Mokare Heritage Trail
Start - Denmark Rivermouth Bridge
Length - 4.8km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Pavement
Vertical Climb - 47m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Occasional Markers
Date Hiked - 26th September 2019
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - The official trail head is located about 1.5km south east of the centre of Denmark along Hollings Rd at the Rivermouth Bridge. There is some parking available near the bridge. Alternatively you can start at the bridge next to town as the loop still takes you past here.
The Hike - After finishing my first sectional end to end of the Bibbulmun Track, I had an enjoyable night in Albany, celebrating with a well deserved meal and wine at Little Italy (recommended). Thanks to the difficult logistics of my final five days on the track, my car was located back in Denmark so the next morning I had booked the TransWA bus back to pick up my car before checking into my AirBnB in Albany for a few days rest. My accommodation had breakfast in the package so I headed down to find Sarin, the amazing host at the Guesthouse Albany in the dining area with fresh coffee. An enjoyable breakfast with Gandalf and Pixie was had before we all headed off to the bus station (they were heading back to Perth). With a warm and sunny finish to my Bibbulmun journey, the weather had turned with some lovely south coast drizzle setting in for the morning.
Given check-in at my AirBnB wasn't until 2pm and I wasn't entirely confident that my car would start again once I got it going (this would be the last road trip for Newt before dying), I decided to spend a bit of time in Denmark before moving on. After having a mid morning snack at the bakery and checking out several of the stores that make Denmark special (I love a good crystal shop or crafty homewares store), I grabbed my camera and thought I'd check out the Mokare Heritage Trail. Donovan from The Long Way's Better had highlighted me to this trail back when he did it and it seemed like a fantastic way to spend an hour or two. It's great having an accessible and enjoyable walk so close to a country town that doesn't feel like you're in a town so with my casual walking shoes on I headed off to the start. Having walked this route already a few days prior as I headed into Denmark from the Bibbulmun Track, it was a familiar sight when I reached the bridge at the mouth of the Denmark River. A father had taken his son out for a play on his bike so I patiently waited for them to clear the bridge before taking many photos of the grey and moody conditions.
The old wooden bridge is a lovely object to photograph and a great place to fully take in the beauty of the Denmark River. To the south you can see the mouth where it opens up into the Wilson Inlet, although it was a little difficult on my visit thanks to the clouds and the rain but it still looked magical. To the north is where the trail will take you through the Karri lined river banks into a world of wildflowers, Paperbarks, reeds and bird life. I was lucky enough to spot a few pelicans on my walk to the bridge and I think the two that I saw eventually decided to take up a spot right in front of the bridge on an unseen log. The Pelican became a bit of a common sighting on my post Bibbulmun break and I managed to get a good shot of the two of them as they stood on the water having a break. The path from the bridge takes you along the Munda Biddi towards Albany but another Mokare Heritage Trail sign points you down a set of stairs and off along the river. I stopped for a while here just photographing the bridge from down below and admiring what would be the first of many cool scenes involving the gnarly Paperbark trees that line the edge of the river.
Being a walk close to town the trail is pavement but this was a good thing today as I think it would just be a series of puddles on a day like this. Moving along at a very gentle pace, I was loving all the mossy details on the Paperbarks and bigger trees that dotted the trail. Speaking of bigger trees, there was a monster up ahead that looked like it could have come from the Fangorn Forest. A sprawling array of thick limbs, it looks to be a pretty popular spot that unfortunately may have been slightly loved to breaking point. There was a limb that had snapped off and was laid on the ground, hopefully this was a naturally occurrence rather than from people climbing on the tree too much. It was an impressive sight to behold and definitely a highlight along the trail. Moving on, the path continues to wind along the edge of the river where you'll see a nice collection of wildflowers in spring right on the edge of the trail. I was lucky with the drizzle that they all had that extra sheen that comes with the moisture and most still had beads of water clinging onto their delicate forms. Glimpses of the river come into view and on a calm day like I had, the reflections on the surface of the water look really cool, especially when you get a stretch where the massive Karri trees on the other side are exposed.
Another great feature of the walk is the variety in bird life you'll see feeding and travelling along the river. The Pelicans seem to use it as their main highway, casually gliding up and down the gentle waters but there were plenty of other species if you stopped and looked around. Lots of finches and wrens were busy in the Paperbarks but were very tricky to photograph and I accidentally spooked a Little Pied Cormorant as I rounded a corner, it making a hasty exit along the river. If you are interested, there is a great resource from Birds WA about what you can find in the Denmark area that can be located here. As you approach closer to town and the South West Hwy bridge, there is a section to the right of the trail that is inundated during the wetter months and is home to a melody of green tones. From grasses to reeds to mosses and lichens, this was another pretty special place that was highlighted by a pop of purple thanks to the wildflowers that are found along this stretch. If this was my daily walk then I would be a very happy person and with the cooler climate of the south coast meaning more chances of rain compared with Perth, I would be in heaven.
On the other side was a small mooring for an old style wooden boat and this section had a very old world romantic feel to it. Completing this off to the right was the old Denmark Boating and Angling Club building that is not used anymore but heritage listed. After an average section of pavement where you are near the road, the trail diverts closer to the river and along a line of taller trees that protects you from the sight of the highway. The river scenes continue to be excellent with character filled Paperbarks providing something interesting to photograph before you reach a large grassy section. Initially it doesn't feel all that nice as the lovely feeling of walking through the forest along the edge of the river is taken away but then you see what is on the other side of the grass and I got very excited. It's a place called The Sanctuary and it's like you wandered into the edge of Hobbiton. The octagonal building is used as a play area and retreat and features a garden for a roof and a fantastic series of sculptures both on the building and to the right. I crossed the very wet grass, soaking my shoes right through but I didn't mind if it meant getting a closer look at this whimsical building.
If I lived in the area, this is probably the style of building I would have as it suits the green feel of the south west and who wouldn't want to live like a hobbit? I had a bit of an explore of the building, admiring what looked like decorated suits of armour attached to the side and fantasised about having my own place like this. I got lucky here as a shower passed over while I was checking out the hobbit building so I stood under the roof and looked inside. The fireplace looked really cosy and I wish there had have been a yoga or pilates class going on where I could have joined in or just sat by the fire watching the rain. When the rain stopped I moved off to the metal sculptures that dotted the garden next to it and they do provide another element of whimsy to the area. The Crazy Dinosaur that has it's hands in a motion that I frequently see my basketball team make after I do something stupid was my favourite but there are many to choose from. Prying myself away from this cool spot, I crossed the grass once again (be careful for snakes in the summer) and rejoined the footpath as it headed closer to the river.
There is a fork in the path not far ahead and wanting to stay as close to the river as possible I took the one to the left near the Kwoorabup Trail sign that looked like it used the red and yellow colours of the Bibbulmun signs. This turned out to be the right decision as the straight ahead trail takes you to the high school. With the last little section being out in the open, it was nice to return to an area with a closed in canopy of mature trees that call the river banks home. The reflection on the river continued to be beautiful and there was a photogenic Paperbark tree that arches over the path that I enjoyed seeing. You catch a glimpse of the wooden bridge through the trees and it isn't long until you pop up onto another path and get a much better view. Joining a wider cycle path over the bridge, you start the journey back to Denmark. Admiring the river scenes on both sides, this is a really tranquil part of the walk, away from all the traffic noise. The Pelicans must not like this section as much as the river mouth but there was no shortage of bird life playing in the trees on the edges.
On the other side of the bridge is another large open space, this one a little more public. The Kwoorabup Community Adventure Park is a fairly new addition to the area with a large grassed area, some young trees that hopefully will grow and provide shade in the future and a nature scapes style playground. In the drizzly conditions I was experiencing, it was no surprise to find the place empty. It looks like a really cool place to take your younglings for a good session of burning off their excessive energy or if you're a big kid that likes to jump on stuff then it also works. There are some large trees in the middle that provide some shade and give the area some character as for the most part it still has that just installed feeling of a new estate playground. A couple of pieces of public art have been installed too and I really liked the glass wall titled "Illusion" that viewed from straight on has the outline of a cow in the glass. I wasn't exactly sure where the trail was picked up again but assumed it was down near the river, I headed down the grass hill towards the water where I found some cool patterned stones that reminded me of the Understory Art Trail in Northcliffe.
I located the trail at the end of the small road as it ducks onto a lovely boardwalk section next to the river. This little meander is a cool way to cross a little stream as it enters the river and contains a few pools that are full of water lilies. While not native and maybe a bit of a weed, they do look nice and look to be contained to this small area. Just on from the boardwalk is a wooden sculpture to liven up the somewhat busy return to the edge of town. A medium sized tree has been carved with native animals ranging from Cockatoos to Wallabies and it's a nice piece of art that was similar to what I saw on the start of the Bay of Fires tour earlier in the year. Crossing under the South Coast Hwy bridge, the pillars and cross beams were looking a treat and on the other side was a collection of tall ferns that made the place feel like a little slice of Tasmania. Given you are right next to town now, there is more activity as you walk past the Denmark Hotel and on towards Berridge Park. Down by the jetty there were plenty of Beach Chickens standing on the poles waiting for a show from the Bandstand on the opposite bank that I walked by earlier. I think they might be waiting a while.
Along here you get some stunning views up and down the river as the grassed area and jetty means not a lot of vegetation lining the river. The tall Karri trees are a real delight and in the moody conditions they were looking very imposing. All I had left was the path I had walked a few days prior getting from the river mouth into town after finishing that section of the Bibbulmun. I actually did this first but for the purpose of this post, I'll write about it last. The pavement leading all the way to the bridge/finish is really peaceful and there was a constant drizzle as I was made my way along here. Wildflowers dotted the undergrowth, the trees were thick in places and of course, the Pelicans used the river as a highway with a few floating up and down as I walked. I took refuge in a gazebo closer to the bridge where I dried off and could finally take some sheltered photos of the surrounding area. That marks the finish to the walk and what a pleasant experience to have enjoyed on my morning in Denmark. After five days of big kilometres, it was a different walk at only 5km but a highly engaging one none the less. I made it to Albany with my car still working and after a walk to get supplies, settled in to a relaxing afternoon and evening in my quaint little AirBnB.
Final Thoughts - Walks close to towns can be a bit hit and miss with some containing some questionable scenery near high traffic areas and others being pleasant escapes just minutes from the centre of town.
The Mokare Heritage Trail sits in the latter group with a lovely variety of pleasant public spaces and a quieter experience away from town.
The Sanctuary was a fun place to explore that I'm really surprised hasn't been overrun with the Instagram influencer crowd sprouting their wide brim hats in whimsical poses walking off into the distance with captions like "Finding Hobbiton in Denmark #blessed" and then getting all the shares from the big tourist accounts.
The real highlight on this walk is the beautiful natural landscapes along the river. Whether it be the towering Karri trees or the character filled Paperbark trees or the abundance of bird life that calls the river home.
If you're staying close to town or even passing by, this is definitely a walk you need to do and is a great way to stretch your legs.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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