There’s a lot of very, very under-rated places in WA to explore. We love finding them, and sharing them with you. In this post, we take a look at one of the most under rated places in WA; the Fitzgerald River National Park on the south coast.
If you like rugged coastlines, whales, wildflowers, world class hiking, 4WD tracks and bird watching you are guaranteed to fall in love with the Fitzgerald River National Park.
Where is the Fitzgerald River National Park?
You’ll find this amazing place in between Bremer Bay and Hopetoun, some 6 hours drive South East of Perth. It almost covers the entire area between Bremer Bay, the main highway and Hopetoun.
How big is it?
The Fitzgerald River National Park is one of the largest in WA, with a staggering amount of diversity. At nearly 330,000 hectares the park takes up a huge portion of the south coast, and is absolutely magnificent.
To give you some perspective, its more than double the size of the Murchison House Station, or a staggering 4.5 times the size of Singapore. This is not a park you’ll explore in a single day trip.
It’s so big in fact, that the park is essentially split in half between the East and West. You could comfortably spend weeks hiking through the park, and easily 5 days with a vehicle, taking in all of the attractions.
About the Fitzgerald River National park
I mentioned above that this national park is under-rated, and I would rate it easily as good as some of the areas around Albany and Esperance, which are possibly the most popular WA coastline destinations going around. Asides from the absolutely insane views and scenery, the Fitzgerald region is hugely popular and important for other reasons:
The Fitzgerald River National Park is one of the most diverse in the country. It’s listed on the National Heritage List, and has around 1800 species of plants. Of that, 75 are found no where else in the world, and 250 are considered rare.
Each year, thousands of people flock to the Fitzgerald River National Park to get a glimpse of the southern right and humpback whales. You’ll regularly see them between May and October on the WA coast, as they do their annual migration, but the Fitzgerald Region is one of the best places in Australia to see them.
Point Ann in particular is a haven for the whales, where they come in each year to breed in the sheltered area. This is fairly easily accessed since the Department of Parks and Wildlife did a 40 million dollar upgrade on the park.
We spent a number of days camped at Marys Inlet and regularly visiting Point Ann to see the amazing whales from the shore. Often they are in under a hundred metres from the beach or the bay itself, and its something else to see. They jump, roll, and play all day long.
There’s a reason thousands of wildflower lovers head to the Fitzgerald River National Park each year. With a huge array of orchids and other flowers, you can spend hours walking through the National park and appreciating the spectacular flowers. The best time to see them in their bloom is August to November, with the flowers going in stages.
If you like hiking, you’ll love the Fitzgerald River National Park. There are more designated hiking trails in this national park than you’d expect, and plenty of places that aren’t well documented. We met a local from Hopetoun who was regularly out and about hiking through the national park, and who’d clearly fallen in love with it.
We had an amazing hike up East Mount Barren, and thoroughly enjoyed the views. There are lots of other hikes that are well worth the effort too, if you have the time.
What does it cost to enter?
The normal national park entry fees apply to the Fitzgerald River National Park. That’s $15 per vehicle, or $8 if you are under concession. Of course, you can buy the National Park Access passes for 4 weeks, or annual passes. Remember if you are with RAC you can get the latter for half price. To find out more, check out RAC half price National Park Passes.
Camping in the Fitzgerald National Park
There are 5 places in the Fitzgerald River National Park that you can legally camp
Mary Inlet is the only camp ground on the western side of the Fitzgerald. It’s only about a kilometre walk from Point Ann, which is the primary attraction for those looking for whales. Camping at Mary Inlet allows you to walk to the point (or drive) at various times of the day and gives you the best opportunity for seeing whales.
The camp ground has a couple of drop toilets, the usual picnic tables and a surprising amount of larger trees for shade.
Quoin Head Beach
If you have a 4WD, with some experience in steep hills, Quoin Head Beach is a tiny camp site at the end of a fantastic 4WD track. Towing anything heavy or large would be a challenge, and potentially unsafe. This camp site is free, and has only recently been opened again after a big bush fire.
The Hamersley Inlet is a large camp ground managed by the Shire of Ravensthorpe. It’s across the road from Hamersley Inlet, and is a good place to access the beach. It is a nice camp ground, but lacks the amazing scenery that you’ll find in other camp sites. It’s $15 per site per night.
Wonjarup Campground is just up the road from Hamersley Inlet Camp ground, and is $11 per adult per night. It’s a smaller camp ground, right near the inlet itself.
The last, but not least option for camping in the Fitzgerald is Four Mile. This is a 2WD accessible site, that is completely bitumen (except for gravel camp sites) and is right on the eastern edge of the Fitzgerald. Initially I felt it was a bit sterile, but its location and big sites grew on me, and we really liked it.
With hot showers (yes, you read that right), good toilets and a huge number of beaches nearby, its a perfect base. 10 minutes drive will have you in Hopetoun, and 10 minutes the other way has you well and truly into the Fitzgerald River National Park, where there’s heaps to explore and enjoy.
We love 4WD tracks. We’ve done hundreds of them across the country, and every single track is different. Some are challenging with not much to see at the end, and others are basic but you arrive at the most amazing locations you can imagine. The Fitzgerald National Park has a mix of 4WD tracks that range from easy, to moderate, to challenging with some of the best destinations to enjoy at the end.
Like many of the smaller coastal towns along the south coast, Hopetoun is a beautiful area to enjoy for a few days. There’s a great playground and jumping pillow for the kids, miles of beautiful coastline to enjoy and a couple of places to grab a bite.
One of our favourite destinations on the south coast is Bremer Bay, with its incredibly white beaches, amazing water, great fishing and plenty of 4WD tracks to explore. There’s a couple of places that you can stay at, and with great coastline on both sides of the town you can’t really go wrong!
One of the major risks in the Fitzgerald River National Park is Dieback, a disease that destroys the root systems of hundreds of plant species. Fortunately the Fitzgerald region is well managed, but as a visitor you must do your part to help out.
That includes obeying any road closure signs, minimizing mud that is transferred around the park by vehicles and using the designated foot cleaning stations that are common throughout the park.