Baie des Deux Peuples Heritage Trail
Start - Two Peoples Bay Visitor Centre
Length - 6km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Granite Slab, Beach
Vertical Climb - 114m
Time - 2-3 hours
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 30th September 2020
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Minang People
Directions - From the centre of Albany, find your way to Ulster Road heading north and keep following this as it becomes Lower King Road. Keep going until it becomes Nanarup Road and then Two Peoples Bay Road, following the signs all the way into the nature reserve. After paying the entry fee, take the turn-off for the Visitor Centre and the trail head is located at the back of the building.
The Hike - The Two Peoples Bay Heritage Trail or officially known as Baie des Deux Peuples Heritage Trail is a hike that I had pencilled in on my 2020 Spring Road Trip and was really looking forward to it. My podcast partner had done this one back in 2017 and ever since it had been on my radar as one I'd like to do. My last trip to Albany in September 2019 involved some car troubles and I couldn't risk being stranded out there so this trip I would be making a point of hiking it. With the weather during my stay in Albany not looking too flash, this day was the best it was going to get with the morning looking like the perfect time to do it thanks to sunny skies and a little bit of cloud.
The drive out from the centre of Albany takes about 45 minutes through some lovely scenery and when I reached the entry to the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, I let out a little giggle of excitement. The area has been made famous on Instagram thanks to the white sands, turquoise waters and idyllic bays of Little Beach and Waterfall Beach but there is so much more to this location than that. Being a nature reserve, this area was deemed of significant value in the 1960s when the Noisy Scrub-Bird was rediscovered here and the spot saved from becoming another township. Since then a colony of Gilbert's Potoroo was discovered and the importance of this area once again confirmed. The name Two Peoples Bay comes from a chance meeting between French and American vessels in 1802 and thus it was named Baie des Duex Nations (Bay of Two Nations or People). Previous to colonial occupation the area was home to the Minang people who called it Yilbering. It was their home during the warmer months as during the cold winters they headed inland to hunt kangaroos. I imagine this was a very plentiful area for them to live off with the protected bays provided a good mix of seafood and the hills full of kangaroos to hunt. In the current day, I arrived at the visitor centre car park to find it suspiciously empty, odd considering it was a nice sunny day during the school holidays.
The reason for this was that the visitor centre is only manned between 10am and 4pm in the summer months and it appears that no one was keen for a BBQ at 9:30am in the morning. With the whole place to myself, I wandered down to the impressive visitor centre and sought out the trail head for this 6km loop/return walk. The trail combines a loop section close to the visitor centre and a Hobbit walk (there and back again) to Little Beach so promised to be a very picturesque experience based on the description. It felt right to me that I start the loop going in a clockwise direction (the trail notes have it the other way round) so I headed off into the wildflower filled Peppermint thicket leading towards the formal BBQ area. I was amazed at the girth of some of the trees around here and as I reached the grassed picnic area, I was still amazed that no one was around. I located the wooden trail board near the path leading to the toilet block and followed it down to the beach. The reason for the lack of people became apparent with the beach buried under a thick layer of seaweed and it didn't look like an idyllic spot to lounge around at given the proximity of Little Beach. I battled through the seaweed, hoping that where I was stepping wasn't a super deep part and arrived at the end of the beach with slightly wet and smelly shoes thanks to a couple of boggy sections of seaweed.
What made this part memorable were the granite boulders in the water, the biggest (Fairy Rocks) being a highlight of this section as it towered above the beach. A kind of mini version of Elephant Rocks near Denmark, they provided a nice subject to photograph and with the vegetation around them growing quite tall, it was a really cool spot. At the end of the beach it takes a little bit of searching but there will be an obvious trail taking you into the bush and up the hill to complete the first half of the loop section. You will know you're on the right path if you start climbing up wooden steps set into the sandy ground. The trail makes its way past the biggest of the granite boulders and it's a magnificent sight to stare down and admire all the little nooks and cranny's where life has found a way to exist. Climbing up the steps introduces you to the coastal vegetation that thrives here and thanks to it being the middle of spring, the wildflowers and orchids were amazing. One early orchid that was showing up quite frequently along this part was the Purple Enamel Orchid that are easy to spot thanks to their shiny petals.
Reaching the junction where the loop trail meets the path leading towards Little Beach, I was getting excited because I knew the quality of the scenery at Little Beach was going to be world class. From where the loop trail heads back to the visitor centre, it's a 4km return trip out to the furthest of the beaches you can explore so there was still a lot of hiking to enjoy. Even though the anticipation was building, the trail along the coast here was pretty special so I made sure I took my time to fully appreciate it. Wildflowers of all varieties were popping up, mixed in with Grass Trees, She-Oak, thick coastal eucalyptus trees that have thrived in these tough conditions and a good variety of banksias that were luckily in flower. Meandering along the path, I was enjoying the lovely filtered light that comes with slightly cloudy conditions but was secretly hoping it would blow over by the time I got to Little Beach. The combination of turquoise waters, white sands and dark granite looks infinitely better when the sun is shining bright and I really wanted the photos to showcase this area properly.
Looking across the bay was the looming peaks of Boulder Hill and Mount Manypeaks and they provide a wonderfully dramatic presence as you hike along. Things started to get even more enjoyable as I dipped down towards the coast and the Scarlet Banksias started popping up next to the trail. I love the delicate and deep red of the flower spikes and they always turn out a treat when you photograph them. I let out a little squee of excitement as I rounded one corner and spotted the famous granite domes that make this area so beautiful. With still a little way to go before I would be at Little Beach, I spotted some people exploring the rocks off in the distance and the question of the lack of people was answered, they had just parked at Little Beach. Heading down onto the granite close to the water, the trail takes a right turn and you scoot around the edge of a sheltered lagoon to reach the larger of the granite platforms. Being close to the water I didn't expect the wildflowers to continue but was happy to find a Cowslip Orchid, a Southern Cross complete with a spider inside (something that I've seen too many times for it to be a coincidence) and some Sticky Tailflower, a plant that loves the salt sprayed granite along the coast.
Making my way along the edge of the lagoon, the colours were simply brilliant thanks to the turquoise of the water, the golden grasses lining the edge of the orange stained granite boulders. The trail wasn't in the best condition thanks to some overturned sections of boardwalk but it was still pretty easy to navigate along without getting my shoes wet. The reason for the flipped over boardwalk was not due to vandals but the forces of nature whipping them up during a recent storm. I was alerted to this as I reached the end by an official DBCA notice in front of the wooden bridge stating the trail between Little Beach and the Picnic Area was closed. Given I had done the loop in a clockwise direction, I didn't see the corresponding sign on the loop section so was completely unaware. The damage wasn't significant so I didn't feel too bad and continued on to check out the granite. When conditions are calm, the rock pools around here are pretty cool to explore and to me a holiday on the coast isn't complete until you have checked all the little pools and crevices for any marine life you can find. I would leave some of the exploring until the return leg as I wanted to get to Little Beach and this much hyped area of Two Peoples Bay.
From the eastern part of the granite platform you are treated to some pretty epic views of the sheltered bay that has Little Beach to your right and this was exactly what I was looking forward to when planning this trip. The sun was out, the water was sparkling and the scene was just magic. This was just the beginning and so I made my way to the end of the granite and found the linking path that would take me down to the pristine white sands of Little Beach. The increase in people was much more noticeable due to the car park being located next to the linking trail with a good number of families out on the beach enjoying the sunshine. It wasn't crowded by any stretch with little groups setup along the beach but I can imagine in summer this place might start to feel like one of those beaches in Europe where everyone is packed in. I walked along the shore, taking many photos and enjoying a seaweed free beach experience as I made my way to the main geological feature of Little Beach, the large granite boulder in the middle. Viewed from above it looks like a love heart and the Instagram shots you see from people with their drones makes it look much different from the actual experience you'll get on the beach. It's a fantastic piece of solid granite and I spent a good amount of time photographing it as the gentle waves broke over it.
Little Beach isn't the only bit of pristine sand in this area and at the end of the beach there is a wooden staircase leading you towards Waterfall Beach. It's a short path up and over the small hill but on the other side you'll find a bit more peace and quiet if you want to avoid the crowds. A much smaller beach that is a little harder to access if you're carrying a lot of gear thanks to the granite scrambling, this was probably my favourite of the two beaches. After negotiating the rocky section to get onto the beach, I went looking for the waterfall that the beach is named after. There was a family just past the rocks so not wanting to disturb them, I moved on towards the end of the beach. Here I found a really fascinating piece of driftwood that had obviously been in the water a long time due to the volume of shells hanging off it. Being maybe 1.5m long, it was a sight to see and I had good fun photographing it from every angle. Moving on, I reached the end of the sand and noticed a small trickle of water leading from the edge of the scrub to the beach and thought that the waterfall must only flow after severe rains. I decided to explore the headland here a bit and after negotiating some rock jumps, I was on a smooth granite area overlooking the bay and beach. Lining the edges of the granite was a number of Cowslip Orchids that seemed to love this area.