Point Ann Heritage Trail
Fitzgerald River National Park
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 puppas (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 Mount 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 Mount Barren in the distance, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to scenes to look at.