fitzgerald river national park
Directions - Located in the eastern part of Fitzgerald River National Park, access is via Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun Rd to the turnoff for Hamersley Drive that will take you into the park. Hamersley Drive is paved all the way past West Beach but turns into a gravel road as you head north. The road is corrugated at times and the car park is located on the eastern side of the road (well marked). The park can be subject to flooding during the wetter times of the year so please check with Parks and Wildlife before planning a visit.
The Hike - After exploring Point Ann and West Mount Barren in the previous two days it was time to move to the eastern side of Fitzgerald River National Park and experience what this section of the park had to offer. There is no direct drive from the western side to the eastern side so that meant backtracking a little bit and taking South Coast Hwy up and around the northern boundary. We stopped in at Jerramungup for an early lunch before making our way to Ravensthorpe for a look around including having a close up view of the famous painted silos you find as you enter town.
I can recommend the coffee at the Bread and Butter Bar next to the post office and the views from the top of the hill aren't bad. The drive to Hopetoun was good mix of Salmon Gum lined twisty roads and wide open expanses, some pleasurable scrubland of the national park and some just yellow farming scapes that made me a little sad given the ecologically important environment that must have existed before the expansive clear felling this area endured post WWII. Thankfully you arrive within the boundaries of the national park and all is well again. The crossing of the Culham Inlet was a delight and we saw a flock of pelicans near the waters edge just chilling about before driving to our intended campsite for the night, Four Mile Beach. Being midday we were a bit early to tackle East Mount Barren (I wanted to hike it close to sunset) so we set up our tent and went for look around Barrens Beach. It was perfect conditions with a warm feel to the sun and a light breeze so while I went for a swim, Caris explored the beach and headlands (even spotting either a mouse or native marsupial swimming in one of the rock pools). While we initially though the beach was pretty clean we went for a bit of an explore and soon had more than our share of plastic and old fishing gear (always remember to take three for the sea).
Barrens Beach was a fun little bay that looks like the rock face extends all the way from the beach to the top of East Mount Barren and swim was a meditative way of making peace with the eastern most barren before climbing it later in the day. You will notice at this point I haven't really talked about Sepulcralis Hill at all and am waffling on about my holidays more than I should. The drive out there was very pleasant with winding roads providing excellent views but I had my reservations about this hike as soon as we got off the paved road and onto the corrugated gravel. While we were climbing steadily I couldn't really see how a 600m hike was going to lead to anything that spectacular on the side of the road. We eventually came to the car park and my suspicions were confirmed. Given we had some spare time and it was on the list of activities, I was not going to skip this hike but expected something a little more given it was an advertised attraction in the park brochure. The "moderately easy" walk just ended up being an easy walk up to a wooden platform with some views to the surrounding areas of the park but not really high enough above the rest of the surrounds to be noteworthy and the objects it was meant to showcase were alright but just seemed like specs in the distance given how far away they were.
There is aboriginal history to the area with a story about how the Weeping Gums got their name, said to be the spears sticking out of the body of a man who stole the wife of a man who lived in the area and he was tracked down and killed on Sepulcralis Hill (Sepulcralis means "of the tomb"). This adds a nice connection back to the land but I found the execution a bit clumsy and don't remember an information board telling this story in any great detail. Given the short length it would be a much better experience to tell the story over multiple boards as you make your way to the lookout platform so it feels more than just a trail leading to a lookout. Add to that there are only a few examples of the Weeping Gums that I noticed in the area (had to double check the photos) so it wasn't a feature I would attribute to the hike (as opposed to my visit to No Tree Hill). I'm sure not coming in spring didn't help things as the wildflowers display wasn't at its peak but for the drive out there on gravel roads I was hoping for something more substantial.
Final Thoughts - As I've said this isn't a hike I would return to given the small length and lack of interesting features. It felt more like crossing a hike off the list instead to get another post up on the website (and here it is). There are some alright views of the Mid Barrens and the Eyre Range to the north but there are better vantage points from around the park to take in these features.
In spring it may transform into a paradise of colour but for any visit outside of that then I wouldn't expect too much. If you are staying at Four Mile Beach or Hamersley Inlet then it's an activity to do but having it rated as a Class 3 is a bit misleading if you are expecting something of that difficulty or quality.
I don't often say this as I like to try and take the positives out of every hike but this one really wasn't worth the drive out there at this time of year. Maybe I picked the worst time so please let me know if you visited and it was a better experience.
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