Torbay to Muttonbird
Start - Torbay Campsite
Finish - Muttonbird Campsite
Campsite - Nornalup
Distance - 12.3km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 246m
Time - 3-5 hours
Date Hiked - 24th September 2019
The Hike - With 17km under my belt already, I had earned a bit of a break from the midday sun so spent a decent amount of time relaxing at Torbay Campsite. I would have loved to stay here but the scheduling didn't work out so it was a brief visit.
With some excellent views from the shelter, the tent sites are even better and a lookout to the left of the shelter as you enter the campsite provides some better views. After cooling down thanks to some tank water in my hat, I explored the campsite, mainly wanting to take a photo of the distant Torbay Inlet to gauge whether it would be a problem or not. I hadn't heard of it being opened while I was out here and with a low tide forecast, I wasn't expecting too much trouble. From the lookout you can see the bulk of the next section with Cosy Corner Beach extending out to Muttonbird Beach with Shelter Island marking the point at where you exit the beach. I was very much looking forward to the second half of my day as the sun was shining and it wouldn't be long before my shoes were off and I could feel the refreshing waters against my skin as I walked along another pristine beach.
There was the small matter of getting to the beach though and luckily the path leading you down there is very enjoyable. Offering a mix of the lusher, fern filled eucalyptus covering and the open coastal heath full of wildflowers, it never felt like a chore walking through here. The flowering gums made another appearance after seeing them before Torbay and I was happy to see some familiar wildflowers mixed in with some orchids like the Purple Enamel Orchid that I had only seen a few examples of over the past few days. The area seemed to be a haven for pink and purple wildflowers as I saw a few more varieties as I headed along towards the beach. Right before you get to the famous Cosy Corner, there is a lovely section of forest that is full of She-Oak and has a soft covering of the dead needles that these trees provide. This didn't stop the wildflowers from breaking through and it was quite enjoyable to take in before one of the longest stretches of beach walking on the whole track.
Reaching the staircase down to Cosy Corner, you are presented with the glorious view of the bay and the combination of turquoise beauty and deep blue of the ocean. I let out a sigh of relief at the top of the stairs because as much as I had enjoyed the day so far, the beach walking is a far superior in my eyes to the dune bashing. It was also really hard to argue with the amazing weather I was experiencing too. While mid-20s in the dunes can be a bit uncomfortable, out on the open sands with the cool ocean breeze in your face, it is perfection. Keen to get down to the beach I skipped down the stairs, only stopping to take a photo of the view as it changed. What a view it is too. We really are lucky in WA that this is just one of hundreds of beaches along the south coast that are postcard perfect (and mostly absent of people). That said, Cosy Corner is one of the more popular spots near Albany and at the bottom of the stairs you come across a big gravel car park that on my visit contained a few cars, a bit of a shock after a couple of days alone in the dunes up to this point.
I made my way down to the beach and immediately shed my shoes and sock, resigning them to being tied to my pack. I jokingly referred to this as "grounding" on the Bay of Fires trip I was on over Easter but there is something about walking barefoot to really connect you with a place. It's much easier to do this on the smooth surface of a beach than it is elsewhere along the Bibbulmun so it was nice to have an extended stretch. Rolling my pant legs up I made for the waters edge and it was heaven to feel the cooling touch of the ocean on my bare skin. It had been a pretty warm slog getting to Torbay in the morning, an enjoyable one but enough to make me wish I'd brought the board shorts along for this hike. A wade in the gentle waves was more than enough as I slowly made my way along this perfect piece of coastline. Deciding that The Descendants soundtrack would be perfect here and with no one around, I was happy to have the relaxing Hawaiian tunes resonating from the little Bluetooth speaker in my hip pocket. While I was alone at the start, I could see what looked like a fellow hiker coming towards me. Given I'd not seen anyone heading in the opposite direction along the south coast since passing two ladies near Deep River, this was a strange sensation.
It turned out to be a single day hiker that had started in Albany and was walking all the way to his brother's place up in the hills behind Cosy Corner so he'd covered quite a bit of distance in the day already. We had a bit of a chat and he wished me well on the last day and a bit of my journey. The beach walking continued to be excellent and was broken up by a small stream that emptied itself into the ocean. Not more than an ankle deep crossing, the interesting part here was seeing the tanin stained water interact with the turquoise and blue water. I got a cool shot when a gentle wave crashed onshore, revealing a brown hue to the rising water. In the distance I noticed that the beach ended at a headland and the only obvious path was what looked like a very steep exit right up and over the dunes to the left. Thinking this was the official path I became a bit suspicious once I got closer and saw that it was impossibly steep and the Bibbulmun would never take you there. After photographing the really cool colours of the rocks in front of the headland I quickly figured out that the correct path is on the rocks and that steep part might be an alternative for when the sea is really angry.
On this perfect day the sea was far from angry, in fact it was very inviting. Thinking that the rocks weren't going to be slippery after a day of being in this glorious sunshine, I pulled out my thongs instead of putting my shoes and socks back on. That turned out to be an alright idea as my thongs were a bit long in the tooth so I didn't always have the grip I would have liked. Moving though slowly, I was able to find my way around and navigate safely from rock to rock. The turtle pace was partly because of the thongs but mostly because of the excellent photo opportunities from this spot. I've said it plenty of times before but the water was just looking fantastic and contrasted with the orange of the rocks, I couldn't get enough. I mentioned the Bay of Fires earlier and this felt exactly the same as exiting the beach on the third day and climbing over the lichen stained boulders that the area is famous for. This isn't the only spot where this phenomenon is found and although a fairly small deposit, Tasmania isn't the only place where you can find this awesome contrast of colour (although admittedly it is a special experience seeing it in Tasmania).
Successfully on the other side, this is where you'll find the bulk of the lichen covered boulders but the sun wasn't in the best position for photos. With my beach walking slowing me down a bit, I was conscience of time so kept moving and onward to Torbay Inlet in the distance. With half the beach walking over, I was hoping that the weather would hold up for a little longer as the clouds were starting to gather behind me. More storm clouds than ones that would bring showers, it was a really cool spectacle to watch them develop. Happily the skies over the ocean continued to be a brilliant blue with fluffy white clouds providing a pleasant feature to photograph. Along here I was mesmerised by the scene looking out towards the ocean as Seagull Island was a tiny spec on the horizon with the backdrop of what I just described looking sensational. I couldn't stop photographing this and the changing skies behind me so the beach walking was far from boring as I made my way to the Torbay Inlet crossing. After reaching some softer sand, I could finally see the waters of the inlet and it appeared that there would be no issue in crossing this stretch of beach. Much like Parry Inlet, there was a whole load of worry that ended up being an anticlimax.
A group of Beach Chickens (seagulls) were waiting for me at the inlet as a welcoming committee and further up the beach I could see a gathering of 4x4s. As I got closer I noticed the surfers out in the water waiting for some waves but none of them caught a good wave while I was there so I only got a photo of them bobbing in the ocean. The big feature on this final beach stretch is Shelter Island, a large vegetated dome just offshore that on a good day is possible to snorkel out to. I plan on returning one day over the summer to explore this area a bit further as it all looked very interesting from the beach. As I passed the 4x4s, I noticed the good doggos waiting next to them and really wanted to pat them. Thinking better of it for a couple of reasons I kept walking and was soon joined by one of the surfers/swimmers who had jumped out of the water and was running towards the car park closer to the beach exit. I reached the end of the beach and found some rocks to sit down on so I could reattach my shoes and socks, a lengthy process now I use the Injini toe socks.
As I exited the beach the view looking back towards Cosy Corner was very grey as the clouds had rolled in for the afternoon. It looked pretty cool so of course I took some photos and set about continuing up the wooden staircase. There is a tarmac car park and lookout at the top where some people were admiring the views so I found the track and went on my merry way. From Muttonbird Beach Car Park it is only four a bit kilometres to the Muttonbird Campsite and the end of what would be my longest day on the Bibbulmun that I would count towards my sectional end to end. Despite having covered 25km, the legs were feeling great (probably thanks to the beach walking) and it was nice to be back amongst the Peppermint trees. The temperature had cooled down a bit with the sun now behind the clouds but the air was now a bit more humid. Joining me on my journey to Muttonbird was a swarm of flies that did not make life very pleasant and for some reason couldn't understand my English instructions to leave me alone. I ended up using a very small section of a Peppermint tree to swot them away and this was quite effective until I needed to bend down to take a photo of one of the many wildflowers along here.
The final stretch was a very enjoyable walk with thick Peppermint groves occasionally opening up to provide views of some granite hills on the inland side and ocean views to the south. One interesting feature along here is walking along the fence line of the local rifle range where you will find a sign warning you of possible danger. I had an extra piece of warning as a man on a quad bike rode up to one of the gates and raised a red flag as I walked past. I'm not sure if this was the signal that a hiker was passing and target practice had commenced or if there was something else going on (I was hoping for the latter). I didn't hear any gunshots for the rest of the day so they either couldn't find me or had decided not to shoot for the rest of the afternoon. As you get closer to Muttonbird the views start to open up a lot more and you get the first close up view of the Albany Wind Farm. An iconic part of the track, the turbines in the distance add a visual feature that I quite enjoy and are beacons for the hikers that finish in Albany.
Looking to the north you get the full width of the Porongurup Range that lies about 50km north of Albany (also home to quality hiking) and Lake Powell. From this elevated position the ocean views also open up, although somewhat muted by the coastal cliffs to the south (more on those later). With these great views you would assume the campsite would take advantage of this but due to the three sided design of the shelters, they need to be protected from the elements so the campsite is located in a low lying part of the dunes so it can be sheltered. You can see it well before you reach the side trail leading down to it and I was initially a little disappointed that it wasn't close to any obvious vantage points. After crossing a 4x4 track (now disused), you reach the turnoff and I followed this all the way into the depression where I would find Gandalf and Pixie, two end to enders that were finishing the following day like I was. They were a bit startled by my appearance as it was late in the afternoon but we started talking as I setup my things and boil water for a well earned hot beverage. It turns out that they had booked into the same place I had in Albany but were planning on setting off at 4:30am to give themselves plenty of time to reach the finish by lunchtime.
As I enjoyed my hot chocolate and filled in the log books I noticed that someone had drawn a map to the nearby cliffs that promised excellent views. With this being my last night on the track and the legs still feeling relatively fresh I decided to delay dinner and go check out the sunset from this spot. Getting there requires backtracking to the 4x4 track you cross right before camp and following this south towards the coast. It's a small uphill and maybe 500m each way from camp but I can assure you it is worth it (as you can see from the pictures). With all the cloud cover I wasn't sure what I was going to get from the sunset but even without a great sunset, it was going to be a special evening. At the end of the 4x4 track you reach the cliffs and it's a pretty steep drop off down to the ocean below. There looks to be a path heading down from the 4x4 track that I initially explored to get a better view looking at the cliffs to the west but that was as far as I wanted to explore. From this position you get amazing views looking both east and west along with the endless horizon looking south towards the frozen mass of Antarctica.
What an epic way to finish what was a very satisfying day from West Cape Howe to here. Being able to see West Cape Howe provided a great sense of satisfaction knowing that I watch the sunrise from the other side of the headland and would watch the sunset from the opposite view. Had this have been my final night of a thru hike end to end then maybe the experience would have been more powerful but I was more than happy to just enjoy the changing light and not have the entirety of the last three years dawn on me all at once. Doing it in sections and then writing up these posts probably sorts some of that stuff out for me mentally so as much as I was enjoying being in that moment, there was not a pouring out of raw emotion about finishing the Bibbulmun. I am very happy I ventured out here as it was the cherry on top of what was an excellent day. The sunset ended up being quite lovely but as I was making my way back to camp it provided a final gift with a finishing splash of red that I rushed back to the cliffs to capture but only caught the tail end of. Back at camp, Gandalf and Pixie were already in bed but the camp had been overrun with mossies while I was away and having not setup my tent inner beforehand I made the decision to try do this in the dark. It was the right call in the end as I got ravaged cooking my dinner, which I ended up eating in the dark in my tent whilst trying to squash stray mossies that had made their way in. An entertaining final night to the trip and one I can now laugh at.
Final Thoughts - Getting to the home stretch now and what a second half to my penultimate day it turned out to be. This section is pretty much a long beach walk sandwiched between two bits of dune walking but the result is very spectacular.
Cosy Corner to Muttonbird Beach is some of the best beach walking you'll experience on the Bibbulmun and get a perfect day like me and it's a great pleasure to walk.
If you're planning on doing this 12km stretch in one day instead of doubling then make use of the sheltered swimming areas for a cool dip in the Southern Ocean.
Make sure to cap off your Torbay to Muttonbird experience with a trip to the limestone cliffs overlooking the ocean, I cannot express how epic it is to watch the ocean from there and gaze out at the colours as they change thanks to the setting sun.
One more day to go split into two sections and I'm finished.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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