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Walpole, WA

Quiet coastal town between the Great Southern Ocean and the forests

Walpole is surrounded by the Walpole-Nornalup National Park and the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet System. The small coastal settlement is edged by some of the most dramatic and unusual coastline in Australia - a combination of cliffs and beaches which are washed by the Great Southern Ocean and the impressive karri and jarrah forests of the South West. The main attractions in the area include Mount Frankland, the big Tingle Tree at Hilltop, the Knoll Drive, the Nuyts Wilderness, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, Conspicuous Beach, Fernhook Falls and Mandalay Beach - nearly all of which exist within the boundaries of the superb Walpole–Nornalup National Park. Today Walpole and Nornalup are tiny settlements which exist to service the surrounding rural area where beef and dairy cattle and professional fishing dominate. In recent times the towns have benefited greatly from an increase in tourism.


Walpole is located 412 km south of Perth via Highway 1 through Bunbury and Manjimup.


Origin of Name

Walpole is named after the Walpole River which was first sighted by Europeans in 1831 when Captain Bannister passed through the area while exploring an overland route from the Swan River colony to Albany. Governor Stirling decided to name the river after Lieutenant William Walpole whom Stirling had served with in 1808.


Things to See and Do

Coalmine Beach
Located 3 km south of Walpole, Coalmine Beach is a particularly beautiful section of beach on Nornalup Inlet. It was named because coal was found near the cliffs but, because it was very low grade, it was never mined. The beach has good picnic facilities and is ideal for swimming. It is part of a boat-free zone. There is a useful, downloadable brochure Coalmine Beach and Knoll Drive which can be accessed at https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/downloads/parks/20180504%20CoalmineBeach-KnollDrive%20FactSheet%20Web.pdf.

Coalmine Beach Heritage Trail
The Coalmine Beach Heritage Trail which starts at the Walpole Nornalup Visitor Centre in Pioneer Park winds around the shoreline of Walpole Inlet to Coalmine Beach on Nornalup Inlet. It is a pleasant 3 km bushwalk (6 km return) which passes through wetlands and a forest. It has a number of interpretative signs which help walkers to understand what the area must have been like in the 1930s. For more information and a map check out https://trailswa.com.au/trails/coalmine-beach-heritage-trail/about.

Knoll Drive
Knoll Drive is a circuit from Coalmine Beach which passes through the forests of the Walpole-Nornalup National Park. From the lookouts it offers expansive views over the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park. It is possible to walk down to the inlet rock fishing spots (Bream Beach and Rocky Head are well known) or to enjoy a picnic surrounded by karri and marri trees. There is a useful, downloadable brochure Coalmine Beach and Knoll Drive which can be accessed at https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/downloads/parks/20180504%20CoalmineBeach-KnollDrive%20FactSheet%20Web.pdf.


Other Attractions in the Area

Walpole Wilderness
There is an excellent, downloadable brochure (see https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/downloads/parks/20170280%20ExploreWalpoleWbro_web.pdf) titled Exploring the Walpole Wilderness which has a detailed map and information on Coalmine Beach and Knoll Drive, Hilltop Drive with the lookout and the Giant Tingle Tree, the coastal attractions of Mandalay Beach, Conspicuous Cliff, the Walpole and Nonalup Inlets Marine Park, Monastery Landing, John Rate Lookout, the 4WD tracks in the area, the camping sites, and Mount Frankland.

Walpole–Nornalup National Park
Lying to the east of Walpole and stretching from the coast to the heavily timbered hinterland, the Walpole-Nornalup National Park (now defined as part of the Walpole Wilderness) is known for its scenic beauty and its unspoilt, pristine nature. The important visitor attractions in the area include Mount Frankland, the big Tingle Tree at Hilltop, the Knoll Drive, the Valley of the Giants, Conspicuous Beach, Fernhook Falls and Mandalay Beach.The Western Australian government has described the park as "The Frankland and Deep Rivers drain the forested hinterland, emptying into the broad and sheltered waters of the inlet.
"The National Park protects a variety of forest and coastal environments, and the dependent animals and plants. Major forest trees are those common to the South West with the addition of the giant red, yellow and rates tingles, a slow growing hardwood restricted to this area. Red-flowering gum, a popular garden tree, grows naturally only here."

Valley of the Giants - Tree Top Walk
Located 20 km east of Walpole via the South Coast Highway, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk is a genuinely unforgettable experience. Visitors get to walk for 600 metres some 40 metres above ground through the tops of the ancient tingle forest. It also includes a forest floor walk - Ancient Empire - where visitors walk through the 400 year old red tingle giants. For more information check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/tree-top-walk.

Hilltop Lookout Road
The Hilltop Lookout Road, which runs north off the South Coast Highway east of the town, passes through dense karri and tingle forests. On the drive it is worth noting the rare sight of a hollow tingle tree growing in a sheoak forest. Two kilometres along Hilltop Road is Hilltop Lookout which offers a panoramic view across the Frankland River, Nornalup Inlet and the Great Southern Ocean. Check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/giant-tingle-tree for more information.

Giant Tingle Tree
Accessed off Hilltop Road just beyond Hilltop Lookout, the Giant Tingle Tree is a remarkable tree which can be inspected on the "Giant Tingle Tree Loop Walk" which is one kilometre long and takes about 20 minutes if you walk briskly. You can return to the South Coast Road by turning south on Gully Road beyond the Giant Tingle Tree. Tingles are the largest girthed eucalypt in the world and this is a fine example of a huge tree which has been hollowed out by a bushfire. The sign beside the tree explains: "Follow this sealed path for 400 m downhill through red tingle and karri forest to a boardwalk surrounding the Giant Tingle Tree. Continue around the tree to a second majestic tingle tree. Visitors with a pusher or wheelchair should return from the Giant Tingle Tree the way they came to avoid the steps. Take the path at the back of the second large tree to return to the car park along an unsealed walk trail. The Bibbulmun Track intersects the path, so be sure to follow the right hand path back to the car park." See https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/giant-tingle-tree for more details.

Conspicuous Beach and Conspicuous Cliff
Located 20 km east of Walpole, the drive to Conspicuous Beach in spring is through coastal heathland with combines swamp paperbark with red flowering gums. The location has a whale watching platform on top of rugged cliffs and below is a small, beautiful beach. Access to the beach is via a wooden boardwalk and stairs. The beach is dangerous for swimming but popular with anglers and beachcombers. For more detailed information check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/conspicuous-cliff.

Nuyts Wilderness
Located 8 km west of Walpole on the South Western Highway (head for the Mount Clare Car Park), and only accessed by walking tracks, Nuyts Wilderness has been managed as a wilderness area for more than 40 years. The tracks through the region are restricted to bushwalkers and wind across the native countryside to vantage spots on Point Nuyts. The excellent, downloadable guide to the area (see https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/downloads/parks/20180504%20NuytsWilderness%20FactSheet%20Web_0.pdf) provides a map and detailed descriptions of three challenging walks through the area:
* Mount Clare Picnic Area to Thompson Cove - 18 km return - one day walk.
* Mount Clare Picnic Area to Aldridge Cove - 21 km return - one day walk.
* Mount Clare Picnic Area to Mount Hopkins - 24 km return - one day walk.
This is real wilderness. The tracks are not marked and there are no facilities.

Mandalay Beach
Located 20 km west of Walpole, and named after a Norwegian barque which was wrecked (it remains there) in 1911, the quiet and pristine beach is popular with anglers and the area offers dramatic views of the Great Southern Ocean and Chatham Island, which lies three kilometres offshore. There are boardwalks down to the beach and whale watching platforms. Signage in the area includes historical information and interpretation signs about the Mandalay. The Bibbulmun Track passes through the site. For more detailed information check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/mandalay-beach.

Mount Frankland National Park and Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout
Located 30 km north of Walpole on the North Walpole Road, Mount Frankland is a granite monadnock. The National Park covers 31,000 ha of karri, jarrah and tingle forest. Its main attraction is the remarkable Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout which provides a 360° view of the Walpole Wilderness. There is extensive information on a series of interpretative panels and there are a series of walks from the Lookout platform which include:

* Towerman’s Hut - a 200 metre walk (it takes around 10 minutes) to a barbecue area where there is an old hut built in 1956 which was used by the towerman who climbed to the summit of Mount Frankland several times a day to watch for fires and check the weather.

* Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout - a 600 metre return to the lookout (it takes around 20 minutes) which offers dramatic views over the Walpole Wilderness.
* Summit Trail - 1.2 km return to both Towerman's Hut and Mount Frankland Lookout. The walk is classified as difficult but, on a clear day, the views from the summit extend from the Porongurup and Stirling Ranges in the east to the Great Southern Ocean in the south. The walk involves climbing a ladder and walking up and down 300 steep steps.
* Soho Lookout - a 1.6 km return walk that takes around 40 minutes and loops around the granite bulk of Mount Frankland. It is classified as moderately difficult.
Check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/mount-frankland for more details.

Fernhook Falls
Located 34 km north of Walpole either via North Walpole Road or Highway 1, the Fernhook Falls are low lying falls on Deep River which tumble over granite boulders. They are located in the Mount Frankland National Park. There are a number of bushwalks and boardwalks from the car park which lead to places where visitors can enjoy excellent views of the falls. Not surprisingly the falls are best in the wetter winter months. Check out https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/fernhook-falls for more details. There are excellent photos at https://www.rainbowcoast.com.au/areas/walpole/fernhook-falls.htm.

Swarbrick Art Loop
Located 10 km north of Walpole on Logging Road, which is off the North Walpole Road, is the Swarbrick Art Loop. It is a 500m loop walk which features forest art exhibits and a mirrored ‘Wilderness Wall of Perceptions’ . The aim is to encourage visitors to explore artistic notions of the forest and wilderness. There is also an impressive stand of old-growth karri forest. Trails WA (see https://trailswa.com.au/trails/swarbrick-art-loop/print) notes that "Swarbrick features a selection of art exhibits designed to challenge your perception of wilderness. The art works range from a sculpture depicting Aboriginal message sticks to a giant suspended ring, the Golden Torus, through which the artist prompts the visitor to explore the interconnectedness of all things ... A short loop walk takes you past the ‘Wilderness Wall of Perceptions’. This 39 metre long, stainless steel wall features more than 30 forest-related quotes from the past 100 years, with dates of political events relating to forest management and wilderness. Your visit will reinforce, review or even change your perception of the forest and wilderness."

The Bibbulmun Track
The Bibbulmun Track, which starts in Kalamunda in the north goes for more than 1,000 km south to Albany and passes beside the Giant Tingle Tree and Mandalay Beach. There are a number of other access points (see https://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/trip-planner/track-sections/northcliffe) on the way to and from Walpole. This is a point on the route where, as the guide points out, "Between Northcliffe and Walpole, walkers heading south from Kalamunda will once again reach a few milestones; the diverse ecosystems of the Pingerup Plains, the last of the campsites with campfires allowed and most significantly the first encounter with the wild southern ocean. This is the remotest section of the southern part of the Track, with few accessible roads and almost no signs of civilisation for eight days!"

Sandy Beach Walk Trail
This pleasant walk from Rest Point to Sandy Beach is 1.2 km one way (2.4 km return). It has some steep sections but usually takes around 50 minutes at a brisk walk. It is a narrow path around the edge of the Western Knoll which provides glimpses of Nornalup Inlet. It passes through stands of karri forest. At Sandy Beach it is possible to go for a swim. There are views across to Newdegate Island and the mouth of the Deep River.



* For some 50,000 years the Murrum Aboriginal people lived in the area prior to the arrival of Europeans.

* The first Europeans to explore the coast near Walpole were the Dutch. They were followed by the French and British. None of these explorers actually landed.

* By the 1830s sealers and whalers were using Nornalup Inlet.

* The Walpole River was discovered by Captain Bannister in 1831.

* The first party to explore the Nornalup area was led by William Preston and reached the area in 1837.

* In 1842 William Nairne Clark rowed into Nornalup Inlet and was impressed by the calm waterway and surrounding countryside. 'On the right bank,'  he later wrote, 'there were high towering hills - here the vegetation was luxuriant, wattle trees, tall ferns and wild vetches growing amongst trees of magnificent growth - some one hundred feet high of enormous girth and as straight as a pole'.

* In 1872 Governor Weld reached the area and wrote, "The countless grassy knolls and undulations are enlivened with the bright turquoise blue of the dwarf lobelia. The peppermint is greener than most Australian trees - whilst within the valleys, black stemmed shockheaded xanthorrea fit the Western Australia character unmistakably." 

* The area was settled by Europeans in 1910 by Pierre Bellanger.

* In 1910 the government set aside land for a national park. This has grown to become the Walpole Wilderness.

*  In 1911 Frank Thompson purchased land in Walpole.

* In 1929 the railway line reached Nordalup.

* In the 1930s Sir James Mitchell (Premier of Western Australia) created the Nornalup Land Settlement Scheme to provide city people with work during the depression.

* In August 1930 the first fifty men arrived.

* On 5 April 1933 the townsite was gazetted as Nornalup.

* On 7 August 1934 the name Walpole was officially gazetted.


Visitor Information

Walpole-Nornalup Visitor Centre, Pioneer Park, tel: (08) 9840 1111.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out https://www.walpole.com.au.

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