Point Ann Heritage Trail
Start - Point Ann Car Park
Length - 1.8km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 41m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 28th March 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Point Ann can be accessed by taking the turnoff at Jerramungup off South Coast Rd and following this until you reach the turn for Devils Creek Rd. Continue along the paved Devils Creek Rd as it becomes a gravel road. Take the turnoff for Point Ann Rd (marked) all the way to the car park overlooking Point Charles Bay.
The Hike - With the Easter long weekend matching up with seven year anniversary plans for myself and Caris (aka Miss April for those who have been following The Life of Py calendar on Instagram), a weeklong escape was organised to the Esperance area to celebrate. Having one of the best national parks in Australia on the way in Fitzgerald River NP, it would be criminal not to stop in and experience a few of the hikes. With Caris not really liking hiking as much as I do, I limited our hiking to the shorter trails in the parks to avoid upsetting the domestic bliss and luckily there are a few within the park to experience. With a long six and a half hour drive ahead of us we said goodbye to the puppers (thanks again Auntie Helen for looking after them) and hit the road in Newt the X-Trail (complete with brand new Newt Funko figurine).
Even though I don't really enjoy driving through WA in autumn due to the fact that the dry landscape just reminds me of how much land has been cleared all over the state, I have to say one of the highlights was seeing the Stirling Range as we skirted the northern boundary including a great profile of the Stirling Ridge Walk that we had to abandon last year. Stopping off in a few towns along the way, we made a good day of it and enjoyed getting out and seeing some places we both hadn't visited since our youth. My plan had been to hike West Mount Barren first and then have the Point Ann HT as a nice finish to the day as it's very close to the St Mary's Campsite that we were staying at that night. A combination of a more leisurely travel schedule than planned and a navigation error by myself meant we arrived at Point Ann in the late afternoon so decided to leave West Mount Barren for the next day. The navigation error I made was to enter the park via Quiss Rd and Pabellup Rd instead of the way I mentioned in the direction above.
This meant we spent a lot of time on gravel roads that at times were horrendous with extreme corrugation to the point where the whole car was shaking violently at 20kmph. We got there in the end and it made for a good test of Newt's reliability given he is a new addition to the family. Hopefully you will read this and not make the same mistake I made. Your first look at Point Ann is as you rise over a hill and are hit with the stunning views of Point Charles Bay, the Southern Ocean and the Mid Barrens all in one vista. This was what I was looking forward to driving into the park and was really excited to start exploring. We parked up the car in the excellent new car park and located the start of the trail next to the dieback station, a feature that is rightfully prominent throughout the parks in the area. With clean boots we started in an anti-clockwise direction as I didn't want an argument with the signpost after such a long drive and headed up the small incline. The first part of the hike is through heath land that is familiar with the Fitzgerald River NP landscape, albeit with a more subdued coastal feel. Being autumn I wasn't expecting a mass of wildflowers but there were still some on display to add a bit of variety to the scenery.
Climbing up the small hill gives you some elevated views over the bay and across to a feature I photographed quite a bit on the trip, the Mid Barrens. While the more photogenic part of the trail comes as you hit the coastline and the end of Point Ann, the "Heritage Trail" part of the title is located within this hilly stretch. Several information boards are found along the trail telling you the history of this particular piece of land in relation to the various rabbit proof fences that were constructed in a bygone era to keep the introduced species away from the agricultural lands. Remnants of the fence can still be found on the trail with rusty wire and random wooden posts dotted everywhere and I enjoyed having the trail link back to the land and the history of this area (even though it's just the European history). Up until now the only views of the water have been of Point Charles Bay but as you draw nearer to the eastern point of the land mass you start hearing the crashing waves and feel the rising winds.
Soon you catch sight of the previously hidden coastline stretching to the south west and you can stare at the immensity of the Southern Ocean in wonder with West Mt Barren looming in the distance. I love the concept of edge of the world type landscapes and the wildness of the Southern Ocean stretching from here until the icy desert of Antarctica is such a powerful thought that leaves me awestruck every time I encounter it. The edge of Point Ann marks the turnaround point for the trail and with relatively calm conditions for the southern coastline we admired the turquoise waters of Point Charles Bay, home to the occasional whale during migration season (May to June). Unfortunately we were too early but a flock of beach chickens (seagulls) put on a good show as they circled what was probably a potential dinner for them in the cool waters below. With your attention naturally pointed back towards the beach and West Mt Barren in the distance, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to scenes to look at.
A boardwalk is one space where you can stop and take it all in via a seated position and that's exactly what we did, enjoying all of the views in the glorious afternoon sun. Closer to the beach the trail becomes more rocky as you weave in and out of the geological features that have carved up the headland over the millennia. There were a couple of ways back to the car park and we took the more coastal route to investigate a man fishing off the rocks and to take in the pretty little beach located below the car park. Caris loves her beach combing so we had a bit of a look but with not much going on we headed back up the path and past the very impressive but eerily quiet facilities. It's clear that Parks and Wildlife have invested quite a bit of money in upgrading Point Ann with BBQ facilities, new toilet blocks and some beach bar like shelters so hopefully this was just a quiet time being a Wednesday during school term. One final look at the now prominent moon to the west and the sun setting over West Mount Barren and we were done.
Camping @ St Mary's Inlet - Our campsite for the night was a 500m drive away at St Mary's Inlet, a smaller campsite located right behind the amazing beach you can view from the Point Ann HT. Equipped with toilets, BBQ facilities and a short walk to the beach ranks this one as a great spot to relax for a night or two. We were the only ones on the beach for an epic purple sunset and a cloudy sunrise that put the cherry on top of a great introduction to Fitzgerald River National Park. There is a road leading towards the inlet if you take a right at the exit of the campgrounds and it's a really cool area to explore with an interesting mix of rocks, dunes and coastal heath. I look forward to returning to St Mary's in the future as it has an end of the world type feel to it with nothing to do but relax and enjoy the scenery.
Final Thoughts - At just under 2km, this is a long way to drive for a trail experience but makes perfect sense as something to do if you are staying at St Mary's Inlet.
After driving for 6.5 hours it was great to stretch the legs and explore an area that really utilises the best of what it has. I will be saying this a lot in the next few posts but I can imagine that this trail will be much better in either whale season (if you are lucky) or during the epic wildflower display that this area is world famous for.
As I said, this was a great introduction to the park and a little history tied to a trail always increases my enjoyment so was happy to have had this experience. It would be great to have more trails on the western side of the park but the biodiversity of the area is under serious threat from dieback so it's understandable that they left it at three (technically four if you include the 200m Mt Maxwell).
For a longer trail in the area check out the world class Mamang Trail, a fantastic one or two day hike with one of the most isolated campsites in WA at Fitzgerald Inlet.
Get out there and experience it!
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