Sunday, 27 November 2016

Point Possession Heritage Trail (Quaranup)


A surprisingly good trail near Albany, The Point Possession Heritage Trail leads walkers to the northernmost point of the Vancouver Peninsula. Passing through heathlands, the trail features two short beach walks and features the historica Point Possession where Captain Vancouver claimed the west coast of Australia for Britain. With interesting granite headlands and lovely beaches, this is an easier alternative to the Bald Head Trail.



Distance: 4 km ('tadpole' loop)
Gradient: Gentle inclines and relatively flat sections with some occasional, moderate inclines up granite slopes
Quality of Path: Clear and largely straightforward - surprisingly well maintained
Quality of Signage: Very informative trailhead and information panels along the walk, though lacking in directional signage along the way. 
Experience Required: No previous Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 1.5-2 Hours
Steps: Some formal and informal steps
Best Time to Visit: All year round, though best to avoid in stormy or very hot weather
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: Access is via Quaranup Rd, off Frenchman Bay Rd near Torndirrup National Park. The turn off to the car park is well signed. 



After escaping the heat of Saturday afternoon after our walk up the Devil's Slide in the Porongurups, Alissa and I headed out to Albany on Sunday morning to do our second walk of the weekend. The plan had been to tackle the Peak Head Track in Torndirrup National Park as it was apparently recovering well from bushfires last year. Alas - as we drove to the trailhead, we discovered that the trail had been closed due to safety concerns, and we had to make other plans. Luckily we had a fallback walk, and we drove a short distance out of Torndirrup National Park to Quaranup Rd and headed to the nearby Point Possession Heritage Trail instead. 



Although I had been made aware of the trail sometime ago due to its appearance in the then DEC's publication Bushwalks in the South-West, I hadn't ever really considered walking it until it was recommended to us by friends from Albany and Mark Pybus from The Life of Py. The trail starts near a beautiful sheltered beach known as Whaling Cove and features a fairly informative trailhead and picnic area. This trail is one of the Bicentennial Heritage Trails that was constructed with grants to celebrate the Australian Bicentenary in 1988. These trails and projects have had experienced vastly different fortunes, with some going on to great success (the Bibbulmun and Cape to Cape Tracks were partially funded by these grants) while others have faded into poorly maintained obscurity such as the Kattamordo and Mason and Bird Heritage Trail.



Although November is far from my favourite time of year to be walking, there are definitely some benefits to walking in late Spring, with many Banksias and other late blooming wildflowers on display along the fairly open heathlands. 



The heathlands near the beginning of the walk bore a strong resemblance to the nearby Bald Head Walk Trail, so we were quite surprised when the trail headed through a more sheltered grove of woodlands. For some reason, this section reminded me a bit of the Bradley's Head to Chowder Bay Walk in Sydney, as that walk similarly features woodlands right along the coast. 



The tree cover doesn't last long however, and the walk remains in exposed heath for most of the rest of the walk. Alissa and I were amazed to find a fairly elaborate set of stairs and boardwalks leading up a section of track that looked to have been constructed fairly recently. Considering that these old heritage trails are often in terrible condition and the nearby Bald Head Walk Trail has some bad erosion in parts, it was a welcome surprise to see such effort having gone into trail maintenance. 



After the elaborate stairs, the trail runs along an old boardwalk that is nevertheless in better condition than the boardwalk along the Bald Head Trail. 



Walking over Quarantine Hill, the isthmus of the Vancouver Peninsula comes into full view, with Point Possession beyond. The view is similar to a smaller, flatter version of the the Bald Head Trail, and since Bald Head is one of our favourite hikes in Western Australia, we were pretty excited by what lay ahead.



Being late November, the moss along the granite had turned a brown colour due to the increased temperatures, however there were a plethora of wildflowers bloom throughout the moss to balance out the somewhat dry look. 



As the trail reaches the isthmus, the track descends steeply down a series of informal granite steps, eventually leading to a broad track. 



The broad track leads to Camp Quaranup. Administered by the Deparment of Sport and Recreation, the heritage listed buildings of the camp were once used as a quarantine station but is now largely used by school groups and businesses for retreats. Walkers do not have access to Camp Quaranup, and must continue on along the trail to Point Possession. Although surprisingly well maintained, the trail is not well marked and with a junction in the trails it can be confusing. Walkers should go past the shed pictured above and keep following the track left. 



The vehicle track narrows to a walk trail as it reaches the entry point to Bramble Beach. 



The lesser of the two beaches along the walk, Bramble Beach faces Princess Royal Harbour with the City of Albany visible across the water. The beach is covered in seaweed, and we had to cross a fairly thick section just to get to the shoreline. 



The beach was thankfully very firm under foot, and made for easy walking. At the end of the beach, the trail ascends the granite headland up a series of formal steps. 





With the hot dry weather, we did not have to worry about slipping on the granite, however a chain had been provided to assist walkers with the ascent up the granite dome in wet weather. 



Ascending the granite dome, Alissa and I were finally at Point Possession itself, offering spectacular views of Princess Royal Harbour and the City of Albany. 



At the dome's highest point is a huge and elaborate cairn that looks like a larger version of the John Forrest cairn seen along the Numbat Track



A plaque at the base of the cairn explains that it was at this point in 1791 that Captain George Vancouver claimed the area for King George III, hence the name King George Sound. 



From there, the trail leaves the exposed granite to walk along the northern edge of the peninsula. Across the water is the National Anzac Centre and Princess Royal Fortress. 



The trail curves around the peninsula, taking walkers to the eastern side of the isthmus. 



Descending a set of steps, the trail offers excellent views of the picturesque Barker Bay. 





Covered in red lichen, the granite headlands of the beach look similar to Tasmania's Bay of Fires and sections of Cape Le Grand, albeit on a smaller, more low key scale. 



The beach sand here was extremely white and fine - so fine in fact that it squeaked in a similar fashion to the sands we had encountered along the Mamang Trail in Fitzgerald River National Park. 



Although it was not completely devoid of seaweed, it was nevertheless much nicer than Bramble Beach. With its calm, clear waters this small beach would be a lovely spot for a quick swim on a hot day. 



Having not brought bathers and keen to get on the road so we could get back to Perth in good time, Alissa and I continued along the walk by taking the beach exit back onto the track.



From the beach, the track returns to the junction encountered earlier. The turn off for the trail is not overly clear, however if you look out for a sign indicating that there is no access to Camp Quaranup for walkers, the trail runs off just to the left as pictured above. From there the trail follows the same route taken earlier back up the hill and to the car park at Whaling Cove.  



The Point Possession Heritage Trail came highly recommended, and it certainly live up to its reputation as a short but very scenic walk, with lovely beaches, granite headlands and places of historical interest. The experience on offer is like an easier (but admittedly less spectacular) version of the Bald Head Walk Trail, and as such would be a great alternative for those who are not quite ready to undertake that much longer and more difficult trail in Torndirrup National Park. Well worth a look if you're in the Albany area, and one that would be good to do almost all year round.  

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