The Bibbulmun Track, Western Australia
The Bibbulmun Track, Western Australia Ranging from inland planes to beaches, limestone ranges to damp gullies, the 965-kilometre Bibbulmun Track, spanning from Perth to Albany, is one of Australia’s great walks. The track was first…
13 Jul 20 · 7 mins read
The Bibbulmun Track, Western Australia
The track was first proposed in 1972 by Geoff Schafer, a member of the Perth Bushwalking Club. A former Victorian, Schafer had walked parts of the Australian Alps Walking Track and was inspired to create something similar in his new home. Schafer’s original track was to run 700 kilometres from Kalamunda, on Perth’s outskirts, to Northcliffe, on the south-west tip of Western Australia.
The WA Forests Department marked out a track in March 1974, and officially opened it in 1979, coinciding with the state’s 150th anniversary. In 1993, the track was moved several kilometres to the east, as walkers began to report that mining and logging were having an impact on the route. The new route retains less than 10% of the old track, and included a 200-plus kilometre extension to Albany, on the southern coast of Western Australia. It was officially opened in 1998.
The track was named after one of the area’s Aboriginal groups, the Bibbulmun people. Though it does not follow one of their routes, it is named in honour of their practice of walking long distances for ceremonial gatherings.
The track is divided into 58 sections, each approximately one day’s walk, except in the northernmost section, where the walk is roughly divided into half-day journeys. At the end of each section is either a town, or purpose built campsite. The track primarily passes through state forest and national parks, with a few small sections of farmland.
The first section of the track passes through the jarrah/marri forest of the Darling Ranges. Look for the ubiquitous wattle, as well as orchids, grass trees, and banksia. You’ll also encounter sweeping views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Around 92 kilometres south of Perth, look for the giant granite mound of Boonerring Hill, looming above the jarrah forest.
The first town you encounter is Dwellingup, a historic timber-milling town that now plays host to weekend visits from Perth, thanks to its location on the Murray River, delightful orchards, and award-winning cidery.
From Dwellingup to Collie, the track follows the Murray River for 50 kilometres, offering sweeping views of the Darling Ranges. The forest becomes more diverse, with strands of wandoo interspersed among the jarrah and marri trees. As you approach Collie, you’ll pass a swampy area known as the Plonkhole, where vegetation is chiefly paperbarks and flooded gums.
On the other side of Collie, you’ll encounter a mix of heavily logged areas and giant virgin jarrah trees, while as you head further south soap bush and rushes begin to appear on the creek beds.
You’ll eventually come to the picturesque town of Balingup, famous for rolling green hills shrouded in mist, lush orchids, and spectacular night skies. From Balingup the track passes through the Golden Valley Tree Park, with many beautiful examples of trees from around the world. You’ll then pass through the pine plantations of the Blackwood Valley. From here, the vegetation changes. Karri trees become more frequent and the forests damper and more dense. Look for orchids and other flowers in the understorey and floor of the forest.
At the Donnelly River Village, you’ll have roughly reached the halfway point. Once a timber town, Donnelly is now a holiday village famed for its tame wildlife, including friendly kangaroos and emus.
Heading south towards Pemberton, the track follows narrow trails along the Donnelly River. In the spring, the area is a blaze of wildlife, while karri trees now start to dominate the forest. One of the highlights of this section is the majestic Beedelup Falls. Pemberton, another historic timber town, is now renowned for the quality of its wine and gourmet food.
From Pemberton to Northcliffe, the track wines around the Warren River Valley through Northcliffe Forest Park, which will be particularly appreciated by wildflower enthusiasts. The south west corner of Western Australia has been internationally recognised as a ‘biodiversity hotspot’ – one of only 34 worldwide and 2 in Australia – for its extensive collection of wildflower species. The wildflower hotspot is home to over 5500 species of flower, of which more than 4500 are endemic to the area. In this section, look for pink and purple enamel orchids, cowslip orchids, flying duck orchid, coral vine, Albany bottlebrush, and coastal pigface, among other beautiful spring wildflowers.
The track then passes through D’Entrecasteaux National Park, home to the Yeagarup Dunes, the largest landlocked dunes in the Southern Hemisphere: 12.5 kilometres by 2.5 kilometres. The dunes are moving inland at a rate of a metre of year, thanks to the onshore winds. The Bibbulmun Track passes through the eastern reach of the park, but it’s worth making a day tour to explore the dunes, passing through majestic jarrah and marri on the way.
From the town of Walpole, the track turns east, tracing the coast through to Albany. The route here passes through ancient tingle forest, beaches, and limestone ridges overlooking the Southern Ocean. There are plenty of sheltered bays to have a swim in along the way. In spring, look for southern right whales and humpback whales swimming off the coast.
You’ll encounter a range of wildlife, including kangaroos and emus, along the entire track. In Northcliffe Forest Park, endangered quokkas and woylies are gradually increasing in population thanks to Western Shield, an extensive fox eradication program run by the Department of Conservation and Land Management. The jarrah forest further north is home to brushtail possums and the tiny southwestern pygmy possum, as well as the western brush wallaby, while the ‘showgrounds’, areas of open heath and grasslands near the coast, are home to kangaroos, emus, and a vast number of wildflowers in the spring.
Birders should look for red-tailed black-cockatoos and wedge-tailed eagles in the jarrah forest; the rare ground parrot in the ‘showgrounds’; while the Northcliffe Forest Park is home to rosellas and honeyeaters.
Walking the Bibbulmun Track for mature-aged and senior travellers:
The Bibbulmun Track is suitable for walkers of a variety of abilities. It generally takes around eight weeks, from start to finish. If you’re not up to the whole length, try walking part of the route on a weekend, or basing yourself in one of the towns along the way to take in small sections of the track.
The track is certainly suitable for mature-aged and senior walkers, provided that they are fit and active. A survey of Bibbulmun Track walkers revealed that over 20% of walkers were between the age of 55 and 64, and over 11% over the age of 65, so you certainly won’t be the only mature-aged walker on the track!
Most walkers recommend you start in late winter or early spring, before the south-west coast overheats and the snakes become too active. This is also a peak time for West Australian wildflowers. The official website recommends that walkers not take on the track in summer, due to extreme heat and bushfire risk.
Because the walk passes through so many towns, walkers have the option of staying in B&Bs along the journey, rather than camping – so you can walk all day, and then enjoy the comfort of a proper bed, hot shower, and home cooked meal, at the end of your long journey.
Information on track conditions and health, hygiene and safety can be found on The Bibbulmun Track’s official website. Walkers may also be interested in Odyssey Traveller’s articles on preparing for and the benefits of walking tours for seniors, and on selecting clothing, shoes and socks, and women’s walking shoes. We also have information on building muscle mass in preparation for walking tours.
Odyssey Traveller takes on parts of the Bibbulmun Track as part of our Wildflower Tour of Western Australia, including Albany and the old-growth forests of Pemberton. Designed especially for mature and senior travellers, our tours take you through the finest West Australian wildflowers. Beginning and ending in Perth, our tour takes us through the heart of the mallee country known as the ‘wheatbelt‘, home to the celebrated leschenaultia macrantha or ‘wreath flower‘. Here we take on the famous Wildflower Way, passing from Mullewa to Dalwallinu. We then head into Western Australia‘s golden outback, visiting the towns of Merriden and Kalgoorlie before heading south to Esperance and Cape Le Grand National Park.
The south-west corner of West Australia is truly wildflower country, home to thousands of endemic species. Here, we will visit the Stirling Ranges National Park; the town of Albany, where we learn about the history of ANZAC; and enjoy a wine tour in the celebrated Margaret River region. Finally, our tour ends in Perth, where we visit King’s Park, home to plant species and blooming wildflowers from around Western Australia, in a botanic garden spectacularly located by the Swan River.
Our wildflower tour is a small group tour, designed for 6-12 travellers plus your botanical guide. The tour price includes hotel accommodation, entrance to attractions, several group meals, and travel in a comfortable, air-conditioned bus.
Articles about Australia published by Odyssey Traveller:
- The Kimberley: A Definitive Guide
- Uncovering the Ancient History of Aboriginal Australia
- Aboriginal Land Use in the Mallee
- Understanding Aboriginal Aquaculture
- Mallee and Mulga: Two Iconic and Typically Inland Australian Plant Communities (By Dr. Sandy Scott).
- The Australian Outback: A Definitive Guide
- The Eyre Peninsula: Australia’s Ocean Frontier
- Archaeological mysteries of Australia: How did a 12th century African coin reach Arnhem Land?
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Australia:
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Wildflowers tour of Western Australia
Visiting Western Australia
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Discovering Tasmania’s Wildlife
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Small group tour of Flinders Island
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