If you set off on a hike with “getting good photos” as your goal rather than “enjoying yourself” you’re probably not setting yourself up for a good time.
But no matter: in 2022, as tourists swarm Sydney’s Figure 8 pools and clog Byron Bay with selfie sticks, Intrepid Instagram Explorers must go further afield to escape the crowds.
With this noble goal in mind, I recently set off for Forster’s Fairy Pools. Located three and a half hours north of Sydney, Forster’s Fairy Pools are a (very) hidden gem.
The Barrington Coast has been likened to Greece (in terms of the shimmering waters, if not the food), numerous times.
Inspired by this high praise, as well as photos of Forster’s Fairy Pool on Barrington Coast’s Instagram page (and on the @ameliamay_s and @davesyd_ Instagram accounts), I thought I’d go and see the place for myself – particularly the secluded, sandy rockpool, just meters from open ocean.
Following the instructions of barringtoncoast.com.au, I got lost a number of times, all while the tide got higher and higher, and my group of friends got more and more inclined to hole up at an inferior rock pool and enjoy the day rather than waste the afternoon bush bashing.
Not on my lookout, though.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, this is how it all started.
You’re supposed to park at the end of Burgess Road, where the track begins. However, in our midday insouciance, we just parked at Burgess Beach.
We did re-read the instructions and realise you are meant to park further up. But at this point, we were all a bit: “whatever,” adding another 500 meters to what would become a long day of walking.
That was mistake number one.
We then followed a muddy path for 5 or 10 minutes before coming to a fork. We turned left.
We didn’t know it yet, but this was mistake number two.
We followed that path down to the rocks. We then followed a coastal path for about 5 minutes before coming to a dead end.
Knowing the instructions for the hike read: “Follow the track at the end of Burgess Road down to the water’s edge before a climb back up through the scrub” we assumed there must be a way up the cliff.
We scrambled up and down like mountain goats trying to find another path. No dice.
We then went back into the undergrowth and took the other path at the fork. We followed this for a while, before once again coming out on another stretch of coastline. Finally: something promising.
However, after rock scrambling for a few minutes, we found some cool pools, but nothing as spectacular as the one we were searching for (which, Instagram accounts like MidCoast Aerial Photography’s had led us to believe, would be full of mysticism, nymphs and pixies).
Instead, we found some rock fishermen. We asked if they knew where ‘the pool’ was. They said “nah.”
At this point, the rest of the group was happy to spend some time enjoying the day. Not me though. I went back to a creek we passed while rock scrambling and climbed up it.
I found a track at the top, followed it for 10 minutes or so, and took the following photo. Finally.
I ran back, found the rest of the group happily lazing around, low-key ruined things, hurried everyone back to the creekbed, and we started hiking again. We climbed the creek bed up the hill and walked to the spot above the rock pool (as seen in the photo above) and then down a hill on the other side. We then scrambled around the rocks from the other side and finally found the pool.
Watch your reward for finding Forster’s ‘enchanted’ Fairy Pool in the video above
The problem was, we had taken so long to find it, the tide was no longer dead low (and was getting higher). So we didn’t feel comfortable staying long. We took a quick few photos, had a snorkel, and got out. It was satisfying to finally reach the fairy pool – but it didn’t feel that much more magical than the other pools we had stopped at earlier.
We probably enjoyed it less, even, because we were in a rush to start the walk back before it got dark.
Oh and, while we’re whinging, the pool was harder than you’d think (given the wonderous Instagram visions), to climb out of, as the rocks were quite sharp.
On a positive note: the views were awesome. Also, unlike, the Figure 8 Pools I visited last year, there wasn’t a soul there.
Like anywhere where great photography has made a place you’ve researched look enchanted and mystical, I was a little bit disappointed (or am I just saying that to put people off visiting? You be the judge). This was mainly because Forster’s Fairy Pool looks way more spectacular from up high than it does from ground level (when I first got near it I barely recognised it, it looked so different to what I’d seen up on the cliff).
It is pretty cool though, and if you get there with enough time to relax, I’m sure you would have a blast.
Just remember to leave with enough time, and to actually enjoy the place. Also: only go if you are a confident swimmer, the tide is low, and if the waves are tiny.
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