Well-groomed and suitable for all kinds of rigs, the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail is a 300km-long route between Norseman and Hyden’s Wave Rock that provides a great choice of spacious, free campgrounds on the shores of pink salt lakes and beneath crumbling painted cliffs.
Along the trail, there are 16 signposted discoveries to be made: historical sites, walking trails that climb sloping granite domes, water-filled gnammas and breezy groves of rare ribbon gums. And at journey’s end is Wave Rock, a 15m-high curl of rock that has lost none of its appeal over its long years on big lappers’ must-see lists.
THINGS TO DO
The first accessible granite outcrop on the trail, Disappointment Rock entices walkers along a 2km-long trail that leads gently up and around the low-lying rock. A series of signs interprets the landscape and the summit provides stellar views. Once you return to level ground, you can make use of the rock’s picnic facilities: tables, firepits and a toilet.
Further out west you’ll find McDermid Rock. This gently sloping granite dome rises above its pockmarked apron of free-standing boulders, fractures and fault lines to elevate walkers and reward them with expansive summit views over the region’s vast eucalypt woodlands. These cover an amazing 250,000sq/km and are made up of more than 80 species of eucalypt or 16 per cent of Australia’s total species list.
Hakeas and flame grevilleas colour the sandy heaths on the drive west to the Breakaways, 165km out of Norseman. Here, striped layers of red, yellow and white shale and sandstone colour the steep, crumbling cliffs, sculpted by wind and water along the eroded edge of a fragile plateau of Yilgarn Block.
Undeniably Australia’s most famous rock “wave”, this 2700-year-old eroded granite wall is an irresistible, prehistoric surf spot: 14m high, 110m long and sculpted by springs flowing over the northern lip of Hyden Rock.
You can climb to the top of Hyden Rock via the 860m or 1.3km loop trails to check out not only the views, but also the gnammas and eroded granite talfones up on top. Hippos Yawn is another nearby attraction — a rock feature that looks like nothing else! It is free to visit and you can walk there via the trail from Wave Rock.
A favourite trail to cycle, walk or push a stroller is the Wave Rock Circuit (3.6km) to Hippos Yawn and around Lake Magic, a crystal-clear saltwater lake that sits on a bed of sparkling gypsum. This flat, easy trail has interpretive signs that reveal points of interest, and indigenous and pioneering historical knowledge, which might slow your walk to an hour or more.
GORGE ROCK POOL
It’s an easy climb up this enormous rock to the small historical dam that catches the rain and you can continue walking to the distant summit, too. The rock’s history, told via information boards in the campground below, makes interesting reading. Facilities are limited to picnic tables and firepits, so campers should be self-contained and refrain from collecting ground timber for fires.
From Gorge Rock, Perth is an easy 250km drive away, but many travellers might prefer to delay their arrival in the big smoke by detouring south via Lake Grace to Albany, the Walpole Wilderness Area and Busselton’s beautiful Geographe Bay.
A string of free campgrounds at Lake Johnson, McDermid Rock, the Breakaways and Forrestania Plots provide basic facilities: picnic tables, toilets, firepits and walking trails (no bins).
The Wave Rock Caravan Park charges a fee to access the rock (free for campers staying the night), but there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to halt the flow of walkers entering for free along the trail from the Breakers picnic area.
Wave Rock Visitor Centre, (08) 9880 5182; Norseman Visitor Centre, (08) 9039 1071.
Plan your travels to coincide with the cooler winter months.
Check out the full feature in issue #845 February 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.