Sunday, 30 October 2016

Mamang Trail (WA) - Fitzgerald Inlet to Point Ann (Beach Route)


The second day of an overnight hike in Fitzgerald River National Park, the 12.6 km return walk of the Mamang Trail follows a shorter, alternate route. Initially follow the main trail to Point Charles Junction, the alternate route takes walkers via a series of sand dunes before a long beach walk down Point Charles and St Mary Beaches. Featuring jagged rock formations and pristine beaches, this shortcut is an excellent alternative.



Distance: 12.6 km (one way)
Gradient: Fairly gentle with little gain and loss in elevation over the entire walk. Some wading may be required if the Fitzgerald Inlet is open. 
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and straightforward - this is a combination of well constructed trail and easy beach walking.
Quality of Signage: Very well signed in terms of directions and kilometres, although a lot of the interpretive signage was not in place at the time of visit. The Beach Route is only marked through the dunes and to the beach, with no signage from there all the way back to Point Ann. 
Experience Required: Although relatively easy, all water must be carried in so previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended. 
Time: 3.7 Hours, including snack break
Steps: Some formal steps leading to lookouts
Best Time to Visit: Autumn and Spring, and milder Winter days
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply. 
Getting There: Access to the Point Ann is off South Coast Hwy (National Route 1). Take the unsealed roads along Devils Creek Rd, right onto Pabelup Dr then right onto Point Ann Rd to the Point Ann car park. 



After yesterday's superb day of walking and a restful night's sleep, Alissa and I were woken at sunrise by the melodious sound of birdsong at Fitzgerald Inlet campsite. There is nothing unusual about being woken up by birds at first light, however the wildness of the campsite's location and its proximity to both the beach and the river meant a truly extraordinary amount of different bird calls. A lovely start to the day, Alissa and I had a lazy morning, taking two hours to get packed up, cook breakfast and get going for the return journey back to Point Ann. 



The Mamang Trail is unusual for an 'out and back' walk in that it offers two options for the return route; walkers may simply retrace their steps back through the heathlands and past Lake Nameless as seen on the previous day of walking, or they can take the alternate Beach Route. Although beach walking can be punishingly difficult (as it was along Mazzoletti Beach earlier this year), the firm sand of the previous day, the opportunity to take a 2.6 kilometre shortcut and the promise of different scenery all made the Beach Route a very attractive option. 



To begin with however, the return journey follows the same route as the previous day, leaving Fitzgerald Inlet campsite via a trail alongside the inlet itself. 



From there, walkers return to Fitzgerald Beach and will need to once again cross the river mouth if the Fitzgerald River's sandbar is open.





Walking back to the start of Fitzgerald Beach, the beach exit is fairly easy to locate thanks to the bright orange track marker. 



From here the trail offers walkers one final view of Fitzgerald Beach before heading up a fairly easy climb to the lookout at Point Charles. 



Continuing along the track, walkers will return to Point Charles Junction. This is where walkers looking to undertake the Beach Route will deviate from the previous day's journey. Instead of continuing on straight, walkers turn left via a spur trail. This spur trail is also used by walkers looking to do the day walk loop version of the Mamang Trail. 



There are a lot of Dieback cleaning stations along the track, and there is one last brush down point before entering the dunes area. Please ensure that all of these stations are used to maintain the pristine nature of the Fitzgerald River National Park. 



From the cleaning station, the track heads across a series of sand dunes as they lead to Point Charles Beach. Due to the shifting sands, it is advised that the Beach Route should only be undertaken during the return leg of the walk, as it can be difficult to locate the markers at Point Charles Beach if you were trying to reach Point Charles Junction. 



The dunes offered us another interesting micro-environment to explore, including many wildflowers we had not seen the day before. 



Although the dunes were not overly soft at the time of walking, some of the steeper dunes did require a bit more effort, however most experienced walkers should find this section relatively straightforward. 



The trail markers lead to the beach at a 90° angle, however it may look tempting to cut corners by taking a shortcut along the dunes. Although this may seem shorter, walkers are advised that the soft sands make for a significantly more challenging walk, and that it is better to focus on getting to the beach as directly as possible and make use of the speed increase offered by the firmer surface. 



Sure enough - Point Charles Beach was fairly firm under foot, and made for relatively easy walking. 



Satisfied with the firmness, I left my boots on, however Alissa took hers off so she could enjoy the sensation of walking on the fine, soft and squeaky sand. The number of flies buzzing around and hitching a ride on our packs was not quite as enjoyable however, and was a sure sign that we were entering the inferno time of year that is the Australian Summer. 



Although fairly easy, there is no way of getting around the fact that this is a long stretch of beach to walk - roughly 8 kilometres. Had we walked this stretch of beach earlier in the year, we might have had the great fortune of seeing whales, however none were spotted on our day of walking.



The tides here go fairly deep into the beach, and Point Charles and St Mary Beaches can become impassable at high tide. Evidence of the tide can be clearly seen along the dunes, with sheer sand cliffs having been formed by the waves at high tide. 



After almost 3 kilometres of pleasant but samey beach walking, Alissa and I were glad to reach a series of jagged formations that are an iconic feature of the Fitzgerald River National Park's beaches. 



Sedimentary layers that had been tilted sideways and worn down by the elements, these incredible dagger-like formations are completely different from the rounded granite domes more common to beaches along Western Australia's southern coast and would be reason alone for walkers to take the Beach Route back to Point Ann. 



To me, these unique formations looked like they were the discarded flint rock tools from a long lost race of giants, and it had me wondering if the local Aboriginal people had their own stories about how these jagged formations came to be. 



Others looked like miniature cityscapes from a science fiction movie, with honeycomb-like holes looking like windows. Truly extraordinary. 



These rock formations only cover a small stretch of the 8 kilometres of beach, with another long stretch of beach following. The tide was really coming in now, and the beach was nowhere near as wide as it had been near the start of the walk. At one point I was right up against the dunes when a relatively gentle wave rolled in across the soft sand and lapped against the dune wall, wetting my left boot. Thankfully, only the top of my sock had been wet, and I hurried along to a wider section of beach to prevent a repeat. 



The transition point from Point Charles Beach to St Mary Beach is marked by a second series of rock formations. Although similarly tilted, these were not as tall or as jagged as the first lot encountered earlier, however they are much closer to the water's edge. 



As such, these rocks offered their own spectacular show, with waves continually crashing in the rocks and water being shot high into the air. 



After leaving the second series of rock formations behind, it is just under 3 kilometres of walking left to reach Point Ann car park. 



An orange marker can be clearly seen along the beach, however walkers will not be using this route today. This is the first beach exit encountered the previous day that leads to Lake Nameless.



Continuing along, walkers will again cross the wide sandbar of the St Mary Inlet. 



Surprisingly, the end of the beach is not very clearly marked in this direction, with no obvious orange marker showing the trail back up to the car park at Point Ann. As such, I would advise walkers to keep an eye out for the turn off from St Mary Inlet onwards. 



As we walked back up to the Point Ann car park, we took one last glimpse of Point Charles Bay and the magnificent Central Wilderness Peaks. As we were looking back, Alissa and I saw movement in the water and we realised there was a pod of dolphins swimming in the shallows - you can just make them out in the left hand side of the photo. Considering that the Mamang Trail is named after the Noongar word for whale and we had not seen any whales along our walk, seeing the dolphins was a fitting finale for a spectacular walk.

The second day of the Mamang Trail may be less special than the first, however the option of a shorter beach route with different scenery on offer makes this a vast improvement over having to walk the exact same walk again except in the other direction. The sand dunes and the jagged formations along the beaches were highlights of the walk, and I would recommend anyone undertaking the Mamang Trail to give the alternate route a try. As mentioned previously in the post for day one of the walk, the Mamang Trail is ideal for hikers transitioning from day walks to overnight hiking. It may be an inconveniently long drive away from Perth and requires you to carry all your water in, but it is well worth the effort. 

2 comments:

  1. Hi Guys, thank you for posting about Fitzgerald River National Park, it's a spot that has interested me for years but I've never actually gotten around to visiting. One day I'd like to walk the length of the park along the coast. It's meant to be a fairly tough walking but very rewarding. Loved your Kalbarri posts too, hopefully I'll get back over to WA with Sam in the next couple of years to revisit some of these magic spots. Cheers

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    1. After one visit Fitzgerald River NP immediately become one of our favourites in WA. I'm very tempted to do the full coastal walk myself. Water is the main issue as the current campsites at Fitzgerald Inlet and Whalebone Creek don't have water tanks. There is apparently an old fisherman's hut in the middle of the park that does have rainwater but its not like the Bibbulmun or Larapinta where rangers check that it is topped up, so it could be empty upon arrival. Still, it would be worth doing - the most difficult and remote part between Twin Bays and Quoin Head is supposed to be the most spectacular part of the whole park.

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