Guide to Australia’s Great Southern Region

Experience the great southern on a budget

Our first week of travel has been filled with adventure, hiking, and, unfortunately, a lot of rain. It’s currently the height of summer in Australia but as I write this I’m hiding in the car from the rain and wind. We’ve been trying to make the best of our time in the Great Southern region because, despite the weather, this really is a beautiful part of Western Australia. With a stunning coastline, hikes of all assortment and dozens of four wheel drive tracks, this region truly caters towards the adventurous spirit. We’ve kept this article as a list of free attractions in the Great Southern-perfect for the budget backpacker- but some of the national parks do have entry fees. I thought I’d include them anyway because so many travelers buy national park passes.

 

Walpole

Our first stop on our big adventure was D’entrecastreux national park near the town of Walpole. The majority of this park is accessible by four wheel drive only, and the few two wheel drive roads are unsealed, which may be something to consider when driving a rental car! However, when you do get into the park you’ll be greeted by a seriously beautiful and almost untouched coastline. The park is actually quite big and has several entrances. We saw a small portion of it, but we loved it all.

Mandalay beach was a highlight of our time here. From the soft white sand to the visible remains of a shipwreck it definitely scores highly on our list of favourite beaches. There are some cool rock formations here and an island off the shore. We even found a small animal skull! The beach is two wheel drive accessible but it is a gravel road, and quite a corrugated one. We were surprised to find that our beer hadn’t shattered.

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Beautiful Mandalay Beach

We also took a four wheel track drive to long point. This was actually a much longer track than we had anticipated, but it did offer great views of the surrounding beaches. There also seemed to be some hiking trails, and there were some other driving tracks branching off from the main “road.”

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Enjoying the view

I think our favourite spot in the walpole area was the Conspicuous Cliffs. They might sound like something from a Lemony Snickett novel, but these cliffs are a spectacular coastal feature. There are multiple look out points as well as beach access. It was incredibly windy at the look out points! You can also hike part of the bibbulmun track here, so it’s a really good spot for a day trip.

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A blustery day at the cliffs!

Denmark

 

Denmark is only about an hour South of Walpole and it’s a really awesome town. There are tonnes of great attractions around here, including a meadery, “chocolate lounge”, and wineries. I have to admit, one of the highlights of Denmark for us was the bakery. It has a whole host of awards to its name and some very interesting options. Alex had a curried kangaroo pie- dubbed the “vindaroo”. It’s a great spot for a budget lunch!

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Fishing in Parry beach

The other great thing about Denmark is Parry’s beach campground. For $15 per site per night this place offers showers, flush toilets, huge sites, and you can have camp fires even in Summer! Best of all it’s right by the beach and it’s part of the bibulmun track. We spent a few days here and we really enjoyed it. One day we walked all the way to Elephant rocks from here. It was about an 18 kilometre round trip and took us a little under three hours each way, but it was such a cool hike. We had miles of beach entirely to ourselves, saw some wildlife, and we felt pretty accomplished when we reached the pristine beach of Green’s pool and Elephant rocks. We also accidentally fell asleep on the beach on the way home, but that’s not important 😉

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Elephant rocks-worth the walk!

Denmark itself is larger than I expected and is situated very prettily on the Denmark river. It seems to be quite geared towards tourists and has lots of interesting shops worth wandering around. My favourites were the Australian Alpaca Centre- a alpaca wool clothing store- and Third Stone Traders, a fair trade and local craft store. The town is definitely worth exploring even if you’re just window shopping.

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Street Art in Denmark

Albany

 

If you’re like me you probably had no idea that Albany was once destined to become the capital of Western Australia. It’s the oldest city is the state and has the rich history to prove it. There’s quite a few museums here but I’ll just focus on the free things for now.

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Albany was beautiful once the sun came out!

First of all there’s cosy corner campground- a totally free campground with drop toilets and beach access. It’s about fifteen minutes outside of Albany and, while basic, it’s pretty awesome for a free spot! We stayed there for a few nights and while the weather wasn’t good enough to really enjoy its proximity to the beach, it was still great to have somewhere free to spend some time.

 

Albany itself has a free museum which offers a pretty comprehensive overview of Albany’s history. I have to admit I had no idea there was so much learn about the city’s past. We really only visited the museum because we both wanted to use the public toilets there, but it has great colourful exhibits and the friendly staff gave us great ideas for how to spend the rest of our time.

 

One of the coolest attractions in Albany is The Gap. This is area of rugged coastline where a viewing platform has been built over a gap in the cliffs. From here you can watch the waves wooshing beneath you. It’s pretty wild and might be one to avoid if you’re afraid of heights! The view is great though and the water is a gorgeous colour as it splashes against the rocks. It’s also right by the natural bridge and the blowholes- we brought a picnic and made an afternoon of seeing the sights!

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The Wild Waters of The Gap

About an hour outside Albany you’ll find the Stirling Ranges which contain the biggest mountain in the Southern half of WA- Bluff Knoll. We climbed the mountain one blustery day and it was a great experience. It was definitely tough, especially with the wild weather near the summit, but we got some great views, got some good fresh air and exercise, and enjoyed our first real physical challenge of the trip!

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Bluff Knoll-doesn’t it look like something from a fantasy film?

As a result of the crazy rain we’ve had over the past week some sections of the trail were pretty water logged. It was cool to be able to fill our water bottles at the waterfalls though!

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The freshest water imaginable!

So that’s our guide to the free attractions of the Great Southern! Our plan was to move on to Esperance after a few days in Albany, but due to some crazy flooding and road closures we’re not sure when we’ll make it there. For now we’re hanging out at Shelley’s beach campground, just down the road from Cosy Corner. This site isn’t free-it’s 7.50 per person per night- but we love the crystal clear water here and it’s quite sheltered from the wind. We’re not quite sure what we’ll do next, so be sure to follow us on facebook, instagram and twitter to keep up to date. You can also sign up to our newsletter in the sidebar. Happy travelling!

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Walpole- Giants, long drives and not so mountainous mountains

As part of our resolution to see more of beautiful Western Australia we decided to spend Easter Monday discovering some of Walpole. I have never been before and Alex has only seen a small part of it. Walpole is part of the Great Southern region of WA and is home to many forests, national parks and a beautiful coastline (though most of the coast is accessible only via four wheel drive). The drive to Walpole from Bunbury is 3-3.5 hours and passes through several small towns, many of which seemed like they’d be worth visiting on a more leisurely weekend trip. But this was a day trip and we had lots of things to see! We were unusually prepared and had a picnic packed the night before and were able to leave the house by 7 am! My little sister Molly joined us on this trip too. 
 

Walpole’s beautiful forests

 

Our first stop on the drive was Diamond tree between Manjimup and Walpole off the South western highway. It’s well sign posted so it’s hard to miss. This is part of a network of trees which were historically used to spot bushfires in the area. The Diamond tree is 52 metres high and you can climb to the cabin on the top via metal spikes inserted in the tree trunk. Neither me or Alex were quite able to reach the top but fortunately Molly could be our Guinea pig and she got there and took some photos for us! Upon reaching the bottom she asked “can I go again?” 

 

Molly and Alex ascending the Diamond Tree

 
The diamond tree also has a short 400 metre loop trail that points out some local flora and has some more little trees to climb. There are also flush toilets, so it’s a really luxurious spot! 😉

 

The view from the top

 
After the Diamond Tree we went directly to Walpole’s Tree Top walk in the Valley of the Giants. This is a 40 metre high walkway among a forest of giant tingle trees. There is a fee for entrance-$19 per adult and $9.50 per child. (Families can avail of the family pass for $47.50) The walk is wheel chair friendly and is 600 metres round trip. Walking through the canopy of trees from this height was very cool and offered a different perspective on the Forrest. Afterwards you can do a ground walk called the Ancient Empire walk and the different view the two walks provided was a cool comparison. It is worth noting that the walk way does shake and wobble and one lady had to get off as it made her feel dizzy. Over all the treetop walk was pretty cool and definitely worth visiting but I personally felt it was a tad overpriced for such a short walk. 

 

Walking amongst the giants

 
From the Valley of the Giants we made our way to Mount Frankland. This granite peak is located in amount Frankland national park. The parks has many entrances so it can be confusing to figure out the way to go, but the best access point isn’t via the park at all- it’s down North Walpole road off the South Westen highway. The last section of this road is unsealed but is accessible to two wheel drives-though I probably wouldn’t drive it in a Porsche! 

 

The Ancient Empire walk

 The hike to the top of Mount Frankland is relatively short at just 600 metres each way, but it contains over 300 steep steps and a ladder. The steps were a bit exhausting especially in the warm weather, but I would think that most people with a moderate level of fitness could do this hike in under an hour. The view from the top is beautiful- miles of forest and bush land , the ocean in the distance, and the surrounding mountains such as bluff knoll and mount Roe. As usual the hike was insignificant to Molly and her boundless energy. “That wasn’t a real mountain.” I think she was expecting ice picks and a 90 degree drop! I really enjoyed this hike and I think it’s definitely worth doing if you’re in the area. I found it more enjoyable than the treetop walk. 

 

The view from Mt Frankland

 
I was seriously impressed with all that Walpole had to offer. There are so many national parks and reserves in the area. I really hope that next time we visit we can take the whole weekend, and maybe even rent a four wheel drive to explore the beautiful coast line. 

We made it!