A growing number of Parks and Wildlife Service-managed attractions in the south-west are providing thrills to those with a penchant for heights. Well-known attractions such as the Granite Skywalk, Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout and the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk are extremely popular among the many thousands of people who visit them each year. Now, impressive new upgrades at The Gap at Torndirrup National Park are set to provide visitors with yet another spectacular way to experience the area from a totally different perspective. Take a journey to see how these can be experienced in as few as four fun-filled days.
Standing safely on the edge of the enormous rocks at The Gap in Torndirrup National Park, it’s impossible not to be awed by the spectacular natural processes that have sculpted this coastline. For millions of years the Southern Ocean has bashed away at the granite and created ‘The Gap’ and the Natural Bridge, which today attract more than 200,000 visitors each year.
Until now, viewing opportunities were limited and continued weathering made venturing onto The Bridge unsafe. Thanks to $6.1 million funding through Royalties for Regions and Parks and Wildlife’s capital works program, a new development has been built in the area.
The ambitious and impressive new precinct includes new lookout structures for The Gap and Natural Bridge. These give visitors an amazing view across the Southern Ocean and along the coastline to West Cape Howe while they experience the sensation of being ‘suspended’ above the ocean as they view the surge of the swells below. For the more faint-hearted there are plenty of viewing opportunities that are less ‘thrilling’, but no less spectacular. At the right time of year, this view includes whale spotting.
The two features are connected by a wheelchair-accessible path which also links to the new car park. Visitors are able to take advantage of a new picnic area and a space to gather. The new site also features interpretive information to help visitors understand and appreciate the rich and fascinating natural history of the area. Visitors are also encouraged to drop into Albany's Historic Whaling Station to view the old whaling station, botanic garden and Australian wildlife. The world-class visitor precinct at Torndirrup National Park is the newest south-west attraction that enables visitors to ‘get high on nature’. The Granite Skywalk, Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout and the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk provide visitors with a range of different experiences in nature, catering for those with nerves of steel who are seeking an exhilarating endeavour, as well as families looking for a pleasant way to enjoy nature in a different way.
A WALK IN THE SKY
Head north from Torndirrup National Park and you’ll find the phenomenal Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock in Porongurup National Park. A two-hour uphill walk, which challenges even the fittest walkers, leads to the skywalk. Access to the top viewing platform requires visitors to scramble over rocks and climb up a ladder, but the slog is well worth it. This amazing structure provides a panoramic view out to Mt Gardner and Mt Manypeaks and across undulating farmland, while visitors can enjoy the feeling of being perched on the edge of a massive granite outcrop. For those brave enough to look down, the view to the forest floor below through the grid flooring reveals just how high up the structure is.
A visit to the Southern Forests – Walpole Wilderness is a must on any itinerary through the south-west. The area is a vast natural and wild landscape with many visitor attractions to enjoy. Two standouts that offer an opportunity to get a view with a difference are the Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout and the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. The Wilderness Lookout, located on the side of Little Mount Frankland in Mount Frankland National Park, provides breathtaking views across the western side of the Walpole wilderness with views down to the Frankland River as it makes its way to the coast. Visitors experience a sense of true wilderness in the area, which has little sign of human activity or inhabitation, and have the opportunity to soak up the sights and sounds of the forest. Visitors of all ages and abilities can enjoy this lookout on the universally accessible path. For those with a bit more time and a reasonable level of fitness, a steep one-hour climb to the summit is rewarded with 360-degree views of the area
The magnificent and popular Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk has delighted more than three million visitors since it was opened in 1996. The award winning structure soars gently upwards to a dizzying 40m into the foliage, before descending to the forest floor and the Ancient Empire Walk. Along the walk, visitors journey through the forest, among the gigantic tingle trees, getting a birds’ eye view of the forest below. People of all ages and abilities can enjoy the facility, with full wheelchair and pram accessibility. Those looking to enhance their experience can up the ante, and take part in one of the holiday programs held at certain times of the year. Back on solid ground, visitors can peruse locally sourced crafts and artworks in the shop.
If you are looking for a tougher challenge, try climbing one of the three fire lookout trees near Pemberton. The Gloucester, Diamond and Dave Evans Bicentennial Trees are fire lookout trees. The huge karri trees required ingenuity so that towermen and women could get a good view out over the forest to check for smoke. Today visitors can climb these trees and get the same 360 degree panoramic views out across the surrounding forest. If you want to experience a 360 degree video of climbing the Bicentennial Tree, check out the video below.
A LONG WEEKENDER
These features can be enjoyed over a four-day trip from Perth and many of them enjoyed by people of varying ages and abilities. They provide an opportunity to experience the southwest from a different perspective and to get a different view of the plants and animals that occur there. There’s nothing like going spot-lighting for brushtail possums in the tingle forest from 40m in the air, viewing the Southern Ocean crashing beneath your feet or having 360-degree views across untouched wilderness to make you feel connected to nature.