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Hat Head, NSW

Sleepy coastal town nestled on the northern shore behind Hat Head National Park.

Hat Head is a small, unspoilt town which lies on a narrow bar of sand between the Pacific Ocean and the Korogoro Creek. It is nestled in behind the Hat Head National Park. It has become a retreat for people wanting to get away from the tourist centres and is known for its bushwalking, its excellent surf beaches, its reliable beach, deep sea and rock fishing and, most of all, it is known as a place of great peacefulness and beauty.


Hat Head is a tiny coastal town located 455 km north of Sydney and 33 km east of Kempsey on the edge of Hat Head National Park.


Origin of Name

Here is an example of a name which was created by someone's desire to state "the bleeding obvious". Hat Head was named after the headland which, not surprisingly, looks like a hat.


Things to See and Do

Hat Head National Park
Hat Head National Park is 7,220 ha of coastal land with camping facilities at Smoky Cape and Hungry Head.

There are a number of walks in the park. Three popular ones are near the town:

1. Korogoro Walking Track - this 3.2 km circuit walk starts beyond the camping and caravan site, crosses the creek and circumnavigates the coastal rainforest and grassy slopes of Hat Head. The walk includes views of both Smoky Cape and Crescent Head; paths through stands of paperbark and casuarinas; wildflowers in season - particularly white flannel flowers; whale watching in autumn and spring; and the Korogoro Arch and Cave, a formation which can be explored at low tide. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/hat-head-national-park/korogoro-walking-track/walking

2. Connors Walking Track - This is an moderately difficult walk of 6.7 km return (about three hours each way). It starts at the Gap car park (follow Gap Road from Hat Head Road) and follows the coast passing both O'Connors Beach and Third Beach, both of which lie south of the town. It offers excellent views from the headlands and passes through stunted heathland, exposed coastal slopes and small pieces of rainforest. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/hat-head-national-park/connors-walking-track/walking.

3. Kinchela Trig Lookout - offers panoramic views of the coastal estuaries and mountain hinterland from Hungry Hill. It can be reached by continuing beyond Windy Gap on the Connors Walking Track or by driving along Hungry Road to the northern parking area at Kinchela Trig. It is only 300 m and takes around 15 minutes. For more information http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/hat-head-national-park/kinchela-trig-lookout-walk/walking.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Hat Head was inhabited by the Dhanggati Aborigines.

* In May, 1770 Captain Cook sailed past Hat Head. He named Smoky Cape to the north because of the fires which he saw on the headland.

* In 1817 John Oxley became the first European to traverse the area. He described it as swampy and inaccessible which discouraged settlement.

* In the early 1840s cedar cutters moved into the area. At one point in 1840 it was estimated that there were over 200 timber cutters in the area.

* By 1842 the cedar in the district was exhausted. At this point the inland area was given over to mixed farming with beef and dairy cattle dominating. There was an unsuccessful attempt to grow sugar cane.

* In 1972 Hat Head National Park was officially declared and reserved.

* In 1987 Hat Head was chosen for a pilot 'dune care' scheme and the following year the Hat Head Community Dune Care Group - the first of its kind in Australia - was formed.


Visitor Information

The nearest visitor information is the Kempsey Visitor Information Centre, South Kempsey Park, Lachlan Street  South Kempsey, tel: (02) 6563 1555.


Useful Websites

The Macleay Valley Coast Tourism site has additional information about the flora and fauna of the area. Check out http://www.macleayvalleycoast.com.au/pages/hat-head/

Got something to add?

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4 suggestions
  • About 30 years ago there was a walk to the top of Hat Head I did with my children from where we could see 360 up and down the coast and towards Kempsey. Now I can’t find it. Just visited and found the one around which is lovely and saw lots of whales. I would love to know if anyone knows what happened to the track to the top. Still one of my favourite parts of the Aussie coast

    Sonja Etherington
    • You can still find it, but depends whether fires have cleared a path. It’s not as popular as it once was. I recently climbed after a period of some 20 years. 20 years ago it was a most incredible site with those ‘360 degree’ views. This time there was a tangle of lantana and no view to speak of.

      Still, the walking track around is something very special. The sleepy village of Hat Head, unique.

  • Captain Cook never existed. Lieutenant Cook, when he visited Australia, and, later promoted to Commander. After retirement was given the title of ‘Post Captain, but never Captain. This was because Cook never commanded ship big enough to be classified as Captain.

  • Hat Head is a stupid name. What was it originally called by the original First Nation owners?

    John christie