Campsite Review: Quaalup Wilderness Retreat in Fitzgerald River National Park

Bremer Bay is a holiday hot spot on the south coast, approximately 505km from Perth and around a 5 hour drive. It’s a destination for lovers of beautiful coastline and bush and all these have to offer – fishing, camping, swimming, snorkelling, 4wding and bush walking. The town sits adjacent to the Fitzgerald River National Park, a stunning, biodiverse area and a drawcard for lovers of flora and fauna. In the winter, it’s a prime location for whale watching.

There are several accommodation options in the area, from self-sufficient camping to resort cabins. We chose to camp at Quaalup Wilderness Retreat, a homestead located within the national park with camping grounds as well as units, cabins and chalets.

Getting there

The Quaalup website has the best directions on how to get to the homesteadย (scroll down for detailed instruction). If coming from Perth, the best route is via Jerramungup and don’t trust Google Maps to get you there. The website also includes instruction if you’re coming via Bremer Bay.

All roads are well-signed but Gairdner Road is particularly corrugated and be aware of the many animals in the park. We came across – and dodged – numerous roos, wallabies, bobtails and bungarras.

Campgrounds

Our camp setup

The camping grounds are close to the homestead and other accommodation within a natural bush area. There are numerous shaded spots to choose from, along with flat surfaces suitable for tents, 2WD (if you can brave the corrugations), camper trailers and vans. We were lucky to have the grounds all to ourselves and despite being near the home, we had plenty of space, privacy and peacefulness.

When we arrived, we were greeted by one of the owners, Karin, who was helpful and generous in her knowledge of the local area. She provided several maps for 4wding and bush walking, which were invaluable during our stay.

Local wildlife is abundant and you’ll be woken in the morning by a chorus of birds. At first, we found they were a little unsure of us but after we had been there a few days, the wrens and small birds would flit about in the trees by our tent.

There is also a local mob of roos on the property, which will leave you alone as long as you don’t break the golden rule of not feeding them. We never had any problems with them coming into camp or asking for food. They were also wary of us for a few days, then became used to us so we could get closer and take photos. We had no problems with animals during our stay but spotted plenty on the property including a wallaby, emu and even a mallee fowl.

Murray enjoys the fire

Sensible camp fires are allowed. The rocks are not usable as we found on our first night when they started exploding. After that experience, we decided we needed to take our fire to the next level. Pro camping tip: scout out the local tip to find a suitable firepit. We found drum cut in half and obviously already used for camp fires (we later discovered these are used at the local caravan park and the ones we saw at the tip were likely past their use by for the park). There is plenty of dead wood around to use for a fire and our fire drum served us well throughout the trip.

Click on an image below to see full screen slideshow.

Facilities

The attraction for us at Quaalup, aside from the beautiful bush surrounds, was the promise of water, toilets and a hot shower. The drinking water is… drinkable, if not exactly enjoyable. You may want to boil it first or ideally, bring your own.

Showers and toilet are what you would expect for an isolated homestead in the bush with a septic tank. They are clean and functional. Most importantly, it has hot water. A washing up area is also in the ablutions block and although simple, was a little luxury for us.

Click on an image below to see full screen slideshow.

Activities and Surrounds

The beauty of Quaalup is its isolation from crowds. With the probable exception of Christmas and Easter, you’re likely to enjoy the grounds without noise or many neighbours. However, the downside is also the isolation. To explore the area, you will need to travel and for coastal fishing, you’ll either need to travel to Trigelow Beach (4WD only) or back into town.

Bremer Bay

Bremer Bay is about a 45km drive and if you want to visit, I recommend taking the ‘long’ way as the corrugations on the back roads were the worst we’ve ever experienced. It’s a tiny town with a couple of caravan parks, a general store, a hardware shop, servo and the resort which has the pub.

It’s no wonder people flock there for holidays as it is a beautiful location. The tourism brochure for the area stated the population of the town is around 300 but swells to 5000 at Christmas. So you may want to book your accommodation early if you’re staying over school or public holidays.

The estuary hadn’t pushed through to the ocean so 4WDs could drive onto Bremer Beach, a stunning stretch of coastline. The Bremer Bay Caravan Park is a leisurely walk from the main beach. We stayed in a cabin on our last night and the facilities were spot on and definitely the place to go if caravan parks are more your speed.

Fishing and Beaches

Little Boat Harbour

If you love the beach, then you’re in luck visiting Bremer Bay as you’re spoilt for choice. There is a beach for everyone with accessibility ranging from short walks from town to determined 4WDing.

The fishing is great and we caught herring and whiting at Bremer Beach and Little Boat Harbour, a small, protected bay a short drive from town. It’s a pretty beach which also includes a dive trail and is the ideal spot for swimming. That is, until the local stingray catches onto any discarded bait or fish guts and moves in like an underwater thundercloud.

Fish and chips

Most beaches appear to be the ideal spot for swimming and if the wind is against you on one beach, simply move to the other side of the peninsula and find somewhere else. Bremer Beach is the main beach in town and you’ll likely find a spot with the next car only a speck in the distance. The BBQ area by the carpark where you enter onto the beach has the only BBQ facility in the town but is sufficient for cooking up your catch under the shady paperbarks.

Fitzgerald River National Park

Point Ann

Quaalup is situated in the Fitzgerald River National Park and a trip would not be complete without a visit to Point Ann. The park boasts walking trails, lookouts and more beautiful beaches. The recently updated facilities are in great condition and there are camping grounds available for those wanting to stay in the park. I’ve written more about Fitzgerald River National Park in another post but suffice to say, staying at Quaalup within the national park is a special experience for nature lovers.

Walking Trails

Start of Nature Walk

Karin at Quaalup will give you plenty of information on walks you can do from Quaalup and in the nearby area. The Nature Walk starts at the reception and takes you into dense, pretty bush and you can take the circular route or carry onto the granite outcrop for a view across a valley.

We were there in summer and there were still plenty of plants in flower. It would be an amazing place to visit in the spring during peak wildflower season. The diversity of life in the bush is abundant, almost appearing as if it has been landscaped.

We extended our walk to trek out to the granite outcrop, then back and up along a ridge with views across to West Mt Barren and over to Bremer Bay.

Royal Hakeas with West Mount Barren in the distance.

All up, our walk was probably around 10km but you can adjust length to suit your preference.

Other walks from the homestead can take you down to the river. Mount Maxwell is nearby off Colletts Road for great views of the area but better accessible by car. You can also take a stroll back up Gairdner Road to simply enjoy the bush views, admire the unique Royal Hakeas which line the road in and get a little phone signal, if you’re lucky and you hold your tongue right.

4WDing

Peppermint Beach

Oh my… There is a network of four wheel drive tracks to explore in the Doubtful Islands area but be prepared for the corrugations. No, seriously. Once you’re past those, there is plenty of off roading to enjoy. The soil contains clay and is mush in some sections. Heavy rains can make the area inaccessible so check with locals or the Ranger if you’re unsure before you go and it’s probably not something to try if it’s your first rodeo. Oh yes, and your car will get scratched! But who cares? The Doubtful Islands are worth it.

Taming the tracks gives you access to some amazing spots, such as the Gordon Inlet, Trigelow Beach (southern end) and numerous hidden bays. The secluded bays make an excellent camping option for those wanting to truly get away and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. We visited Peppermint Beach, a stretch of coast where you’ll be protected somewhere whatever the wind direction. Fishing was so-so (some small herring) and probably better on a warmer day.

Horse Beach

Then we checked out Horse Beach.ย A secluded, sheltered bay ideal for swimming, fishing or just escaping the world. There is a small grassed area for small tents and access to the beach for a vehicle although the bay itself can be easily walked on foot.

There was a bit of seaweed on the beach when we were there along with the largest – and only – python I have ever seen. He was having a slither across the seaweed and at 1.5m (approximately, we didn’t get the tape measure out) was fascinating to watch from a distance.ย 

To truly experience the beauty of the area, I’d recommend spending a few days camping in the area. There are plenty of beaches to explore and you’ll find your own isolated spot wherever you go.

The verdict

Quaalup is a beautiful location with abundant wildlife and easy access to the national park. It’s downside is the isolation. Whatever you want to do, you’ll need to drive a distance to get there. If you have the right set up, staying on the beach would be a great option.

The facilities are a little dated, but all work and are suited for those wanting a bush camping experience without the worry of access to water (the biggest problem in our current set up).

For pristine caravan park conditions with easy access to the beach and supplies, stay in town. For a quiet bush experience within the surrounds of a biodiverse national park, try Quaalup.

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Online, freelance writer, hobby photographer and recently converted outdoor enthusiast. Join me as I explore WA on the road and on foot.

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