“Don’t do Bald Head first – it will ruin you for all the other trails.” Very sound advice. But we pretty much ignored it and took on the 16km return trail just one week after arriving in Albany, at the heart of Western Australia’s Great Southern region.
In truth, we would have run it earlier but Mat had to spent an hour with his head in the kombi’s engine, tinkering with the Old Girl to get her running again. He succeeded (praise be to the Vee Dub Gods) and so, one cloudy Tuesday, we made the short 20km road-trip out to Frenchman Bay.
Aside from the fact that this is Australian coastline at its most dramatic, the trail is beautiful to run (or hike). Perched at the very end of the Torndirrup National Park, the trail takes you along the Flinders Peninsula to the impressive rocky headland of Bald Head. Expect incredible views in every direction, at every point in the run. If you love coastal runs (and who doesn’t?!) this is as good as it gets!
Bald Head trail is just 21km from Albany town centre. The trail starts at the car park just off Murray Road in Torndirrup National Park. Head out of town towards Denmark and turn off onto Frenchman Bay Road. After about 18km, turn onto Salmon Hole Road and then take a left onto Murray Road.
Turn right at the sign for “Bald Head” which leads onto a short unsealed road to the car park. The road is Old Girl friendly, which means any 2WD can handle it.
There’s no water or toilets so come prepared! Telstra coverage is patchy on the trail (as you’d expect), but strong on the roads.
BEST TIME TO RUN
Spring is wildflower season in this part of the world, so you’d be a fool not to coincide your trip with this gift of nature. It also means the weather milder – think 18 degrees with light winds and blue skies dotted with clouds.
We started running at about 8am, which rewarded us with a shimmering silver light across the ocean and sky. Mat calls it the “Silberlicht”, as the only other time we’ve seen it is in the coastal resort of Sylt in northern Germany.
The trail begins with a boardwalk and stunning views out to the west. Try not to trip over loose boards as your eyes are drawn down to the crashing indigo waves of the Southern Ocean. After a kilometre or so, the trail veers sharply to the left and you’ll find yourself climbing over the rocky Isthmus Hill.
Coming down the other side, you skirt along the east of the peninsula for a few kilometres. Enjoy views across the King George Sound. If you turn and look back, you’ll see Frenchman Bay (this is how the bay got its name), the isthmus and Albany Harbour behind it.
The boardwalk is now replaced by sandy trails, so you can pick up the pace. Watch out for beautiful red kangaroos and King Skinks. Tiger snakes are very common in warmer weather, we’re told, but no need to worry in spring. The trail isn’t always easy to find, so look out for well-placed cairns.
The next hill you’ll summit is Limestone Head, which is an awesome rock formation. Let your feet skip over the layers of rock sprinkled with bright orange lichen. Slide down a massive sheet of granite and relax for a few hundred metres of bushland before a very steep sandy descent. Then it’s just a hop and skip to the turnaround point: Bald Head.
Sloping down into the ocean, Bald Head is a round headland of domed granite. You can’t help but stand here in awe, watching the power of the ocean as it crashes around you. The best thing is, on the return leg, the views are no less incredible! Even though it’s steep and technical in places, it felt like the easiest 16km we’ve ever done.
PLAN YOUR TRAIL RUN
Have you visited Albany? Tell us about your favourite spots!