Walpole’s walks and waters

Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk

Located on Western Australia’s South Coast, Walpole is a very pretty town that offers the traveller the opportunity to enjoy its many surrounding attractions.

Walpole is one of the three largest towns on the Rainbow Coast, the other two being Denmark and Albany.  Although it has a population of less than 500 hundred, Walpole is slightly unusual in that many of these are absentee landowners, namely because many people have holiday homes here.  This means that Walpole is generally quiet for most of the year, but the population swells during peak holiday periods when those landowners return for a break. The town is located on the South Coast Highway, about 60 kilometres west of Denmark (the town, not the country), and 251 kilometres from Bunbury. It is set on the north side of the Walpole Inlet, which is part of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park.  The Walpole Inlet is a magnificent stretch of water, but looks can be deceiving as the average depth of the water is just one metre, but there is still good fishing from both Town Jetty and Swan Bay Jetty.

The nearby Nornalup Inlet is up to five times deeper than Walpole Inlet and considerably larger, namely because it is fed by two rivers, the Frankland River and Deep River.  The Nornalup Inlet is connected to the Walpole Inlet by a one kilometer channel.  Because they are both permanently open to the sea there is much diverse marine life in the Inlets, so there is good fishing there and it is good for boating and swimming.

Perhaps the best known attraction close to Walpole is the Valley of the Giants, so named because of the enormous Tingle Trees that still exist in the area, and the best way to appreciate the magnificent forests around Walpole is to enjoy the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, which is built above a natural valley, and allows you to walk amongst the treetops, 40 metres above the ground.  There is a magnificent information centre here which explains the natural history of the area.  A word of warning.  Although the Treetop Walk is quite safe, it can be worrying for those that are scared of heights as the bridges can sway in the breeze, it can also be difficult to negotiate if you have balance problems, but if you have none of these impediments; the Treetop Walk is a magnificent experience.

Adjacent to the Treetop Walk is an area called the Ancient Empire, where you can walk amongst the Tingle Trees at ground level.  Chances are that you have never heard of Tingle Trees, that’s because they are unique to this part of the world, and there are only a few strands left.  Tingle trees are a type of eucalyptus, which grow to 75 metres high and over 400 years of age.  Tingle trees have an enormous girth, and can grow to over 20 metres in circumference.  Sometimes fires can burn out part of the trunk, and these trees are large enough to shelter under in bad weather.

Walpole Inlet

You can get magnificent panoramic views of the Walpole area from Mt Frankland, just 29 kilometres from the town.  There are several walks here, around the base and up to the summit, but the summit walk can be quite steep so a reasonable level of fitness is required, but the reward is the magnificent view.

There are some tremendous beaches and bays around Walpole.  One of these is Peaceful Bay, about half way between Walpole and Denmark; it is split in two by the Irwin Inlet and has some large dunes, so is popular with 4WD enthusiasts.

Mandalay Beach is named after the ship Mandalay, which was wrecked just off the beach and is occasionally visible from the beach.  Coalmine Beach is a popular swimming beach close to the Inlet it also has a 3km walking trail nearby. Conspicuous Cliffs is another nearby beach, so named because of the sand cliffs which have lookouts that are great for the whale watching season.

Inland from Walpole is Circular Pool, a popular swimming spot and picnic area, and Fernhook Falls, that form part of Deep River, and which are at their best after heavy rains.  Once again, the Falls have good picnic facilities, and below the falls is a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking.

Giant Tingle tree

There are many walking tracks in the Walpole area, particularly in the national parks which surround the town.  Western Australia’s Bibbulmun Track also passes Walpole, and the town is a good base for those who wish to do the coastal walk, or to head into the hills and the Frankland River region.  There are a couple of good day walks, of 14kms and 21kms respectively, and an overnight walk to the Frankland River campsite.  Here you have the opportunity to walk amongst those incredible Tingle trees, and also to try out the coastal cliffs and beaches, and to breathe the fresh air from the Southern Ocean.

Walpole is a pretty town that has many facilities for tourists.  The majority of visitors are West Australians as the many attractions in the area are not well known outside of Western Australia.  There’s plenty of accommodation, of all types, in the Walpole area.  You can pre-book before arrival, or go to the Visitors Information Centre when you arrive in the town to get advice or book accommodation on the spot.

It is best if you have your own vehicle to explore the Walpole region, but there are all-inclusive tours available, but most of these emanate from Perth.  Public transport can be difficult.  There is a coach service from Perth that goes to Walpole via Bunbury, but it gives you few options about when to travel.

Walpole is something of a hidden treasure, and if you can get there you will find the effort very rewarding.

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