tagon coastal Trail
cape arid national park
thomas river campground
Directions - Cape Arid National Park is located about an hour and a half east of Esperance. Take Fisheries Rd north out of town and keep following this east for 100km until you reach the turnoff for Tagon Road. Take a right here and follow it all the way into the park towards Thomas River Campground. The trail head is located on the road leading towards the beach and you can park on the edge of the road.
The Hike - The Tagon Coastal Trail is one that has been on my list ever since my podcast partner visited in 2019 and raved about how fantastic the scenery was. With my Spring 2020 Road Trip taking me to the Esperance area to explore some of the remaining trails in the area, I decided that this would be the day that I would drive out to Cape Arid NP and tackle this coastal trail. Unfortunately the weather was still forecast to be cold, wet and windy but I was here so rain, hail or shine, I would be doing this walk.
Staying at Lucky Bay Campground in Cape Le Grand, I had great memories of this place from a trip here in 2018 with Caris. This time I was not blessed with great weather but I made the effort to wake up for the sunrise and managed to get onto the beach for a few minutes before it started to bucket down. I found refuge in a gazebo near the beach waited out the shower in the freezing cold but at least I got some moody morning light from this iconic WA location. With the shower over, I retreated to my tent and had a bit of a lie down and some breakfast before packing up my gear (I would return later that day but wasn't leaving my Nemo Hornet there all day). With this trail being the only thing I had to do today, I enjoyed a leisurely drive out to Cape Arid NP after making myself a nice cup of Earl Grey for the journey. I've only just realised this as I started writing this post but I ended up taking the worst route possible along Merivale Road, which is all gravel and was a bit muddy and corrugated. Instead I should have taken a left turn at Jim Ovens Road and then right onto Fisheries Road that is all tarmac to the Cape Arid turnoff and runs parallel to Merivale Road, just further north.
Mistake made but I still managed a good pace and the car would have ended up filthy thanks to the entry road into the Thomas River Campground being a light coloured mud/loam combination that stuck everywhere to the underside of my car (as per the gallery above). After driving around the campground like an idiot trying to find the trail head, I eventually found it on the road leading to the beach (that was closed during my visit thanks to the Thomas River being a bit full). While I was driving into the park there was a shower passing through so by the time I had my gear together, the sunny skies had returned and I was free to walk in beautiful conditions. The first challenge was getting onto the beach at Yokinup Bay because the Thomas River was blocking the way and I didn't really want to wade through the waist deep water 30m into the hike. There was a goat track to the right where people had ventured to go around the stagnant water but it wasn't easy to find a way through the scrub. Eventually I dropped down onto the beach and was presented with a pretty special scene thanks to oodles of white sand, wild surf washing in and the distant peak of Mount Arid. It felt very much like the view you get at Point Ann at Fitzgerald River with the Mid Barrens providing some hilly features in the distance and a wide bay of perfect white sand giving off an idyllic holiday vibe.
Admiring the views as I made my way along the edge of the beach towards the headland on the right, this was actually turning out to be a pretty fine day apart from the cooler temperatures. They don't show up in the photos so it could have been a balmy spring day and given the luminous azure colour of the water, it certainly looks that way. One thing that this part of Western Australia is not short of is stunning coastline complete with perfect beaches, granite headlands and photogenic water. Reaching the first headland, this is one of the larger sections of granite that takes you up and over towards Dolphin Cove. After climbing up the bare rock for a brief stretch, you join a single track path as it provides a more sheltered and less dangerous route along the edge of the water. Already there were some lovely wildflowers on the side of the trail but soon the single track ends and you start following wooden posts and green boot markers as you head out onto the granite. This type of walking was what I was looking forward to and the path takes you pretty close to where the granite slides off into the water. It's a very pretty scene as the combination of orange, blacks, turquoise and deep blues all mix together for a dramatic palette.
I had my eyes fixed on the ocean as this sheltered bay would be the perfect place for a passing whale to seek a bit of refuge. Having done a fair bit of coastal hiking over the past few weeks, I was a little disappointed not to see a whale frolicking just offshore but that's hardly a big complaint given what I'd experienced. From the waters edge you start to climb up the headland towards the highest point of the trail at a giddy 50m ASL. Providing a bit of variety, it was nice to head into the coastal heath as there were plenty of flowering Acacia that caught my eye. While the whales were hiding away, I managed to spot a couple of kangaroos on the edge of a granite opening and slowly made my way closer to get a better shot. I got a few of them carefully watching me before they decided that was it and bolted off into the undergrowth. Reaching the top of the little climb, the views from up here were magnificent. There was plenty to occupy your eyesight with views overlooking Dolphin Cove, Little Tagon Bay and Tagon Point in the distance. Blessed to have sunny conditions here and no one about, it really felt like this little slice of paradise was all mine to explore.