Balancing Rocks and Granite Skywalks in the Porongurup
The Porongurup mountain range rises from the flat landscape like some strange otherworldly beast. It’s a rocky, dense outcrop that covers an area no larger than 26 square kilometres with a maximum height of just 600 metres. But in the flat agricultural land of the Great Southern Region of Western Australia, it’s a dramatic sight to see.
The Porongurup National Park protects this beautiful, rocky area and the incredibly diverse range of wildlife, plants and trees that reside within its boundaries. Those boundaries are small, and the park is one of the smallest in Western Australia, but packed into this compact area is one of the most interesting national parks in the state.
I visited the Porongurups to see this unusual mountain range and to find out just what makes it so unique. Within this national park, I found balancing rocks and granite skywalks.
Porongurup National Park
Porongurup National Park is found in the Great Southern Region. This national park protects the distinctive Porongurup Range, known primarily for its huge boulders and unusual rock formations. The park is over 400 kilometres from Perth in the north and Albany, the nearest city, is 40 kilometres away.
It’s a park that is by no means remote, at least not in Western Australian terms, but because of its location away from the coast, the highways and population centres, it sees few visitors in comparison to other national parks along the southern coastal area.
The traditional custodians of the Porongurups are the indigenous Noongar people, who have called this land home for thousands of years. Today though, much of that land is predominantly farmland, with an emphasis on grape growing and wine production introduced by Europen settlers. The name, ‘Porongurup’, is a Noongar term meaning a ‘meeting place near water’. This unusual mountain range, with its huge rocks and tall peaks, was an important landmark in the largely featureless landscape.
Standing atop the Porongurup range is the unusual Castle Rock. European explorers and settlers named this giant, square rock that rises from the ground for its similarity to castles back in their old homelands.
Castle Rock stands high above the range and from its top the views over the land stretch endlessly to the horizon. I tackled the 4-kilometre round trip which winds from the base of the hill, through tall Karri trees and through gentle sloping bushland to Castle Rock.
Along the route, there are more unusually shaped rocks, in this strange landscape of granite boulders. Huge, smoothed out rocks stand ontop one another, or jutting precariously from the earth.
The strangest, and most unusual of them all is the Balancing Rock.
The Balancing Rock
At the end of the trail to the base of Castle Rock, the Balancing Rock is found precariously balanced on the side of the mountain.
The Balancing Rock is a giant, 6-metre tall rock that has been smoothed and rounded over time to form an egg-shaped piece of granite that stands balanced on a small rocky base.
It’s a famous site in the region because it’s quite an unbelievable sight to see. If you dare, stand under the rock for a unique picture. It’s stood balanced for thousands of years, but who knows when it could fall?
The Granite Skywalk
A series of ladders lead visitors to the top of the huge Castle Rock. And awaiting those that have climbed the rungs, is the Granite Skywalk.
This elevated viewing platform runs around the edge of the rock, right at the summit, with a harrowing view of the ground far below your feet.
The Granite Skywalk offers incredible views over the entire Porongurup Range and far off across the Great Southern Region. It’s designed to allow visitors to experience unique 360-degree views from the top of Castle Rock, and it really does offer an exhilarating perspective on the surrounding landscape.
Walking Trails in the Porongurups
There are several walking trails within the Progonurup National Park. It’s not the largest national park, so it’s not necessary to spend a huge number of days exploring it. In fact, the main sights can all be seen in a few hours if you are a fast walker.
Castle Rock Walk – This 5 kilometre, two-hour return walk (probably less depending on how many pictures you stop to take) heads to Castle Rock, and past the Balancing Rock. This is the main walk in the park, and although the hike up the hill is fairly easy, it’s rated a Class 5 walk because the last section – if you choose to go all the way – involves climbing ladders. These ladders lead to the Granite Skywalk, which offers impressive views over the range.
Devil’s Slide – At 670 metres in height, Devil’s Slide is the tallest peak in the Porongurups. The hike to the top takes at least two hours there and back, and the 5-kilometre return trail can be rocky and steep in places.
Nancy’s Peak – This walk takes in the best peaks in the range, and starts from the incredible ‘Tree-in-the-rock’, which is literally a tree that has grown into a rock. It can take 2-3 hours to complete, depending on your walking pace, and is a circular route of just over 5 kilometres.
Wansborough Walk – This walk is 4 kilometres each way, and is a good option for those who aren’t up to scaling the peaks, as it’s relatively flat, and runs between the major summits. The scenery is wild and the walk is beautiful!
Location of Porongurup National Park
Porongurup National Park is best visited from the nearby city of Albany which is just an hour away by car. Perth, on the other hand, is over 5 hours drive away. There’s no public transport here, so having your own wheels – unless you fancy a spot of hitchhiking – is essential.
There’s a $12 (per car) national park fee to pay in the car park in order to gain access to the trails.
Porongurup Camping and Accommodation
There are no camping areas within the Porongurup National Park itself, it’s just too small an area, although there is a small tourist park close to the entrance. The closest towns are Mount Barker which is 23 kilometres away or Albany which is 40 kilometres away, and there is a range of options available in these areas. The Stirling Range National Park is also nearby, and there are camping sites available here.
Porongurup Range Tourist Park – This is the closest camping area to the Porongurups and is found opposite the main entrance. They offer powered and unpowered camping spots, and they have a few chalets for rent as well if you prefer more upmarket accommodation. You can find their website HERE.
Stirling Range National Park – The Stirling Range National Park has a number of campsites within the grounds with basic facilities for campers. The Stirling Range National Park is only a half hour drive north of the Porongurup Range, and if you hike to Castle Rock, you will have seen this mountain range in the distance. It’s another spectacular national park, home to the famous Bluff Knoll mountain which is the only place in Western Australia to see any snow!
All Words and Photos by Richard Collett