Fitzgerald River National Park
Directions - Located within Fitzgerald River National Park, there are a few access points for the Hakea Trail to break it up into sections. The easiest place to access the trail is Cave Point, which can be reached using the paved roads from the eastern entrance of the park.
The second access point is at Hamersley Inlet, also reached by paved roads, but will require walking an additional trail down to the beach. The last access point is Quoin Head but this is a 4x4 track only and the last section to Quoin Head is very steep and rough so only tackle this if you have a proper low range 4x4 with plenty of ground clearance (Rav4s and X-Trails won't be enough). This road is closed after rains so always check with the ranger before planning a visit to the park.
The Hike - With an Easter road trip visiting Fitzgerald River National Park under the belt, I was fortunate to be contacted by Parks and Wildlife asking if I would like to volunteer for a special project. The project in question was a collaboration with Google to map and photograph the trails and campsites of Fitzgerald River National Park using the backpack mounted Google Trekker so they could appear in the Street View format. I would accompany Research Scientist Michael on the trip and we would share the Trekker duties as the entire 15 camera, two processor contraption weighed in at 16kg plus our own gear such as radios, water, snacks, first aid etc. Apart from being one of the best national parks in Australia, the reason I wanted to return to Fitzgerald River was that this trip offered me the chance to get the two trails I hadn't yet completed, the Hakea Trail and the Mamang Trail.
After spending day one of the week long trip exploring the campsites on the eastern side of the park along with a trip up East Mount Barren, day two would see us tackling the 23.5km Hakea Trail, one of the best overnight walks in the state. I say overnight because ideally this would be an out and back hike utilising the campgrounds available but because we had access to the resources of Parks and Wildlife we would be dropped off at the start point by the local ranger (thanks again Paul) so we wouldn't have to carry camping gear for two along with the Trekker. We met Paul at sunrise and after dropping our car off at Cave Point, he took us on the unsealed roads leading to Quoin Head. While the track starts off as gentle sand tracks, it gets very rough and steep towards the end so unless you have a proper 4x4 with low range, diff locks and the expertise to drive it then don't attempt it. Also remember to let air out of your tyres and take it slow to limit further damage to the track. Be aware that the unsealed tracks can be closed after rains to stop the spread of dieback so I think the best option for this trail is to treat it as an overnight adventure starting at Cave Point.
Quoin Head to Whalebone Campsite (5.5km)
On our trip out to Quoin Head, Paul the ranger had been praising the beach below the starting point as one of the most underrated parts of the park and when we arrived I would say I agree. While the Hakea Trail officially starts/ends before the nearby lookout, as soon as we hopped out of the car we went to take a look and it reminded me of a cove that the Famous Five would describe during one of their smuggling/treasure adventures. Saying goodbye to Paul for now (he would be doing maintenance at the campsite along the trail so we would bump into him again), we extracted all our gear and prepared to set off. As I mentioned earlier the Trekker isn't light and with no place to store extra items other than attaching a small first aid kit, it was left up to the second person to carry everything else we would need such as water (x2), lunch, snacks, more first aid, spare Trekker batteries, a Spot tracker, GPS, maps and other items. This meant that taking a rest from the awkward, top heavy weight of the Trekker was still no walk in the park but slightly easier on the legs and back.
Michael elected to take the Trekker for the first stint and we would judge how long it was possible for one person to carry it before it became too much. So the Trekker images didn't contain a person in every single shot we had a couple of short band radios so one person could run ahead of the Trekker and we could still communicate. I headed off on the first leg and was immediately amazed at just how breathtaking and serene this place is. To think that not many people visit this treasure is both a comfort and a sadness but as the trail sweeps along the cliffs, it was hard not to fall in love all over again with Fitzgerald River. The trail markers guide you along the contours as you get glimpses of wild ocean spray pounding the rocks below and every now and then a peak at the glowing turquoise water that people often remember this coastline for. I was expecting this section to be mostly flat walking along the cliff but as we came over a small hill the landscape changed slightly and a rocky valley appeared.