Boat Harbour to William Bay
Start - Boat Harbour Campsite
Finish - William Bay Campsite
Campsite - Nornalup
Distance - 23.2km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 420m
Time - 6-10 hours
Date Hiked - 22nd August 2019
Part One - After receiving news at Peaceful Bay that the Parry Inlet was not passable, my night at Boat Harbour would unfortunately be my last for this trip. Arranging an 11am pickup, I wanted to be up early so I wasn't rushing through the 12km between Boat Harbour and Parry Beach.
With the trip cut short it was a bittersweet morning at Boat Harbour. On one hand I would be spending extra time with my family in Funbury (was due to head there for my nephew's birthday after the trip anyway) but it would have been nice to hike through to Denmark as planned. The location of the shelter means you have to wander the few hundred metres down to Boat Harbour itself if you want to take in the sunrise but on this occasion I decided to sleep in and start packing for an earlier than usual departure. My aim was to be out of camp by before 7:30am but I dawdled a fair bit and I eventually left at 7:45am. With a fair amount of dune walking to do in the 12km, maintaining a 4kmph average with photo breaks was going to be tricky but if it was anything like the section after Middle Quarram from the day before, I think I could easily put the jets on given the same same scenery that the coastal sections can serve up.
Leaving camp, I walked down to the official Boat Harbour, passing another toilet block (nice to know you have options if camp is busy) that is there to service the 4x4 campers that visit Boat Harbour. A sheltered cove, Boat Harbour is a really cool place that I wish I had time to explore the previous evening. The granite headland contains some smaller beaches and cool rocky platforms that make it a popular spot for people to visit, hence the 4x4 camping location. Spotting the beach entrance for the first time is pretty cool and you can see your morning ahead of you with the coastal cliffs extending off into the distance. While you do get to see some nice views of the rugged limestone cliffs, the majority of the walking will be done inland so really enjoy the bits close to the coast while they last. The sheltered cove of Boat Harbour is one of those places as you head down to the beach and walk along the bay until you reach the other side. Being a calm morning, the water was like a mirror and it was really peaceful. There were no campers around so I had the whole place to myself and it felt a lot more like a secluded spot than the beaches around the Quarrams on the previous day.
Steve had mentioned on the podcast that the other side of Boat Harbour can be confusing as people like to move the markers to be along the 4x4 track. On my visit they were in the right place and so when I reached the other side of the bay I climbed up onto the path and headed south towards the rocky platforms. Taking in the last views of Boat Harbour, the track then takes you over another small headland and onto a much bigger beach. This one also has 4x4 access (like pretty much every beach on the south coast unfortunately) but once again I was lucky to have it all to myself. I do enjoy a good morning beach walk and in the cool winter air (part one was completed in late August) I settled in for the last of the beach walking for my morning. Keeping an eye out for the beach exit given my issue getting off Back Beach the day before, this one is very easy to spot thanks to the staircase leading up into the dunes. Looking down the coastline to the east before you head inland to the stairs was pretty amazing with the jagged limestone formations being battered by the waves. Contrast that with the gentle looking sands back towards the west and it was quite a spectacle.
Heading up the stairs, they have a very open feel to them compared to the long set from the previous day and it allows you to look back at the views to the west as you get higher. The views are worth stopping for as you begin a sustained climb up to the first of a couple of hills for the morning. This was the most enjoyable of the dune walking for me with the morning light providing a deepness to the colours of the ocean and it was still cool enough that the climbing didn't have you ending like a sweaty, clingy mess. When you reach the top of the first hill there are plenty of great views of the dramatic coastline stretching in either direction but the view I really loved seeing was the one right ahead of you looking to the east. The cliffs here looked fantastic and because of all the little coves, you were never staring at the same feature for the whole time. The views back to the west were pretty cool too and I'm sure if I had a set of binoculars I could have seen the Boat Harbour Campsite and up to the top of Rope Hill.
Still wary of time, I was a bit behind schedule as I traversed the undulating dune system, stopping to photograph anything from wildflowers to the inland lakes of Owingup Nature Reserve to the Southern Ocean extending out to the pale horizon. I ran into a kangaroo friend who didn't mind my presence, enough that it didn't jump off as soon as I arrived but I think that probably had more to do with the hilly escape route than the quality of my immediate company. It posed for a photo before I apologised about having to continue along but I don't think feelings were hurt in the process. Heading downhill, the scenery through here wasn't as impressive as the first few kilometres so I powered on and tried to get ahead on time just in case there was something I really want to stop and look at. While the ocean views were appreciated, there really isn't much along here to make you slow down so it was a bit of a grind for me. I did enjoy photographing the moon as it sat on top of one of the many hills in the area but judging by the number of photos I took along this stretch, there wasn't much of note.
Most of the time I was wondering if the next hill was going to lead to the views of the final climb of the day. I was picking up speed but there was another series of uphills to navigate before I reached the top and could relax, knowing that the remaining section was all downhill. I think most of my "get it done" attitude to the morning was because I knew my trip was ending but I felt the same about this style of walking on the previous day where the track leaves coast and heads away from the nice views. After lots of dips and climbs, I could finally see the highest point and was heading straight for it. I wasn't really checking the map and assumed the track took you much closer to the headland that you've been heading towards for the whole day. It was a shock then when I started heading downhill, having not seen any side trails to the summit of Hillier. On a sandy 4x4 track looking towards Parry Beach, I decided I must have missed it and dropped my pack to have a look at the map. Sure enough I had missed the small side trail that on reflection was well hidden from where the trail pops out onto the 4x4 track. I doubled back and climbed to the top, enjoying some okay views but nothing like I was expecting.
There is surveyors plaque at the top, along with a rudimentary seat but I don't think the views are very good from the seat so it's best to stand. Checking the time, I had plenty of it to reach Parry Beach assuming the distances on the map were correct (they weren't) so took some photos from up here and then went and found my pack again. The walk down to Parry Beach is a mix of open heath-land that was slightly overgrown in sections (my lift Jacko is the maintenance volunteer for the area and has since returned to do a bit of pruning) and thick Peppermint Trees as you get closer to the end. While it was nice to be near the finish for my day, this section seemed to drag on quite a bit but in the end I reached Parry Rd and knew it wasn't far to go. The walk into Parry Beach Campsite is really nice with some much needed shade after a morning of being exposed to the elements, plus I really enjoy Peppermint Trees. Jacko from Casa Libelula was there waiting for me as I rocked up dead on 11am and as a pleasant surprise he had brought along scones baked by his wife Annie that morning, coffee and fruit. While I wasn't happy at cutting my trip short, it was a very nice way to finish so we sat on one of the picnic tables and had a chat over morning tea. Jacko then dropped me off at my car in Denmark and I drove off to Funbury, thinking of the logistics of trying to add this section onto my finish into Albany.
Part Two - A month after leaving the track at Parry Beach, I was back. After some troublesome logistics to organise and this trip being the finish to my sectional end to end, I decided to park my car in Denmark, get Jacko to give me a lift out to Parry Beach and then catch the bus back to Denmark the morning after finishing in Albany to collect my car. With that sorted and Jacko dropping me off at Parry Beach in somewhat wooly weather, I was looking out at Parry Beach and what would be almost 9km of beach walking ahead of me as I tackled the famous Mazzoletti Beach. Excited to be back and starting the final section of my Bibbulmun journey that had taken three years to complete, I have to say I was enjoying the weather a lot more than my previous visit. Give me the option between a bright sunny day and one that has some bad weather and I'll take the weather filled day 99 times out of a 100. It adds something special to the experience and the photos look much better with less of the harsh light and more character filled clouds. While it had rained on and off in the morning, I was expecting a mostly sunny afternoon as I spent the majority of the afternoon walking on the beach.
The ranger had confirmed that Parry Inlet was fine to cross after telling me that someone had sunk their 4x4 down to the roof line in the quicksand there just a week after I had to leave the track. While I'm not as fat as a 4x4, it's not something I would have liked to have dealt with. With sunny skies as I headed towards the inlet crossing, I was expecting a little bit of wading so it was comical when I arrived at Parry Inlet to find a good 100m between the waters of the inlet and the ocean. Better to be safe than sorry I guess and I was there at low tide so it made sense that there would be a big gap. As I passed the inlet I could feel the rain starting to pelt my neck and didn't think much of it until it started to really come down. The wind was strong enough that the back of my pants were getting wet so I took out my pack cover and figured the shower wouldn't last too long. My hunch was right and it blew over pretty quickly, leaving my pants cold and wet but providing some really cool scenes for me to photograph. It became a bit of a theme for the beach walking, watching the weather roll in from behind me and then watching it blow off into the distance, each time providing many cool shots.
Much like Marron Road between Dog Pool and Mt Chance, I had mentally prepared myself for this stretch of beach walking as it would be a good couple of hours of my life. Thankfully the sand was really hard because of the low tide and this made for an immensely enjoyable time. Not having to slog through ankle deep sand was a relief and completely transform the experience. As with Marron Rd, that is a long and some may say boring 4x4 track, the key is to find the smaller things to keep you entertained. With beach walking, I'm always looking out for things that have washed up as you never know what you'll find. Having taken my shoes off to enjoy this section, it's also a good thing safety wise as along the way I spotted several washed up bluebottles that would have been quite dangerous had I stepped on one and gotten stung. It wasn't just jellyfish that was strewn across the sands, an assortment of interesting shaped and coloured shells could be found along with lots of seaweed and what I think was a discarded crayfish shell bobbing in the surf. The biggest difference between Mazzoletti Beach and Marron Rd though is Mazzoletti Beach is just unbelievably pretty as you walk along so there is always a great view to look out on.
With a sweeping collection of clouds rolling through, crashing waves spitting up white spray and an impressive series of dunes to my left, this was a whirlwind of exciting scenes. While the smoothness of the dunes was nice to see, what was really cool was when you came across one of the larger rocky sections that was exposed to the elements. A survivor of the processes that created the beaches you walk along, the layered rock is a monument to the forces of wind, water and time. Looking very moody against the backdrop of dark skies and the blowing wind, I was very happy to be doing this section now instead of on the bright sunny day a month back. Up ahead was a curious phenomenon that I had only witnessed once before. While walking across a mountain pass I met a wise mage of the forest who was studying the mystical forces that binds the earth together. Upon meeting her a horizontal rainbow appeared in the distance. In all her wisdom she spoke and told me that as we were high in the clouds, the rainbow appeared flat because we were above it. Given I was now at sea level and the same phenomenon occurred, I was really hoping that a wise mage of the sea would appear to explain the reasoning behind this rainbow.
Before I started I was always planning to avoid the actual beach exit and continue on through to Green Pool along the beach so when I saw the exit, I was comfortable that I'd made the right decision. There was still a good amount of beach walking ahead of me and the headland looked easy to pass so after a couple of quick snaps I kept going. Unfortunately just as I arrived at the boulder filled headland, the rains appeared again. This was a bit of an inconvenience as I really wanted some clear shots of this really cool part of the day and my lens became very spotty even after wiping it thoroughly between shots. One comforting sight along here was the presence of Tower Hill in the distance with the unmistakable boulders sitting on top of the hill the north east. As the rain passed, I hadn't quite cleaned my lens properly so my shots through the boulder field were a bit compromised. A shame really because this was definitely one of the highlights of the day as you pick your way through the lichen stained rocks, an experience very similar to the Bay of Fires, along with exploring the various rock pools for life.
I had luck with one rock pool and spotted a few crabs that quickly retreated to the safety of a crevice, not before I secured a photograph or two of them. This kind of beach walking I really enjoy as there is no rush, you can act like a kid and jump from rock platform to rock platform (although take care in the wet) and just take joy in the fun of exploring the beach. With this area being fairly sheltered, you had the sound of distant waves crashing but still had a fairly calm beach to walk along. With the rain now gone, the skies to the south and east were this deep heavenly blue, contrasted well with white fluffy clouds stretching over the horizon. This day kept getting better and better and it isn't long before you reach the protected waters of Greens Pool, one of the most popular tourist destinations on the South Coast. This was evident by the number of people I started to see with a big group walking along the beach and a photographer closer to the staircase taking many photos. It really is a lovely spot and even on a fairly chilly and rainy day like today, it was very beautiful. I saw the waugyl on the wooden staircase and figured this must be the correct path but having not seen the famous Elephant Rocks, I was sure this wasn't the correct way.
I was right as there is another staircase with a more direct path to Elephant Rocks if you keep heading east on the beach. At the top of the stairs you get a fantastic view back towards Greens Pool and Parry Beach before following the signs to Elephant Rocks. This is a spot that is quite heavily photographed and I guess you could say it is one of the most Instagram friendly locations in WA with a mass of giant boulders sitting in a sheltered cove of bright turquoise waters and a white sandy beach to top it all off. The first glimpse you get as you walk up the hill takes your breath away and there is a rocky platform you can climb up to get some pretty stunning photos. To begin with I had some cloud cover and it was still quite nice but then the sun came out and the colours just exploded in front of me. This is what I came here to experience and it was not disappointing one bit. There is so much to take in and photograph, from the vibrant colours of the cove to the massive boulders all huddled together to the striking textures of the lichen covered rocks. While this was a great introduction, the real fun was just ahead. Moving down a wooden staircase that descends down to the beach, you are taken into the depths of the rocks and emerge at a crack in the boulders.
This is your entry to the Elephant Cove beach and what a really cool way to enter a beach. No wonder this is a popular spot in the summer but for me, I was lucky to have it to myself, save for an American girl that at the time was off exploring elsewhere. Seeing the boulders from this perspective was awe-inspiring and the one you slip through to gain entry is truly massive. Making it better is the pure white sands of the beach and with a sheltered cove to swim in, this is about as close to perfection from a holiday spot as you'll get in WA. The American girl made herself known as she came down from the big boulder located at the back of the beach and I thought it was a good idea to check it out. As we passed there was a look between us of "just wow right?" and as I clambered to the top of the boulder it got even better. The views from up here really capture the scale and beauty of the place and while it had clouded over again, it wasn't long before the sun shone over this glorious scene and I got the great colours. As I headed down the American girl came back and laughed about it being so much prettier with the sun out before heading back up the rock.
With Tower Hill in the background and it being late afternoon, I figured it was time to drag myself away from this amazing place and head up to the hill to the campsite. I was lucky in my timing as I passed plenty of people heading to where I was but not before getting more photos of Elephant Rocks. I located the path to the car park and received lots of strange looks at my large backpack. While this isn't the official route of the Bibbulmun, it is great to see markers along the bitumen road leading into Greens Pool that point you back towards where the track goes. While my detour was longer than the official path, I can highly recommend everyone take the side trip to Greens Pool and I really don't understand why the Bibbulmun just doesn't go there in the first place. I soon reached the intersection with the track and entered the Peppermint trees that will be home for your hike up the hill to William Bay Campsite. What struck me immediately was the quantity and quality of the wildflowers in the area compared with my last visit a month ago. There was no shortage of Flame Peas, Cowslip, Fairy and Donkey Orchids and all kinds of colourful wildflowers.
The climb is nothing to sneeze at for the end of a long day with 100m of vertical distance to cover on a sandy 4x4 track that is very soft in places. Luckily there was plenty to distract me and I had a lot of fun enjoying the smells of the Peppermint trees, the colours of the wildflowers and the moody afternoon sky. Near the top I found a cool spot where the tree cover opened up and you got some lovely views looking back towards the west. I made a note to return here for sunset but this would be quickly forgotten later on. Reaching the campsite, it is well protected in a sheltered area behind the hill so views are quite limited. I was once again alone, continuing my streak along this section to every campsite between Walpole and Denmark. I had phone reception and asked the hiking group chat I have about any good spots to watch the sunset. Bonny replied back saying there is a lookout near camp that is perfect and she was not wrong. After setting up my sleeping gear and brewing a hot chocolate, I headed up the path and found the lookout sign and path leading to the rocky platform she was talking about.
Looking out to the west, this is a magical spot and reminded me instantly of my sunset hike up East Mount Barren in 2018. The combination of beach and ocean to the south, a hilly backdrop in the distance and mist/sands being blown inland was almost an exact replica of that experience. To your the east you can see Tower Hill with the distinct and pointy boulders rising up into the sky. As chance would have it, I got to witness a normal shaped rainbow forming right behind the nipple helmet shaped rocks of Tower Hill that are very similar to the Gondorian helmets from Lord of the Rings. The other side of the rainbow was behind Mt Hallowell, the last of the granite domes you'll get to climb on the Bibbulmun and something to look forward to tomorrow. The full rainbow framed the views to the east where you can see the wind turbines of Denmark and Nullaki Peninsula in the distance. With sunset about half an hour away and it being very chilly in the afternoon wind, I left that spot to go get changed into my thermals, returning with my dinner and another hot chocolate to watch the sunset.
With the amount of cloud cover around it was difficult to tell whether I would get a decent sunset but I wasn't going to miss it so sucking up the cold, I watched and waited for the sun to sink near the horizon. There was so much to photograph as the light started to change with a beautiful golden reflection on the ocean from the distant clouds and the shifting clouds all around Tower Hill Denmark. The sunset ended up being a flash of golden light through the rain clouds and then faded out to grey. The real show was to the east where there was a muted orange and purple light show on display that I couldn't stop taking photos of. I've been witness to some pretty cool sunsets on the track and while not vibrant in colour, this spot more than made up for it. With my dinner of fresh rolls from home now devoured and my hot chocolate empty, I returned to the shelter to thaw out my body and get another peaceful nights sleep.
Final Thoughts - A day split into two spanning over a month but in the end I'm really happy to have done it this way. While the first half of the day was enjoyable, the second half was above and beyond in terms of enjoyment and scenery.
Mazzoletti Beach and Greens Pool were great fun to walk along and as I said before, the weather being worse made for a better experience.
While ignoring the official track as it leaves Mazzoletti Beach adds extra distance, it is more than worth the detour with some of the best scenery of the entire coastal section located at Elephants Cove.
A popular destination, it's easy to see why and you'll be blown away with the place if you are lucky enough to get sunny skies on your visit.
The icing on the hiking cake was the lookout near the campsite. While the shelters need to be hidden away from the elements, it would be criminal if you are this high up on the coast and don't get a cool place to watch the sunset.
It's the best of both worlds and make sure you have your dinner out on that rock.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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