Many veteran grey nomads are happy to list the stunning Fitzgerald River National Park, about halfway between Albany and Esperance in south-west corner of WA, as one of their favourite Big Lap destinations … and with good reason.
The fifth largest national park in the state boasts stunning coastal views, superb mountains, gorgeous river gorges, more than 2000 species of flowers, some 200 species of birds, 41 species of reptile, 12 species of frog, and a host of rare mammals including the dibbler, the heath rat and the woylie. You can also spot Southern Right Whales between July and October, and you may even get a free feed if you’re lucky enough – and skilful enough – to land an Australian Salmon.
Spanning an incredible 330,000 hectares alongside one of the most spectacular stretches of the WA coast, this park demands a lot more than a rushed overnight stop. Happily, there are a number of wonderful campsites to make lingering longer a very easy thing to do.
The sprawling park, located 400 kilometres or so southeast of Perth, is divided into a number of distinct sections. The recreational areas in the west and east are the only ones easily accessible to vehicles, and they are separated by a protected ‘wilderness core’.
Since 2014 when facilities and access were improved as part of a major $40million upgrade, all the main recreational sites and campgrounds on the eastern side of the park are accessible by a sealed, all-weather bitumen arterial road from Hopetoun to Hamersley Inlet. This is the most popular side with tourists and attractions include Four Mile Beach, Barrens Beach, Barrens Lookout, East Mount Barren, Myles Beach, Cave Point and West Beach.
There are some excellent walks allowing grey nomads to soak up the magic and take in the views. The energetic may fancy a climb to the summit of East Mount Barren or a more leisurely stroll along inland trails at Sepulcralis Hill and No Tree Hill. On the western side of the park, Point Ann is the only place in Australia other than the Head of Bight where Southern Right Whales come to calve during their winter migration. Walks around the Point Ann Heritage Trail following the path of the old Rabbit Proof Fence, or on the track to St Mary Inlet offer scenic insights into the region’s heritage.
There are also great walks offering views of spectacular coastal scenery at Mt Maxwell and West Mt Barren. The hike up West Mt Barren will take about 45 minutes, while the walk to the lookout at Mt Maxwell is significantly less demanding, but the vista is not quite as spectacular.
Campgrounds are located on the western side at St Mary Inlet near Point Ann and on the eastern side of the park at Four Mile Campground. With so much to see and do, at least as far as coastal parks go, no wonder so many grey nomads believe this really could be the best of the west.