Moderately hazardous: 4-6
Highly hazardous: 7-8
Extremely hazardous: 9-10
Catherine Hill Bay is a 1.5 km long east-facing bay bordered by prominent headlands and rock platforms. It is occupied by two sandy beaches (NSW 259 & 260) also known as Middle Camp Beach (Fig. 4.151 & 4.152), and backed by two valleys, the northern drained by Middle Gamp Gully which flows across the northern end, with a smaller creek flowing out towards the southern end. The backing slopes are the site of two coal mining communities, the northern Middle Camp and southern Catherine Hill Bay which dates back to 1873. Parking and good beach access to the beach is available in the north next to the cemetery, and in the south next to the road and Catherine Hill Bay SLSC. Middle Camp Beach (NSW 259) is now better known as Catherine Hill Bay, the name resulting from the wreck of the schooner Catherine Hill in 1867. While it was one of the first beaches 'discovered' by Sydney surfers in the late 1950s, the local coal miners had formed a surf club at the beach in 1928. Coal mines operate at either end, and masses of coal are piled above the southern headland. Up until 1963 a railway line ran along the back of the beach delivering coal to the southern jetty, for loading onto small coastal steamers.
The main beach is 1.5 km long and sweeps in a gentle east-facing arc between the headlands. The surf club sits on the southern bluff, just above the beach. The beach receives waves averaging 1.5 m decreasing slightly to the south resulting in one bar cut by 5-6 beach rips with a strong permanent rip against the northern head. To the north the rips are often joined by a trough, creating a continuous rip and rip feeder channel along much of the beach.
South of the southern rocks and 250 m long coal jetty is the second smaller more protected 150 m long north-facing beach (NSW 260). It is wedged in between the jetty, cliffs and a low rock platform. Waves refracting around the point average less than 0.5 m and maintain a steep reflective beach, which is used for launching small fishing boats.
Best in the south between the flags. This is a potentially hazardous beach owing to the persistent rips, particularly up the beach. Stay close inshore, on attached bars, if present, and watch for rips holes and feeder currents.
The large rips and bars up the northern end usually have a wave, with the right conditions holding good breaks up to 2 m. When its too big up north, then look to the southern end for a little protection and cleaner swell.
North of the beach are a series of popular rock gullies called Middle Camp Inlet, Bogey Hole, Drummer Hole and Shark Hole which are fished for mulloway, snapper, bream and groper. On the beach the best gutters are up the beach. The southern rocks, between the jetty and the point, are flat and more protected, with vehicle access to the beach, which is used to launch small boats.
- Formal parking area