crash and churn around it, forcing themselves through the channel carved through its centre.
You’ll find a small side trail here that provides a closer glimpse of the rock arch, but the way is in parts both steep and slightly unstable so tread with care, especially if the path is wet.
A short way further along, you’ll pass a natural ocean pool, a clear blue oasis in the rocks that is protected from the waves and would be a fantastic swimming spot on a calm day, that is, if you can find a way down to the rocks.
Climbing higher, the trail grows steeper, tracing the edge of the peninsula. Up here, you’ll be rewarded with impressive views of Middle Brother rising up from the hinterland and the forests that crowd around its base.
Overlooking these landscapes, however beautiful, it’s impossible not to notice the scars of the devastating bushfires despite almost three years having passed. While hints of greenery are returning to this once lush river basin, the sea of stark ashen trunks poking up from the lowlands is unmistakable.
As you approach the highest point of the headland, you’ll return to the protection of the forest and cross back onto the far side of the headland.
Returning to the now familiar open grassland, the trail guides you downhill for the remaining 1.2km back to the Diamond Head Campground.
Clamber About At Split Rock
Rising above the rock platform at the base of Diamond Head, Split Rock makes for a dramatic sight where a wide channel has been cleaved through the cliffs in all directions.
It’s especially impressive after sunrise when the light creeps across the water’s edge and gleams through the gaps in the rock.
Stroll and Surf on Diamond Head Beach
Extending out in a perfect crescent beneath the watchful eye of North Brother, Diamond Head Beach is a little bit magical.
Head out for a slow morning stroll along the wide stretch of sand, wandering as far as you please along the glorious 10km stretch of beach, or hit the waves which tend to be rather good for beginner surfers.
Keep your eyes peeled for pods of dolphins which are often seen feeding in the calm waters of the bay.
Wander the Mermaids Lookout Trail
Skirting along the northern side of Diamond Head, the 10-minute Mermaid Lookout Track has some pretty landscapes and you’re likely to see a few kangaroos hopping about, particularly at dusk.
While it’s a nice enough walk, admittedly the views here aren’t as impressive as elsewhere on the headland.
Explore Around Crowdy Bay National Park
While visitors will find plenty to do inside Crowdy Bay National Park, there are a few things just a short drive away that are also well worth your time.
From driving up to the spectacular North Brother Lookout for a birds-eye view up and down the coast, to seeing some truly extraordinary fig trees at Wingham Brush Nature Reserve, to hiking to the edge of Perpendicular Point, you’ll find my suggestions for other things to see and do in the area in this post.
Diamond Head Campground | By far the best option in Crowdy Bay, the Diamond Head Campground is located right by the beach with plenty of kangaroos hopping around, a large toilet block, barbecues, picnic tables and enough space that you’re not tripping over your fellow campers.
Plus, it’s about as close as you can get to the trailhead for the Diamond Head Loop Walk.
The road in from the north is reasonably good and there are facilities for both tents and caravans. There’s also a national park office here that can provide information on the park and rents out fire pits ($10 for the entire stay). Check rates and availability here.
There are three other campgrounds located within Crowdy Bay National Park which are operated by the NPWS. Bookings for all locations are essential and cost $24 twin share, per site.
While camping is really the best way to experience the area, if you’d prefer a bit of extra comfort, you’ll find a handful of simple accommodation options in either Harrington or Laurieton. For anything more luxe, you’ll need to head north to Port Macquarie.
Harrington River Lodge | The best-rated option in Harrington, this sprawling 4-star country estate is set right along the banks of the Manning River and offers spacious suites that include either a private patio or balcony. You’ll also find a pool and pub on site. Check rates and availability here.
Woongarra Motel | Located in North Haven, just minutes from the beach and directly opposite the river, Woongarra is a well-rated budget option on the northern end of Crowdy Bay National Park. Check rates and availability here.
* This post includes affiliate links and any purchases made through these links will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. *