Pristine is a word that has lost value because it has been used far too liberally to describe less than perfect places, but there isn’t a worthy alternative so I am going to use it anyway. Perhaps more than any other lake in NSW, Durras deserves to be called pristine.
|WATERWAY||Durras Lake, Cumbralaway Creek, Benandarah Creek|
|REGION||South Coast, NSW|
|DISTANCE||12 kilometres plus|
|TIME||2.5 hours plus|
|START||Boat ramp, Lakeside Drive, South Durras|
|GPS||DMS: 35° 38’ 43.43” S, 150° 17’ 42.29” E
DD: -35.645397, 150.295081
|FINISH||Return to start|
|PARKING||Small parking area|
|TOILET||None, nearest are at Durras Oval on Durras Drive|
|CONDITIONS||Open, tidal, light traffic, shallow areas|
|FISHING||Blackfish, bream, flathead, flounder, tailor, whiting|
Durras Lake is a beautiful barrier estuary in the Murramarang National Park, just north of Batemans Bay. Its contents are a wonderfully clean and crystal clear mix of fresh water trickling in from forest filtered creeks, and the salt water that occasionally finds its way through the sandbar that protects this waterway from the open ocean. It is an unspoiled environment that is also a fabulous life enhancer for a vast array of plants and animals, not to mention people.
Apart from the small villages of Durras North and South Durras at its coastal entrance, this lake is completely surrounded by native vegetation. Saltmarshes, melaleuca forests, clumps of casuarinas, and rare littoral rainforest blanket the shoreline, and delicate white orchids swing gently from branches reaching over the water. Spotted gum woodlands sprinkled with Burrawang palms also sometimes find a way down to the water’s edge.
One of the first things you notice about Durras is that it doesn’t look like a lake at all. This is because it is actually a series of basins connected by shallow channels. It has a long, slender, and fragmented nature that keeps it fresh and interesting for the entire length of any trip.
It is possible to launch from either an informal ramp at the end of North Durras Road in Durras North, or a boat ramp at the end of Lakeside Drive in South Durras. I prefer the latter, because there is a sealed road all the way to the ramp and there is less of a carry to the water, so that is what is shown on the map.
Launch from South Durras and head left to go inland. This part of the lake can be very shallow and there are submerged rocks to be avoided, but thankfully marker buoys are in place to show the way through the worst of them. On the plus side, stingrays are common, and they can regularly be seen gliding over the sandy ripples of the lake floor.
The waterway follows a north westerly path for around 1.2 kilometres and then comes to an intersection. The majority of the lake is to the left so that is where you are headed, but it is worth noting that there is a pretty lagoon to the right that you can explore if you have time. After turning left you will encounter a small island. Shallow waters dictate that you must keep this on your starboard side.
Soon the lake deepens and becomes more expansive. This area is home to vast healthy underwater seagrass meadows, which are in turn a habitat for many fish and crustaceans. Birds love it here too. Over 100 species have been identified at Durras Lake. You will probably share your day with ducks, cormorants, egrets, black swans, oystercatchers, plovers, bitterns, and ospreys.
Stick relatively close to the right hand shoreline and follow it all the way to the northern end of the lake for an exploration of Cumbralaway and Benandarah Creeks. Both are narrow, protected, shady, and peaceful, and offer tantalizing invitations to stop for a mid-paddle break before returning to South Durras.
“The idea of wilderness needs no defence, it only needs defenders.” Edward Abbey
|EAT||On The Pier, Old Punt Road, Batemans Bay, (02) 4472 6405|
|DRINK||Bayview Hotel, 20 Orient Street, Batemans Bay, (02) 4472 4522|
|SLEEP||Lakesea Park, Durras Lake Road, South Durras, (02) 4478 6122|