I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published May 28th 2013
A magical retreat in the far south of Western Australia
Far away from civilisation, on the wild and remote southern coastline of Western Australia, Windy Harbour is a tiny hamlet, which until just over a week ago I had never heard about. Situated half an hour's drive from the historical timber town of Northcliffe, approximately 366 kilometres south of Perth, the settlement is encircled by the D'Entrecasteaux National Park, a vast expanse of wilderness encompassing golden beaches, coastal heath, tall forests of marri and karri, and dramatic cliffs plunging to the swirling ocean below.
Salmon Beach, D'Entrecasteaux National Park
For me, my attraction to Windy Harbour was instantaneous: it was love at first sight. The small holiday shacks scattered around the settlement area made me recall days long gone by of happy family holidays by the beach, and of simple pleasures such as picnics, board-games, bushwalking and quiet conversation. An added bonus for those who share my sense of nostalgia is that Windy Harbour is one of the few places on mainland Australia where there is no electricity. Therefore, it's definitely not the place for party animals, those seeking a resort-style holiday and television addicts.
The settlement itself is small, consisting of an assortment of shacks inhabited mainly by local fishermen. Apart from a simple but beautifully-positioned camping ground, there is no visitor's accommodation, so unless you have a friend who owns one of the shacks, you'll need your own tent or camper-van if you want to stay. Prospective visitors also need to bring most of their own supplies, as Windy Harbour doesn't have any shops apart from a small kiosk at the camping ground, where basic supplies are sold. However, such small 'inconveniences' add to the town's charm, and create a laid-back ambiance in which life is simpler and people still have the inclination to talk to each other.
Windy Harbour Camping Ground
The small kiosk at Windy Harbour Camp Ground
For me, the big attractions of Windy Harbour were its remoteness, its unspoilt atmosphere and its close proximity to the D'Entrecasteaux National Park. Although I'd never visited before, I'd also heard that there were some beautiful walks through the park, and as a nature-lover and avid photographer, I therefore was anxious to check them out for myself.
Windy Harbour boasts many beautiful and secluded picnic spots.
Most of the bushwalks though the D'Entrecasteaux National Park can be started from the Windy Harbour town-site. On our first day there, my husband and I began our hike by trekking along the beach towards Cathedral Rocks, a spectacular rocky outcrop which is situated at the end of the beach, when the cliffs begin. It was beautiful walking along the soft sand, and on the day we were there the ocean was quite mild, although one of the locals had mentioned to us that the town was called Windy Harbour for a very good reason. We visited during mid-May, so it was a bit cold to take a dip, but it looked as though it would be a beautiful swimming spot during the hot weather. However, if you do choose to get wet be extremely careful as the beach is unpatrolled, and like many in the far south, has a reputation for being treacherous. A less risky pursuit is beach-combing, and on my rambles I discovered many beautiful shells including cowries and mother-of-pearl.
Cathedral Rock at Windy Harbour
From Cathedral Rocks we trekked up some steps, through a small carpark, and took the Coastal Survivors Walk which ascends the cliffy headlands through coastal scrub up to Point DÉntrecasteaux, where a lighthouse is situated. Although we began our hike by walking along the beach, it's also possible to follow the trail all the way from Windy Harbour. At regular intervals along the walk there are interpretative signs which provide fascinating information about the region's endemic flora and fauna. I was interested to learn that there is a small colony of quokkas living in the D'Entrecasteaux National Park, one of the few still existing in mainland Australia. Due to its isolation, the area is also a haven for various other species of endangered native animals, although we didn't see any since most are nocturnal.
The Coastal Survivors Walk, D'Entrecasteaux National Park
D'Entrecasteaux National Park
A carpark is situated at Point D'Entrecasteaux, so if you're on limited time or aren't so fit, you can drive up to the cliff-tops and appreciate the spectacular views. There is also a short sealed trail, the Pupalong Walk, which loops around the lighthouse, and includes a couple of viewing platforms with awesome views over the ocean. From May until November whales can often be spotted from there as they migrate up and down the coast. Like other walks in the park, the Pupalong Walk is well-signposted, and interpretative signs focus on the connection that the local Noongar people have to the land. Being short and fairly flat, it's a perfect walk for people of all ages and levels of fitness, including those in wheel-chairs. With its spectacular views over the ocean, it's also a walk which kids would love, although those who are very young or especially wild would need to be closely supervised, due to it being situated close to the rugged cliff-tops.
Signs along the Pupalong Walk explain the connection of the local Noongar people with the land.
The Pupalong Walk is sealed and very well maintained.
D'Entrecasteaux National Park
Be sure to hang on to your kids on the Pupalong Walk.
The Coastal Survivors Walk is also a wonderful family walk, although from Cathedral Rocks up to Point D'Entrecasteaux the path gets rather steep at times, so may not be so suitable for very young children. However, it can be broken up into two sections: from Windy Harbour to Cathedral Rock (1.3 kilometres one-way) and from Cathedral Rock to Point D'Entrecasteaux (1.5 kilometres one-way), with carparks situated at each of these destinations. For enthusiastic and energetic walkers, the Cliff Top Walk also extends from Point D'Entrecasteaux, further along the coast.
Also situated within the D'Entrecasteaux National Park but further inland, Mount Chudalup, a large monolith situated amidst an ocean of karri and marri forest, also provides an exhilarating walk up to its summit, where views of the surrounding landscape and distant ocean can be appreciated. Compared to an 'island in a sea of wetlands', the rock rises abruptly from the low-lying sedge and heath which surrounds it. Close to the base of the rock, a fringe of large trees extend upwards towards the sky, while higher on the rock, the vegetation becomes sparser and includes species such as grass trees, banksias, she oaks and peppermint. During late winter and spring the area comes alive with thousands of beautiful, multi-coloured wildflowers. For those of moderate fitness, the return walk takes about one hour. Although no camping or open fires are permitted, there are very nice picnic facilities close to the carpark, which include picnic tables, gas barbecues and toilets.
In conclusion, if you love nature and the Australian bush, and don't mind roughing it a bit, Windy Harbour is a beautiful spot to spend some quiet time. Artists, writers and photographers will treasure the creative inspiration which comes from being so close to Mother Nature at her most pristine, while the more adventurous will relish the opportunity for bushwalking, canoeing and other high-energy activities. These days, there aren't too many places which don't have electricity and mobile coverage, and the fact that Windy Harbour is devoid of these modern conveniences is also part of its charm. For more information about Windy Harbour and the D'Entrecasteaux National Park, have a look at the 'Park Finder' page on the Department of Environment and Conservation website. To contact Windy Harbour Campground, call 08 9776 8398.
Just found your article. Very informative and great photos. Just one correction though. Hut owners can get planning approval to rent their huts out for short term accommodation as I have been doing since 2008 and a number of other owners have been doing also. The Shire of Manjimup has a listing a properties that are available for rent as well as the Northcliffe Visitors Centre. Hope this helps your readers that might like to stay but are not into camping. :)