Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Giant Forests & Towns of The Southern Coast of WA

After leaving the greater SW region of WA, we headed east towards the Southern Forests region. The area is world famous for its soaring karri & tingle forests and the deep red timber of jarrah makes this region pristine wilderness country. The region is also steeped in history from the pioneering timber industry.
Much of the original tall forests was cut down for furniture or land clearing for farming.
The towering karri trees are the tallest trees in WA, many over 400 yrs old.
Driving through these forests was magical. Fortunately most of these pristine areas are national parks where people can stay in & enjoy the wilderness experience.

We picked a couple of national parks to stay overnight.
One such place was the Blackwood River National Park with the Blackwood River being the longest continually flowing river in WA.
Sue’s bridge (haha & I think along Sue’s hwy, 30 km east of Margaret River) on the Blackwood River just near our basic campground with very few amenities. 
We were surrounded by beautiful tall karri trees for the night. There were dozens of Cowslip Orchids around our camp spot, along with ferns & other forest shrubs in flower. It was very peaceful indeed (apart from the cloud & spots of  rain, we loved the serenity) 

On our way through the forests (much of the 130km Brockman Hwy traverses through national parks) we passed a little national park called Beederlup. It had a quaint suspension bridge over a river.
You know you’re in true forest when it’s wet enough for fern to grow – this fern is Lindsaea Linearus & looked much like maiden hair fern.

Pemberton wasn’t too far away with its famous Gloucester Tree. A series of fire lookouts were constructed in the top of the karri trees, mainly during the 1930’s & 1940’s. The lookouts were for spotting fires. Today the Gloucester tree is a major tourist attraction & for the not so faint hearted to climb the 60 mtrs to the top tower. 

Rod steps up a few mtrs only. It’s a fairly windy day & the sway in the tree tops are quite evident. 

There was a short ½ hr walk near the Gloucester Tree in its national park & we found this old karri that is still alive, but ravaged by fire a few times.

Western rosellas were pretty friendly in the car park, getting treats from the tourists.

The views of driving through those beautiful karri forests.

We stayed a few days in Walpole, about 120kms west of Albany. There are 7 National Parks within the Walpole wilderness area covering 363,000 hectares from the north west of the town to the coastline & the east.
Walpole also sits on 2 inlets from the southern ocean. Our campground joined Coalmine beach on the Nornalup Inlet.
The karri forest reaches the Nornalup Inlet.

A short drive into the hills near Walpole took us to the Giant Tingle Trees. Situated in the Walpole – Nornalup Nat Pk, these giant Tingle Trees are I think, the only standing tingle trees in the world.

This is the greatest tingle tree of them all. At 24 mtrs, this is the largest girthed living eucalypt known in the world. She has been hollowed out by 2 major fires. This old lady is over 300yrs old.
I was so awed by these beautiful old trees that I took far too many photos. Rod thinks it’s funny to take a pic of me doing a video of the area.

Amongst  the 20 km ‘giant trees drive’was a lookout to the south of the Frankland R, Great Southern Ocean & Nornalup Inlet (on the right).

some of the wild like in the area – a skink sunning itself when we intruders come along. They breed 'em big here in the west :)

Further inland along the same road we come to Circular Pool – fed by the Frankland River. The tannins from breakdown of leaf matter further up the river gives the  water its ’cappucino’ coffee colour.

the froth to top the coffee
Walpole was a service town for the timber industry. Well before machinery, the timber had to be cut the hard way – by large hand saws – this saw pit of the 1860’s had a man standing under the log pushing the saw upwards with a man above pushing down. Pity the guy underneath !
Mandalay Beach is less than 20 kms east of Walpole.
It was named after a Norwegian ship ‘Mandalay” which was beached in 1911 trying to avoid  Charham Is, which is just off shore. The beautiful beach is also part of another national park. 

The infamous Chatham Is

Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk is 600 mtrs of steel rising 40 mtrs above the forest floor. You can see how tall some of those Karri trees are – up to 60 mtrs high. It was awe inspiring walking through the giants of the forest this high up.

Near the tree tops walk was a short walk through a grove of old Tingle Trees. Many have been hollowed out by fires.
Approx 25 kms east of Walpole is a beach & caravan park. The holiday destination (definitely not in winter) is called Peaceful Bay.
The Bay on the map is called Foul Bay.
You can see which I’d rather call it ! The wind was foul & whipped up froth from the rough waves. The tourists having a swim were either mad, English or taking a novel approach to the 2 names of the area.

A little closer along the coast from Walpole was Conspicuous Cliff Beach. Another popular destination in summer, at least for surfers catching big waves. They at least have the spectacular limestone cliffs for a great back drop.

After we left Walpole, we headed east along the coast towards Albany. Williams Bay National Park was along the way less than 50 kms from Walpole. This area has masses of  large granite boulders. 

Greens Pool is rated 1 of WA’s most idyllic beaches & is sheltered by the large boulders. The natural lagoon has glittering emerald water. 

  1 of the locals, Pied Oyster catcher wasn’t fazed by the tourists.

Elephant Rocks was just a short walk over more boulders from Greens Pool. The boulders in the water just looks like a herd of elephants.

The town of Albany is only a short 5 hr drive from Perth. Albany is spread out around 3 large bays. Princess Royal Harbour has a port for container ships for grain or the odd cruise ship dropping in.

The much larger bay is King George Sound, has a narrow inlet of less that 200 mtrs wide into Princess Royal Harbour. The above pics are taken from the lookout on Mt Clarence. There’s a monument to the Light horsemen of WW1 in the foreground.

Middleton Beach (in King George Sound) is the most popular beach in Albany, with Oyster Harbour further in the distance. 

Random photo of a southern brown bandicoot was forriging for food in the car park @ Mt Clarence.

a family of skinks warming up in the sun

Along the coast line  on each side, Albany has magnificent National Parks. A short drive west is the Torndirrup National Park. It encompasses a peninsula south of Albany, on the other side of Princess Royal Harbour.
It is quite rugged along the coast line in many places, with pristine white sandy beaches nearby.
Natural Bridge is a rock formation sculptured into a bridge shape by the treacherous seas of the Southern Ocean.

Nearby is The Gap, a 24 metre drop where the ocean rushes into a large cavern in the ancient granite rocks.

Green Is is in the distance near these 2 natural wonders.

The walk to the blowholes was very pretty with low heath plants & hundreds of Banksia trees in flower :)
the blowholes couldn’t be seen on this day as the ocean wasn’t turbulent enough, but the beach nearby looked inviting.
 Cable Beach
The most southerly point of WA isn’t far from this area.

Further around the peninsula on the eastern side are the Salmon Pools – I think it’s got this name due to large numbers of Salmon fish take refuge there in rough conditions.

On the other side of Albany along a 20 km good dirt road is Gull Rock National Park. Most people come here for the fishing I would think. Beach access isn’t easy, requiring you to lower tyre pressures & driving along narrow deep sandy tracks or walking a few hundred mtrs from the top.

The views were magnificent from the lookout area. Once again the sand is white & the seas are those of King George Sound.

It was along this drive that I got to see the Scarlet Banksia. 

Not far from the above National Park was a little community called Nanarup. It sits along an inlet that is separated from the Southern Ocean by a sand bar. The tannins in the water make the water in this inlet tea / coffee colour.

Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve is another 20 kms further away ( 40 kms from Albany). We visited a pristine beach called Little Beach. Reasons for the name are shown here. We thought it might be a great idea to own a piece of land up the hill overlooking this little beach it was so gorgeous. Trouble is that there’d be only a few months of the yr worth living there!!

 Further back up the road & around the corner is Two Peoples Bay, not as pretty as Little Beach - especially with the decaying sea grass on the beach.

 Back in Albany, we took a scenic route of the town over looking the harbours. There were many stopping points along the road to admire the magnificent views.
This is the narrow entry point that ships negotiate to get into Princess Royal Harbour.

 More of inside Princess Royal Harbour

Further along the road showing the entry point from King George Sound side.

A short drive along the coast eastwards saw us staying @ Cheynes Beach. The area had been recommended to me as a great place to spot 2 birds that are difficult to find most any where else. Unfortunately the weather wasn't very kind to us around our visit & we experienced periodic storms & it was very windy. Hearing birds was difficult & I rather think they hid amongst the heath shrubs for protection.
beautiful beach to visit in summer. 

The drive around the headland was by 4WD only & quite rough. The heath is low & quite wind swept. 

There were many rocky outcrops which gave the area some ruggedness.

These 2 areas are some of the many areas favoured by keen fishermen.Tonnes of sea weed is washed up & decaying on the beach ..... & smells.

Cheynes Beach is surrounded by National Parks. Waychinicup National Park was quite pretty to drive to. These grass trees are unusual with their flower stalks.

This is a river flowing out to the ocean via a narrow inlet. It looked beautiful from across the river, but the only way of getting closer was by kyak  as we couldn’t find a walking track to the other side :(

The southern region is certainly very different to the ruggedness & dryness of WA's north.
There were majestic forests of the Karri & Tingle trees.... sometimes  we saw Jarrah, but less often & the focus was more on Karri.
Granite outcrops carved by the forces on the southern ocean & lastly the turquoise ocean waves rolling onto the pristine white sandy beaches.

I loved every bit of the area & am sure it would have been better if the wind had abated some what & the weather was 5* warmer so I could have at least taken a dip at some of the gorgeous beaches. 

There's 1 more town that's on the southern ocean coast line ... Esperance. I will show you her highlights in the next blog :)

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