Sunday, 12 February 2017

Baie Des Deux Peuples Heritage Trail (Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve)


A short but scenic return walk in Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, the Baie Des Deux Peuples Heritage Trail explores the beautiful beaches of the reserve. Starting at the visitor's centre, the trail provides excellent views along the coastal ridge of Two Peoples Bay before follow the wild, rocky coast to the stunning Little Beach and Waterfall Beach. An excellent short walk with surprisingly wild views.


Distance: 5 km (return)
Gradient: Relatively gentle over the entire walk, with minor ascents and descents. Some steep and trickier sections leading to and from Waterfall Beach. 
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and straightforward - initial sections are a well formed walking track, with wooden boards and some flat natural sections over the granite headland. 
Quality of Signage: No trailhead near the obvious start point at the visitor's centre, however there is one uninformative sign at the day use area. Occasional arrows at track junctions provide useful navigational information. 
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended. 
Time: 1.5-2 Hours
Steps: Several formal and informal steps
Best Time to Visit: All year, except for the peak of Summer and during particularly stormy Winter days. 
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply.
Getting There: Access to the the trail runs behind the visitor's centre within the park on Two Peoples Bay Rd. Two Peoples Bay Rd runs south off Nanarup Rd in Kalgan, east of the Kalgan River in Albany. 



Returning home to Western Australia after three weeks in the Eastern States, Alissa and I were surprised to find ourselves enjoying decidely mild temperatures by Perth standards. Mainly redoing old favourites in the Darling Scarp and some easy riverside urban loop walks in January, a weekend visit to Alissa's parents in Denmark proved the perfect opportunity for us to get back onto the trails in Western Australia. With many of the longer trails being saved for later in the walking season, Alissa and I headed out to Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve to tackle the 5 kilometre Baie Des Deux Peuples Heritage Trail.


The trail starts out the back of the visitor's centre and the large main car park. There is no obvious trailhead at this location, and I have a feeling that the trail predates the centre given that it was one of the bicentennial heritage trails built in 1988. From the centre, the trail reaches the junction pictured above, with the trail running to the right.


Immediately after the junction, the trail rises up a series of steps to cross Two Peoples Bay Rd. From here the trail follows the coastal ridge with occasional glimpses of the bay.


Continuing along, the trail reaches a well constructed lookout, providing excellent views of Two Peoples Bay.


After enjoying the excellent views, Alissa and I continued on along the track, which continues to traverse the sandy coastal ridge dominated by Peppermint Trees, small Eucalypts and heathland.


Although the well established trees block a lot of the views, there are occasional clearings that provide wonderful vantage points of the bay, with Mt Manypeaks dominating the landscape on the other side of the water.


As the trail continues along the coastal ridge, another trail junction is reached. According to the old Bushwalks in the South-West book published by the then Department of Environment and Conservation (now DPaW), the trail originally looped back down to the beach from this point, creating a not entirely satisfying 2 kilometre trail. Thankfully, a linking trail has been established since, allowing walkers to continue on towards the renowned Little Beach.


Heading towards Little Beach, the trail runs out along the headland though an area dominated by heathlands. The low heath allows for excellent views of the bay and surrounding landscape, and makes for very pleasant walking.


The track becomes a boardwalk as it reached a section of Granite headlands. The walk gets really exciting from here on in.


Occasionally, Coastal Risk Area signs can seem a bit overdone, however the wild waters along this part of the walk are genuinely dangerous and must be treated with respect. People have actually died along this stretch of coast, and with the surging waves constantly crashing into the rocks it is not hard to imagine that a freak king wave could easily knock an unsuspecting walker or fishermen into the water.


As a safety precaution, the trail continues on duck boards through the heathland. This was not ideal either however, as the long grasses along the track make this the perfect spot for snakes, and I saw one slithering away as I walked along. Stomping as loudly as possible, Alissa and I took it slowly so as to avoid accidentally standing on a snake, either directly or crushing one that was underneath the boards.


Beyond the boardwalk, a few small bridges allow walkers to easily negotiate their way over a slot in the rocks.


The trail curves around the rocky headland, leading towards Little and Waterfall Beaches.


Although the headland was broad and we never felt in danger, the waves constantly surging up against the rocks were intense, putting on an incredible show of the forces of nature. It reminded me of the section of the Bibbulmun Track from Conspicuous Beach to Peaceful Bay which featured similarly wild waves crashing into the coastline.


As we continued along, the headland leads to a spectacular view of Little Beach. Although less well known than perennial favourites like Lucky Bay near Esperance or Elephant Cove near Denmark, Little Beach is well regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches on the south coast. I last visited Little Beach in the early 1990s while on a family holiday. At the time the road to the beach was not sealed, and our enjoyment of Little Beach was marred by the fact my Dad had blown the suspension of the car while driving over a pot hole along the unsealed road. Walking in to the beach along the trail was a much better experience, and it was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it.


With white sand and two large Granite boulders serving as the beach's 'beauty spot', it is easy to see why Little Beach is so well regarded. Beautiful as it is, the prevalence of washed up dead Blue Bottle Jellyfish and the occasional freak waves that come quite a fair way up the beach means that Little Beach is not necessarily an ideal swimming beach. Passing between the large boulders, the waves can completely fill the channel with water flowing over and around the rock closer to the ocean.


At the other side of the beach, the trail continues up a series of steps leading towards Waterfall Beach.


The steps lead to two options for walkers to take to make their way around to Waterfall Beach - to the right, the trail heads over a sandy ridge and down over to the other side via a heavily eroded slope. Alternatively, walkers can head to the left to a lookout point and follow a poorly defined but relatively straightforward trail around to the rocks. On the way to the beach, we followed the left path along the rocks which provided lovely views of Waterfall Beach from the rocks.


Waterfall Beach is so named because it features a small waterfall and stream that flows into the ocean. At the time of our visit in February 2017, the last few days of intensely heavy rain had been enough to get the waterfall to flow, however it was not overly large. Alissa and I wondered whether the waterfall would be more spectacular after winter rains or if this was as good as it gets.


After exploring Waterfall Beach to see if there were any other trails continuing on (there weren't), Alissa and I headed back to Little Beach and retraced our steps back along the Heritage Trail.


Due to the snakes in the grass, Alissa and I decided to make our own way back across the area that the trail had diverted around. The crashing waves out along the most obvious stretch of rock close to the water was not overly inviting however, so we hopped across the rocks into the gentle pool on the left side of the picture and made our way along a sandy beach to the other side.


From there, we followed the track back to the trail junction where the Little Beach extension links back onto the original loop of the Heritage Trail.


From the junction, the trail descends down a flight of steps, leading to an impressively large Granite formation sitting within Two Peoples Bay.


The trial initially runs through some coastal Peppermint trees, before disappearing as it leads to the beach. From here, the trail is an easy if pungently aromatic walk along a very thick mat of seaweed as it leads back to the start of the trail.


A toilet block by the beach is an obvious landmark for walkers, with the trail then turning to follow a bitumen road for a short distance before heading right into the day use picnic area.


At the picnic area, Alissa and I encountered the Baie Des Deux Peuples Heritage Trail trailhead. With little information and in a less than optimum location away from the visitor's centre, the trail could definitely do with an updated trailhead with greater information for potential walkers at the visitor's centre.


From the trailhead, it was a short stroll through the picnic area to the first junction encountered earlier along the walk and then back to the visitors centre.


Alissa and I had arrived before the visitors centre opened, so we decided to pop in for a quick look as we made our way back to the car. The centre has some excellent information about why the park is an important nature reserve and the history of the area.

For years, I'd written off the original 2 kilometre version of the Baie Des Deux Peuples Heritage Trail detailed in Bushwalks in the South-West as too short and inconsequential a walk to be worth a visit, so we were glad to have read further about the Little Beach extension all the way through to Waterfall Beach. This extension, with the surprisingly wild scenery from the rocky headlands and the two beautiful beaches, makes this a relatively easy but very rewarding coastal walk. This was a great way for us to start our 2017 adventures in Western Australia, with further exploration of the south coast planned for later in the year.

6 comments:

  1. Fantastic! love this area but haven't visited for a long while now after reading this I want to go back!

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    1. It had been a long time between visits myself, and we were surprised by how good the trail was. Not particularly long mind you, but substantial enough to be worth doing!

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  2. Makes me want to plan a holiday, would you recommend any accommodation nearby?

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    1. Hi Cass, unfortunately I don't have any times for accommodation in the Albany area as we usually stay with family while we are down in the area. If you are planning to explore some of the beaches east of Albany such as Two Peoples Bay and Waychinicup, I would suggest staying in the Middleton Beach area as there are plenty of options and it provides good access to the roads heading east. There are also camp grounds at Waychinicup within the national park if you enjoy camping.

      If you need any more advice on places to check out while in the area please don't hesitate to ask.

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  3. Walked this track today but made the mistake of not re-reading your post before I left and followed the signs of the heritage trail and ended up on the shorter walk and then walking off track , as had many others had by the look of it, to get back.

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    Replies
    1. Oh no! Yes, the signage could be a lot better on the trail and they don't really advertise that the best part is the stretch linking to Little Beach!

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