I'm a freelance writer living in Perth. Having 2 young kids with endless energy, we are always on the lookout for new outdoor activities.
Published January 5th 2013
Kids-friendly beaches in beautiful surroundings
We are so lucky that we are blessed with plenty of national parks with great beaches. And if I have to pick the best one for a family holiday, I'd say it depends on the age of the children. If you have bigger kids who could appreciate breathtakingly white beaches with waves, then it would be Cape Le Grand National Park. Whereas for families with young children who couldn't care less what colour the sand is as long as they have fun, then I vote William Bay National Park as the best there is. It is closer from Perth (and a shorter drive is always better with young children), has interesting rock formations, and most importantly, has large shallow and calm pools where children can safely wade and play in the clear turquoise water of the sea.
The clear, calm water of Greens Pool, William Bay National Park.
William Bay National Park is located near Denmark (the town, not the country). From there, drive west on South Coast Highway and after about 15km, turn left into William Bay Road. This is the only road in the national park and the end of the paved section of this road is the main car park which has a lookout, the only toilet facilities in the national park (with showers), and if you're lucky, an ice cream truck selling soft serves. The rest of the road from here on is unpaved but good enough for 2WD cars.
Greens Pool seen from walk path.
There are three main locations in William Bay National Park that you simply must visit with your family. The first one is Greens Pool, which can be reached via a walk path from the main car park. It is a big ocean pool surrounded by large rocks, with water so clear and calm that it's basically a giant sea water swimming pool with a beach at one side. Oh, and it really is very green in colour. Other than swiming, fishing is also possible here (just be aware of other visitors especially the young ones). There are plenty of sands for kids to dig up for sand castles, and the surrounding rocks have rock pools which may look lifeless at first glance but is actually occupied by creatures like fishes, crabs, and shells.
Elephants Rock seen from walk path. The middle 'elephant' I think looks particularly convincing.
The second beach to visit is home to the most recognisable landmark in this national park, namely the Elephant Rocks. Elephant Rocks are a series of large boulders which from certain angles do look like a herd of elephants standing closely together. When the tide is low, you could walk in between the giant rocks. Being in that narrow lane with only a small slice of sky visible above you, you could imagine yourself being in a Famous Five-like adventure, where you have to dodge the bad guy by hiding in spaces like this, in danger of seawater rushing in upon high tide, and at the end of the narrow path, voila, you emerge in a small cove (it would feel more like a secret cove if only all the other holiday makers were not there). The cove has the Elephant Rocks at one side, a sandy beach, and shallow and calm water where you can take the children to wade and swim quite far, so they can feel daring when actually you can still sit with your head above the water.
View from the top of an 'elephant.' The water in the cove is so shallow that the guy on the right still has his orange swimming trunk above the water.
You can reach Elephant Rocks cove by walking from Greens Pool (walk path starting from the east end of Greens Pool beach, that's left if you come from the car park). Alternatively, you can continue on the unpaved section of the national park road, and then park at the Elephant Rocks' car park a short distance away from the main car park. I'd recommend walking for a few reasons. First, it's not that far. Second, the road only brings you partway there, so even if you move your car, you still have to walk the rest of the distance to the cove. Third, the car park at Elephant Rocks is smaller with less number of bays. And fourth, you'd have to return to the main car park anyway when you need to use the toilet or shower.
Rock fishing at Elephant Rocks cove.
The third great location to bring your family in this national park is Waterfall Beach, which is located at the end of the unpaved road mentioned above. This one is quite far so driving is perhaps preferable.
At Waterfall Beach, the kids built a bridge...
... that actually works.
As the name suggests, there is a waterfall here (turn left when you reach the beach after a short walk from the car park), where a small stream tumbles over a short cliff face before joining the ocean. As far as waterfalls go, it's not at all special; the height is not much more than a standing adult and the stream is mostly only ankle deep. However as a potential playground, it is amazing. Children can shower in the fresh water, build bridges over it, try to dam it (and learn that running water, no matter how shallow, is stronger than mud and sand), and in general spending countless hours entertaining themselves while you sit nearby with your beach umbrella, your esky, and the book you've meant to read for ages.
The stream at Waterfall Beach makes interesting patterns on the sand before joining the ocean.
As you could imagine from my description above, it would take at least one whole day to enjoy this national park to the fullest, so this is more suitable for an overnight stay in the area rather than a day trip from Perth. The national park itself does not have any accommodation nor camping facilities, but you could easily find one either in Denmark (17km away to the east) or Walpole (55km away to the west).