The Remote South East was a Road Trip with a difference – very few sealed roads, lots of beaches, numerous tracks and quite a bit of forced cross country travel to get around fallen trees and other obstacles. The first leg of our journey was from Bremer Bay to Esperance along the coast.
Departing Bremer Bay our route took us through the Fitzgerald River National Park, a reserve unique in this world but unfriendly to vehicle adventurers – being designed and managed more for walkers.
Fitzgerald River National Park
After a false start trying to find re-aligned roads we made our way through the Park, not intending to visit any of the features/attractions on this western side. Near the turnoff to Quaalup Homestead I stopped to get photographs of the spectacular Royal Hakea shrub/bush. Worldwide, it is found only between Albany and Esperance, concentrated in the Fitzgerald River National Park.
From the Lookout we drove down to the beach at Culham Inlet, looking to get to Hopetoun on the sand.
The 700 metres of beach to the groyne at Hopetoun was inaccessible and we turned around and found a way off the beach. We aired up in a car park and drove into town to regroup with those who had left the beach earlier.
We took Southern Ocean Road out of Hopetoun 30 kilometres to a track that led to the coast. Two kilometres later we came upon an installation nestled among the rocks. Without confidence – and mainly because of substantial power lines feeding in to the installation – we tentatively proclaimed it as a desalination plant.
We continued on Southern Ocean Road, dropped in to Mason Bay Campground to check it out, and drove on to Starvation Boat Harbour Campground, where we stayed the night.
Starvation Boat Harbour Beach
We left camp and made our way to the beach. After four hundred metres the way was blocked and there was only one, sketchy exit off the sand. Inconveniently positioned rocks at the beginning of the exit made it more difficult. However, with a bit of care, judiciously-placed wheels and application of the right foot at the appropriate time all vehicles made it up the narrow track with ease and with no damage.
Eight hundred metres along a bush track we were again able to access the beach via a rock ledge.
We headed east for nearly five kilometres. The beach narrowed and as it did so its angle increased, both factors mitigating against further eastward travel.
Turning around was easier said than done. With an incoming tide on an already narrow beach it was a hazardous proposition. Ultimately, it required the deployment of four MaxTrax and some confident driving all the way to the water’s edge by Aaron to extricate the heavy Patrol from a precarious position.
Graham was bogged but managed to get unbogged reasonably easily. Joanne reversed the Prado along the beach to a break in the dunes to where she was able to turn around. Peter, Graham and Scott had also turned around at this point. We returned along the beach, drove up the rock ledge and took a bush track out to Springdale Road.
We retreated to Springdale Road and headed to Munglinup Beach to check out the campground. It is small and not suitable for groups. We left, retraced our tracks for a few ks and turned east on Washpool Road. This took us to Washpool Road Beach (my name for it). We drove all but the last 600 metres of the beach before returning and finding a track off the beach back on to Washpool Road.
The track led to a large area of flat rocks.
Deciding that the beach going forward (east) from these rocks was too hazardous we retreated to Washpool Road, hoping that we could drive through Lake Shaster Nature Reserve. It was not to be and we had to head out to Springdale Road to allow us to find our way back to the coast.
An unnamed track off Springdale Road took us down to East Munglinup Beach. We drove down to the beach along belting-covered tracks. With a mental flip of the coin we turned east.
We drove carefully around the point on a rocky beach and continued for about 1.5 kilometres. The beach was narrowing, getting soft and looking altogether too hazardous. We made our way back to the beach entry point.
It was time to tackle the 5+ kilometres of the beach to the west.
Within 600 metres a washed away beach forced us up into the vegetation. We were two metres higher than the beach – a steep, unstable drop off. The track was rough and was causing the vehicle to bounce around radically. With each bounce the Patrol moved closer to the drop off. One, two, three, four bounces and the vehicle was right on the edge of the drop off. The fifth bounce could have taken us over the edge or forward to safety. Aaron drove the Patrol back down to the now firm, level, benign sand.
We were presented with a dilemma. We knew that we couldn’t get off the beach by going forward – however good the beach looked – because we had seen at Munglinup that it narrowed and became impassable. We certainly weren’t going back the way we had come.
Our best option was to climb a steep sand dune off the beach and then work our way through the dune system back to where the others were waiting. Easy to say. And after a few anxious moments, successfully completed. With two ‘on the limit’ experiences this was one of the scariest the scariest day of my 40+ years of four wheel driving.
We returned to Springdale Road, seeking a camp for the night. At Lone’s suggestion we turned into Skippy Rock and found a perfectly acceptable camp.
Qualilup Beach/Thirteen Mile Beach
Between Skippy Rock and Qualilup Beach/Thirteen Mile Beach the coast is accessible at only four points at the end of four tracks. The uncertainty of access due to track closures as a result of disease was a factor in us choosing to travel direct to Qualilup Beach/Thirteen Mile Beach – 85 kilometres from Skippy Rock.
On the way out we had a look at the inlet that leads into Margaret Cove.
Access to Qualilup Beach is via Murray Road past a lime quarry. With road trains constantly on the road it is both dusty and very corrugated. On approach to the coast there are tracks everywhere. A headland at the end of the main track provides sweeping ocean and beach views but no hint of how to get down to the beach. We took a track north (away from the beach) that eventually led to the dunes. It was then a matter of finding a safe way through and across the dunes down to sea level.
We were able to follow this beach for many kilometres. Satellite images showed an indistinct track around Buttty Head but no connecting track from the beach. About two kilometres from Butty Head we left the beach and spent considerable time trying to find a way round this headland.
Peter put up his drone and found the track I was looking for. We worked out a possible route through the dunes, did some spadework to even out the track at a pinch point, and started the climb.
A rough, dusty track leads down to Butty Harbour, allowing a further 3.5 kilometres of eastward travel along the beach.
The beach was looking less and less inviting and we found a suitable point to exit. Just over two kilometres further on we were on bitumen – Twilight Beach Road. This coast-hugging road took us into Esperance.
The seven caravan parks in Esperance were all full (school holidays) and we were directed to the Sportsground. Great facilities and plenty of room.
© Kim Epton 2021
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.
1778 words, 61 photographs, 11 images.