Start - Bungendore Park, Off Admiral Road
Length - 8.8km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Vehicle Track, Single Track
Vertical Climb - 192m
Time - 2-4 Hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Yellow Markers
Date Hiked - 30th May 2021
Best Time - Autumn to Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - Located 45 minutes south east of Perth, take Albany Highway until you reach Armadale. Continue along the highway up into the hills until you reach Admiral Road. Take a right here and follow it until you see the entrance for Bungendore Park. Drive into the gravel car park where you will find plenty of room, the trail head is found a short distance along the vehicle track leading into the park.
The Hike - Bungendore Park is a place I've often thought about visiting but for whatever reason, never fully researched a trip here. Located on the outskirts of Armadale, I had a really pleasant experience exploring the nearby hills and valleys of Wungong Gorge a few years ago so really this should have been a destination I had visited much earlier. I think I had been saving it for when I was beginning to run out of trails to do and given the lack of new Perth trails I've added to site in the past year, I've reached that point. With a few hours free on the cusp of a Perth winter, I decided today was the day to finally get out to Bungendore Park to see what was what.
Having limited time in the morning before a midday engagement, I was looking for a new trail to do that was a reasonable length but also fairly close to home. The Honeyeater Hike fit that bill nicely at 8.2km and a relatively short drive from Freo. Ideally this is one I'd have saved for spring but with a full calendar starting to come together and plenty of hikes that would be much nicer with all the wildflowers out, I would be doing this one early on in the hiking season. That's not to say it wouldn't be enjoyable with several of the information boards exclaiming that there is always something in bloom here and I love a good fungi hunt when the colder weather sets in. Arriving at the entrance to the park, things were fairly clear with the crisp morning air putting me in a good mood as I love this time of year for hiking. Parking up, I wasn't the only one out here early to experience the trails with a few other cars around. The official trail head isn't at the car park, instead you walk through some gates designed to keep dirt bikes out and along a vehicle track that runs parallel to Southern Hills Christian College. It was a pleasant stroll along the track with mature Marri and Jarrah trees creating a nice spot for the noisy Kaaraks to hang about.
Reaching the trail head, you will find one of many dieback cleaning stations that are scattered around the park and what a surprise it was to find one of these boot spraying varieties to be working. After giving my boots a clean to protect the area from dieback, I had a look at the information board and noted the suggested direction of the Honeyeater Hike being anti-clockwise. There are a number of smaller walks in the area including the Robin Ramble, Spinebill Stroll and Whistler Walk (the trails person must be a big fan of alliteration) if you don't want to walk the full 8.2km Honeyeater Hike. Dogs are allowed in the park but only on the designated bridle trails and not in the conservation areas that are signed and have dieback stations before and after. Walking along Dryandra Drive to start the hike, I noticed it was really starting to mist up and it didn't take long before there was a spooky fog hanging around. I love these conditions as it adds a nice atmosphere to any walk, plus the photos always look a little more interesting. Turning off the Dryandra Drive, you follow the yellow trail markers as they loop around the Christian College and the Volunteer Fire Brigade. I initially thought the Volunteer Fire Brigade structure was a weird communications or transistor structure but a closer look revealed it to be a fun looking training course.
This early section was very gentle walking and although the presence of the school distracts you a little, there is some nice Jarrah and Marri forest that has regrown after this area was logged in the late 1800s. As you start to move away from the school, some nice mature She-Oak starts to appear and it was a pleasant sight. She-Oak is one of my favourite tree types to walk through on a gloomy winters day as the thin needles that provide a carpet of soft brown covering on the ground is just a relaxing visual to me. The foggy weather took this section up a notch as the sun was starting to stream through from the east and create some interesting lighting conditions. I had fun through here photographing the little finds I had including some early season wildflowers, a few fungi and the water droplets clinging to the leaves of the young eucalyptus trees. Slowly the scenery starts to change and the undergrowth is soon dominated by Parrot Bush. I can't say it's my favourite native as the leaves are very scratchy and when in large patches, it can smell a bit like dead animal (to me at least). One redeeming quality it does have are the flowers it produces with a beautiful yellow cone protruding from the centre of a grouping of spiky leaves.
They are hardy plants, often springing to life after a fire and taking over an area. I found one example growing out of a crack in a boulder so they know how to survive. Around the time I came across the large swathes of Parrot Bush, the rain started to hit with just the hint of a slight drizzle. It added to the gloomy nature of the hike thus far but not in a good way as the Parrot Bush is not a colourful plant and expansive areas of it doesn't make for nice scenery as you're walking along. I used this time to pick up the pace and was soon in some much nicer forest with the return of the Marri and Jarrah. Here I found a bit more variety in the flora with some interesting shaped leaves belonging to some plants I'd love to see in flower. I also had some excellent fungi finds here, not surprising considering I'd recently spent a few weeks in Tasmania scanning the forest floor for all different kinds. My favourite from this walk was a large purple example that was very well hidden in the leaf litter that I was lucky to pick out thanks to its shiny top giving it away. Reaching the other access point to the park from Albany Highway, the Parrot Bush returned and gave the place a very barren feel. As I was checking out the information shelter here the rain thankfully stopped and I was treated to sunnier conditions as I walked up the wide vehicle track, wondering if this hike was going to get any better.
Fortunately it does with the wide vehicle track section ending as you are directed into the forest once again by one of the yellow markers. This leads to an area marked with a sign saying it is a conservation area and there are no horses or dogs allowed. As expected, there is a boot cleaning station so I did the right thing and sprayed down my trail runners, still amazed that the spray nozzles were functioning as expected. This little stretch was lovely to walk through after the Parrot Bush slog and the much taller canopy felt very inviting. Lining the trail were some different varieties of wildflowers and I kept an eye out for fungi and anything interesting that took my fancy. I did enjoy the number of Grass Trees that were off in the distance and with the recent drizzle, they looked fantastic glistening in the morning sun. Being in the dieback free area, there was a beautiful example of a banksia, a tree that is particularly susceptible to dieback. Unfortunately there were no stunning flowers on display but it was just nice to see one. Exiting the dieback free zone, I sprayed my boots again and continued towards a bend in the track where you make a sharp left. Noticing some familiar leaf shaped greenery next to the trail, I had found a healthy clumping of soon to be orchids of an unknown variety. It was too early in the season for the regular Donkey, Spider and Cowslip Orchids but I was hoping to see some Bunny Orchids that I had seen others spot around Perth around this time of the year.
Walking through some more Parrot Bush, I soon came to some open forest and a patch of the trail that redeemed the somewhat uninspiring first half of the loop. On top of a hill, the forest here was lovely and the views down the hill made for a nice scene. The vehicle track starts to descend at a moderate gradient and this was the beginning of quite a few nice finds including what I was hoping for, the Bunny Orchid. This smol puppa of an orchid is easy to miss with the main part being about the size of a five cent piece so if hidden away behind the other undergrowth, can be hard to spot. I was a happy hiker after seeing one and spent a good time photographing them but my focus was just a little off. Continuing down the hill, I came across some Hovea, a Hakea on the verge of flowering and plenty of Kingia Australis, the lanky cousin of the regular xanthorrhoea species of Grass Tree. The little valley you were descending down towards was pretty cool and I was happy when the trail started to ascend up the other side, providing some of the best views by far. On this side of the valley were a lot of Wandoo trees and with the sun now fully out, their golden trunks looked a treat. I took my time through here, spotting more Bunny Orchids and enjoying the views looking down over the coastal plain towards the outskirts of Armadale.
Leaving the lovely views down the scarp, the track heads left through some more Parrot Bush and near a rehabilitation area before taking another left to begin a climb. Now facing east, the sun was right in my eyes and rendered the photos looking this way a bit useless given all the glare off the recently rained on plant life. Looking sideways and behind me was the key here and there are some lovely Grass Trees just off the trail to admire. Some were even bleeding the sticky orange gum that looks a bit like lava in the right light. At the top of the hill you continue along wide vehicle tracks as they wind towards another relatively sparse section of forest. With a good mix of Parrot Bush and Jarrah/Marri trees instead of one or the other, this was a section I could make some time up. I stopped occasionally to photograph a stray mushroom or a clump of bigger trees but there was a certain sameness to this stretch. Turning right onto another vehicle track, the openness continue for a while but brought some cool new plant varieties that again, I'll have to come back in spring to see what kind of flowers they produce. There was some wattle along here to provide a splash of colour as I made my way to the dieback stations that mark the start of the single track.
Happy to be more enclosed in nature, this stretch of single track was a great way to finish. There were plenty of wildflowers about so I took my time to photograph as many as I could. The sight of a Banksia was lovely and I spotted a Snottygobble just off the track, something that I always enjoy seeing. The trees through here were also impressive with some older examples surviving the early logging and being quite girthy. Popping out onto Wattle Drive, it was a short stroll back to the trail head for all the walks in the area and I just had the link track to the car to go. Here I spotted a few people out walking their dogs and although the Honeyeater Hike isn't dog friendly for it's entire length, I thought this would be a good spot to return with my puppas. Walking back to the car, the lighting was much better and I was able to spot the noisy Kaaraks playing in the trees next to the trail. Both myself and an old man that was out walking his dog stood on the edge of the track just admiring them and telling each other how much we love seeing them around. Walk over, I had finished with enough time to get home, shower and be off to my next activity so mission accomplished.