Bibbulmun Track South (Peaceful Bay to Denmark)

Peaceful Bay to Boat Harbour Campsite (24 km)

After a pleasant rest day in the sunshine and tranquility of Peaceful Bay, it was time to bid farewell to our little green van and move on. It was an early start as today's walk would be the longest of our trip. The weather was overcast and strangely still as we left, almost at the point of drizzling but not quite able to do it. We quickly walked through the village, past the quaintly named beach cottages, reminiscent of earlier days, and soon found ourselves pushing along a grassy track through tall climax heathlands towards Irwin Inlet.


Ready to go - farewell to our little green van

We reached the mouth of the inlet which seemed fairly low - the temptation to wade across and stroll up the beach, cutting out 5km of track, was very strong, but we held firm and pushed northward through steeply undulating and densely vegetated dunes. Eventually we emerged into a flat peppermint woodland lining the inlet, where the track meandered through the moss-covered floor between grass trees and peppermint trunks. The mossy ground was scattered with orchids - blue enamel, pink fairy and yellow cowslip - and other flowering herbs.

The mossy peppermint flats lining the inlet

Overlooking the mouth of Irwin Inlet

Scented sun orchid

Purple enamel orchid

Cowslip orchid

Pink fairy orchid

At the Irwin Inlet boatshed

Successful crossing of Irwin Inlet
After a while, we arrived at a boatshed containing three canoes provided for the 150m crossing of Irwin Inlet. The canoe crossing made a pleasant change from walking - we loaded our packs into one canoe, tied it to another and paddled across to the eastern bank. Then, after unloading our packs and tying a third canoe from the eastern boatshed, we paddled our canoe train back across the inlet, put the two towed canoes into the first shed, and paddled for the third time in our solitary canoe back to the eastern shore. Complicated, but the nett result was that we and our gear were over and there were again three canoes on each side. Sad would be the walkers who arrived to find all canoes on the opposite bank!!

View across the the grassy meadows to Irwin Inlet

By the time that we were ready to set off, the clouds had given up trying to rain and the sun was slowly gaining control of the sky. A short steep climb with one last look back over Irwin Inlet and we pushed on into the Quarram Nature Reserve, passing regenerating acacias and peppermints that were rapidly overgrowing the track and meeting our first dugite, which slithered quickly off into the aforementioned shrubbery.

The grassy downs of The Showgrounds

Soon we reached an area of more open grasslands, dotted with the yellows and, occasionally, pink and blue of coastal daisies and other herbs. We had arrived at "The Showgrounds", a rolling landscape that curiously resembled an alpine herbfield and would have been very enjoyable to stroll through, had it not been for the bushflies. I think that we carried an extra kilo each of flies sitting on our packs waiting for us to stop walking so that they could head straight for our faces - this area may be more aptly named "The Flygrounds", and drove the fair Nello to bring out that ultimate walker's fashion statement, the fly net headpiece!

Nello's fashion statement .....

.... and the reason why!

Showgrounds resident

Large flowering daisy

Daisy-dotted meadows

The Showgrounds were fascinating though and were home to several large kangaroos, which lazily watched our passing, and a flock of emus, which raced off helter skelter at first sight (of Nello's flynet I suspect). Leaving this area, we proceeded to climb and descend a number of short steep dune ridges on an increasingly overgrown track, as we worked our way back to the coast.

Alone on Quarram Beach

Descending the last dune, we emerged on Quarram Beach, a beautiful stretch of firm white sand that led us rapidly eastward to the sound of the incoming breakers. Moreover, the cool south-westerly that greeted us at the shore blew away all but the most stubborn of our fly hitch-hikers.

A quick skirt around some rocks and we descended once again to the beach, and a great place for lunch.

A pair of endangered hooded plovers doing their
best to ensure the survival of the species

Looking back down Quarram Beach

View over Foul Bay toward Peaceful Bay and Irwin Point

From Quarram, we followed a track around a broad headland covered in regenerating tailflower bushes, their pungent cabbage-like smell contrasting with the simple elegance of their large white star flowers. As we rounded the headland, we were greeted with a sweeping panorama of the cliff-lined coast ahead, from Little Quarram Beach to Boat Harbour.

White starred tailflower are associated with granite

Overlooking the headland to Little Quarram Beach and the cliffs beyond

Little Quarram is a gem of a beach, and we were disappointed that the track took us away from it after only a few hundred metres, leading us back into the dunes, where we followed the path through the still hot air of the depressions and swales in this sandy heath-covered landscape. Eventually we again climbed up and over one high dune, passed above a rocky shelf where the Southern Ocean surf rolled in, and slowly made our way back upward towards the cliffs.

Parts of the low heath that we passed through had been transformed into brilliant tapestries of pink and green by the clumps of flowering pimelea. Inland, we overlooked the flatlands of Owingup Swamp and the lakes associated with it. In front of us lay a large dugite sleeping on the track. Skirting the snake and a set of tall mobile dunes, we were treated to glimpses of the cliffs and bays of the Boat Harbour peninsula.

Looking over the sand dunes of Little Quarram toward the cliffs of Boat Harbour

Carpet of pimelea in the regenerating heath

Looking inland over Owingup Swamp

Coastal cliffs near Boat Harbour

The blue of succulent-leafed scaevola dominates the heath

Coastal landscape near Boat Harbour


More climbs and descents through blue and yellow flowering heath of varying heights and finally the Boat Harbour shelter came into view - it was a welcome relief as it had been a tough day's walk and the clouds were once again taking over the sky.

It was a comfortable shelter in the midst of the brightly flowering heath and we shared it with a family of swallows that had built a nest in the rafters - no other walkers, just the swallows and a lone frog, but nonetheless a very pleasant night was had by all.

Boat Harbour Campsite to Mazzoletti Beach Retreat (17 km)

The clouds were still thick when we awoke, but there was no longer any threat of rain. With a cool breeze and cloud it was a great day for walking, but a lousy one for photography. We farewelled the swallow family and headed off, descending quickly to cross tranquil Boat Harbour before climbing over a low rise to the next beach along.

Boat Harbour on an overcast morning

Here we were greeted with half a kilometre of deep soft sand, followed by a steep climb up through the dunes to the top of the limestone cliffs - that's one way to get the body going first thing in the morning. However, we were recompensed by glorious views back along our path from Point Irwin and forward to where we were headed at Point Hillier. The cliffs here appear to be formed by an uplifted limestone ridge; on the landward side, they slope down to a flat swampy landscape dotted with lakes that reflected their fringing vegetation in still morning waters.

Nello climbing up the dunes

Looking towards Point Hillier

The cliffs to the east of Boat Harbour

Looking inland over lakes and swampland

View westward

Eroding limestone cliffs

For a short while we followed this cliff line, taking in the magnificently rugged coastline. Then, the track took us back inland where it resumed the meandering and undulating trip through dune and swale that we had finished with yesterday. The heath here, however, had not been burnt for a while and provided a different experience - less impressive flowerwise, it compensated by the mosaic of textures and shades of green of its diverse constituent shrubs. Every time we looked like heading east, the track meandered off in another direction again.

Looking over the peppermints towards Parry Inlet

Coastline near Point Hillier

The local kangaroos watched our passing nonchalantly. Several sharp ascents and descents over sandy ridges later, we finally rejoined the cliff line, from where we commenced a steady climb up toward Hillier Trig.

Halfway up, we stopped and had a chat with a group of a dozen walkers on a guided trip. Our envy at their light daypacks and stories of proper beds and cooked meals with red wine each night was tempered by the thought that tonight we would also be treating ourselves to a bit of luxury at the Mazzoletti Beach Retreat. Our own stash of good food and red wine was awaiting, so we pushed on, pausing to climb up to the trig and sit for a while, taking in the sweeping views in all directions that it offered.

So who's walking through my heath?

Day trippers near Hillier Trig

From the trig it was almost all downhill, along various 4WD tracks and paths, past an old abandoned quarry area, and eventually beneath a dense canopy of peppermints that brought us out to the Parry Inlet Campground and the sea once again. Here we found the perfect spot for lunch, underneath an old peppermint looking out over the long expanse of Mazzoletti Beach, disappearing into the distance.

Lunchtime views from Parry's Beach

The clouds that had been slowly thinning over the morning finally broke up to give us a fine sunny afternoon. Lunch over, we descended onto Parry Beach (firm sand, phew!! - the perfect low-tide highway for making rapid progress). Passing the wide sand bar that now blocked off Parry Inlet (which often requires a knee-deep wade to cross) we reached Mazzoletti Beach and entered the William Bay National Park, strolling eastward along the broad, flat intertidal section, looking for the red flag that had been planted in the dunes to mark the track to our accommodation. After a couple of kilometres there it was, waving invitingly in the breeze. We climbed up the small dune and followed the path inland to the Beach Retreat - a secluded two person cottage, with immaculate green lawns and garden set in amongst a sea of peppermint trees (the owners live in the farmhouse on the hill above).

The firm white sand of Mazzoletti Beach

Red flag = Mazzoletti Beach Retreat

Brush-tailed phascogale

It was a delightful place to spend the afternoon, and then light the fire in the evening and and reminisce about the adventures of the last few days over a glass of local red. Our companions for the night were a cute family of brush-tailed phascogales who scampered through the roof and in the adjoining shed, oblivious to their head-lamped observers.


Mazzoletti Beach Retreat to Light's Beach (12 km)

It was a good sleep-in and a cuppa in the comfort of our queen-size bed - a step or two up from thermorests on a hard base. Our main reason for staying at Mazzoletti Beach was to convert two long hard days of walking into three easier days, so we only set off late in the morning, as the sun was breaking up the grey cloud layer.


The eastern end of Mazzoletti Beach

Looking back over William Bay toward Point Hillier

Heading quickly back down the track to rejoin the beach, we turned eastward once again for a late morning meditational stroll along the firm flat sand. The problem with this long beach was that, midway along, it morphed into a series of slight mounds and hollows, the hollows staying firm but the mounds being deep and soft. It is amazing how quickly meditation can cease when the incoming breaker surges up one of the hollows to fill your boots with sea-water.

For the next couple of kilometres we trudged on across this variable sand, following old footsteps to make the going less strenuous, until, just before the 7 km beach ended, the track headed off into the dunes. Dutifully we followed where the waugul led us and soon found ourselves climbing through dense peppermint woodland as the track headed up Tower Hill. On the shoulder of the hill, nestled in a sheltered hollow, was William Bay Campsite. We stopped here for a long lunch with time to explore the wonderful granite tors that are dotted on this hill. The views from these rocky belvederes over the coastal strip was nothing short of spectacular.

One of the more curiously shaped
massive tors

William Bay Shelter in its nook beneath Tower Hill

Granite Tors on Tower Hill

Views over Point Walton from Tower Hill

A nice ecotone between heath and forest

Exploration done, we slowly descended the eastern side of the hill, through peppermint/eucalypt woodland, past heath-covered dunes to a very sharp ecotone between heath and forest that marked a smaller granite-topped hill. We skirted the edge of this hill, walking beneath the shady canopy of the tall trees, crossed one of the granite outcrops and emerged onto a dry marshland, speckled with the whites and yellows of the swamp flora scattered amongst the reeds and sedges.

Follow the waugul - Bibbulmun track marker

Flower-speckled swamplands

World's best campsites series no. 14 - Light's Beach

Passing through another sharp ecotone we found ourselves amongst the tea-trees and eucalypts surrounding Lake William, a small inland drainage lake. Surrounded by swamp on its western and southern shores, its dark tannin-stained waters lapped up against granite boulders on the eastern shore, reflecting the surrounding trees. We briefly contemplated setting up camp amongst the granite outcrops, but the call of the sea was too strong.

It was only another kilometre before we emerged from the dunes onto Light's Beach, a small and secluded stretch of sand protected from the big surf by outlying rocks and bisected by a small creek.

The dark brooding waters of Lake William

Quiet time at Light's Beach

The water in the creek was tannin-stained, but reed-filtered; with water and a good camp site, we set up for the night on a flat sandy ledge, 20m from the ocean's edge (NB don't count on this creek running in summer!). Having pitched the tent, boiled the billy and rested the feet, we set off to explore our surrounds in the late afternoon sun, stopping for a while to watch and chat to a local fisher woman.

Eastern end of Light's Beach

Evening falls over Madfish Bay and Point Hillier

With the protecting rocks and rock ribs, separating several tiny white sand beaches, and a long line of limestone cliffs glowing in the setting sun, it was one of the nicest sections of coastline that we had seen on this walk. To the west we could look out across Madfish Bay to the silhouettes of Point Hillier and Point Irwin. Light's Beach is a special place and to have had it to ourselves that night was one of the highlights of this walk.

Light's Beach to Denmark (17 km)

As usual, the sky was grey in the morning - it had even rained a little overnight. As usual, the cloud broke up as the day progressed. Breaking camp, we left the beach behind and climbed up behind the cliff-line to the east, pausing briefly at a look-out for one last glimpse down on "our beach" and its surrounds, before heading inland once again.

Cliffs to the east of Light's Beach

Nello crossing a fence in "stile"

Crossing another area of old heath-covered dunes, we reached a stile over a fence, where the track took us for the first time through private land. As we stopped to admire some orchids growing in this peppermint woodland, we were overtaken by another bushwalker, Paul from Sydney on the 55th day of his trek from Perth to Albany. Paul was the first end-to-ender that we had met on the track.

Track up Mt Hallowell alongside Monkey Rock
We were about to start the climb up Mt Hallowell and would cross paths with Paul a couple more times on the ascent (and later on that evening for a large juicy rare steak at the Denmark pub) before he finally zoomed on ahead. Mt Hallowell is really a large hill, with dense forest and many granite outcrops and tors. The 300m climb up was short and steep, but rapid, with a detour halfway up onto Monkey Rock, a massive jumble of granite, to refuel and take in the spectacular views over green farmlands to the coast.

Views across Wilson Inlet and Ratcliffe Bay

Taking in the views from the top of Mt Hallowell

One of several granite outcrops on the
descent of Mt Hallowell

The next steep pinch brought us out to the summit (known as Kooreyunderup) and even more expansive views. It was good to be back in the forest and listening to the chorus of forest songbirds again. The descent from the summit was much longer than the ascent, as we followed a fairly tortuous route that wended its way along a long spur past, through or over a number of massive and impressive granite outcrops. Several clearings provided great views across Wilson's Inlet and its opening to the sea.

Eventually the track evened out and reached the outskirts of Denmark; we soon found ourselves in and out of suburbia, as we closed in on the town centre. It seemed strange to be walking through streets and houses again - the sounds of people chatting, chainsaws in backyards and strains of country music drifting across from a radio brought us back to the realities of life.

The last few big karri of our walk

View over Wilson Inlet to the sea

The green green grass of Denmark

Cormorants on guano rock in Wilson Inlet

Reflections on the still dark waters of the Denmark River

The track setters have done a good job in keeping as much away from residential areas as possible, following the shoreline of the inlet and crossing areas of woodland where the paths were speckled with tall spikes of kangaroo paws and the blues, pinks, whites and yellows of various wildflowers, but for us the spell was already broken by our brush with suburbia. The floral display no longer held our attention - after seven nights out, we were focussed more on the Blue Wren Backpackers in town and the hot shower, cold beer and warm bed that it promised.

Denmark had been set aside for a couple of rest days and we were going to enjoy them.

Continued in Part 3 (Denmark to Albany)