Follow one of Western Australia’s greatest walking journeys.
By Ellie Schneider
WHAT TO EXPECT
– Come face to face with Australia’s native wildlife
– Traverse rugged coastlines and lush forest
– Walk among sky-scraping karri trees in the Valley of the Giants
– Time: At your own pace
– Distance: 1000 kilometres (620 miles)
-Transport: On foot
-Nearest City: Albany
Discover towering ancient forests, placid farmlands and wild beaches on this award-winning walk through Western Australia’s verdant south-west. The golden snake signs that mark the Bibbulmun Track stretch almost 1000 kilometres (620 miles), from the Perth hills to Albany on the south coast.
You can complete the walk in sections, allowing you to mix and match day and multi-day treks according to your time, the scenery you want to see, and your capabilities. Keep in mind it would take about two months to follow the snake markers all the way. The track is well equipped, with hikers’ huts or campsites situated about a day’s walk apart.
SECTION 1: KALAMUNDA TO DWELLINGUP
Begin your journey by heading downhill out of Kalamunda through the Kalamunda National Park to Dwellingup, just over 100 kilometres (62 miles) away. The marri, wandoo and jarrah forests are home to unique Australian animals such as kangaroos, echidnas, bandicoots and a rainbow of native birds. Walk through Manns Gully and climb to the southern rim of the Helena River Valley. Cross Mundaring Weir, where the longest freshwater pipeline in the world – at more more than 600 kilometres (373 miles) – begins. The track descends past the Hills Forest Discovery Centre, curving around the Helena Reservoir and heading along the Darkin River to Mount Dale, a trek of about 80 kilometres (50 miles). Stop for a picnic or climb through jarrah and wandoo forests to the mountain’s summit of 546 metres (1790 feet). After reaching the peak, continue across over the Brookton Highway. Weave through swamp with paperbark and banksia trees to Abyssinia Rock and into Monadnocks Conservation Park. From here you can choose to ascend Mount Cuthbert, Mount Vincent and Mount Cooke, the highest point in the Darling Range. Walk through wandoo flats and cross the Albany Highway near the North Bannister Roadhouse. Climb the giant granite mound of Boonering Hill and the low granite peaks of White Horse Hills. Scale Mount Wells to its 532 metre (1745 foot) summit, surveying the view from the firewatchers hut. From here the track hugs the old rail line through jarrah and marri forest into the small timber-mining town of Dwellingup.
SECTION 2: DWELLINGUP TO BALINGUP
Head south out of Dwellingup to Lane Poole Reserve – which protects dense jarrah forest and the long, winding Murray River – about 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) away. Snake along the river’s east side on the Murray River Fireline, past rock-rimmed pools, melaleuca thickets and flooded gum woodlands. Walk over the timber Long Gully Bridge and head to the Harvey-Quindanning Road, a popular starting point for day or overnight walks. Then meander south through jarrah, marri and wandoo forest to picnic-perfect Harris River Dam. From here the trail passes through the small coal mining town of Collie and over Glen Mervyn Dam before dropping down to the settlement of Mumballup, 30 kilometres (18 miles) away. Climb through farmland to the Noggerup Conservation Park, 10 kilometres (six miles) away, home to some of Western Australia’s most spectacular virgin jarrah forest. It’s then a scenic 35 kilometre (21 mile) descent to the shady, green sanctuary of Balingup Brook. Arrive in Balingup, set in the Blackwood Valley amid forests, rivers, rolling hills, vineyards and lush orchards. Choose from a range of accommodation such as the Balingup Heights Hilltop Forest Cottages, Timber Top Cottages or Hillview Retreat, or walk further to the Blackwood campsite, perched high above town.
SECTION 3: BALINGUP TO PEMBERTON
From the mountaintop retreats of Balingup, head 90 kilometres (55 miles) down to Pemberton. South of Balingup, the trail climbs through the Golden Valley Tree Park, home to more than 5000 trees from around the world. Walk to the edge of the Blackwood Valley for panoramic views over the green patchwork of forest and farmland. You’ll see your first karri trees at Karri Gully, just north of the Brockman Highway, between Bridgetown and Nannup. Cross the highway and roam through low-lying jarrah and karri forests before hitting the trail’s halfway point – the old mill town of Donnelly Village. Here you can stay in quaint cottages or bunk accommodation in the old school. Walk alongside the tranquil Donnelly River before veering east for the waterfalls and wildflowers of Beedelup National Park. Take a dip in Big Brook Dam on the way in to Pemberton, in the middle of majestic karri forest. Pemberton is also home to a number of climbing trees, such as the Gloucester Tree, which visitors can climb for a spectacular view of the karri forest from 61 metres (200 feet) up.
SECTION 4: PEMBERTON TO WALPOLE
In this section the journey takes you from the mountains to the sea, from Pemberton to Walpole, 110 kilometres (68 miles) south-east, on Western Australia’s rugged coast. Soak up the rich, fast-changing terrain and vegetation on the approach to Northcliffe. Here karri forest makes way for sandy hills, tea tree flats and low scrubland. Explore the Northcliffe Forest Park, where climbing plants scramble beneath a jumble of colour in late spring. Stay overnight in Northcliffe, where you’ll find low-cost accommodation at hotels and motels, before following the Gardner River to its source at Lake Maringup. The trail travels through part of D’Entrecasteaux National Park, an impressive conservation area of white beaches, rugged coastal cliffs and towering forests. Head across the Shannon River to Dog Pool, where you can pitch your tent beneath the soaring canopy of the karri. From here you’ll see a few sudden scene changes: the stark, alien beauty of Woolbales Hills on Pingerup Plains; then wild Mandalay Beach, where the track first touches the south coast. Trek past the formidable granite cliffs of Long Point and Point Nuyt and across Nuyts Wilderness. At Mount Clare the giant red tingle trees signal the start of your descent into Walpole. This idyllic township sits on Nornalup Inlet, where karri trees and water meet.
SECTION 5: WALPOLE TO ALBANY
The final section of the track takes you from Walpole to Albany, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) away. Along the journey see the Frankland River and Nornalup Inlet, then follow the trail through ancient karri and tingle forests to the Valley of the Giants near the town of Denmark. Here the Tree Top Walk brings you eye level with the birds, 40 metres (131 feet) above the forest floor. Look down on a grove of veteran tingle trees known as the Ancient Empire. Wander past heathlands, low woodlands and the dramatic red flowering gum. Then reconnect with the windswept coast at Conspicuous Beach. Climb to Conspicuous Cliff and enjoy the invigorating views and salty air from Rame Head. Walk past heathland and grazing kangaroos to Gap Beach and aptly named Peaceful Bay. Wander through the wildlife wonderland of Quarram Nature Reserve on your way to the sheltered, rocky cove of Boat Harbour. Walk across Parry Inlet and along long, empty white beaches in William Bay National Park. Climb to Monkey Rock and Mount Hallowell for more sweeping views over coast and hinterland. Stop at Denmark or nearby Wilson Inlet and follow Nullaki Peninsula to Lowlands Beach. Wind through the rugged landscape of West Cape Howe National Park, drop to the beach at Cosy Corner and skip across rugged clifftops past Muttonbird Island. You’ll spot Albany –the track’s southernmost destination – across Princess Royal Harbour.