Early morning mist
Approaching South Point
Rounding South Point
Little Woody Island
Rocky south east coast
Beach east coast campsite
Beach east coast campsite
Middle Bluff
Datum Point
View from Round Is

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Big Woody Island

Coral reefs around Big Woody Island

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Circumnavigating Big Woody Island (Tooliewah)


Big Woody Island can be comfortably circumnavigated in a day with some planning. The important factor to plan around are the strong tidal currents in the Great Sandy Strait. Avoid times when the tidal range is large, such as around full moon, because these extreme low tides will expose rocks and other hazards for longer. This is especially problematic around the start/finish points. Either of the two campsites, previously mentioned, make convenient start/finish points but are both more easily accessed closer to high tide. Being a long straight island more or less parallel to the currents the two sides of the island can be considered as two legs of the trip.

Starting early from the north-western campsite, leave on a rising tide that will peak mid-morning about the time you reach the south point of the island. Now you can head north up the east coast with the ebb tide current which flows the same direction along the entire east coast. A lunch stop at the south-eastern beach site can be made. Continue past Middle and North Bluffs to the northern tip of Big Woody Island (Datum Point) and round it being careful to give yourself enough water over the coral and rocks around this point. If in doubt go all the way to the north of the cardinal danger marker (yellow and black pylon) off Datum Point. Because the tide will be getting low, take care paddling south to the campsite - there are extensive areas of sandbars and flats strewn with rock and coral debris to the west of the northern end of Big Woody Island. Round Island makes a convenient place to wait if the tides are too low.

Alternatively, leave from the south-eastern campsite with an ebb tide following the current north and rounding Datum Point around low tide. Loop around Round Island to avoid the shallow water between this island and Big Woody before heading south with the rising tide. Round the south point and return to the campsite while the tide is fairly high. A side trip across the strait to Little Woody Island (Walangoora) can be made if there's time.

An important point about the tidal currents around the south west of Big Woody Island. Unlike on the east coast, the currents on the west coast are convergent/divergent. That is, they flow down from the north and up from the south during rising tides and the reverse with ebb tides. The point where they meet is the large sand bar (deposited by the meeting waters) about 2/3 of the way from the north of the island. What this means is that the lower 1/3 of the west coast will have a tidal current the reverse of that in the Great Sandy Strait. For example, during the ebb tide the current in the GS Strait will be running northwards but along the lower 1/3 of the west coast of Big Woody Island the current will be southwards.


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