The South Coast
Western Australia

Madfish Bay on the south coast of Western Australia near Denmark

Picturesque and dramatic are the two words that best sum up the scenery of South Coast Western Australia.

  • Ancient forests of giant tinglewood and karri trees
  • A spectacular coastline, with beaches of the cleanest, whitest sand imaginable in between the cliffs and headlands.
  • Dramatic geological features - including seacliffs, blowholes, huge granite boulders and batholiths, a natural rock bridge and mountains
  • National parks and wilderness areas
  • Long distance walking tracks - the Bibbulmun Track
  • A variety of excellent shorter bush and coastal walks
  • A perfect climate for grape growing - and the vineyards and wineries that go with it
  • Scenic drives that meander through karri forests, pastures and vineyards while offering sweeping views down to the coast

Explore the South Coast of Western Australia:
Towns and Areas

The Rainbow Coast

The three main towns along the South Coast, also called the Rainbow Coast, are Albany, Denmark and Walpole.

South Coast Western Australia - Albany - Torndirrup NP

Albany

The South Coast's ocean scenery is at its most dramatic near Albany, the South Coast's regional centre and Western Australia's first settlement. Albany has an interesting and at times and violent history, the bleakness of which is often seems reflected its ancient windswept landscape and trecherous seas.

South Coast Western Australia - Denmark - Greens Pool, William Bay National Park

Denmark

Further west, at Denmark, karri forests, vinyards and dairy pastures make for picturesque scenery amongst the hills and ridges north and west of town. This beautiful scenery fringed by the dramatic southern coastline inspires many artists to make Denmark their home. Denmark's most well-known attraction is the William Bay National Park, home to Greens Pool and the Elephant Rocks.

South Coast Western Australia - Walpole Inlet

Walpole

Walpole is a town on the south coast surrounded by a wilderness of forest, coastal heath and pristine waterways. The townsite is on the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet, which is a great spot for boating and fishing. The tinglewood trees are found around Walpole and nowhere else. Walpole is an excellent base for exploring both the Tall Karri Forests and the South Coast regions of Western Australia.


Mount Barker and the South Coast Western Australia Hinterland

Western Australia Outback

Inland from Denmark and Albany, about half an hour's drive north, is the town of Mount Barker. The landscape is markedly different from the rolling hills and tall forests of the coast.

The scenery is mostly flat Wheat Belt farmland - with the exception of the Porongurups and Stirling Ranges. There are also some excellent wineries in the area.

The Porongurup Range is just a 15 minute drive east of Mount Barker. This ridge of windswept granite peaks with karri forest growing on the slopes is not often visited by travellers, but has some of the best views, wineries, day-hikes and forest picnic spots in the South Coast Western Australia region.

Just a little further north is the Stirling Range, a series of low mountains rising abruptly and dramatically from the surrounding dead-flat land. There are some exceptional hikes and daywalks you can do in the Stirlings, with beautiful views and occasionally light snow. The Stirling Range is one of the richest areas in the world for plantlife. It has an astonishing variety of plants, many of which are endemic to just the range. Most of the wild flowers bloom in Spring, making it the best time of year to visit.


East of Albany, towards Esperance

Beach on the South Coast of Western Australia, near Esperance

To the east of Albany is a remote and incredibly beautiful coastline.

To the east of Albany, the coastline is wild and remote - an awesome destination for four-wheel-driving, camping, fishing and surfing.

The tiny town of Bremer Bay is a holiday hide-away with beautiful beaches, as is Hopetoun. Both these towns are on the border of the Fitzgerald River National Park, which has more stunningly beautiful beaches and is home to an incredible variety of plants, making it one of the world's biological hotspots.


Natural Wonders of South Coast Western Australia

Ancient, Dramatic Rocks

Sunset behind the Rocks of Greens Pool, Denmark Western Australia (William Bay National Park)

The sun sets behind the rocks of Greens Pool on the South Coast Western Australia near Denmark (William Bay National Park). These rounded granite boulders are characteristic of this magnificent coastline.

Ocean Beach, Denmark Western Australia

Views from Ocean Beach across Ratcliffe Bay to the spectacular seacliffs of the West Cape Howe National Park

The geology of this coastline and its hinterland truly is spectacular. In many places, the ancient granitic rocks of the Albany-Fraser Oregon plunge right down into the sea - forming tall cliffs, massive coastal boulders, islands and sloping headlands buffeted by wild waves and winds.

Interesting and dramatic geological formations abound, some of the most spectacular (and accessible) of which are found in the Torndirrup National Park close to the town of Albany, the regional centre of the South Coast.

One peculiarity of the south coast is that many of the rocks are shaped like animals. Check out the Elephant Rocks, Monkey Rock and Dog Rock to see what I mean!.

South Coast Western Australia Beaches

Lowlands Beach between Denmark and Albany on a beautiful sunny day

Lowlands Beach, between Denmark and Albany

A South Coast Western Australia beach

Little Beach, east of Albany in the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve

The beaches of the south coast of WA are stunningly beautiful and clean, but very, very cold.

Picture ice-cold crystalline turquoise water edged by the finest, whitest, most squeaky-clean sand you can imagine and you'll have a fair idea of what they're like. The sand is so fine and powdery that it really does squeak when you walk through it!

Nestled between round South Coast's characteristic granite boulders and cliffy headlands are bays, coves and lagoons that are among some of the most idyllic and beautiful of all Western Australian beaches. Most of these are protected from ocean swells and so are just perfect for swimming.

There are also plenty of long deserted surf beaches. Beaches like Ocean Beach in Denmark's Ratcliffe Bay, Nanurup Beach, Mazzoletti Beach, Normans Beach and Bellanger Beach are great for long walks, beach fishing and surfing. Driving a 4WD along these long beaches and coastal 4WD tracks makes for a fun and adventurous day out or camping trip.

Albany Beaches

Denmark Beaches

Natural Harbours and Inlets of the South Coast

Denmark's Wilson Inlet on the South Coast of Western Australia

A misty view of swans on the Wilson Inlet, Denmark.
Photo from Tourism Western Australia.

The serenely beautiful inlets along Western Australia's south coast are another natural feature that add to the region's unique and atmospheric scenery. They provide a home to birds, especially the swans and pelicans, and estuarine marine life.

For us, they provide a wide open space out on the water perfect for kayaking, sailing, boating, fishing and contemplation of the peaceful views.

Inlets, Estuaries and Natural Harbours from West to East:

  • Broke Inlet
  • Walpole-Nornalup Inlet
  • Irwin Inlet
  • Parry Inlet
  • Wilson Inlet
  • Torbay Inlet
  • Princess Royal Harbour
  • Oyster Harbour
  • Taylor Inlet
  • Normans Inlet
  • Waychinicup Inlet

The inlets are where the forest meets the sea. Dense forest of towering karri trees grows right down to the water's edge, and tannin-rich rivers flow in, mixing with salty water from the ocean.

The Forests of South Coast Western Australia

The South Coast of Western Australia is home to forests of karri trees - the third tallest tree in the world. These tall, pale trees contribute a great deal to the beauty of the scenery around Denmark and Walpole.

The main belt of karri trees ends at Denmark, but isolated pockets of karri forest grow on the Porongurup Range and on the slopes of the barrens of Mount Manypeaks east of Albany.

The Walpole Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, South Coast Western Australia

The Walple Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk

Around Walpole, the forests are magnificent. Here, old growth forests are protected by over 36000 hactares of national parks. This is known as the Walpole Wilderness Area.

There are some exellent bush walks you can do in these forests. My favourite is the short but incredibly rewarding walk to the top and around the base of Mount Frankland to the north of Walpole - the views, birdlife and spring wildflowers are incredible.

As well as the old growth karri trees, a very special reason to visit the Walpole Wilderness Area is to see the giant red tingle trees endemic that are unique to a small area just out of Walpole. These trees are quite remarkable - not only are they incredibly rare and unique, but the bases of their trunks are thickly buttressed and hollowed out to form caverns and archways big enough to walk right through or to take shelter in when it rains. Some are even roomy enough to drive cars through.

The Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk and Ancient Empire Boardwalk takes you up into the canopy of the ancient tinglewood forest, then along the ground along a boardwalk that winds through and around the giant buttressed tree trunks. It's the most publicised and well-known tourist attraction of South Coast Western Australia, and for most people - myself included - is near the top of their list of "must-see" things in the region.

Being high up in the forest canopy and walking among these giant trees is indeed an awesome experience, but you should be aware that the touristy treetop walk and boardwalk is not the only place where you can see the tingle trees or be high up in the forest canopy. If you'd rather not pay money and walk amongst crowds and gift shops, the Bibbulmun Track passes through the Valley of the Giants, and you can drive through a mixed tinglewood and karri forest along Hilltop Road, which also passes the Giant Tingle Tree.

Normans Beach, A Wild Surf Beach of the South Coast of Western Australia

A river meets the sea at Normans Beach, a wild surf beach on the south coast of Western Australia, east of Albany in the Mount Manypeaks Nature Reserve.

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