Stokes Heritage Trail
Stokes National Park
Directions - Stokes National Park is located 88km west of Esperance just off South Coast Highway. Follow the highway out of town until you see the signs for the national park. Turn left onto Stokes Inlet Road and follow this all the way to the end where you'll find a car park (entry fees payable just after you enter the park). The trail head is located on the western side of the car park as the trail heads uphill.
The Hike - Concluding the Albany leg of my 2020 Spring Road Trip, the next destination was the national parks around Esperance after a quick overnight stopover in Fitzgerald River. A moody hike to the top of East Mount Barren was my only activity the previous day but I was optimistic that things might be better today when I awoke to sunnier skies. It was still bitterly cold but that's easily fixed with a brisk walk. The end point for today's travels was the campsite at Lucky Bay but I wanted to stop in at Stokes Inlet to check out the heritage trail that is the only marked walk in the park.
Before leaving the excellent Four Mile Campsite on the eastern side of Fitzgerald River I headed down to Barrens Beach for a quick walk around and to saviour a spot I have fond memories of from previous trips. A quick stop in at Hopetoun was needed for a warm coffee and something delicious to eat from the bakery before I set off on the hour and a half drive to Stokes Inlet. The scenery along the highway isn't terribly stunning with low scrub mixed in with farmland and worryingly, an increase in the area being mined so close to the highway (they close the highway at times because of the blasting). Arriving at Stokes Inlet, I was keen to see what was what after hearing from a friend who recently visited that it was a trail I would enjoy for the details. As is the case with these remote locations, I wasn't surprised to find the car park empty when I arrived. Exiting the car and getting my gear ready, the air still had a chill to it and this would be the case for the rest of my time around Esperance. There are a couple of shelters by the water, mainly used by people who come to fish in the inlet but they also serve as a nice spot for lunch if you brought a picnic.
Searching for the trail head, I thought there would be some information boards on the shelters but it just contained a lot of info about the fishing in the area. I spotted a path leading down to the water so investigated that area to see if the trail started there. While being very pretty thanks to the Melaleuca lined water, the trail did not officially start here but I decided to anyway thanks to the lovely scenery. The paperbarks that grow on the edge of the inlet are a nice sight to see and even more so when they have their golden flowers in bloom, as I was lucky enough to see. Taking many photos, it was eventually time to leave this lovely area and go find a trail to walk. Scouring the car park I spotted a single trail leading into the bush with what looked like an information board. It was the trail head I was looking for and showed me the course I would be taking to the turnaround point at the Benwenerup Campsite. Keen to get going, I set off along the single trail as it heads up the small hill via a wooden staircase. Spotting a few wildflowers as I climbed up, the real treat was the views from the top as you stare out over the inlet that is one of the biggest on the south coast.