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The Wild Scenery of Torndirrup National Park, Albany
The coastline of Albany's Torndirrup National Park is one of the most spectacular in Australia.
Standing on the edge of the seacliffs, watching huge swells roll in off the Great Southern Ocean and smash against the rocks below, is an exhilerating experience.
About the Torndirrup National Park:
The Torndirrup National Park protects a rugged ocean peninsula made up of massive granite-gneiss hills and headlands covered in coastal heath.
Along the peninsula's wild southern coast, dark seacliffs plunge straight down into the seathing waves of the Great Southern Ocean. There are also three incredibly beautiful beaches - Misery Beach, Salmon Holes and Cable Beach (plus several more beaches that are inaccessible).
In late spring and early summer, Torndirrup National Park is a good place to see the wild flowers of Western Australia's south coast.
Torndirrup Geological Features:
There are many interesting rock features along the south coast of the Torndirrup Peninsula, carved by the action of waves and weather over many millions of years. These include The Gap, the Natural Bridge, the Blowholes and Jimmy Newell's Harbour - all of which are easy to get to when you're exploring Torndirrup National Park.
Exploring the Torndirrup National Park
To get to Torndirrup Peninsula from Albany town, you drive all the way around Princess Royal Harbour through the outskirts of town along Frenchmans Bay Road.
Plan on spending at least half a day, preferably a full day, out here because there's so much to see and do, and time flies when you try and see it all!
There are also a number of other Albany attractions and swimming beaches close by on the Torndirrup and Vancouver Peninsulas that are just outside the national park's boundaries. It makes sense to visit them on the same day that you explore the Torndirrup National Park.
1. The Gap and Natural Bridge
Take the first right turn after crossing into the Torndirrup National Park. The Gap Road takes you to a big carpark just a short walk across the flat rocks to The Gap and the Natural Bridge. These two spectacular rock formations are a 2-minute walk away from each other.
The Gap is a narrow canyon cut into the cliffs. It's absolutely spectacular when large waves crash into The Gap, sending spray high into the air and splashing the onlookers. When the sea is calm it's not quite as interesting, but you can still look over the edge of the balcony and see that it's a sheer drop of about 25m.
The Natural Bridge is self-explanatory - an archway carved out of the granite by wave action:
The clifftops around The Gap and Natural Bridge are a fun place to walk around and explore, with some great vantage points for dramatic photos of the cliffs and the sea.
There's a sealed path for prams and wheelchairs cut into the rocky ground, and balconies overlooking The Gap and the Natural Bridge, but apart from that you're free to roam wherever you want along the rocky cliff-tops, including out onto the Natural Bridge.
Nothing is fenced off, so keep a close eye on children.
On a calm day it's possible to get down to the rock platform underneath the bridge, but risk of being swept away by a freak wave makes this not the best idea. Even in the calmest of conditions, a king wave could appear out of the blue.
2. Cable Beach
Cable Beach, next to The Gap and Natural Bridge, is rough and treacherous. It's a wonderful, dramatic beach to walk along but most days it's far too dangerous for swimming. It has a lot of rocks and reef close to shore and pummelled by huge waves.
3. The Albany Blow Holes
The next road off the main road through the national park takes you down to the Blowholes.
The Albany Blowhole is a narrow chasm in a rock platform above the ocean, from which you get beautiful views of the Torndirrup Coast. Beneath the platform there is a chamber that fills with water when waves rush in. The volume and force of a large enough wave sends up a high pressure plume of air and water through the fissure in the rocks with a sharp hissing sound similar to a whale's blow hole.
Something I like about the Albany Blowhole is that it isn't fenced off. You can get right up close and be frightened by its sudden loud noise, if you want to. Unlike other popular tourist attractions, the visitor isn't herded along boardwalks to ugly viewing platforms that mar the natural beauty of the scenery.
The Blowhole can be spectacular when the ocean is very rough, but in calm conditions all you'll get is the sound of the waves surging and bubbling beneath the rocks you're standing on, with the occasional sight of a fine mist of sea spray blasting out.
It's a 15 minute walk to get down to the rock platform and blowholes from the carpark, and an uphill slog to return. If the ocean is calm and you're not in the mood for a bushwalk, you might want to skip the blowholes (maybe in favour of a swim at Salmon Holes or Misery Beach).
However, even when the blowhole isn't blowing, this is still a scenic spot on the Torndirrup coast, and the walk there and back is an easy and pleasant hike through the coastal heath with wild flowers in spring.
4. Jimmy Newell's Harbour
The next right turn off Frenchman Bay Road leads down to Jimmy Newell's Harbour, a picturesque rocky inlet that's just anout the only sheltered and calm spot on the rugged south coast of Torndirrup National Park.
A balcony overlooks the harbour from above. Although there's no official track down to the rocky shoreline, you can follow one of the fisherman's trails down the very steep hill. In summer it's nice to walk down and have a swim in the shallows. It's also a great spot for rock fishing. You get plenty of bites and it's a safer spot than most, especially if you keep to the calm inner reaches.
As you can see from the photo below, you get a beautiful view from the balcony of ocean swells rolling into the channel and dissipating into gentle wavelets at the end. The middle of the bay always seems to be that clear, jewel-like shade of turquoise.
5. Stony Hill, and the Walk Trail to Peak Head
Stony Hill is a high point in the landscape, from which you get 360o views taking in the undulating hills of the Torndirrup National Park, Bald Head, King George Sound, Princess Royal Harbour and the open ocean to the south.
From the carpark, both walk trails lead up to the top of the hill, which is an outcrop of bare granite surrounded by lower outcrops and loose boulders. Walking up one trail and down the other makes an easy 500m circuit.
The track branching off the Stony Hill road to the left, just before the carpark, takes you to the start point of the walk trail to Peak Head. Peak Head is a bluff of rounded cliffs with spectacular ocean views. The Stony Hill to Peak Head walk takes about 2.5 hours return.
6. Salmon Holes
Salmon Hole Road is the last turn-off in the Torndirrup NP, taking you to Salmon Holes, the Flinders Peninsula and Misery Beach.
Albany's Salmon Holes is a dramatic and beautiful bay with a beach enclosed by a tall, steep slope of granite and heath-covered dunes. At the northern end of the bay, the Flinders Peninsula reaches far out to sea, ending at Bald Head - a spectacular sight.
Salmon Holes is a changeable beach. Some days the water is calm and clear as glass, and on other days its awash with waves and foam. It's bright and sunny in the morning, changing to cold and gloomy in the afternoon when the steep slope behind the beach casts its shadow.
On a calm summer morning when the waves are small Salmon Holes is a wonderful place for a swim. Always be careful when swimming here, no matter how calm the conditions of the day, because it's unprotected from the open ocean. If the swell there will be rips and waves breaking on submerged rocks, making swimming dangerous.
Salmon Holes one of the best places in Albany for both beach and rock fishing. Stay well back from the waveline when walking or fishing on the rocks lining the bay, and be wary of king waves. These rocks are far more hazardous than they look.
7. Flinders Peninsula and Bald Head
The Flinders Peninsula is the long, narrow isthmus that extends about 3km out to sea from Salmon Holes at the end of the Torndirrup Peninsula.
If you take the left turn off Salmon Holes Road, then take two right turns, you'll find yourself at the Isthmus Hill carpark, from which a walktrail along the top of the Flinders Peninsula begins.
Flinders Peninsula is high above sea-level, with a steep cliffy slope on either side. Needless to say, the views are spectacular. The trail is meanders quite a bit, so it ends up being about 8km one way. It's a 6 - 8 hour return walk, so bring plenty of water and something to eat. If you want to take a side trip down to one of the beaches along the edges of the peninsula, factor in some extra time.
At the very end is Bald Head, a round headland of domed granite sloping down into the ocean. It can be seen from many places along the Torndirrup Coast.
8. Misery Beach
To me, Misery Beach feels like the end of the world. It's a small, straight beach in King George Sound that faces slightly out to sea (away from civilisation). It's a bit out of the way for most people to go, and isn't marked on many maps. Every time I've visited Misery Beach, it's been deserted.
Misery Beach is a beautiful place to stop for a swim, with only small waves breaking on the shoreline and magnificent views out across King George Sound. The massive granite headland to the east provides some additional shelter from the wind and makes it feel even more secluded and hidden away.
The granite cliff has just enough slope to it to make it climbable - which is what we did on our last visit to Misery Beach. Be extremely careful because there's not much to break a fall - and it's easier to climb up than down! Towards the top is a little cave that you can sit in and admire the views from.
Misery Beach is the end point on an expedition through Torndirrup National Park. To get there, you drive almost all the way to the end of Frenchman Bay Road, turning right onto Salmon Holes Road just before Whale World. You then take the left turn off Salmon Holes Road, followed by the first right (down a gravel road), then the first left.