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A Bibbulmun experience…with a slice of comfort

Richard Kemp

23 January 2012

Taking in the view over William Bay.
Taking in the view over William Bay.

As long time bushwalkers, we have lugged our packs, dehydrated food, tents, Trangias and the rest over many parts of the country, and had some wonderful experiences.  More recently, we have embraced the option of doing the walk with less of the pain.  An example is the recent great walk we had on the Queen Charlotte Sound Track at the tip of the south island of New Zealand, staying each night in comfortable accommodation and carrying just lunch, camera and rain gear each day.

When we and our friends decided to undertake a foray on the Bibbulmun Track, a search on the Internet introduced us to “Bibbulmun Walking Breaks” and after swapping a few emails, we had the combination we were looking for – a four-day walk on the Track between Albany and Denmark, accommodation at Cape Howe Cottages located at about the halfway point and transport to the start of our walk each day. We could have the experience with less of the pain and more of the comfort that our maturity deserves!

After overnighting in Albany we drove for twenty minutes to the Sandpatch car park and commenced our walk to the insistent whirr of the wind farm turbines. What a launching pad for our walk!  The boardwalk track is just a stone’s throw from the cliff edge, about 150 metres above the sea.  Walkers have a 180 degree ocean panorama extending from Torbay Head, across the vastness of the Southern Ocean to the west with the stark cliffs of the Torndirrup National Park to the east. 

The great advantage of this part of the Track is that it hugs the coast at similar elevation for much of the way to the Mutton Bird car park, which was the destination for our first day.  The result is a continuing seascape and frequent opportunity to enjoy the waves humping and then crashing onto sandy beaches or craggy coastline along the way. 

After a few kilometres, the Track moves from the coastal heath towards the Hidden Valley campsite, through small acacias and eucalypts.  A lookout allows a view to the east over the wind farm and the township below.  It was here we met a couple walking east, having commenced their walk at Peaceful Bay nine days before.  They were the only walkers we encountered in four days.

Before we set out, the forecast for the next few days offered unsettled weather.  On our first day, after a couple of hours, we had drizzle. By the time we had negotiated the melaleuca, jarrah and banksia forest and reached the attractive beach below Mutton Bird car park, the skies had opened, and we were happy to see our transport there to collect us.  Within a short time we were back in our cosy cottage at Cape Howe.

That night it teemed with rain and blew with winds up to 100 kilometres per hour…a good night to be indoors. The weather continued into the next day but by lunchtime had improved to showers.  Although we were sure to get wet, we opted to do an abbreviated walk from Cosy Corner to Shelley Beach. Fortunately the rain held off and that section of our whole walk proved to be our favourite.

After climbing the wooden steps from Cosy Corner, we had a view back to Albany before climbing a ridge with a superb view down to the narrow Dingo Beach, under assault from the crashing breakers.  The Track negotiates giant melaleucas before winding between rounded exposed granite and arriving at Shelley Beach.

Our next day’s walk from Shelley Beach through the West Cape Howe National Park to Lowlands Beach was to be our longest, about 17 kilometres.  The weather was cool and cloudy although promising to improve so we set out wearing our rain gear.  Again the rain held off and after a few kilometres of coastal heath we crossed a sandy ridge with good views of the cliffs of the cape.  A little further on, we could make out Lowlands Beach and Knapp Head beyond.

After a steep climb up a limestone ridge we passed the West Cape Howe campsite and finished the day walking through an extended and most attractive avenue of varied coastal shrubbery curiously arranged at eye level for the enjoyment of walkers.

On our final day we walked east to west for the first time, finishing at Lowlands Beach, as we had done the previous day.  We were dropped by our hosts at Eden Road on the edge of the vast Wilson Inlet.  For most of the day, although we remained fairly close to the coast, we looked inland over farmlands to the Porongurup Ranges and the Stirling Ranges beyond.  Only later did we have views of the ocean and Knapp Head, and were lucky enough to see whales breaching offshore.

The sections we chose to walk traverse a large part of the coastal section of the Bibbulmun Track and offer some of its most spectacular ocean scenery.   A feature, even in winter, is the variety of wild flowers and flowering shrubs, adding to the enjoyment of an exceptional walk.

Richard Kemp

Travel arrangements – get a free quote for a Bibbulmun Walking Break from the Foundation.