Your trip

Northcliffe and Windy Harbour are perfect destinations for adventure-seeking couples looking to get away from it all.  The townships of Northcliffe and Windy Harbour in the Southern Forests region in the South West of Western Australia  have a combined population of around 770. These towns are the gateway to the extensive and unspoilt coastline of D’Entrecasteaux National Park and enjoys magnificent karri, marri and jarrah forest on its doorstep.

Northcliffe has TransWA bus services and sees a regular flow of Bibbulmun Track walkers, Munda Biddi bike riders, fishermen and 4 wheel drivers travelling toward Windy Harbour, campers, sight-seeing tourists, visitors to Understory art in nature trail, orchid and wildflower spotters, and the farmers, delivery trucks, logging vehicles and others servicing our local industries.

If you are a keen hiker, extend your stay to fit in a 3-day walk to Pemberton or a 7-day walk to Walpole along the world-famous Bibbulmun Track.  For the mountain bikers, allow time for a day ride to Pemberton or longer multi-day rides to Manjimup, Nannup or Walpole and on to Albany.  TransWA coaches run most days to provide transport between towns.  Four wheel-drive enthusiasts should allow extra days for exploring the beaches and 4WD tracks, relaxing, camping and fishing the 130km of coastline and the waterways in D’Entrecasteaux National Park.

Camping/caravanning – Book into Windy Harbour Campground (Windy Harbour), Northcliffe Bush Camp (Northcliffe), Around Tuit Caravan Park (Northcliffe) or Shannon Campground (National Park campground). Windy Harbour Campground, Northcliffe Bush Camp and Around Tuit Caravan Park offer powered sites, bathroom facilities and camp kitchens.  Shannon Campground has bathroom facilities, BBQ and picnic facilities and a dump point. An overnight 

Accommodation – Northcliffe offers a range of accommodation from budget hotel rooms, motel units, B&B’s, Windy Harbour holiday homes to self-contained chalets and historic converted tobacco kilns.  We recommend the Northcliffe Hotel & Motor Inn, Karri Hill Cottages, Lake Northcliffe B&B, PipInn Vale B&B and the cottages Sheerwater and Tiddely Pom at Windy Harbour. Around Tuit Caravan Park has a comfortable onsite cabin available to rent. Contact the Northcliffe Visitor Centre to discuss your requirements.

This itinerary is intended for travel from west to east for visitors arriving from Margaret River, Augusta, Busselton or Manjimup – activities on days 1 and 4 can be exchanged for those travelling from Albany, Denmark or Walpole. 

Day 1

Travelling from Pemberton, browse the exquisite woodworks at the Pemberton Fine Woodcraft Gallery and enjoy lunch at the Holy Smoke Cafe, or at Jarrah Jacks Brewery or Hidden River Wines. Follow the Karri Forest Explorer Drive to discover Big Brook Dam and Beedelup Falls, experience the true old-growth forest in Warren National Park by following the Heartbreak Trail by car or the Warren Loop on foot (10.6km loop), join the purple-crowned lorikeets in the canopy by climbing the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, the tallest climbing tree in the world. 

Wander the trails around the Cascades listening to the Warren River tumbling over the rocks before heading south on the Pemberton-Northcliffe Rd to Northcliffe.

Drop in to the Northcliffe Visitor Centre on arrival to collect trail maps and chat with the friendly staff about what is happening in the region.  Want to know the difference between a Karri, Jarrah and Marri?  Request a guided walk by the Northcliffe Visitor Centre staff to learn about our forest ecosystems, or a frog walk to learn about the thirteen frog species that live in the forests surrounding Northcliffe.  

Visit the community-owned Northcliffe Karri Country Good Foods Co-op and the Northcliffe General Store and collect some supplies for your stay, including locally grown produce.  

Check in to your accommodation and meet your hosts. 

Get your walking shoes on and wander through the Northcliffe Forest Park, a 240 hectare nature reserve on the doorstep of Northcliffe.  The Northcliffe Forest Park has a range of trails from 400m to 3.5km and a section of the Bibbulmun Track. Follow the section of Bibbulmun Track along the railway line, built for the timber industry between 1929-1933, and imagine the early days of travelling through the forest by steam train.

The park contains intact stands of old-growth Karri, Marri and Jarrah and is stunning in wildflower season – over 46 species of orchids can be found throughout the year. Don’t forget your camera to photograph our majestic forests and the flora and fauna found there. Allow some time to sit quietly and observe the fauna that can be seen and heard in the forest.

Drop in to the Northcliffe Hotel for a relaxing sundowner drink and a great pub meal for dinner (closed Mondays and Tuesdays).  Pick up a couple of takeaway bottles of local wines from the Pemberton Wine Region before heading home to your accommodation.  

Day 2

After a leisurely late breakfast at the Hollow Butt Cafe (closed Sunday and Monday) visit the Painted Tree Gallery at the Northcliffe Visitor Centre to view the current exhibition.  

Experience Understory, Northcliffe’s unique art in nature all-access 1.2km sculpture trail (one of WA’s Top Trails).  Understory celebrates the hidden stories that help connect us with the places we visit, live and love through a wide range of original artworks created by over 40 local, state, national and international artists, writers and musicians.  Meander self-guided through the ancient forest to view the more than 80 sculptures .  Poetry, stories and music are showcased on the accompanying (optional) audio tour. 

Throughout Understory, Kim Perrier’s  ‘Rising from the Ashes’ series commemorates  Northcliffe’s catastrophic 2015 bushfire, acknowledging the trauma and loss of the experience and celebrates the resilience of community spirit. These sculptures feature over 40 faces and figures of the locals who lost their home, farm and income, volunteer firefighters, representatives from community groups and service agencies, individuals and families forced to flee the flames.  

Immerse yourself in Northcliffe’s history and chat to the volunteers in the Pioneer Museum, open Friday to Monday 10am – 3pm.  Northcliffe was established in 1924 as a group settlement town for the UK’s returned soldiers after World War 1 to increase WA’s population and to open up the forested land for farming, particularly dairy production.  The town was named after Lord Northcliffe, owner of ‘The Times’ and the ‘Daily Mail’ in London, a vocal supporter of the group settlement scheme.

Northcliffe’s Pioneer Museum has an outstanding collection of original items used by the Group Settlers almost a century ago, illustrating their domestic life and work on the dairy farms on which the district of Northcliffe was founded.

Each of the group settlements had its own school and the original Group 121 bush school, teacher’s cottage and hospital memorabilia bring back countless memories for old-timers, and the large collection of family photographs is of special interest to those researching their family’s life in the 1920s.  The relocated R&I building, in addition to bank memorabilia, houses the museum’s display of the local timber industry.  This includes a photographic history of the Northcliffe Mill and a variety of saws and chainsaws.

The George Gardner exhibition in the Museum’s mill cottage displays fossils 3,000 million years old and 1200 rocks and minerals from around Australia and overseas. 

Travel north of town on Wheatley Coast Rd and follow Moons Crossing Rd to explore this beautiful section of the Warren River tumbling over granite, leaving deep pools over the dry months – a great spot for slow shutter speed and landscape photography.  Return to Wheatley Coast Rd to visit 10 Chains Estate and Hillbrook Wines and enjoy the tranquil views in the late afternoon light while sampling some of this region’s finest premium wines.

At sunset, we recommend ordering Northcliffe Hotel’s takeaway fish and chips (made with locally sourced fish from Windy Harbour) or collect some supplies from the Northcliffe General Store to cook a BBQ dinner at the Hollow Butt Tree picnic area in the Northcliffe Forest Park, listening to the dusk chorus of forest birds settling for the night.

Day 3

Pack a picnic lunch, your fishing rods and some breakfast supplies to cook a BBQ brekky at the scenic picnic hut at the base of Mt Chudalup, just 16 km south of Northcliffe off the Windy Harbour Road. 

Climb Mt Chudalup (1.0km return), sit at the peak and marvel at the360° views for miles over D’Entrecasteaux National Park and the Southern Ocean.   Mt Chudalup towers over the surrounding karri forest and from the summit you can clearly see the transition between the coastal plain, the tall forests, permanent and ephemeral lakes and mobile aeolian dune systems. The short climb to the top of this 187 metre granite dome is steep in places but well worth the effort. Search for wildflowers in season and see how many species of mosses, lichen and liverworts you can find.  Return to the carpark.

Drive to Windy Harbour, explore the settlement and imagine what it was like to travel to the coast for a holiday in the old days.  Life in Windy Harbour hasn’t changed too much!  After settlement of the Northcliffe area in the 1920s people began day tripping to Windy Harbour for fishing and picnics.  The track was bumpy, boggy and difficult.  By the late 1930s fishing huts for holiday stays were popping up and by the 1950s about 80 huts had been constructed which were then converted into a permanent settlement with leases.  

There are now more than 200 houses in the settlement, some of which are available for short stay hire, in addition to the nature-based Windy Harbour campground.

For the walkers, explore along the beach from the boat ramp to Cathedral Beach unearthing the beach treasures deposited by the Southern Ocean along the high tide mark and search for marine creatures in the rock pools.    Sit on Cathedral Beach and watch the waves roll onto the shore. If you are keen for a longer walk, continue along the walk trail to Pt D’Entrecasteaux and on to Tookalup (total 8km return – take drinking water with you). Climb the stairs and continue along the walk trail to Pt D’Entrecasteaux and check out the Windows Lookout, an amazing consolidated limestone feature in the cliffs.  Wander the 400m Pupalong Walk checking for whales, dolphins and seals in season from the lookout. 

Follow the Cliff Top Walk to Tookalup marvelling at the limestone spires and the beautiful view over the Southern Ocean.  Relax and rest at the lookout at Tookalup, enjoying the view over Salmon Beach.  When you feel rejuvenated return along the walk trail to Cathedral Beach and follow the Coastal Survivors Walk back to Windy Harbour, learning about the coastal plants and animals and their adaptations to this most demanding of environments.

For those unable to complete the 8km return walk, follow the road to Cathedral Beach and then turn on to D’Entrecasteaux Drive to visit these beautiful locations by car. Windy Harbour, Tookalup Lookout and Salmon Beach all have facilities for a picnic lunch.

Return to the Salmon Beach turnoff.  Pull in to the Salmon Beach Lookout, a stunning place to view the length of the beach and the limestone cliffs (or at dusk, to sit with a bottle of wine and watch the sun set over the Southern Ocean and lighting up the cliffs in sunset colours!).   Follow the road to Salmon Beach and wander along the beach. It’s rare to have other people on this beach except in peak season over summer – even on wintery days rug up and experience just how wild the southern coastline can be.

For the fishers, toss a line in and try your luck at Salmon Beach, Cathedral Beach or Windy Harbour – autumn is salmon season but there is a wide variety of species that can be caught from the beaches year-round.  

After sunset relax over a drink, meet the locals and enjoy a meal at the Northcliffe Workers Club (closed Wed night over winter) on Mill Rd in Mill Town (remember to travel slowly and cautiously around sunset or after to avoid collisions with our abundant local wildlife).

Day 4

Enjoy a continental breakfast at your accommodation or head to the Hollow Butt Cafe in town for breakfast and coffee. Pack some lunch supplies and check out of your accommodation.  

In Winter and Spring, follow Windy Harbour Rd then turn onto Boorara Rd (gravel road) to visit the historic fire lookout tree – the Boorara Tree.  The Boorara Tree is one of several trees used for spotting fires throughout the region from the 1940’s as fire was a dangerous economic threat to the timber industry and to people’s safety.  Lookout huts were constructed in the tops of the trees to be climbed daily by a team of fire spotters.  In 1991 the lookout was removed from the Boorara Tree as it was becoming unsafe for climbing. Today, you can visit the replica lookout hut in the picnic area to see what it was like to be a fire spotter sitting at the top of the tree all day. The five kilometre return walk to Lane Poole Falls takes you through heavy Karri forest to the falls where the Canterbury River cascades over granite after heavy rains during winter and spring.  The trail is stunning in wildflower season.  From the Boorara Tree, follow Moore Rd to meet up with Middleton Rd.  

As an alternative to visiting the Boorara Tree,  travel north of town on Wheatley Coast Rd and turn right onto Middleton Rd to travel directly to Shannon National Park.   

Turn right onto Deeside Coast Rd to follow the Great Forest Trees Drive in Shannon National Park to experience a pristine water catchment surrounded by towering forests.  Sit quietly at the lookout at the Snake Gully Boardwalk to listen to the calls of the forest birds, then marvel at the size of the old Karri’s at the Big Tree Grove. 

The Shannon Campground is the site of an old mill town established in the late 1940s to cut the karri and now is a great destination for camping, birdwatching, canoeing or horseriding – the new Warren Blackwood Stock Route passes through Shannon National Park.  The Day Use Area is perfect for a picnic lunch before a walk to the Shannon Dam (3.5km) or for the more adventurous, The Rocks Walk (5.5km) to Mokare’s Rock with beautiful views across the Shannon Basin.   

Continue along the Great Forest Trees Drive to the South West Highway, turn east towards Walpole and follow to Beardmore Rd.  Follow Beardmore Rd to Fernhook Falls which is at its best in winter and spring when the Deep River cascades over the granite boulders. Explore the rockpools and wander the trail following the falls to Rowell’s Pool. 

From Fernhook Falls, continue on Beardmore Rd to Mt Frankland.  Follow the trail to the Wilderness Lookout, a beautiful accessible platform providing a spectacular view over the Walpole Wilderness Area.  For the energetic, the 600m climb to the summit is worth the breathtaking view, or explore the 2.5km walk trail that traverses the base of the mountain

Return to Beardmore Rd, and turn on to North Walpole Rd.  Look for Swarbrick, a short art in nature walk trail.  At Walpole, turn right onto the South West Highway to visit Mandalay Beach, a stunning beach at the eastern end of D’Entrecasteaux National Park.  Cast a line, or walk a stretch of the Bibbulmun Track along the beach.

Continue into Walpole where it is recommended to allow at least another 2-3 days to explore this beautiful town – experience the majestic tingle forests, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk and the picturesque coastline.