Point Possession Heritage Trail
Start - Whalers Cove, Quaranup Rd
Length - 5.1km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Beach, Granite Slab
Vertical Climb - 137m
Time - 2-3 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 24th October 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
The Hike - Sometimes the best things in life happen by accident and this is exactly how this hike happened. After taking in the lovely Luke Pen Walk in the morning and completely draining my camera battery, I slowly drove to Albany Town Centre to charge the battery, have some lunch and think about my next move.
While I was in Albany I wanted to check out the newly constructed platforms at The Gap in the Torndirrup National Park and take a few 360 degree photos of the area so after lunch I headed out across Shoal Bay towards Torndirrup National Park. Home to some great scenery and one of the most underrated trails in Western Australia, Bald Head, the majority of visitors make the trip to see the easy to access but no less impressive sites like The Gap, Natural Bridge and Blowholes. With a $6.1mil upgrade at The Gap and Natural Bridge, I wanted to see what was what and arrived to a swarm of people in the new car park. While the rest of Torndirrup National Park is free to access, this site has electronic pay stations so you can pay the standard $12 entry fee for national parks. Much like the Castle Skywalk in the Porongurups, the engineering masterpiece above The Gap is bolted straight onto the rocks and lets you stand right above the tremendous forces that crash into the coastline. The bottom of the platform allows you to see underneath, much to the dismay of a nearby lady who inched her way to the edge of the platform.
Standing on the edge of the platform and looking down at where the waves relentlessly break against the cliff is a powerful experience, even in the relatively calm conditions. I took some 360 degree photos (to be posted on my Facebook page) and moved on to the other spectacle in the area, the Natural Bridge. Not as impressive as The Gap, it was still cool to look at and read about the story of the guy who climbed down to the platform and got washed out to sea (will leave the outcome a mystery). Not really knowing where I was headed next I thought I would drive to Albany and reassess my plans there. As I was driving back to the town centre I passed a sign that read "Point Possession HT" along with the bicentennial symbol I had seen before. Having checked out a book about the bicentennial heritage trails that were constructed in the late 80s, I should have known about this one but given the book didn’t contain much useful information like maps or directions, I only flicked through it casually.
Unfortunately a lot of the trails don't exist anymore or have been overtaken by other trails (like the Kattamorda) and some are either really short or driving trails. As I had no firm plans I thought I would take a tumble down the rabbit hole and followed Quaranup Rd until I found something. What I did find was a very large and informative information board at the trail head in the Whalers Cove Car Park containing a map, description and a big “Point Possession Hertiage Trail” sign. The map showed the trail going out on Vancouver Peninsula along the western beach before looping around Point Possession and going along the eastern beach. The supposed 6km return hike looked stunning on the map and if it was anything like the scene from the car park then this was going to be a real treat. I loaded up my gear and headed off through the entry point and into the dense shrubbery ready for what promised to be a fantastic little trail. The first section of this trail until you reach the loop is through some coastal forest similar to Bald Head.
With soft-ish sand, amazing ocean views, wildflowers a plenty and the occasional bit of cool, dense forest, this section is a great introduction. The real shock and awe moment comes when you see Vancouver Peninsula for the first time and you extrapolate what you saw on the map and where you will be hiking. With a giant smile on my face I examined the postcard perfect scene in front of me and snapped a few photos (I was trying to efficiently take photos as I didn't have much battery life). With the trail still high above the water the views continued as I moved on along the now granite path. Lined with wildflowers and flowering trees, the path to the loop section was an enjoyable place to be in the spring sunshine. The descent down to the beaches takes you on rocky paths through the shrubbery and eventually you come out onto a wide sand track used by the nearby Camp Quaranup to access the beaches. Passing a tiny shed I'm guessing is used to store equipment used by the camp, the path splits in two. Left is to Brambles Beach looking out over Shoal Bay and the town centre and to the right is Barker Bay Beach that provides an amazing experience of King George Sound and the Southern Ocean.
I wanted to save the spectacular Barker Bay Beach for last so chose the path leading to Brambles Beach and headed off on the soft sand. While it isn't the better of the two beaches, there is still plenty to enjoy about walking along this pristine stretch of white sand. Once you have made your way over the dried seaweed, the walk along the beach is very relaxing given the compacted nature of the sand and the beautiful pearl colour. With only seagulls for company I looked out at the port and town centre and thought about all the people up in the car parks on Marine Drive looking down at me, probably not knowing this trail existed (as I hadn't an hour before). The gentle waters of Shoal Bay meant the walk along the shore towards the granite dome at the end of the peninsula was very peaceful. My only worry was crossing the deep layers of seaweed that had built up over the winter and this proved to be a messy experience. There was no avoiding it so I chose a point where it didn't look that deep but in the end it didn't matter.
My boots disappeared at points, sucked into the soft carpet of decaying seaweed but I made it. The path off the beach and up to Point Possession is easily spotted and you get some parting views of Brambles Beach as you climb up the granite steps. It's not a large hill but the climb up the granite could potentially get a little slippery in wetter weather than I had. Installed on the open granite dome section is a chain rope connecting metal poles that could be either used to guide you up to the top or be used as an aid to get you there. Seeing as how I had a nice sunny day, I walked up and over the granite dome to the top of the hill and a very impressive monument that is essentially a giant rock cairn. The purpose of the monument is to mark the bicentennial of Captain Vancouver claiming the South-West for Britain. I understand it was a Monday afternoon but I couldn't understand how I was so alone on this piece of paradise.
Do the majority of locals not know about this walk or are they that spoiled for choice when it comes to great beaches that this is one of least visited because it takes a little longer to access? I didn't really mind as it was a privilege to have this place all to myself and I enjoyed every step up the beach. I wasn't completely alone as there was a small dingy offshore with a couple of fishermen probably wondering what I was doing on my own. Unlike Brambles Beach, there are no giant piles of seaweed here to spoil the scene but I was expecting a little more to be washed up on the beach. One of the things both myself and my partner enjoy is beach combing along Mosman Beach in Fremantle so I wanted to find a few shells to add to our collection. I did find a few but given this beach is semi-exposed to the ocean I thought there would hundreds of shells to collect. Looking at the map afterwards and the way the ocean tides work, this beach is fairly protected by Flinders Peninsula so it is understandable that not a lot washes up here.
The few shells I did find were slightly broken so my plans of photographing one with the ocean in the background wasn't going to pan out. I soon reached the end of the beach and could see the staircase back to where the loop finishes but I didn't want it to end so made my way to the very end to see what was there (not much). With some parting photos in the memory card and one last glance at this amazing place from ground level, I headed up the stairs and back to the loop section. The return back to the starting point was just as enjoyable as the journey out as the sun was a little lower, casting a better light on the landscape. I used the last of my camera battery taking photos of what looks like a recent upgrade, a set of stairs to help people over a difficult section of granite. It's nice to know this particular heritage trail hasn't been neglected and there are volunteers out there willing to preserve this fantastic trail. I got back to the car after a sensational hike, thanking my lucky stars I saw the sign for this trail and decided to investigate.
Final Thoughts - I could use every superlative to describe this trail and it probably wouldn't be enough. Torndirrup is a place that just keeps on giving and I wouldn't be surprised if there are another couple of trails hidden away somewhere on this rugged stretch of land.
While most visitors to the area are there to park, walk 100m and take a few photos of the popular tourist destinations, give me this and Bald Head any day of the week. I love that some of the best places are rewarded after a little bit of hard work and it makes them just that little bit more special.
Having said that, this trail is pretty much accessible by anyone so long as you have a decent pair of running shoes and the endurance to walk 5km. The reward unless you visit on a weekend is most likely going to be deserted perfection all to yourself and 5km of beautiful walking.
While most of the heritage trails from 1988 are long gone, it is nice to know that this one is being looked after and improved for everyone to use. If you are a volunteer on this trail, thank you for your efforts.
I can't rave about this hike enough and it's one I will be visiting every time I can. Its trails like this that seriously make me consider moving down to this idyllic town.
Get out there and experience it!
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