Here’s a hint: it’s among spectacular natural wonders on WA’s great southern coast
Western Australia is renowned for its diversity, and our road trip from the Warren National Park to Cape Le Grand National Park provided us with unique experiences and some of the most magnificent natural beauty this country has on offer. From wilderness forests, unique rock formations and the endless turquoise waters of the spectacular beaches, this trip had something for everyone.
We started at Warren National Park, just over 300km from Perth, where the forest of towering karri trees surrounded us. From the carpark, it’s an easy walk to the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, pegged in 1988 as part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations. The Bicentennial Tree, the highest treetop lookout in the world, claims to be the ‘scariest tourist attraction in Australia’, and having climbed the 182 pegs and 65 metres to the top we can certainly agree with that statement. The climb is not for the faint-hearted. With no safety nets or harness, good grip and balance on the narrow metal rungs that protrude from the tree is essential. At the top we were rewarded with 360-degree views and the satisfaction of completing the daring climb.
(After the triumph of the Bicentennial Tree climb,
the climb to the top of the Gloucester Tree in Gloucester National park was easily accomplished. The second highest tree lookout in the world, at 58 metres, this tree was used
to scan for fires in surrounding bushland in the 1940s. Climbing these grand trees so freely was one of the most unique and exhilarating feats we have ever experienced.)
Our campsite at Coalmine Beach Holiday Park, Walpole was nestled among the trees and a short stroll to the Nornalup Inlet. It’s the perfect base for exploring the surrounding national parks and coastline.
The weather, chilly and windy, was not ideal for our visit to Williams Bay National Park. But at Greens Pool it was easy to imagine why it’s said to be one of mother nature’s most inviting swimming spots – with its white sand and rounded boulders jutting out of turquoise waters, Greens Pool is a magical place. We managed to find a sheltered spot out of the wind at the peaceful Elephant Rocks, where the kids took a dip in the cool ocean.
We could not travel past Walpole-Nornalup National Park without stopping to experience one of Western Australia’s most popular attractions, The Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk.
The suspended platform 40 metres above the ground swayed slightly as we walked seemingly on air through the impressive forest canopy, where we experienced the majesty of the enormous veteran red tingle trees.
At our next campsite, the spacious grassed sites of Happy Days Caravan Park in Albany are on the banks of the King River. After setting up camp the kids scrambled for the fishing rods and spent the afternoon by the riverbank. Albany is full of surprises; it’s the kind of place you could easily settle into and stay a little longer.
Albany is known as the birthplace of the ANZAC story so a visit to The National Anzac Centre is essential. Opened in 2014, the centre has gained numerous accolades including Australia’s number one museum by travellers’ rankings on TripAdvisor, and Lonely Planet names it as one of the best new travel experiences in the world. Located on the heritage-listed Princess Royal Fortress, it was a wonderful way to immerse ourselves in the history of the Anzacs. The kids especially enjoyed the opportunity to climb into some of the war machinery and into the bunkers. We then took a guided tour and spent a few hours exploring Albany’s Historic Whaling Station, where the history of the site permeates through its displays and stories.
In Torndirrup National Park we stopped to check the surf at Salmon and Cable Beach and took the short walk to The Gap and Natural Bridge where we experienced the might and power of the thundering ocean below the rocks. As the temperature was soaring we headed out to find a sheltered spot to swim. When we arrived at Misery Beach our reaction was simply ‘wow’ because we could not believe our luck – apart from a lone fisherman in the far corner of the beach, we were the only visitors.
Squeaky white sand, clear calm water, impressive granite headland; this was our paradise and we enjoyed this serene beach for hours, not wanting to leave.
It was a long day of driving to our next stop, Cape Le Grand National Park near Esperance. Lucky Bay is probably one of Australia’s most photographed beaches so we were a little concerned it would not live up to expectations, but as we drove down the road the view opened up over the majestic bay and it was clear what all the hype was about. You can’t book a campsite ahead of time but we got lucky and were able to set up camp in one of the most idyllic campgrounds imaginable. With Australia’s whitest sand, kangaroos sunbaking on the foreshore and water in the most sublime shades of blue, Lucky Bay must be one of the most picturesque beaches in existence.
Beyond Lucky Bay the national park has lots more to offer. From our campsite, we followed the Coastal Walking Trail to Thistle Cove, where the walk through native bushland presented spectacular views over the headlands towards the ocean. On arrival at the cove, we found ourselves at yet another superb beach. Another popular walk in the park is the Frenchman’s Peak summit; it’s a short but steep walk to the top of the 262m granite cone where we were rewarded with a sweeping bird’s-eye view of the entire Cape Le Grand National Park.
The outstanding beaches around Esperance are not limited to those within Cape Le Grand National Park – the impressive coastline continues along Esperance’s circular loop ‘The Great Ocean Drive’. We could not resist a swim at the picture-perfect Twilight Beach, rated among the best beaches in the world with snow white sand, crystal blue water and huge granite rocks perfect for jumping off.
I hesitate to say that these are the best beaches in Australia, only because what constitutes an ideal beach is different for everyone, but if you are looking for undeveloped and uncrowded beaches with turquoise waters and white sands, the beaches on the Southern Coast of Western Australia should be on your destination list.
Western Australia is renowned for its national parks for good reason, as they are simply extraordinary. We were lucky enough to have the time to stop at several parks and experience nature at its best, but if you are strapped for time, a visit to any of these national parks will be sure to please.