Overview: West Cape Howe National Park lies on the southern coast between Albany and Denmark. Its coastline is dominated by rocky headlands,... more »
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West Cape Howe National Park lies on the southern coast between Albany and Denmark. Its coastline is dominated by rocky headlands,... more » sheer cliffs and sandy beaches. Inland, the park rises to the north, coastal heaths giving way to jarrah and sheoak and to tall karri forest near the park entrance. The park is not large, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in scenic grandeur.
TAKE CARE ON THE COAST
The southern coastline has a notorious record for accidents and deaths due to people slipping or being washed into the ocean by unexpected waves, gusting winds or extra large swells. Please exercise extreme caution and don’t risk being the next victim. Stay well back from cliff edges. If you are going fishing you are advised to wear a Personal Flotation Device or life vest. Rock fishing is extremely dangerous on this coastline and is not recommended. less «
West Cape Howe National Park lies about 30km west of Albany via Cosy Corner Road, Coombes Road and Shelley Beach Road.
Few... more » facilities are provided in this wild area, yet it attracts campers, bushwalkers, keen fishers and fans of adventure activities. Shelley Beach lookout is a prime launching site for hang-gliders. Two-wheel drive vehicles can reach Shelley Beach and the nearby lookout, but other sites within the park require high clearance four-wheel drive. If intending to drive the sandy four-wheel drive tracks you will require a tyre pressure gauge and a tyre pump. Park features can also be reached by bushwalking along the sandy four-wheel drive tracks. less «
From the lookout, you can see the clean white sand of Shelley Beach curving beneath steep limestone hills, which drop sharply into the sea.
West Cape Howe is regarded as Western Australia's premier hang gliding site and, on long weekends and holidays, it attracts large numbers of enthusiasts from as far away as Perth. They launch from the... More Shelley Beach Lookout and, if the wind is right, they are able to glide for as long as they please along the park's coastline (the record is more than eight hours). The steep cliffs create ideal updrafts for hang gliding, giving gliders the unusual ability to take off and, after soaring to gain height, land at the same place. If the wind doesn’t allow this, they can land at Shelley Beach. Hang glider pilots must be registered with the Hang Gliding Association of Western Australia.Less
The Shelley Beach Lookout car park is the start point of the 30 minute, 600m return Tarbotton Track. It follows a boardwalk and, when the boardwalk ends, you can continue along a limestone ridge to reach the Bibbulmun Track, with views down a rocky valley to Shelley Beach and the ocean.
In spring, the park is a canvas of blazing colour. The... More striking reds of templetonias, vivid blues of thick-leaved fanflower (Scaevola crassifolia) and pinks of coastal banjine (Pimelia ferruginea) combine with the yellows of showy dryandra (Dryandra formosa) and candle banksia (Banksia attenuata). Dense clumps of peppermint grow as tall as the winds allow and are home to ringtail possums. These shy animals are only ever seen on a night walk through the park. The soft-leaved woollybush also stands in defiance of the wind. Beneath it, jacksonias, melaleucas and wattles form a dense shrub layer typical of the wind-pruned heathlands of the South Coast.Less
Shelley Beach is the most visited area in West Cape Howe National Park, as it is the only area in the park that is accessible to two-wheel drive vehicle. The wide sweep of beach is bounded at both ends by huge granite boulders, formed at the same time as the granites of the Porongurup Range, 79km to the north.
Campers can pitch a tent at Shelley... More Beach campsite, which has a barbecue and long drop toilet. Campfires and cooking fires are not allowed here. Shelley Beach is not suitable for caravans.Less
This short, sandy beach at the bottom of a steep hill is protected from the prevailing south-westerly winds.
Offshore, sponge reefs provide the opportunity for divers to explore the rich marine life of the South Coast but be aware that strong rip tides sometimes occur in this area.
New Zealand fur seals and Australian sea lions cruise along... More the shore in search of fish. Further out to sea, southern right whales, sometimes accompanied by their young, can be seen. These animals were hunted almost to extinction by whalers, but are now gradually increasing in number. They can sometimes be seen from the park's cliffs and lookouts, particularly in winter.
Access to Dunsky Beach is via a sandy four-wheel drive track and requires a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle, reduced tyre pressure, and an experienced driver. The track is very sandy, rough and narrow with encroaching vegetation, and you will need to be alert for oncoming vehicles.Less
Torbay Head is the southernmost point in Western Australia. This point was named by English navigator George Vancouver in 1792. To the east, the peninsula of Torndirrup National Park is abruptly terminated by Peak Head. Over the Southern Ocean lies Eclipse Island.
The cliffs of West Cape Howe plummet 75m into the sea, which pounds relentlessly at their base. The black igneous dolerite rock, which forms the Cape itself, was squeezed up as molten rock from deep below the Earth's crust, and cooled below the surface, allowing the formation of relatively large crystals.
English navigator George Vancouver... More bestowed the name Cape Howe on the western headland in 1792. It was not until 1801, when Matthew Flinders sailed along this stretch of the coast, that the prefix West was added to distinguish the Cape from another of the same name on the border between New South Wales and Victoria.
The constant salt spray and the heavy soils of the cape create a perched saline wetland on top of the cliffs. This supports the dome-like shrub Andersonia sprengelioides, other species of andersonia and samphires. This unusual vegetation formation is more extensively represented at West Cape Howe than at other South Coast locations. As well as hosting unusual plants, the clayey soils of the cliff tops are also home to a terrestrial crab. This strange creature prefers not to mix with its counterparts on the rocks below the cliffs.
Access is via Dunsky Track and requires a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle.Less
Golden Gates Beach is renowned as one of the area's best surfing spots. This remote spot is accessible only by four-wheel drive.
The cleared rural landscape and ringbarked trees of Torbay, near the park’s entrance, are a vivid contrast to the shady karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) forest just within the park boundary. The tall karri forest supports a dense understorey of tall shrubs - karri oak, karri hazel, karri wattle and the waterbushes. Where there is light and space,... More there are low shrubs of many blue-flowered species such as tree hovea, dampiera and veronica. Sedges and tufted plants, such as twig rush and many-flowered iris (Orthrosanthus multiflorus), are common on the wet, shady forest floor.
This is a regrowth forest. Logging began here last century. In 1884, Millars Timber Company built two of the first large mills in WA at Torbay, just to the north, after securing a lease over 50,000 acres of forest. Karri was cut from the area to provide sleepers and other timber for the Great Southern Railway, which ran from Albany to Beverley and was built by the WA Land and Development Company, a large London concern. Timber cutting continued in the area until early this century.Less