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Exploring the Walpole
13 national parks and conservation reserves combine to form the Walpole Wilderness Area, a vast, pristine region of karri, jarrah and tinglewood forests, rivers and inlets, and a deserted rugged coastline. Walpole, a small town on the South Coast of Western Australia completely surrounded by national parks, is an excellent base for exploring this beautiful wild country.
The Walpole Wilderness National Parks and Reserves:
- Boynaminup NP
- Kordabup NR
- Mehniup NR
- Mount Frankland NP
- Mount Frankland North NP
- Mount Frankland South NP
- Mount Lindesay NP
- Mount Roe NP
- Mount Shadforth NR
- Owingup NR
- Quarram NR
- Walpole-Nornalup NP
- William Bay NP
...And Adjoining the Wilderness Area to the West, all the way to Augusta:
- D'Entrecasteaux NP
- Shannon NP
The Jarrah and Karri Forests in the Walpole Wilderness Area
When you drive down Highway 1 to Walpole, not far after Manjimup you enter the wilderness area, and you drive for almost an hour without seeing any farmland or other sign of civilisation.
All you see are trees, trees and more trees. Forests of towering impossibly tall karri trees reaching up to 90m into the air, are interspersed here and there with the darker, more stunted and spindly looking jarrah trees, marri trees and occasional patches of banksia woodland and scrub.
The forest is home to many creatures, including western grey kangaroos, bandicoots, woylies, quokkas and possums.
Keep an eye out for turn-offs to picnic spots, detours and short bushwalks, including the Great Forest Trees Drive in the Shannon National Park, Mount Burnett and Mount Pingerup.
Where to See the Giant Tingle Trees
The most well known tourist attraction in the Walpole Wilderness is the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk and the adjoining Ancient Empire Trail, which both showcase the rare and unique red tingle trees.
Endemic to the Walpole-Nornalup National Park, these giants of the forest can reach 75m in height and an amazing 26m in circumference.
The base of the trunk is buttressed and hollowed out by bush fires over the years, forming large "caves" and arches within the tree big enough to walk through. They make a good shelter from the rain. Some of these hollows are big enough to park cars inside!
At the treetop walk, you can walk amongst the swaying branches and rustling leaves of the tinglewood forest canopy and see beautiful views out over the forest, before walking beside (and inside!) the giant hollow trees from the ground on the Ancient Empire walktrail.
The treetop walk is a thouroughy enjoyable outing and a unique way of experiencing the forest, but be aware that it is a bit of a tourist trap. You have to pay $12 and walk amongst crowds and through a souvenirs shop.
And it certainly isn't the only place where you can walk amongst the tingle trees.
For a less touristic experience, the tingle trees can also be seen on hikes along certain sections of the Bibbulmun Track that pass through The Valley of the Giants or on a drive along the Hilltop Scenic Drive - a narrow, potholed gravel road that winds its way through mixed karri and tinglewood forest. The Giant Tingle Tree, Hilltop Lookout and Circular Pool are all to be found along this drive.
Walpole's Wilderness Rivers and the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet
My favourite place to be on a Walpole wilderness holiday is out on the water.
The Walpole-Nornalup Inlet is wide, open and windswept - full of space and fresh ocean air - and surrounded by forests of tall karri trees and low dunes covered in coastal heath. It has a rich diversity of marine life, and is soon to become a marine park. If you drop a line in here, you're almost guaranteed to catch something.
Both the Frankland River and the Deep River flow into the Nornalup Inlet. They reach deep into the peaceful heart of the forest.
I'd find it hard to think of a more pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon than paddling up the Frankland River through the karri forest to Monastery Landing and beyond - or downriver to the Nornalup Inlet. The canoe hire place is in Nornalup.
The three other inlets in the Walpole Wilderness are Broke Inlet, Irwin Inlet and Parry Inlet. To explore or go fishing on these inlets you'll need to bring your own boat or kayak/canoe, or organise for the canoe hire company to provide transport as well as equipment.
Broke Inlet to the west of Walpole is one of the biggest of all the estuaries on the South Coast of Western Australia, and is by far the most pristine. The surrounds of the inlet and its entire catchment area remain completely undeveloped, protected by national parks. I've only ever visited the Broke Inlet's shores, but I would love one day to go kayaking there one day.
Irwin and Parry Inlets are to the east of Walpole, and are much smaller.
Exploring the Coastline of the Walpole Wilderness Area
The Walpole Wilderness coast has some incredibly beautiful scenery, but its remoteness means that exploring it isn't always easy.
With a 4-wheel-drive, you can take the Blue Holes track down to Bellanger Beach, and drive further along the beach, all the way to the Nornalup Inlet channel.
You can also easily drive along firm beach sand a fair distance east from Peaceful Bay, at least until you reach the Irwin Inlet which can be a challenge at times. Pay attention to the tides and be careful not to get stuck on the wrong side of the inlet!
From Crystal Springs campground at the road to Mandalay Beach, the Long Point track will take you to a number of Walpole's western beaches in the Nuyts Wilderness. These are Hush Hush Beach, Little Long Point and Long Point.
Which Walpole Beaches can you visit with a 2WD car?
The three beaches close to Walpole that you can visit with an ordinary car are Peaceful Bay, Conspicuous Beach and Mandalay Beach.
Peaceful Bay is sheltered by offshore rocks and is just perfect for swimming. You can also launch a boat there. Conspicuous Beach and Mandalay Beach are wild wavy beaches, more suitable for walks, fishing and surfing.
Further east from Walpole and closer to Denmark is the William Bay National Park, the easternmost section of the Walpole Wilderness coast. Parry Beach, Hillier Bay, Greens Pool, Elephant Cove, Madfish Bay and Waterfall Beach are all easily accessible. The beaches in the eastern section of the park, Greens Pool in particular, are some of the most picturesque swimming beaches in all of Western Australia.
Walking the Walpole Wilderness Coast
There's the Bibbulmun Track that follows the coast for much of the way between Walpole and Denmark, with a detour inland past the Valley of the Giants. The track offers a wonderful opportunity to get outside and experience the wildness and rugged beauty of the coastline.
Most people who've walked the entire Bibbulmun Track agree that the Walpole-Denmark section along the south coast is the scenic highlight of the entire journey, so if you've got the time while you're in Walpole, a day walk (or even a short hiking/camping expedition for one or two nights) along the coast is an unforgettable experience.
At the very least, go on a short coastal walk from Conspicuous Beach.
The Nuyts Wilderness track is a return day walk (better as an overnight hike, though) that takes you down to a beautiful remote part of the coast in the Nuyts Wilderness area to the west of the Nornalup Inlet.
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