Exploring Western Australia’s Bibbulmun Track

By Amy Russell 31 May 2012
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Unleash your adventurous streak with WA’s Bibbulmun Track, one of the best walking tracks you’ll find in Australia.

IF YOU’RE IN SEARCH of a trek that affords you glorious views, an ever-changing landscape, and ground that can be trampled by the whole family, look no further than WA’s Bibbulmun Track. With access points scattered between Kalamunda, Perth, and Albany, the Bibbulmun boasts an almost 1000km path that snakes its way through some of our nation’s most remarkable wilderness – look forward to clusters of jarrah, karri and tingle forests, rugged coastline and open pastures of wildflowers.
Titled after the original inhabitants of the area, the Bibbulmun people, the track was officially opened in October 1979 to coincide with Western Australia’s 150th anniversary as a state. The idea was to encourage city dwellers to get outdoors and experience nature. Since its inception in the 70s, less than 10 per cent of the track’s original placement remains: the Bibbulmun was given a massive overhaul in the 90s, with funding and support offered by everyone from the government, corporate businesses and bushwalking clubs, to schools and outdoor operators.
Today, the Bibbulmun Track can either be walked end-to-end, taking roughly six weeks, or in sections. With multiple entry points and 48 campsites peppering the track, you have the option of a day walk, overnight jaunt or multi-day hike. A total of 12 towns sit on or adjacent to the Bibbulmun, making it a popular weekend escape for those seeking a brief taste of wilderness within easy reach.

Perth-born Lizzy Lowe from Sydney’s Trek and Travel store first began tramping sections of the Bibbulmun with her Dad as a 10-year-old; she then continued to walk sections with friends in her teens. “The track varies in difficulty level,” says Lizzy. “Sometimes the ground is flat and easy to tread, other sections are hilly and harder to walk. Overall I would say the track is strenuous but not difficult – there is no scrambling up hills or anything.”

Cherishing the Bibbulmun Track

There are abundant reasons why locals and visitors alike cherish the track. Each of the campsites are spaced a day’s walk apart, and are home to a three-walled hut fitted with four bunk beds – each plank sleeps two people – and a rainwater tank, so you needn’t carry a load of heavy camping gear.
The campsites also foster a communal experience for the walkers. “I really like meeting the end-to enders – the people who walk the entire track,” says Lizzy. “You’ll often meet and hang out with like-minded people at the campsites and exchange stories. The type of people that walk the track range from real pros with all the techy gear, to amateurs wearing their Dunlop Volleys. There are also a lot of overseas travellers, because word is getting out about the track,” says Lizzy’s dad Peter Lowe, who’s walked 95 per cent of the track.
“The accessibility of the walk is also a huge plus: being able to get away for a weekend, but still being so close to home,” Lizzy says. “We walked the track in stages,” Peter says. “We would go away and do a week or a weekend at a time. You can public transport it to almost all of the access points along the track, so it is easy for families and backpackers – really it is wilderness in sections. There are also towns along a lot of the track where you can resupply and shower.”

And then there’s the view. Lizzy and Peter both agree that the diversity of landscape and visual majesty of the Bibbulmun is what has kept them returning year after year. “My favourite sections are the transition zones because they’re most interesting,” says Peter. “Some of my favourites are: near Perth where it transitions into the Wandoo woodlands; north of Pemberton where the open jarrah forest changes into the denser and taller karriforest; between Walpole and Denmark where the karri changes to tingle before the track heads down into sand dunes and the coast.”
The Walpole-Nornalup National Park – where the track passes through – is home to the only forest of red tingle trees in the world. Reaching heights of up to 75m, and a girth of up to 26m, some of these giant eucalypt trees are more than 400 years old. You’ll also see some of nature’s finest handiwork on the track: granite outcrops up to several square kilometres in size, that in spring are dusted with feather flower; swamps and wetlands home to the white flowered paper bark, tea tree shrubs, the brown boronia flower and Warren River cedar tree; and rugged coastline offering breathtaking views of the Southern Ocean.
Regardless of whether you spend two days or six weeks on the Bibbulmun Track, you’re sure to find it rivals other top treks around the world. And best of all, it’s on home soil. “I’ve trekked in Nepal, Vietnam, Borneo and locally I’ve walked the Cape to Cape Walk and the Stirling Ridge Walk, to name a few, ” says Peter. “The Bibbulmun definitely compares to the others I have done – it is just so unique.”

The essentials

Getting there: Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways all fly to Perth daily. The Northernmost town on the track is Kalamunda, and the Bibbulmun Track Northern Terminus located here acts as a launching pad for walkers heading south. Catch a bus from Perth Esplanade City bus port to Kalamunda (visit Transperth for tickets www.transperth.wa.gov.au/). Transport is also available to any of the vehicle access points along the track (visit www.bcttransfers.com/).
Accommodation: If you’re not keen to camp out on the track, accommodation is available at each of the 12 track towns. And for the campers: with only one hut at each site, and no booking system in place, it’s recommended you pack a tent just in case.

Essential gear: Although each site is fitted with a rainwater tank, it’s recommended you also carry water as the availability of fresh drinking water cannot be guaranteed, especially in summer. For more info or to purchase a map or trip planner visit The Bibbulmun Track Foundation.