You don’t have to go all the way to Broome to see the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ spectacle – we have our own in the southwest.
During summer, for just a few evenings the full moon appears to rise out of the Indian Ocean over Meelup. The word Meelup means ‘place of the moon rising’ in the local Wardandi Noongar language.
The coastline faces northeast – rare in WA, which means you can see both the moon and the sun rising. The beaches are sheltered from the prevailing southwesterly winds, resulting in calm water with few waves. Lack of salt bearing winds has resulted in tall trees and dense vegetation growing down to the water’s edge.
Meelup Regional Park is in the southwestern corner of WA, 250 kms south of Fremantle. This Class A Reserve is approximately 577 hectares and extends 11.5 kms along the coastline from Dunsborough to Bunker Bay.
The Meelup Reserve Trail is a beautiful serene 7 km coastal walk from Dunsborough to Eagle Bay and is graded level 1-3. This north-facing bush track is a moderately easy walk with limestone and granite paths along Geographe Bay.
The trail starts just off Hurford Street in Old Dunsborough where the Meelup Nature Reserve begins. You’ll walk past isolated bays and coves – Curtis Bay, Castle Rock, Castle Bay, Meelup Beach, Point Picquet and finish up at Eagle Bay. The trails are shaded with peppermint and native WA Christmas Tree groves.
Most of the beaches have stunning white sandy turquoise bays with shallow calm water – perfect for families and swimming. The rocky outcrops provide good snorkeling. Many of the beaches have picnic areas, barbecues, showers, and toilets.
This is a beautiful part of WA, with rugged granite outcrops and headlands, natural coastal bush land with high biodiversity values. The stark contrast between the vibrant bush, red granite and turquoise ocean are breathtaking.
Along the way, stop at Castle Rock and walk up to the ‘Whale Lookout’ on the hill above Castle Rock. In 1845, John Bateman formed the Castle Bay Whaling Company with three other Fremantle businessmen. A whaling station called ‘The Fishery’ was set up to process the whales and extract whale oil.
The elevated granite lookout was used to spot both Humpback and Southern Right Whales. These species migrate north south along our coastline stopping in Geographe Bay to feed and strengthen their calves before continuing to the Southern Ocean. In 1872, the Castle Bay Whaling Company closed.
The trail has numerous whale-watching vantage points. Between September and December hundreds of whales can be seen on their north-south migration. Point Piquet is a popular spot for whale spotting.
At Eagle Bay, you’ll find a memorial overlooking the landing site of Nicolas Baudin’s 1801 French expedition to Australia’s West Coast. He landed here in search of water – but didn’t find any. Many places along the coast have French names.
Eagle Bay gets its name from a schooner of the same name. In 1830, Governor Stirling and John Septimus Roe (the first Surveyor General of the British Colony) visited the area in search of land suitable for settlement.
You can continue walking from Eagle Bay to Bunker Bay; this trail is poorly marked, and is probably a Grade 5 hike and not charted as part of the Meelup Trail. It is a much more rugged and difficult trail with rocks and cliffs. The views are amazing, however, and there’s plenty of wildlife and wildflowers. Listen for the familiar call of Baudin’s Cockatoos, and spot them roosting and feeding on gum nuts in the marri trees. Snakes are around, so watch where you tread.
You can do short walks by car-pooling or do the complete trail. There are also disability friendly walk trails (access for the disabled with assistance), family friendly trails, and a few steeper and rockier trails for those with bushwalking experience. Always refer to the grading system to choose the correct walk for you.
Maps and trail information on the Meelup Reserve Trail can be viewed right here.
It’s a perfect place to spend time in nature and escape the madding Freo crowds!
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* Words and pictures in this article by Jean Hudson @jeansodyssey
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