Meelup Regional Park
Directions - Located near Dunsborough, from the centre of town take Cape Naturaliste Road north until you reach the turn for Eagle Bay Road. Turn right and follow this all the way into Eagle Bay, turning right again at Gypsy Street. At the bottom of the hill you find Reidle Park on the corner of Eagle Bay-Meelup Road. There is parking on Gypsy Street and the trail head is located next to the toilet block. The end of the trail at the north end of Dunsborough is located along the one way Hurford Street that is accessed at the end of Gifford Road.
The Hike - The Meelup Trail is a highlight of the Cape Naturaliste trails landscape near Dunsborough that is already pretty spectacular thanks to the Cape to Cape Track. As one of the last trails in the area to visit, along with the suite of hikes surrounding Yallingup, I was saving the Meelup Trail for the height of wildflower season in spring. With a short but action packed road trip to the South West, this would be the highlight of a four trail day that had seen me hike the Cape Naturaliste Track and Bunker Bay Loop already this morning.
Being a one-way trail and me being on my lonesome this trip, I had to figure out the logistics of getting back to my car after I had finished because as nice as it would have been, hiking the additional 8km back to the start wasn't going to fit into my tight schedule. Problem solvered with the application of a mountain bike, so after having lunch in Dunsborough, I located the finishing spot and had a look for where I could lock up my bike. Fortunately there are proper bike racks there and I was soon driving out to the start located within the rich people holiday hamlet of Eagle Bay. Parking up at Reidle Park, I double checked I had the keys to my bike lock, along with plenty of water and set off to find the trail head. It's conveniently located next to the toilet block and the shire seem to have put in a lot of effort into the whole Meelup Park trail network. Walking through this small park, I was impressed with the flowering Peppermint Trees as I passed the play equipment and into the forest for the first section to Point Picquet.
Passing some invasive South African Daises, I was hoping for less of that and more native wildflowers along this 8km route that runs parallel with the stunning coastline overlooking Geographe Bay. This first part sees you walk through the mixed coastal forest and heathland as you eventually reach the edge of the water. I was more than happy to see some trees today after a couple of sandy coastal walks that were quite exposed. For the sake of the photos, I was doing this north to south as this creates the ideal lighting conditions given that you're not facing into the sun for the majority of wide shots. Reaching a junction almost immediately, I took a left turn at the sign pointing me to Point Picquet and was rewarded with some cool finds that included a Hibbertia, Donkey Orchid and Leafy Sundew. The shade of the trees doesn't last too long and soon you enter a patch of open hillside where the granite has left large gaps in the vegetation. This provides new photographic opportunities with large boulders a thing on this trail, along with different wildflower finds.
Reaching another intersection, the Baudin Memorial was a short side quest off the main trail so I decided to go see what it was. It turned out to be a lookout in the shape of a ships prow along with a mast to mark the spot where French explorers landed in search of fresh water back in the early 1800s. Doing the touristy thing, I took a photo and then scurried back into the forest to return to the main path. Walking along the rocky path, there was plenty to enjoy through here with large boulders up the hill and plenty of wildflowers including a couple of varieties of Pimelea, Basket Bush and Milkmaids. I was happy to see a dieback boot cleaning station along the edge of the trail and the markers indicated that the area coming up was dieback free. Doing my bit and brushing off my boots, I was excited to see what was up ahead if the quality of the flora so far had come from a known dieback area. The discoveries kept on with what I think may be my first sighting of a Granite Claw Flower, a plant that dominates certain sections of the trail with bright red flowers.
This usually marked an exposed area where there would be nice views of the hills sloping up from Geographe Bay. For the majority of the hike it's a nice feeling of being sandwiched between the hills to your right and the turquoise waters to your left. With the first glimpses of the water, not counting the side trip to the Baudin Memorial, it was starting to feel more like a coastal walk. The view is always changing and you switch between tunnels of vegetation in the lower parts of the trail and sweeping vistas as you rise to the tops of little hills. Both have their advantages and in one of the depressions I spotted a native Blue Banded Bee as I was photographing a Pimelea flower, after already finding a Queen Triggerplant and a Lemon-scented Sun Orchid. While I had planned this hike to fall during the time of year when a lot of the orchids and wildflowers would be in flower, I was not expecting this level of wow. Not far ahead I heard a rustling in the bushes and after stopping to see what it was, I discovered a large kangaroo playing peek-a-boo with me through the branches.