We planned several hikes during our week-long camping adventure in Western Australia’s Great Southern with days spent wandering stretches of the Bibbulmun Track and trekking down sandy paths to isolated beaches. Unfortunately, this was not to be. Our daughter Maddie became unwell and was very run down and tired for most of our trip. Jed and I have become a lot better at going with the flow lately, learning from our trips to Kalbarri and Wooleen Station. Instead of exploring by foot, we explored the region by car, but this is not a bad thing. Dotted along the coast between Walpole and Albany in Western Australia are a collection of deserted beaches, some just small alcoves protected from the wild ocean, others huge sweeping bays of perfectly undisturbed sand and the clearest of turquoise waters. If you want to truly experience the wonders of the Great Southern coastline there are two ways to do it; either hiking the southern section of the Bibbulmun Track or driving the many 4 wheel drive tracks. Either way, this is one part of Australia you do not want to miss!
20km, 20min from Denmark – 60km, 50min from Walpole
An amazing place to snorkel, this protected bay offers an underwater playground with plenty of rocks, boulders and pools to explore. The bay is protected from the Southern Ocean by a wall of granite, creating a calm and warm swimming area. We found it a comfortable temperature for a dip even in spring. The pool is much bigger than I imagined and you’ll find plenty of space even on a busy day. With plenty of parking and restrooms available, this beach is perfect for a family day out. The beach sweeps around and continues all the way to Parry Beach campsite at the far end. A path leads from the eastern end of the beach up into the dunes and downs to Elephant Rocks.
20km, 20min from Denmark – 60km, 50min from Walpole
Only a ten minute walk from Greens Pool, the rounded boulders of Elephant Rocks are not to be missed. The path follows along the top of the granite offering glimpses of the bay below before dropping back down to the beach via a well-maintained staircase. Walk between two enormous granite boulders and the stunning bay opens up before you. In contrast to the large and open Greens Pool, Elephant Rocks is surrounded by huge, rounded rocks creating an enclosed oasis.
55km, 42min from Denmark – 25km, 25min from Walpole
If stunning scenery is what you’re after, then this beach, encircled by an imposing ridgeline and powerful surf is the place for you. A short walk up a sealed path from the carpark will take you up to a platform overlooking the entire beach. We stopped here for about half an hour to watch the waves below from our high vantage point. Walk a little further around the headland for a second viewing platform.
It is possible to walk down to the beach but we decided to give it a miss as Maddie was still very tired. It is not advised to swim here due to the rips and unpredictable waves but it is popular for salmon fishing.
Little Boat Harbour
43km, 40min from Denmark – 55km, 55min from Walpole
Tucked into the coast at the end of a sandy 4WD track is another bay with aquarium-still waters for snorkeling. Little Boat Harbour is a wide bay with a shallow area protected by more granite, perfect for swimming. Access is 4-wheel drive only but the track was in pretty good condition at the time of our visit. You could drive further along to a beach access but the sand was pretty soft and churned up so we decided to park up at the small parking area. A short walk takes you across the rocks to a grass clearing. Just as we approached a kangaroo popped up and continued to watch us as we explored the bay. We spotted the remains of a piling in the protected area that must have been a boat mooring, hence the name.
40km, 40min from Denmark – 110km, 1hr 30min from Walpole
West Cape Howe National Park is wild, remote, dramatic and best suited to experienced 4 wheel drivers. This unspoiled national park is home to some of the most stunning coastline in the world. The unsealed track towards Shelly Beach, and Shelly Lookout is manageable with a 4 wheel drive but we decided not to attempt to reach the other sites as the track was very soft and churned up.
Not knowing what to expect we were blown away by the view from the Shelly Beach lookout. Perched atop the headland we looked down on to the perfect and deserted beach blow. The water was so clear you could make out shoals of fish swimming around. The area is set up as a hang glider launch and landing pad.
A small campsite is tucked into the base of the hillside and would be an incredible place to spend a few nights under the stars. The sand on the beach is such pure silica that it squeaks under foot. Maddie enjoyed searching for shells as Jed and I took in our surroundings. A couple of campers decided to have a skinny dip some way up the beach – good on ‘em – then set up for a morning yoga session on the beach. What an incredibly refreshing way to start the day. The waves were a little big to take Maddie in but Jed braved the brisk waters for a dip.
25km, 30min from Denmark – 50km, 55min from Walpole
I cannot talk about the best beaches of the Great Southern without mentioning our home for a week; Parry Beach. This little campsite is nestled in amongst a peppermint grove, hidden from the wind and harsh Australian sun. Each day we enjoyed an early morning drive on the beach, watching the surf and searching for dolphins. A family of cockatoos joined us most afternoons as we walked around the bay. These friendly cockatoos came much closer than the ones we have seen elsewhere in Western Australia and would land in the heathland right in front of us – a wildlife photographer’s dream.
The Bibbulmun Track goes right through the campsite and along the beach. This stunning destination must be a highlight of the almost 1000km track.
At low tide you can explore the expansive rock pools searching for crabs, starfish, sea urchins and small fish. There is so much to entertain our little travel buddies at this campsite, it really is a great base from which to explore the rest of the region.