Australia Day 2022 was on a Wednesday. This allowed for an extended break to explore some previously untravelled beaches on the south coast between Cape Riche and Bremer Bay. The Wellstead Bush Camp was an excellent place from which to branch out to the beaches on each of the four days we had available to explore.
Cape Riche to Swan Gully
First stop was the tiny hamlet of Wellstead, only 500 metres from the Bush Camp.
Sandalwood Road took us out of Wellstead to the Cape Riche Campground. The inspection circuit of the campground (good but not suitable for groups) was completed and we headed to the debouch of the Eyre River at Cheyne Inlet Beach.
Leaving the Cheyne Inlet Beach we drove north to the headland overlooking it. Some gnarly tracks made the drive more interesting.
A track that parallels the coast eventually leads to Schooner Beach. After travelling to the north of the beach we exited near the northern end with the intention of returning to where we had first accessed the beach. This entailed a circuit back to a large gravel area from where we had started, however, the track close to end of this ‘circuit’ was badly washed away and I chose not to drive it – believing that a rolled vehicle or panel damage could result.
We returned to the northern end of the beach, drove south 600 metres and exited the way we had first entered, allowing us back onto Sandalwood Road and then to a track that varied from 100-500 metres inland that would take us north-north-east along the coast to Swan Gully. A number of short tracks branched off to the east allowing views of spectacular cliffs, with just one leading to a beach.
This ‘inland’ coastal track continued to Swan Gully. We worked our way downslope to the beach and made a 500 metre run along the sand. The beach sand was very soft.
The track from Swan Gully took us back to farmland from where we followed fencelines out to Pallinup Road and eventually South Coast Highway to conclude a great day of sightseeing and four wheel driving.
Before we returned to the Wellstead Bush Camp we stopped at the tiny hamlet of Wellstead – postcode 6328, 100 kilometres east of Albany.
Swan Gully to Boat Harbour to WA Beach 334
Nine vehicles headed out to the now familiar Boat Harbour Road, off the South Coast Highway, and along the fencelines to pick up the Long Beach Track to the coast.
At a T junction close to the coast what looked like an interesting track lead off to the south-west. We checked it out and then returned to the junction. Five hundred metres to the north-east beach access is via a steep track that, because of a 90° turn partway up, looked like it could present some challenges on exit.
We drove the full length of the beach and returned to the exit point. I rearranged the order of the vehicles in anticipation of difficulties in ascending the hill, however, it was reasonably easy and everyone got to the top of the cliff in time to see a pod of about 20 dolphins frolicking in the water on the surf line.
Time to move on.
It was an interesting drive to Boat Harbour with some good views. On approach to the beach the track doubles back on itself to the access point at the southern end of the beach.
Time for a swim. The southern end of the beach is protected and very calm for a Southern Ocean beach.
We then did the obligatory drive of the full length of the beach.
Leaving Boat Harbour, we took a track roughly east for 4.5 km to gain access to an unnamed beach (WA Beach 334). Once again the entry track was steep, sandy and looked like getting back up would be an issue. However, the track out (right next to the inward track) was firm and presented little challenge – at the start.
Know that each of the drivers of the vehicles shown in the following pics is very experienced driving on beaches The tyre pressure of each of the vehicles was around 10 psi. It was a very soft beach. Keyboard warriors be still!
Further up the beach Greg and Sam were having their own difficulties in the Discovery 4. Rod had driven up to the end of the beach in his lighter Hilux and only just managed to turn around without getting bogged. Not so Greg when he tried.
The exit track followed a creek line for just under a kilometre and then dropped down into the creek itself. It was then narrow, twisty and very, very scratchy. Not a pleasant drive for the next couple of kilometres. The track opened out but only for a short distance. It was back to a similar tight, scratchy experience that had everyone commenting. Definitely in my Top 10 of unpleasant tracks.
The scratching finished and very soon we were on Pallinup Road and, not longer after, at the Highway.
We were treated to a feed of koonacs, courtesy of host, Rob. He took time out to drag a couple of his dams and shared the spoils with everyone. What a great gesture.
As is often the case with Trips of this duration and distance people are involved for varying amounts of time. Eight vehicles and seventeen people made it out onto the tracks.
Groper Bluff to Millers Point
Once more we used Boat Harbour Road to get to our coastal playground. We headed for the impressive Groper Bluff.
As the track approaches Mount Groper it narrows and deteriorates. About a hundred metres before our turnaround point, at the top of the ‘spine’ of the Bluff, the track turns radically to the right. Straight ahead is over the spine.
To the north are three unnamed beaches – WA Beaches 329, 330 and 331. To the south and trending west is Groper Bluff Beach.
We turned around and retraced our path for two kilometres, negotiating a couple of tricky jump ups before turning onto a north-south track that would take us to Pallinup Beach.
The jump ups on the Groper Bluff track were just a warm up. The track to the beach looked innocuous enough – all downhill.
Pallinup Beach is a popular fishing spot.
We travelled the length of the beach and then ducked into the lee of some dunes on the shore of Beaufort Inlet to have lunch. Alan had reported that the start of the next beach (WA Beach 325 – otherwise unnamed) was very soft and essentially impassable. I found a track from our lunch spot to Pallinup Estuary Road and we headed out the bitumen.
A couple of kilometres along the road we turned in towards Millers Point, a popular campground with a full time camp minder.
Reef Beach to Bremer Bay
We turned off the Bremer Bay Road into Reef Beach Track and aired down. There are no difficulties on the track and it is quite open compared to a few years back when vegetation was close in.
Close to the beach (next to a squatter’s hut) there are two choices – up and over a steep dune or a track to the left that eventually arrives at the beach about 400 metres on. Adi showed the way over the dune and the convoy followed one by one.
We drove Reef Beach to its eastern extremity and then returned to the access/egress point – Warramurrup Track. The first couple of hundred metres of the ascent away from the beach presents some mild challenges. Rod found a hole that wasn’t meant to be there.
Thick bush on either side of the track means its width was little more than that of a single vehicle. There are no passing area or pull off places. Part way up the slope we encountered another 4WD Group in an extremely tight section of track. I got out and spoke to driver of the first vehicle.
“I’ve got six vehicles with me.”
He replied, “I’ve got eight.”
“Are you with a Club?”, he asked
“Yep – Cockburn 4WD Club. You?”
“Ok, I’ll get my group to pull off the track into the bush. Give me a few minutes.”
Eventually the way was clear for the oncoming group to pass through. We continued on.
As we got out into more open country it was clear that the beginnings of corrugations were starting to appear on the track. In a few places even the beginnings of a few moguls were apparent. Not yet formed but the genesis was obvious. Clearly the group we had just passed did not have low enough tyre pressures. Inexcusable for such an experienced, high profile group.
Towards the end of the track is a low lying area that often prevents access to the beach.
Warramurrup Track leads to the bitumen road into Bremer Bay. We cruised into town and headed to the beach, past the caravan park where holiday makers were packed in side by side. But getting away from it all!
The bar of the Bremer River mouth was open, preventing access to the beach and the tracks to north and east. The intention was to visit the Wellstead Museum later in the day so it was no issue to reschedule this as our lunch stop.
Wellstead Museum is well worth a visit. A good proportion of the exhibits would be contemporary items for many of the visitors when they were growing up although they are ancient history to the younger people walking through the various sheds.
Wellstead to Cockburn via Stirling Drive
The way back to Cockburn was via the wonderful Stirling Drive, one of our State’s great drives, and Great Southern Highway.
Multiple, simultaneous mechanical issues just north of the Ranges ate into the day but with so many talented mechanics at hand it was only a matter of time before the convoy was rolling again.
Dan’s fuel computer told him he wouldn’t make Katanning but it was wrong. After refuelling we went our separate ways from this thriving Great Southern town.
© Cockburn 4WD Club and Kim Epton 2022
Feel free to use any part of this document but please do the right thing and give attribution. It will enhance the SEO of your website/blog and that of the Cockburn 4WD Club.
2125 words, 78 photographs, one image.