Location: Frenchman Bay
Distance: 1.8km loop
Trail Marker: Unmarked but easy to follow
Duration: 1 - 2 hours
Cost: $0, free entry
Date Hiked: 18th June 2019
Kml Map File: Please click here.
I stumbled across this trail by accident as I stopped in a parking bay on Vancouver Rd in Frenchman Bay to have a look at the lookout, having absolutely no idea that it was linked to a trail. With a bush type setting overlooking coastal views I grabbed the camera and water bottle and began a new adventure, a little excited at my new found discovery. It seems to have been a community centenary project trail from 2001 in partnership with the City of Albany, Frenchman Bay Association and Waters and Rivers Commission.
The trail-head sign stating that points of interest were along the beach however the trail image showed it going to the top of stairs but not continuing on past those points of interest, instead looping around above the beach. Seems like not a lot of thought went into planning, or maybe it did but don't quite understand why you wouldn't want people to go right past the points of interest so I decided to create my own exploration and head down the beach, come back up and then double back to complete the loop. It would mean some double backing but seemed to be a short trail so quite doable.
Making my way along the track, interpretive signage provided an insight into the discovery of the area, telling the tale of Capt George Vancouver accompanied by Whidby and Archibald Menzies who rowed towards 'the second sandy beach on the southern side of the sound' as described in his log. At the T junction you have the choice to go either way. I turned left as the plan was to head straight down to the beach.
It didn't take long for Vancouver to start mapping and naming the features of the land and water around him after his arrival. The Sound itself he named in honour of His Majesty King George III. The two islands guarding the entrance to the Sound were named, one 'Breaksea' and the other to commemorate the day of discovery 'Michaelmas'.
With the sound chartered, and it's features named, Capt George Vancouver left notes of his visit sealed in two bottles, one which he left in a cairn at Point Possession, the other containing a similar memorandum was likewise deposited on the top of Seal Island with a staff erected to conduct any visitor to it; on which was fixed a medal of the year 1789.
On October 11th, fourteen days after his arrival, he sailed away eastward to continue his exploration on the far western coasts of North America. Following his departure the peace of the harbours did not last long. Once discovered, King George Sound was visited by white men more and more frequently.
The trail was narrow skirting along the top, providing wonderful views of the sound and beach below. Unfortunately the sun was not in the best location for pics so only took a few for purpose of the blog as I made my way down to the beach. The trail opened up to a wide sandy track which I continued to follow straight ahead to head down to the beach. Walkers do have the option of avoiding the beach section completely and turning left at the point near a small bench seat which would then follow back to the lookout but my plan was so come back to this later.
The trail comes out to the residential area on St George Cres and heads right down to the beach passing by a house.
The trail passes by the back end of homes winding down to the beach via steps and narrow trails.
I wasn't entirely sure I was going the right way until I saw the main steps down to the beach and first glimpse of those beautiful turquoise waters, granite rocks and white sand.
An immediate sense of gratitude for these stunning beaches we are so blessed to have. Thats first section coming down the steps could easily be mistaken for an area in Little Beach Two Peoples Bay, in fact when I asked the 'Where am I' question on our Facebook page, many answered Little Beach.
By this point I was even more confused as to why the trail didn't direct walkers down on to the beach because it really is quite a beautiful change from the bush tracks. That's why I love the Point Possession Trail so much, a nice balance of varied terrain and walking experience.
The first point of interest I made my way too was the Wreck of the "Elvie". The locally built 30 x 4.5m double-ended, flat-bottomed wooden lighter Elvie was built of jarrah around 1912 for the Frenchman Bay whaling station to transport barrels of whale oil to vessels in the harbour, and for ferrying supplies from Albany back to the whaling settlement. When not in use it was moored in the middle of Frenchman Bay. After being abandoned at its moorings by departing Norwegian whalers in 1917, the Elvie was driven ashore in a southeast gale in 1921 and filled with sand. Though mostly buried, the tops of the wooden hull frames and the stern and bow post are visible, the bow facing to seaward.
The next point of interest was little further along, Vancouver Spring of which a sign and plaque mark the location. The Vancouver Spring is heritage-listed, named after Captain George Vancouver, who in 1791 was among the first non-Indigenous people to sip from the spring. The spring has supplied water to various types of shipping in the Albany area for nearly 200 years. The water supply from Vancouver Spring played an important in the development of Albany as it was the only reliable supply to the town in the early 1900s. You can read more about the spring via the Frenchman Bay Association website here.
Continuing on I made my way over to the King George Sound Marine Safety Information sign to gain a bit more understanding of the area and then proceeded on through the parking area, passing the Ruins of Norwegian Whaling Station. Unfortunately somehow I have managed to delete/lose my pic of the ruins so have pulled the image below from the Frenchman Bay Association - full credit for image goes to them.
The construction of the Norwegian Whaling Station in 1913 constituted a major investment, costing between £20,000 to £30,000, a huge sum in those days. The Norwegian firm behind the venture transported from Norway not only the machinery but also the bricks and timbers required for the construction of the station. The venture was short-lived: the construction began in 1913 and closed down in 1915 and the ruins are all that remains.
From the beach I made my way up some stairs, through a fire break, got a little off track and found myself against a fence. Thankfully for me there was a large hole so could step through as I could see the wide trail I needed was on the other side. I walked up the short section back to that small bench seat where I had initially made a left turn to head down to the beach. This next section of the blog focus's on turning right and looping back around.
The trail follows the power-lines and has a few interpretive signs, the first telling the tail of the Wreck of the Elvie so I guess gives visitors some information on the points of interest. I still think it would be nicer for trail to actually go past these though. A lookout platform is provided for those wanting to take in the views a little more with a short trail leading past to the edge of the ridge.
I passed a few other interpretative signage, one telling how King George Sound was visited one year later by the biggest and most adequately equipped scientific expedition yet mounted to explore the Australian coasts. A survey sketch made by Louis de Freycinet shows watering streams used by Nicholas Baudin and other visitors to replenish their ships fresh water tanks.
As I had found this trail unexpectedly, I hadn't adequately prepared myself anywhere near as well as I would for my own explorations and unfortunately was running out my battery life very quickly so hustled on, making a right turn looping around from the fire breaks once again on to a narrow trail that took me back to the lookout start point.
It wasn't a bad trail but do think some greater thought could have been put in to it for a more rewarding user experience but hopefully this post inspires you to visit and if so, we would love to hear your thoughts on the trail. Please feel free to tag us in your adventures.
We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we walk, the traditional lands of the first nations people & wish to acknowledge them as traditional owners paying respects to their Elders, past & present, and Elders from other communities who may be here today.