Braidwood / Captains Flat, NSW
Year round although mid Spring is likely to be more ‘lush’
Trail head at the Berlang Camp Ground, Deua National Park. There is plenty of parking and camping at this site
Trail head at the Berlang Camp Ground
After waking the Big Hole Walking Track about a month ago I decided it was time to come back and walk the longer Marble Arch Walk. I must admit given its name I had expectations this walk would be an Archway similar to the London Bridge walk near Canberra. What you actually see at Marble Arch is a cave.
The first decision you need to make for this walk is deciding which of the two routes you will take to get to the trail head. Do you travel the shorter, narrower and largely dirt road through Captains Flat or do you take the longer sealed road through Braidwood? The Braidwood option is the one we recommend as the road to the trail head is sealed with the exception of the last 700 metres into the trail head. The road via Captains Flat has a large section of winding dirt road and only ends up being 10 minutes faster anyway.
The trail head is located at the Berlang Camp Ground which is around 700 metres off the Cooma Road on a dirt road. While the turnoff is well signposted, I managed to ‘break’ Google Maps which tried to tell me the real turnoff was another 500 metres down the road. When I turned around after finding there was no road further down, Google Maps went into a loop and got very unhappy because I was supposedly going the wrong way! So if you are using Google Maps to get to this site keep that in mind.
The camp ground has nice flat grassy camping areas along with a single composting toilet, picnic tables and fire pits. There is also information signage as well as a box to pay camping fees if you decide to stay overnight. The information sign identifies the two walks that start from this camp ground which includes the Big Hole Walk as well as the longer Marble Arch Walk. The Marble Arch walk is supposedly 13.5 km long but my GPS measured it at just under 11 km and other online write ups of this walk also say something similar. That said there are a couple of big descents and ascents which make the GPS a bit inaccurate. Time wise this walk can be done in around 3.5-4 hours so long as you have a reasonable level of fitness and that includes 30 minutes at the cave.
The vegetation is a mixture of low heathland interspersed with medium sized Eucalyptus forest and is very pleasant to walk through. Wildlife is minimal but we did see some wallabies and one lyrebird along with lots of birdlife.
When commencing the walk, cross the short grassy area to the starting signage and follow the well formed path all the way to the lookout platform at The Big Hole. This is your first real stop off point. Something I skipped over when researching this walk is that you need to cross the Shoalhaven River very shortly after starting the walk. On the two seperate occasions we did this the water level varied quite dramatically with the first day earlier in Spring requiring careful picking across the rock. The second time we visited to do the Marble Arch walk we had a much easier crossing – the water level had dropped dramatically in only one month. Either way, I suggest bring tracking poles for balance.
This trail is uphill almost the entire way to the Big Hole and from there you have what is essentially either downhill or slightly undulating until you get to the steep descent down to the Marble Arch (see image below). Once you reach the bottom of the step descent you will veer to the right to what looks like a dry river bed for around 30 metres which will bring you to the cave entrance.
The cave itself which is your destination point for this walk is a good size but won’t take you a long time to explore. I would definitely suggest you bring a headlamp if you want to see into all the nooks and crannies. From there make you way back to the starting point.
By far the hardest part of this walk is the 800 metres back up the hill from the cave and while there are steps for much of the way, it’s hard going until you reach he top of the ridge.
I love both of these walks for the key features of the Big Hole and Marble Arch but also because of the views. On the way back to the trail head there are panoramic views which are an added bonus.
One final comment I would make is that if there have been periods of heavy rain, then access over the Shoalhaven River and even into the Marble Arch cave itself, may be limited so keep this in mind before you drive out to these walks.
Turn off to Berlang Camp Ground which is around 25 minutes from Braidwood, NSW
Side road to Berlang Camp Ground. The camp ground is about 700 metres down this road
Car park and information sign
Toilet at Berlang Camp Ground
Fire pit at Berlang Camp Ground
Big Hole information
Picnic and camping area
Starting sign for the Marble Arch Walk
Rock hopping to get across the Shoalhaven River . In this image the water level is high and required careful choice of rocks
A different day and the water level is so much lower and easier to cross
Spent Banksia flower
Trail example on the Marble Arch walking track
Scenic views to the surrounding hills
Grevillea in flower
The Big Hole walking track ‘stairs’
Native pea flower
Final approach to The Big Hole – veer left for the Marble Arch walk
The Big Hole viewing platform
Seating at The Big Hole viewing platform
The Big Hoe – 100 metres down and 50 metres across
Video taken at The Big Hole viewing platform
Interpretive signage at The Big Hole
Continuing on from the Big Hole
Turn points on this track are shown with timber posts
Small bridge over a potential wet area
Tim on the trail
Old remnants on the trail
Trail example. the vegetation changes a number of times on this trail
Termite mound on the edge of the trail
Turn right at the Marble Arch Sign. At this point you have less than 1 km to go
Signage at the top of the hill. The signage is in poor condition on this trail
Down the gully to the cave
Follow the gully through the bush
Entrance to the cave
Video inside the cave at Marble Arch
Marble Arch cave
There is a steep walk down and back from the cave itself which is the hardest part of the whole walk
Back up the hill
Turn left. Pay attention otherwise you my walk past this turn point
Up the hill to the Big Hole
Stunning views on the return journey
Back to the Berlang Camp Ground
The trail head is just 100-130 km form the centre of Canberra and will take about 90 minutes to get to. The route through Braidwood is longer than the one through Captains Flat but is almost as quick. Once you get to Braidwood, head along the Cooma Road for about 30 minutes and the turn to the Berlang Camp ground is on the left
Turn off on North Head Road about 2 km off the Cooma Road
Trail head car park
This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker