If you are looking for a place with stunning beaches, great 4WDing, fishing, hiking and photography, Thomas River is well worth a visit. We stayed 4 nights there, and absolutely loved every minute of it.
How do you get to Thomas River?
Thomas River is roughly 120 km east of Esperance, and can be accessed via Merrivale or Fisheries Road. If you are coming from Fisheries road, turn right onto Tagon road, right onto Merivale Road and left onto Thomas River Road. Follow that in, and it takes you right to the coastline.
National Park entry fees at Thomas River
Being in a national park, you need a pass to enter Thomas river. If you are visiting national parks regularly the annual pass is the one to get. Alternatively, you can purchase individual passes for each National Park that you visit. You need to weigh up the costs of doing this – if you are going to a number of different parks in a year it may well be cheaper to get an annual pass.
Thomas River Accommodation options
Camping is the only option for accommodation at Thomas River. There are two different camp sites, which aren’t that different. The one on top of the hill (with a great view, but more exposed to the wind) is run by the DEC, and has brand new toilets and 2 camp kitchens. The one down the bottom of the hill (next to Thomas River) is owned by the shire (and also run by the DEC!). This has an older camp kitchen and two toilet blocks, but it is obvious a limited budget is being used here. Not to say it is derelict, but the amenities are slightly older. Both cost the same amount to camp at ($7.50 per night per adult), but the sites at the shire camp grounds are considerably bigger, and thus more suited to caravans and bigger groups.
We opted to stay at the shire campsite, being closer to the beach, with bigger sites and decent enough amenities for it not to matter. It truly is an incredible place!
Fishing at Thomas River
Fishing anywhere in the south of WA is pretty good, and Thomas River is no exception. Salmon, skippy, herring and salmon trout are common virtually year round. Expect for most of the fishing to be either off the beach (where the waves roll in continually) or off rocks on one of the sides of the beach.
Thomas River has a number of walk trails that have been set up to explore and view the stunning area. The Len Otte is a 1 hour walk on the east side of the road as you are driving into Thomas River. There are numerous other walks from the river mouth, and from Big Tagon Beach. You can pretty much walk up and down the coast anywhere here, just pay attention to the rocks and potential waves coming in; you wouldn’t be the first person to get hurt or worse in this area.
4WD tracks at Thomas River
If you drive past the shire camp grounds towards the coast, you cross Thomas River (a crossing has been built for you!) and end up on the beach. From here, you can drive 29 km east, towards Cape Arid. The beach is usually pretty hard, but you want to be well aware of the tides, as at high tide you will not be able to drive on many parts of the beach. The further east you get, the more rocks that you drive around, with tracks that go inland and pop out on another beach. Every beach is different, and regardless of the wind you will find a protected place to relax and enjoy the scenery.
If you are looking for a longer 4WD track, you can drive down Poison Creek road, and do a loop back to Israelite Bay.
You can also drive on Big Tagon beach, which is accessed on the west side before you get to the national park campgrounds sign. This road is gravel, and takes you past the rangers house, and around to a lookout with spectacular views. On the right hand side of the road there is a 4WD track that goes down to Big Tagon Beach, which is about 500 metres wide with plenty of opportunity for fishing, snorkeling and swimming. We spent several hours here over 2 days, and loved it.
Places to visit in the area
Little Tagon is a gorgeous little beach which you can see from a lookout if you head out past the rangers house. We didn’t walk down onto the beach, but it looks like there is a walk trail running from the car park to the beach.
Big Tagon is a bigger version of the above, and is just as gorgeous. We spent 2 days parked up on the beach swimming, fishing and diving. If the wind swings around, you just head to the other end of the beach to get a bit of protection. I highly rate this beach, as you can drive down a 4WD track and right onto the sand. Find yourself a place to park (which shouldn’t be hard as we spent 2 days there and barely saw another vehicle!) and relax away!
To get to Cape Arid, you are able to drive for 29km along the beach. Make sure you know when high tide is, but the beach is relatively hard and easy to drive on. We left in the morning and came back later in the afternoon, when the tide had dropped considerably. If you drive towards Cape Arid, you will hop from beach to beach (over either inland tracks or the rocks) and can be guaranteed to find your own slice of paradise.
We were originally planning on staying at Lucky Bay, but ended up at Orleans Bay Caravan Park. I don’t regret it at all; the place is incredible. It has at least 10 different beaches that you can relax on, with plenty of places to 4WD, fish, swim, hike and relax.
My overview of Thomas River
I have to say, Thomas River is one of my favorite destinations. The area is just magnificent, and for a small cost you can camp there for a number of days enjoying it all. I will most certainly be back!