The Fitzgerald River National Park is a large and botanically significant area on the southern coast of WA. It is a UNESCO recognised biosphere reserve and a must-see for lovers of native flora, fauna and beautiful beaches. The area does not have the same level of tourism attention as other south coast neighbours Albany or Esperance. Its quiet presence makes the park a well-kept secret waiting to be explored by those wanting to experience its unmatched raw beauty.
As we were staying at Quaalup Wilderness Retreat and visiting the Bremer Bay area, this review takes in only the western side of the national park of Point Ann, St Mary Inlet and Point Charles Bay. However, there is more to see as the park stretches across the southern coast towards Hopetoun where there are more opportunities for bushwalking, camping, 4wding and taking in this captivating part of Western Australia.
We entered via Devils Creek Road, which runs off the South Coast Highway between Jerramungup and Albany. From Bremer Bay, you can take the route via Swamp Road and Murray Road. As you drive towards the entrance, the landscape changes from open farmland to dense scrub marked by the fascinating silhouette of Royal Hakeas.
There is a station on the left as you enter to make payment and with useful information brochures and maps (click on the downloads and resources tab) available. The brochures cover general information about the park, as well as specifics on short walks and the Mamang Trail.
There are warnings that the western entrance can be closed during wet weather. The road becomes unsealed once you enter the park with heavy corrugations in some sections. If that isn’t enough of an obstacle, there are plenty of critters out and about and, despite the vast surrounds, they are determined to sit on the road. We lost count of the number of bungarras and bobtails we saw (and avoided) along the way.
The road is well-signed and you’ll see turn offs to West Mount Barren and Trigelow Beach. The road to Trigelow Beach is rough and 4WD only. We didn’t venture onto the beach but the sand is soft so don’t make the trip unless you’re well prepared.
There is a large carpark at Point Ann with a side road leading down to the St Mary Inlet campgrounds and access to the facilities, lookouts and the start of the Mamang and Point Ann Heritage Trails.
As you arrive over a hill, the bay is a stark contrast to the bush you’ve just traveled through. It was too windy for a swim but it would be perfect on a calm day. Like most of the beaches in the area, the coast is stunning. There are recently upgraded facilities available, including BBQs, toilets and picnic tables.
Point Ann is also a prime location for whale watching. However, we were there out of season. The viewing platforms provide excellent lookouts across the bay so it would be a prime spot for spotting whales and their calves in the winter. We were there in December and the wind was howling so if making the trip in the winter, I’d recommend rugging up!
Point Ann Lookouts & Heritage Trail
Despite the lack of whale visitors, the lookouts still provide spectacular views across the bay and ocean. Information panels tell you more about the whales which visit every year and the peaks in the distance. The recently upgraded park includes easy access walking paths and lookout points, including the short Point Ann Heritage Trail.
The trail is an easy 1km walk around the point where you can take in the spectacular views and see the old rabbit proof fence. The path is unsealed with a couple of stairs but otherwise a gentle walk. There is unique flora along the way and it’s worth taking your time to stop and view the different species. It would be an ideal spot to visit during wildflower season.
The Mamang Trail stretches from one side of the park to the other and you can tailor the walk to your preference. Grab the brochure for the trail on your way in as it will help guide you and plan your walk. The trail is marked by the Royal Hakea symbol.
We chose to do the 10km return walk and it’s one of the best we’ve done. The trail takes you along the beach, through the bush to Lake Nameless, then back to the coast via some bizarre rock formations.
Start at the carpark and follow the path down to the beach, The trickiest part was spotting the marker for when to leave the beach. Keep an eye on the dunes and you’ll see an orange/red post. As you approach, you’ll see steps leading you out of the dunes and onto the bush trail.
The bush track is clear and easy to follow and passes by the Nuytsia lookout and grove, before coming to a junction where you can continue on the walk via Lake Nameless or walk down to Point Charles Bay. We stopped to view the lake before backtracking and making our way down to the beach where we came across a section of pointed rock jutting out of the sand. We needed to climb over some before coming out the other side and making the long trek along the beach back to Point Ann.
The trail was made enjoyable by the variety of landscapes we experienced. We trekked through dense, unique scrub and enjoyed sweeping views across the park before crossing back down to the beach and its unique rock formations.
The new facilities make for the perfect day out. Perched above the bay, you can cook and eat lunch whilst looking out over the ocean. The BBQs are cleaned daily and are in good condition and there is seating both under cover, protected from the wind, and also some with a good view over the bay. Be wary of the friendly bungarras who may want to join in on your lunch! They are bold and not easily deterred by handwaving or loud requests to go away.
Click on an image above to see the full size. The last two are a little poor quality. I’d been taking night shots the day before and forgot to adjust the ISO.
There is also a camping ground within a sheltered valley near the St Mary Inlet, which includes toilets and a camp kitchen. The beach is within walking distance but there is no water and the sites looked quite small and may be more suited to tent and small campers. Still, it would be a nice little one or two night stopover if you were interested in exploring the park.
Regardless of the time of year, Point Ann is worth a visit and one for your itinerary if you are staying in Bremer Bay. The bumpy ride in is made worth it by the opportunity to experience a unique biodiversity area. The facilities are excellent and the park makes a great day trip. We didn’t get onto Trigelow Beach or walk up to West Mount Barren but still enjoyed a full day in the park. Experiencing the eastern side of the park is going on the to do list.