Wilderness Ocean Walk (WOW) Trail
8.1km (One Way)
1 hour (Ride)
2-3 Hours (Walk)
Directions - Located just outside of Denmark, from the centre of town head west along South Western Hwy and take a left onto Ocean Beach Road. Follow this south until you reach the right turn for Lights Road, take this and then keep going until the left turn for Lights Beach Road. The trail head is located on the eastern side of the car park at the end of Lights Beach Road. Alternatively you can start at Ocean Beach by following Ocean Beach Road all the way to the end and parking at the Denmark Boating and Angling Club.
The Ride - Denmark is a fantastic town on the south coast of Western Australia and I have a bit of a crush on this part of the world. Over the years I've visited many times, enjoying the day hikes in the area and coming through on the Bibbulmun Track and Munda Biddi as I completed either sections of the track or doing the whole thing. That brings me the purpose of my latest visit here that led to this trail getting a full write-up for the website.
While coming through here on my Munda Biddi E2E (post for this section coming in March 2022), I made the decision to double hut into Denmark as the incoming weather meant either riding in a couple of hours of rain or spending the entirety of the following day riding in rain. Unfortunately that meant a 105km day into Denmark and the only stretch of riding along the ocean on the whole 1065km trail would be in less than ideal conditions. Arriving at William Bay, it was looking gloomy and by the time we reached Lights Beach, the rain really started to hit. Long story short, I ended up riding the final 17km into town in the rain so had to put the camera away. This was just fine as it gave me an excuse to come back later in the year and re-shoot the section from William Bay and the new realignment that was being built as we came through. Fast forward to mid-November and I had asked my podcast partner if I could stay with him and his in-laws when he was down for a Munda Biddi maintenance trip. I couldn't have picked a better weekend to head down as temperatures were in the late teens and there was the perfect amount of cloud dotting the bright blue skies.
The Wilderness Ocean Walk (or WOW Trail) is a one way trail taking you from Lights Beach, up and over the hilly dune system and along the coast towards the Denmark Wind Farm and Ocean Beach. This was a section of the Munda Biddi I had marked off as one to really enjoy and although it was raining and I was soaked through, it was still a fun ride. Arriving in Denmark after a lovely drive listening to podcasts for almost five hours, the plan was to cycle from the middle of town out to William Bay and then return. The reasoning for this was to get the fantastic afternoon lighting at golden hour for the re-shoot of the Munda Biddi and also this trail (as it is used in its entirety by the Munda Biddi). Two birds, one stone I thought and so I started off from the Civic Centre and sped along the paths out to William Bay. I won't include details about the ride as it will get written up in a few months for the Munda Biddi post but I will say they've done a great job on the realignment out of William Bay. After 29km of riding, I arrived back at Lights Beach to begin the WOW Trail and it's a place I have fond memories of from my Bibb and MB E2Es. I laughed as I saw the modern toilet block that Aron and I took refuge in while waiting for the rains to pass and was thankful the sun was shining today.
Lights Beach is a popular dog friendly beach and there were plenty of locals out here taking their puppas for an afternoon walk. The WOW Trail is also dog friendly but as I'll explain later, I'd be curious to hear how many incidents there are along the trail with dogs and bike riders getting tangled up. There is an information board at the start of the trail and from here you continue along the paved trail as it heads into the dune system that is quite hilly all the way to the Denmark Wind Farm. The Munda Biddi and Bibbulmun share this path, although the Bibbulmun takes little detours into the thick coastal heath every now then, something walkers may also wish to do. The views from the start looking along the coastline are very dramatic, as you would expect from this breath-taking part of the world and it brought a big smile to my face. Being on the bike, I slowly tootled up the path, stopping quite a lot to photograph a wildflower or a new view that opened up. One of the great strengths of this trail is that no matter what way you are looking, there is always something amazing to see.
The coastline is the obvious "wow" (say that in your best Owen Wilson impersonation) viewpoint but to the north is the quietly imposing presence of Mount Hallowell, home to the enjoyable Sheila Hill Memorial Track. Being late spring, the south coast was still full of colour and I was kept busy photographing all the wildflowers including Fan Flowers, Rose-scented Geraniums, Hibbertia, Pimelea and Banksia. When I was coming through in the opposite direction earlier in the afternoon, I had spotted some Carnaby Cockatoos feasting on the Banksias and as I left Lights Beach there were some 28s perched in one of the bushes. It's fantastic that this place has been left alone, relatively speaking, so the wildlife can continue to thrive. Speaking of wildlife, I was keeping a sharp eye out for any late afternoon sun bakers in the form of Bobtails or danger noodles but thankfully I didn't spot any. The trail winds its way through the dune system like a rollercoaster with some really exciting sections that made me feel like I was on a racetrack. As I said before, I'd be curious to find out if there are many collisions between walkers and riders as there are plenty of blind corners and spots where accidents could occur.
Keeping an eye out for fellow trail users, I was lucky to come across a few walkers in safe spots so there was no issue. With Lights Beach now well behind me, the rolling nature of the landscape felt like a great escape, even if the allure of the wind turbines signalled the end of the trail. I was well and truly in golden hour as I rode along, passing little beaches and bays with some stunning viewing spots to stop and rest. Looking up and down the coastline revealed a different character, with the eastern views giving a more whimsical feel thanks to the golden lighting and the views looking west providing a mass of deep colours. At one spot I had to take the obligatory bike leaning up against the seat photo and with the beautiful afternoon lighting, the unloaded bike looked a treat. I remember coming through here on my Munda Biddi ride and thinking the hills were some of the steepest gradients of the entire trail but I put that down to having a fully loaded bike and 90km already in the legs by that point. With the unloaded bike they still seemed steep and the elevation chart doesn't quite show how steep it was given it extrapolates off the topographical map. At points it was a struggle to get in a low enough gear to tackle the last little section but the sharp uphills are very brief so it's not too much of an issue.
Reaching the last few small climbs, the hard work is over when you reach the first of two wind turbines and the trail goes quite close to the behemoth. The whoosh whoosh of the blades is a distinct sound and reminded me of my final day on the Bibbulmun Track as it heads past the Albany Wind Farm. Now off the paved trail, you follow the gravel access road to the turbines for the rest of the way down to Ocean Beach. With the views opened up looking towards the Wilson Inlet and Denmark, it's a nice feeling knowing the rest of the trail is all downhill. Cruising along the gravel road, I stopped a few times to take advantage of the great views as I came up to the sub-station for the Wind Farm, a building I had sheltered under a couple of months ago while I waited for Aron to catch up. Technically the trail ends at the gates for the access road but I think a more fitting place is the Ocean Beach Surf Club as you finish with some stunning views overlooking the mouth of the Wilson Inlet and across to the Nullaki Peninsula. It was getting late in the afternoon and I was going to be late for dinner at Donovan's in-laws so I stopped for a few photos and then headed off to sprint back to Denmark. What a trail and what a day. Truly a "WOW" experience and a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Final Thoughts – I know what they were going for when they named it the WOW Trail (Wilderness Ocean Walk) but this is really a WOWR Trail (Wilderness Ocean Walk & Ride).
This one ticks all the boxes with stunning scenery, close to a great country town, dog friendly, amazing flora and fauna plus the wildness of the Southern Ocean being the focal point.
If you're riding or walking this one, there shouldn't be any disappointment with the quality of the scenery along here. Channel your inner Owen Wilson and let the WOW take over.
Get out there and experience it!
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