Nature vs man - Letitia Spit sand bypass system being upstaged by driftwood
Letitia Spit is located on the NSW Tweed Coast on the southern side of the Tweed River entrance and runs south for around 3.3kms south towards Fingal Head. It’s a unique spot to spend a day at the beach with the sand bypass system dominating the beachfront as well as the man-made rock wall at the rivers entrance. It's popular with fisherman and surfers and can be a great place to escape to when the crowds on the other side of the channel at Duranbah get too much to handle.
A pristine little beach at the Tweed River entrance
Letitia Spit is reportedly named after the first ship to sail into the Tweed River in July 1840 called 'Letitia'. The Tweed River was first recorded by John Oxley in October 1823 who took refuge in its safe waters from a strong southerly storm. According to Wikipedia, his journal entry read "At 3 made sail intending to anchor to the South of Point Danger. At 5 passed close to a Bold Headland about 3 Miles North of Pt.D. (Point Danger). On the south side of this headland we had the satisfaction to discover a considerable river with an apparent clear entrance".
Beach erosion after a large swell
A unique sight to see on any beach - the sand bypass system at Letitia Spit
The most unique feature at Letitia Spit is the sand bypassing system that extends 450m from shore out to sea. According to official NSW and QLD State Government departments, the reason for installing the sand bypass system in 2000 was to “maintain a safe, navigable entrance to the Tweed River and restore the coastal sand drift to the beaches on the southern Gold Coast of Queensland”.
The sand bypass system has a peak sand transport capacity of 1,000 tonnes per hour
Not a bad placer a shower...
The system transports the sand that collects on the southern side of the Tweed River and pump’s it underneath the river to outlets on the northern side (around 500,000 cubic metres of sand each year). From there the sand is natural transported further north by the natural drift of waves and currents.
An eyesore or an engineering marvel?
Looks like this section of the pipe needs fixing!
The Letitia Spit sand bypassing system has an amazing effect on the waves at nearby Snapper Rocks just north of Point Danger. Perfect waves are created by the constant flow of sand and when conditions are right you can catch waves all the way from Snapper through Greenmount Bay and beyond, a ride of over 1km long. Apparently in 2002 a local surfer named Damon Harvey created history by riding a wave all the way from Snapper Rocks through to the Kirra Groyne, a ride of over 2km and one that has yet to be repeated.
Surfing is popular along the beach at Letitia Spit
Like any beach that has a rock wall and sand bypassing system, the waves at Letitia Spit can be epic at times and also lacklustre for months on end. The beach faces ENE and there’s occasionally decent lefthanders at the northern end near the rock wall (which is semi-protected in prevailing summer NE winds), and a series of left and right breaks run the entire length of the beach towards Fingal Head. Fingal Head itself can produce decent waves especially during larger SE swells. The stretch of the beach at the southern end is patrolled by Fingal Rovers SLSC who average around 14 rescues each year.
The rock seawall at the northern end is a popular fishing location
There was heavy sand mining in the Letitia Spit area in the 1950's and 1960's which resulted in the littoral rainforest at Letitia Spit being virtually depleted, as well as disturbing sacred Aboriginal grounds. In more recent times, illegal 4WD activity, camping, rubbish dumping and fires has prompted the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council to construct a 'Private Property' sign to keep people out of the area. The reason for the need for protection, according to the president of the Fingal Head Coastcare group Kay Bolton is because “On the beaches, both coastal and river, the surrounding area and dunal system is being completely destroyed. Dunal vegetation which holds the dunes together is virtually non existent. Deep tracks develop and research is now showing driving on beaches causes destruction of structure and has long-term detrimental effects". If you do visit the area, please be mindful and take all your rubbish with you when you go.
Looking west from the seawall at Letitia Spit
Due to the closeness of the Tweed River Mouth, there is the ever-present possibility of sharks in the water so it is important to always be vigilant, especially around dawn and dusk when sharks seem to be most active . As for the water and beach itself there is little else to worry about apart from permanent rips. A persistent rip runs out along Fingal Head and occassionally pulses of sand called sand waves move around the headland creating a strong rip. The safest place to swim along this stretch is on the patrolled section at Fingal Heads.
A fisherman perched on the rocks at the entrance to the Tweed River
Clouds and trees, can't go wrong really
A cute little bird that flitted around from one spot to the next
Looking down the barrel - seawall at Letitia Spit
Simply turn off the Pacific Highway and onto Fingal Road and from there simply follow the signs to Letitia Road (the beach is at the end of a gravel track). The area is under Aboriginal Land Council management and the environment that surrounds it is extremely fragile so please ensure you stay to the track and leave the area as you found it.
Duranbah Beach is the next beach north from Letitia Spit Beach
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. The stretch between Fingal Head and Letitia Spit is the perfect spot to visit for a unique day at the beach away from all the crowds.
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