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The Walpole-Nornalup Inlet
The pristine waters of the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet are almost completely surrounded by karri forests and heathland of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park. Out on the inlet there's a feeling of tranquility and wild nature as the shadows of fish and sting rays swim beneath your boat and the scenic beauty of the open water and distant karri forest passes you by.
As the name suggests, the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet is actually two bodies of water joined together, that have a total area of about 16 square kilometres.
The Walpole Inlet in the north is the smaller and shallower of the two, and is the "inlet of the Nornalup Inlet". A 1km-long channel connects it to the much larger and windier Nornalup inlet to the south, which is open to the Southern Ocean.
It's the only estuary along the south coast that's permanently open to the ocean, which allows a rich variety of marine life to flourish. Both inlets are full of fish and as a result have (in my opinion) some of the best and easiest fishing in WA.
If you have a boat, you'll find no end of fishing spots and other interesting places to explore around the inlet and the rivers that flow into it.
The town of Walpole sits along the northernmost shores of the inlet, making it easily accessible for travellers. The town's two caravan parks each have a boat ramp to launch from, and if you don't have a boat of your own, then dinghies, kayaks and even houseboats are available for hire if you want to spend a day or two on the water.
Alternatively, you could join the inlet wilderness cruise, which departs at 10am daily from the Town Jetty.
The WOW Wilderness Cruise is one of the a great way to get out on the water and get to some remote Wilderness areas. I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a boat, or to anyone who's interested in the nature and history of the Walpole Wilderness Area. It's actually the best boat-cruise tour I've ever been on - not in the slightest bit cheesey or corny.
On This Page: Things to Do
- Boating on the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet
- Walpole-Nornalup Inlet Fishing Tips
- Wildlife Out on the Inlets
- Walpole's Inlet Beaches and Swimming Spots
Exploring Walpole's Waterways:
The Walpole Inlet and the Nornalup Inlet are joined together, but each one is completely different in character, so I've given each a page of its own.
Below is a photo of the 1km-long channel between the east and west knolls ("The Knoll" and Rest Point) that connects the Walpole Inlet to the Nornalup Inlet. It's referred to as "The Channels", even though it's just one single channel.
Boating and Kayaking on the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet
With a boat, you can explore all of Walpole's waterways, but be aware that large parts of the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet are very shallow, in particular around the ocean sandbar and the river mouths.
Things to do and places to go - go fishing, visit Sandy Beach, the sandbar or moor at Sealer's Cove and walk to Circus Beach. Or you could follow the either the Deep or Frankland River into the heart of the karri forest. The Walpole River is also navigable for a short distance.
For detailed info and photos of all the places you can explore with a boat or kayak, see the Walpole Inlet and Nornalup Inlet sections.
Walpole Boat Launching and Hire
Boats can be launched at Rest Point and Coalmine Beach. It's also possible to launch small boats at the Town Jetty at the end of Jones Street.
Larger boats can be taken out through Skippy Rock Channel into the ocean, but extreme care should be taken if you try this. Peaceful Bay is a less risky place to launch a boat into the ocean.
Hire a dinghy from the Rest Point Caravan Park. Unless you're licenced to drive motor boats in WA, you'll be given a very low horse-power engine which means it will take you a lot longer to get anywhere, but this shouldn't be a problem if you hire it for half a day (or longer). You'll be able to cross the Nornalup Inlet to the sandbar, plus either walk over to one of the Nuyts Wilderness Beaches or cruise a short way up one of the rivers, in that time - or else stay in one spot and catch some fish.
Walpole Water Skiing
The bad news for waterskiers is that it's not allowed on both inlets and you risk a fine if the rangers catch you.
Canoeing and Kayaking
This surely has to be the best way to experience the of the serenety and beautiful scenery out on the water. Launch at Rest Point, Coalmine Beach or anywhere else around town. Another option would be to could launch on the Frankland or Deep Rivers and paddle down to the inlet.
If you don't have your own, you can hire a canoe from Nornalup on the Frankland River, east of Walpole.
Walpole-Nornalup Inlet Fishing Tips
The Walpole-Nornalup Inlet has some of the best estuary fishing in Australia. It's well known for being possibly the best place in WA for black bream, and there's a good variety of other fish that call the inlet home as well, including herring, whiting, skippy, flathead and flounder.
The fishing is reliable at any time of day, but the best times are early in the morning and late in the afternoon towards sunset. An incoming tide helps, too.
You can fish from land or from a boat or canoe, but as is usually the case, boat fishing is better. The area near the mouth of the Nornalup Inlet is a good spot to try with a wide variety of fish species, including some of the larger ones. Also head up the rivers in search of bream.
Fishing from the shore, you can try the two jetties in town. Fishing from Sandy Beach can yield flathead and bream, and is a nice scenic spot where you can also go for a swim. Go down there at night for the cobbler. The Knoll on the eastern side of The Channels also has several nice scenic fishing spots off the Knoll Scenic Drive.
Walpole-Nornalup Inlet Wildlife
The inlets are home to plentiful birdlife and marinelife. It's a wonderful place for birdwatching and fishing.
Pelicans are very common. There seem to always be a few hanging around Coalmine Beach.
Looking down into the shallow water from a boat on a calm day, you might be surprised by how much there is to see. The shadowy shapes of fish swimming past are a common sight, and sometimes they even jump out of the water.
Sting rays are another commonly seen creature. I must admit I was surprised to see them quite far up the Deep River. The photo on the right is my attempt at photographing one of many rays I saw one beautiful calm, sunny day a few years ago.
Walpole-Nornalup Inlet Beaches
Coalmine Beach is a nice place on the inlet for a swim or to watch the pelicans and boats being launched. The caravan park is just behind the beach, and it's close to The Knoll. You can walk there from town along the 3km-long Coalmine Beach Heritage Trail that begins at the information centre and passes through mostly peppermint and melaleuca woodlands on the way down to the inlet.
This pleasant secluded beach is a good spot for a picnic, and for fishing and swimming. It is accessible by 4WD along Inlet Drive, or by walking along the track from Rest Point.
There's a narrow beach at the Rest Point Caravan Park where I remember having a great time swimming and damming a tiny stream on a Walpole camping trip when I was a kid.
The grassy area by this beach is a nice spot for a picnic, and there's a small jetty with a gazebo at the end.
If you have a boat and can get to the sandbar where the Nornalup Inlet meets the Southern Ocean, you have the choice of swimming in either the calm inlet water (which is crystal-clear like sea water in this part of the inlet), or in the big waves of Bellanger Beach.
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