Sunday, 13 May 2018

Greens Pool to Elephant Rocks (William Bay National Park)

A short but scenic walk in William Bay National Park, this 1.5 kilometre trail links the popular Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks. Starting at the Greens Pool car park, the track descends to the calm waters of Greens Pool before rising through the dunes to Elephant Cove and its famous rock formations. With an optional adventurous return scramble along the rocks, this is an iconic part of the WA's South Coast

Distance: 1.5 km (return or loop)
Gradient: Relatively gentle over the entire walk, with minor ascents and descents. Some steep and tricky scrambling along the optional route back to the car park
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and straightforward - initial sections are a well formed walking track. The scramble is along natural, unmodified granite surfaces
Quality of Signage: Trailhead at the Greens Pool car park with map of walk. No markers along the way, though clear signage at trail junctions point walkers in the right direction
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required, unless following the scramble section
Time: 30-60 minutes
Steps: Several formal and informal steps
Best Time to Visit: All year, except for the peak of Summer and during particularly stormy Winter days. 
Entry Fee: No. National Park Fees apply.
Getting There: Trail starts at Greens Pool. From South Coast Hwy, turn south onto William Bay Rd and follow signage to the Greens Pool car park. Trail starts at info shelter.

My Mum and I at Greens Pool c.1993

Having spent the first four months of 2018 away from Western Australia, childhood memories of road trips Down South were calling me to revisit some of my favourite and most cherished places. William Bay National Park would have to be near the top of the list, as the safe calm waters of Greens Pool and the neighbouring Elephant Cove would have to be right up there as some of the best beaches I've seen anywhere in Australia. 

My Dad and I at Elephant Rocks c.1993

I remember visiting Elephant Rocks and Elephant Cove for the first time in 1993, back before it was a widely photographed fixture of Instagram and when it was a far less visited beach than Greens Pool. Back then there was no clear path to Elephant Cove, and my folks and I used to rock hop along the granite headlands to make our way there from Greens Pool. Nowadays there is a constructed path between the two beaches, and while I usually consider extremely short walks outside of the purview of this blog, a tinge of nostalgia led me to write up this old favourite as a loop walk using the constructed track and then rock hopping back to the start over the headlands. 

Back in the day the road to Elephant Cove was pretty bad, so we always parked at the more tourist friendly main car park at Greens Pool. An info shelter at the car park gives some information about the path between the two beaches as well as some history about the beach and the area.

From the shelter, a series of concrete steps lead down to the main beach of Greens Pool. 

Being a cloudy day, Greens Pool did not have the greenish-blue colour it is famous for when we first arrived, however the areas calm waters were already being visited by locals getting an early morning swim in. The secret behind Greens Pool's calm waters is a ring of granite outcrops just out to sea that stop the rough waves from crashing into the beach. The result is a natural, gentle pool that is perfect for families.

Descending the stairs, the walk to Elephant Cove continues along the granite to a smaller beach to the left of the main beach. At the time we walked, the tide seemed to be in and the option was the either walk along the slippery granite or through the water. We chose the former, however visitors should be aware that this is a potential slip hazard.

A flight of stairs exit the beach and lead through the coastal heathland to Elephant Cove.

There are some superb coastal views along the track, with a perfect vantage point from which to see the expanse of Greens Pool in all its glory. 

The trail to Elephant Cove continues behind the coastal heath along a gravelly path. Alissa and I have walked this path many times in the past with our shoes off from wading in Elephant Cove and have learned the hard way that it is best to have sandals when walking this track. As a result, I had my trusty Keens Uneeks on for this walk, which were not the most suitable shoes for the rock hopping route I picked on the way back.

As we made our way down through the heath, Alissa and I saw two Western Grey Kangaroos. Having spent a fair bit of time over east recently, I always find it interesting how the Western Greys have more youthful faces than the old man look of the Eastern Greys and the Big Reds up north. 

Clear signage along the trail points towards Elephant Cove, which is reached by descending a flight of steps. Walking down the steps, the beautiful granite formations of Elephant Rocks come into view for the first time.

A well constructed series of stairs leads down to Elephant Cove. 

This is one of the most exciting parts of the walk, as the trail runs through a narrow chasm between two of the Elephant Rocks. As the waves lap up the beach, water fills the chasm so walkers need to either get their feet wet or time their passage through to avoid the water.

The granite boulders of Elephant Rocks make this one of the most stunning and picturesque locations on Western Australia's south coast, and I've spent many a day climbing over the rocks on choose your own adventures. For those with the prerequisite skills, some of these rocks can be used for some bouldering/scrambling.

When I was younger and more foolhardy, I used to take a lot more risks climbing around the area but being a married man with a lot more to lose puts things into a bit of a different perspective. Nevertheless, I had a bit of fun doing some relatively safe scrambling around the boulders and exploring the middle section of Elephant Rocks. The rock to the left of the photo, with its noticeably trunk and ear-like shape, is a clear example of why this area was named Elephant Rocks.

The area is rich with wildlife, and appears to be a haven for small crustaceans as there are tiny crabs everywhere along the rocks. 

After having a play around the inner section of Elephant Rocks, I walked over to the other side of Elephant Cove to take in the view of the rocks. With the sun out, the rocks were bathed in a lovely golden glow. 

The rock shelf on the eastern side of the cove goes out to beyond the rocks and a rough trail through the heath suggests that people walk along here to the next beach along. The lack of any longer trail from here through to Madfish or Waterfall Bay is a real shame, as I think there is an opportunity for a great coastal loop walk that starts at Greens Pool, passes through Elephant Cove and continues to Waterfall Bay before looping inland to the massive granite boulders along the Bibbulmun Track and then following the track back along the Bibbulmun to Mazzoletti Beach and then return along the beach back to Greens Pool. Only a small chunk of track work would be needed, but it would be a great way to see the best that William Bay has to offer. Sadly, the current obsession with making everything a bicycle track will mean that any such walk will not be the low key walking adventure on natural surfaces but will instead be built for cyclists on harder surfaces and will be further away from the coast as a result.

After having a bit of fun exploring the rocks and taking photos of Elephant Cove, Alissa and I headed back to Greens Pool. Alissa had not worn shoes that were suitable for walking along the rocks so she simply returned back to Greens Pool via the constructed trail. Wanting to relive childhood memories, I decided to rock hop and scramble along to the other side by following the granite headlands. This is a slightly dangerous way of going given that its over unmodified and uneven granite surfaces and should not be attempted by the inexperienced or in slippery or windy conditions. For those comfortable with scrambling and rock hopping, this is a fun variant.

After passing through the chasm between the rocks and climbing the stairs, a small unmarked track runs off behind the bench and into the sandy dunes next to the rock. Walking down the dunes leads to the steep rocky slab pictured above. This is on a pretty steep angle that requires walkers to clamber up on hands and feet and would be very difficult in non-grippy shoes. My Keens Uneeks did okay, but I did wish I had my hiking boots for this section.

From there it is a pretty easy walk along the granite slab with views across towards Greens Pool and beyond to Rame Head. 

The next challenging part of the walk is a deep fissure in the granite that can be tricky to climb over. If you're not confident with climbing, the best thing to do is to head up along the fissure and back onto the walk track and then continue along the granite. 

Having done this before, I knew it was an achievable climb and I used the hand and foot holds where available to get through to the other side. These holds are quite plentiful but are fairly shallow, but would be fairly straightforward for experienced scramblers.

After crossing the fissure, it is a gentle, relaxed stroll along the headland to Greens Pool. 

With the clouds having parted and the Sun shining through, Greens Pool looked a lot more spectacular on the return trip with the calm blue waters being very inviting. Following the rocks, I was able to exit at the small beach near the main stairs to Greens Pool and headed back to the car park from there. 

At a whopping 1.5 kilometres, the walk from Greens Pool to Elephant Rocks is one of the shortest and walks I've written up on the blog, however this is such a scenic area filled with childhood memories that I couldn't help but share it. I always thought it was odd that the Bibbulmun avoided taking hikers to these amazing beaches, and it is my sincere hope that a longer walk will one day be available that continues down the coast to Madfish Bay. That would be a really incredible walk, but for now this short 1.5 kilometre loop is a scenic way of enjoying two of the best beaches on Western Australia's south coast. 

Me swimming in Greens Pool c.1993


  1. Replies
    1. Me too! I just wish there was a longer day walk there as there is so much more to see!