WOW EcoCruise Walpole 2024: With a Bucketful of Laughter

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Embark on an Unforgettable WOW Wilderness Eco-cruise in Walpole.

Have you ever wondered which mammal boasts the largest testicles in relation to its body size? Or how can you tower above an ancient forest without setting foot on the famous Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk?

If such curiosities beckon, the WOW eco-cruise in Walpole, Western Australia, is your gateway to answers and awe-inspiring discoveries. 

Having called Western Australia my home for nearly three decades and visited the south of this diverse state many times, I’ve been fortunate to explore much of its beauty firsthand.

With a heart full of love for the place I call home, I share our journey through the heart of Western Australia’s first wilderness zone, the Nuyts Wilderness area, and the captivating Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park.

view of the inlet from the boat with clear shallow waters below and sandy banks with low scrub on land
Nornalup Inlet, Walpole ©Lifejourney4two

Guided by the inimitable Gary Muir, a man whose family has woven their lives into the fabric of this land for eight generations, this tour is more than an exploration.

It’s a deep dive into the essence of the region’s ecology and culture and the critical importance of future conservation efforts.

The land has been important to its people for thousands of years. The traditional owners of the area are the Murrum of the Minang people.  Artefacts have been found dating back to 47,000 years ago.

Join us as we recount our extraordinary journey into the Walpole wilderness area.

One that’s filled with the hilarity and profound insights only Gary could provide on what has to be one of the most unique eco-tours in Western Australia. 

Gary muir on the WOW ecocruise tour in Walpole taking a register of guests
The fun begins even before you step on the boat. Even a roll call with Gary (Gazza) could never be boring

Our Commitment to Authentic Experiences

Before we dive deeper into our experience on this informative cruise, we feel it’s essential to note that this post is not sponsored.

We paid for our tour on the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise out of our own pockets, and Gary had no knowledge of us being travel bloggers.

We aimed to enjoy the eco-cruise as any guest would, ensuring our insights reflect the true experience you can anticipate, all shared from our authentic journey.

Walking through the dunes to Shelly Beach
Walking in the Protected Walpole Wilderness at Shelly Beach ©Lifejourney4two

Making an Exception for the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise

As seasoned budget travellers, we’re always looking for ways to stretch our dollars without compromising on the richness of our experiences (discover our tips for travelling cheaply here ).

The WOW Wilderness EcoCruise, priced at AUD$60 per person, initially gave us pause. Such an expense isn’t typically in our playbook.

However, after hearing rave reviews from not one but three sets of friends, our curiosity was piqued.

The Wow ecocruise boat moored to the jetty in Walpole
The WOW eco cruise boat ©Lifejourney4two

Their unanimous endorsement convinced us that this experience was not to be missed.

Reflecting on our decision, we’re so pleased we chose to book the boat cruise. It was an invaluable experience connecting with the area’s incredible natural beauty in the most entertaining way possible with the world’s best tour guide!  

Gary showing us a photo of the quokka
One of the many photos Gary has to hand to bring the facts to life – this is a quokka, who interestingly, along with the wombat, has a square poo. ©Lifejourney4two

Planning a Trip to Western Australia?

Why the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise Stands Out

Embarking on the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise feels like stepping through a portal to another time. Where nature’s untouched beauty unfolds before you, and the forward march of conservation efforts is palpable.

The rich tapestry of the area’s history unfurled through tales of Pierre Bellanger, a visionary Frenchman who championed the wilderness’s preservation over development in 1910.

And it’s a testament to the enduring spirit of conservation here that these waters were the first in Australia to be protected for their ecological value. 

Witnessing the majestic Karri trees meeting the ocean, it’s not difficult to see why this place—the heart of WA’s first Wilderness Zone—is so extraordinary.

The view from the dunes above the WOW pontoon
The protected Walpole Wilderness ©Lifejourney4two

Gary Muir: The Heart and Soul of the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise

Gary Muir is more than a tour guide. He’s a storyteller, a historian, a scientist and, most importantly, a passionate guardian of the Walpole wilderness.

Our experience with Gary was filled with laughter, wonder, and a profound appreciation for the area’s natural, historical and cultural heritage. His unique blend of humour and insight made every story and every fact resonate deeply.

Gary’s belief that “Walpole is the belly button of the world” isn’t just a quirky saying. It reflects his view on the interconnectedness of everything, with Walpole at its centre.

His ability to tie any visitor’s homeland back to Walpole amused and amazed us, demonstrating the universal bond we all share with nature.

Gary showing us a shell
Gary’s enthusiasm for nature is infectious ©Lifejourney4two

Through Gary’s eyes, we didn’t see Walpole as a series of landmarks but as a living, breathing entity where nature, culture, and the future are intricately woven together.

His dedication to preserving this treasure was inspiring, turning our journey into a lesson on the importance of protecting such unique environments for generations to come.

Gary showing us the photo of a honey possum - which fits in the palm of a hand
The honey possum – with the largest testicles of any mammal per body size ©Lifejourney4two

WOW Wilderness Eco Cruise Map

WOW Wilderness EcoCruise Itinerary: In a Nutshell

  • Shoe Cleaning Ritual: Start with eco-conscious shoe cleaning at the jetty, a proactive step against dieback to protect the wilderness.
  • Boarding the Boat: Embark on the eco-cruise, setting the stage for adventure and discovery.
  • Interactive Quiz and Learning: Engage in a fun quiz that touches on the area’s geology, history, plants and wildlife, teasing the depth of learning to come.
  • Sailing Past Snake Island: Pass Snake Island and listen to the stories about its ecosystem’s balance and the intriguing narratives shared by Gary.
  • Landing on the Protected Wilderness: Arrive at Settlers Cove on the Nornalup Peninsula, showcasing recent conservation successes.
  • Option for a Short Hike: Hike to Shelly Beach, which promises stunning views and a closer connection with nature.
  • Morning Tea with a View: Savour morning tea and Tingle Cake on the pontoon, a taste of local flavours amidst serene beauty.
  • Enriched Return Journey: The return to Walpole is just as engaging, with Gary’s stories and humour enriching the trip.
Shoe Cleaning to protect dieback in the Walpole Wilderness - three machines one to scrub the bottom of shoes, one to scrub side of shoes and one to spray disinfectant on bottom of shoe
The footwear hygiene station to reduce the risk of Phytophthora dieback ©Lifejourney4two

Unveiling the Secrets of the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets

Our journey on the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise began with a simple yet profound conservation act: a shoe-cleaning process at the jetty.

This small step, designed to prevent the spread of dieback, was our first hands-on experience of the day’s commitment to preserving the pristine wilderness of Walpole.

All visitirs cleaning their shoes in the shoe cleaning station
Shoe cleaning before boarding the eco-cruise ©Lifejourney4two

Journey Through Tranquil Waters

As we ventured further, the tranquil waters guided us through the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets toward Snake Island.

Throughout the journey, Gary engaged us with a lively quiz, seamlessly weaving in historical, geological, and scientific insights with his signature humour, ensuring every fact was as entertaining as it was clear.

His energy and passion are something else. And I would defy you to find anyone quite as articulate, funny and engaging!  

Gary Muir at the front of the boat holding photo of a plant with orange flowers and stood by a stool with a cake in a plastic container
The stool moved left or right depending on which team answered correctly – the prize was cake – but don’t despair, you’ll get some win or lose 😉 ©Lifejourney4two

Conservation Efforts with 1080 Poison Bait

The story behind Snake Island offers a window into the delicate ecosystem balance in the Walpole area. Here, native plants (Gastrolobium) produce toxins that local wildlife have evolved to tolerate.

You’ll no doubt hear the story about the Muir family cows. All dead within a week of being out to pasture on the island. 

Gary Muir - a bald headed man in a burgundy tshirt holding  photo of the ornage flowered plant that is extremely toxic.
Photo of the Gastrolobiuman extremely poisonous plant ©Lifejourney4two

This natural tolerance among native species forms the basis of a targeted conservation strategy across the southern region of WA.

Conservationists use 1080 poison bait containing the same toxin to protect native animals from invasive predators like foxes and cats. This method works effectively because invasive animals have no defence against the plant-derived toxin, while native species do.

By carefully applying this strategy, the area’s conservation efforts aim to reduce the impact of non-native species on the local ecosystem without harming the indigenous wildlife.

This conservation technique demonstrates a thoughtful approach to preserving Walpole’s unique biodiversity and ensuring the survival of native species and the health of their natural habitat. 

Morning Tea and Hike to Shelly Beach

Arriving at the pontoon for morning tea and a hike to the beach - a wooden deck and aluminuim stair rails
Arriving at the Pontoon on the Nornalup Peninsula ©Lifejourney4two

Landing at the island’s pontoon, you could choose to stay and take in the atmosphere with morning tea served on the jetty or take a short hike to the beach on the other side of the island. 

We chose to hike to the beach.

Along the sandy path, we discovered quokka prints. A tangible sign that these little fellows are doing their best to survive against the odds of invasive predators. 

Small hike to Shelly Beach with Gary leading the way and a view ot turquoise bay and rocky promontory
Small hike to Shelly Beachwhat a view! ©Lifejourney4two

💡Visitor Tip: Another beach similar to this one but much easier to visit is Conspicuous Cliff – about 20km southeast of Walpole. One of my favourites in the area in terms of scenery.

Quokka prints in the sand
Quokka prints in the sand ©Lifejourney4two

While we didn’t catch sight of any animals, trap cameras and footprints tell us there are also western quolls in the area. 

However, these cameras also reveal their challenges, with images of wild cats preying on them underscoring the ongoing battle for conservation.

Gary showing us a photo of the western quokka caught on the trap camera
Gary showing us a photo of the Western quoll caught on a trap camera ©Lifejourney4two

At Shelly Beach, we searched for plastic nurdles before returning to the pontoon, where we indulged in the much-praised Tingle Cake (a deliciously moist lemon cake) and drinks. 

Walking along Shelly Beach keeping a keen eye out for any plastic nurdles
The cruise visitors keeping an eye out for plastic nurdles on Shelly Beach, Walpole ©Lifejourney4two

Hold on a second! You might be asking yourself, what on earth are plastic nurdles?

I will explain.

Nurdle Search: A Hands-on Conservation Effort

The WOW Wilderness EcoCruise integrates a crucial conservation effort through the nurdle search on Walpole’s pristine beaches.

These small plastic pellets—over 2.5 billion of them—spilled into the ocean in Durban, South Africa, in 2017 and have now dispersed globally. Carried by ocean currents, they’ve reached as far as the southwest of Australia, impacting marine life and washing up on the shores of Walpole.

This activity educates participants about the extensive impact of plastic pollution while directly involving them in environmental protection.

We scoured the beach, but they are so tiny it’s hard to see. Nevertheless, our group found three, with Gary mentioning that, on average, at least one is found daily.

Gary and a group of visitors sorting through the beach finds
Sorting through the plastic finds on the beach ©Lifejourney4two

Gary is collaborating with the University of Western Australia by collecting and collating the number of nurdles found on Shelly Beach. 

The detrimental effects on local wildlife, particularly seabirds mistaking the nurdles for food, showcase the global consequences of pollution. 

Gary stood on the beach with a few visitors stood around him
Gary was constantly explaining something new about our surroundings ©Lifejourney4two

Our search for nurdles at Shelly Beach wasn’t just about conservation; it was also a perfect moment for photography enthusiasts like Lars to capture the raw beauty of Walpole’s coastline.

Seeking photography tips for stunning places like Shelly Beach? Explore our road trip photography post.

Lars stood on Shelly Beach Walpole with camera in hand
Lars on the lookout for photography angles at Shelly Beach ©Lifejourney4two

Engaging the Community in Conservation

Gary’s dedication to conservation extends beyond the eco-cruise itself. He does significant work with the local community to foster a deep connection with the environment.

One inspiring example is his collaboration with the local primary school to rehabilitate the dunes by Shelly Beach.

This initiative not only helps preserve the island’s natural beauty but also instils a sense of responsibility and love for nature in the younger generation.

Rehabilitation area in the dunes above Shelly Beach
Rehabilitation area in the Dunes behind Shelly Beach ©Lifejourney4two

A Tapestry of Nature: Wildlife and Flora Along the Cruise

Our journey through Walpole’s wilderness was made even more special by spotting an osprey perched on a branch nearby and seeing a giant stingray gliding beneath us in the clear waterways of Walpole.  

The surrounding forests, home to towering karri and tingle trees, offer a breathtaking backdrop that has endured for centuries. Their imposing presence is a constant reminder of nature’s grandeur and resilience. 

In fact, you’ll find the most giant tingle tree right here in Walpole. Just a five-minute drive from town, this Giant Red Tingle Tree has towered over the forest for over 300 years.

Osprey in the tree
Osprey in the Walpole Wilderness ©Lifejourney4two

Other visitors have been thrilled by sightings of peregrine falcons, and in a heartwarming tale of serendipity, another tour group helped rescue a dolphin found stranded on a sandbank. 

These moments show an unexpected connection with nature can occur in this extraordinary place.

These experiences, both big and small, form a rich tapestry of life that underscores the importance of conservation efforts in the area.

Whether planned or serendipitous, each encounter deepens our appreciation for the natural world and the need to protect it for future generations to witness and enjoy.

Ecocruise boat close to the sanddunes
Looking out for stingrays ©Lifejourney4two

Planning Your WOW Wilderness EcoCruise Adventure

Embarking on the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise in Walpole, Western Australia, promises breathtaking views and an enriching experience with the region’s ecological and cultural heritage.

To make the most of your journey, follow this practical advice for an unforgettable exploration.

Booking Your Cruise

  • Advance Reservations: Peak seasons and school holidays quickly fill up. Secure your spot early to avoid missing out. We booked our eco-cruise five days in advance in February 2024.
  • Contact Information: Contact the Walpole and Nornalup Visitor Centre for the latest information on availability, pricing (AUD$60 adult, AUD$20 Under 16, Free: Under 5), and cruise times (10 am – 12.30 pm).
  • Seasonal Considerations: The cruise typically pauses after the July school holidays, resuming in September.
Wow Ecocruise sign
Book the tour through the Walpole Visitor Centre

What to Bring

  • Appropriate Footwear: The shoe-cleaning ritual is your first step in helping combat dieback disease. Opt for comfortable walking shoes suitable for both boat and trail.
  • Sun Protection: The sun in Western Australia can be surprisingly intense, even in the south. Apply sunscreen, wear hats, and bring sunglasses for protection, not just during the hike but also for those moments outside the undercover area on the boat.
  • Water and Snacks: Morning tea and Tingle Cake will be served, but extra water is a good idea. Conveniently, restrooms are accessible onboard.
  • Camera and Binoculars: Don’t miss any stunning views or wildlife. Binoculars are particularly handy for spotting details in the distance.

📸 Photography Gear: Capturing the essence of Walpole’s natural beauty is vital. Unsure about what photography gear to bring? Our travel camera equipment post offers insights into the gear we use to document our travels, ensuring every precious memory is perfectly captured.

  • Light Layers: Weather in Walpole can change quickly. Wearing layers helps you comfortably adjust to varying conditions, especially since mornings on the water can be cool even in summer.
  • Eco-Friendly Mindset: Play your part in conservation by minimizing waste. Bring a reusable water bottle and ensure you take away any rubbish, leaving nature as pristine as you found it.

By following these recommendations, you’re all set for an unforgettable adventure. It’s not just about exploring—it’s about doing so responsibly and capturing every moment.

Shelly Beach, Walpole ©Lifejourney4two

Beyond the EcoCruise: Exploring the Walpole Wilderness

After the enchanting journey of the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise, the adventure doesn’t end there.

Walpole and its surroundings beckon with hidden trails, breathtaking treetop walks, and quaint towns brimming with local charm and natural wonders.

Join us as we step off the boat and into the heart of this pristine landscape, discovering trails less travelled, vistas that stretch the imagination, and towns that greet you with their own stories and natural charm, each visit uncovering something new.

Discovering the Heritage Trail

One of the area’s hidden gems is the heritage trail stretching from Coalmine Beach to the town visitor centre. This scenic path is a pleasant stroll to the town and offers a rare opportunity to encounter wildlife, such as the elusive quokka, in its natural habitat.

The trail weaves through the lush landscape, with small information plaques along the way. 

Scenic Walks Around the Knoll

For those who love a scenic vista, the walk around the Knoll presents an opportunity to soak in the panoramic beauty of Walpole’s wilderness.

This leisurely stroll offers a different perspective of the area’s natural splendour, with viewpoints overlooking tranquil waters, dense forests, and the expansive Southern Ocean.

It’s a perfect way to reflect on the tranquillity and majesty of nature.

Knoll Scenic Drive Header Photo
View of Coalmine Beach from Knoll Scenic Drive ©Lifejourney4two

The Treetop Walk

An experience not to be missed is the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk in Walpole. This iconic attraction takes you high above the ground, walking among the towering canopy of ancient tingle trees.

It’s a unique vantage point from which to appreciate the grandeur of these giants, one of which, Grandma Tingle, is over 400 years old. The walk is also an educational journey, highlighting the ecological importance of these forests.

Exploring Nearby Towns: Denmark and Pemberton 

Beyond Walpole, the nearby towns of Denmark to the east and Pemberton to the northwest offer further adventures.

Denmark is renowned for its wineries and artisanal food producers, providing a taste of the region’s bounty. Add in a stop at the Denmark Chocolate Company, where I had the best ice chocolate ever! 

Meanwhile, Pemberton is famous for its towering karri trees, offering more opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring the incredible lush landscapes of southern Western Australia.

And don’t miss Pemberton’s Yeagurup Dunes – a vast landlocked dune system slowly engulfing the surrounding forest.

WOW EcoCruise in Walpole: A Memorable Journey

The WOW Wilderness EcoCruises truly stands apart from anything else you might experience.

Gary Muir brings the Walpole wilderness to life with his unparalleled storytelling, blending humour with wisdom and inviting us all to see the world through his eyes.

This journey does more than showcase local wildlife; it offers an immersive lesson in conservation and the delicate balance of nature, shared by someone whose love for this land runs deep.

This eco-cruise isn’t just about observing; it’s about connecting deeply with the story of this exceptional place and recognizing its value.

It’s a call to all of us to consider how we interact with our natural surroundings and the steps we can take to preserve such wonders.

The Nornalup and Walpole shallows
The eco-cruiser navigating the shallow waters of the inlet ©Lifejourney4two

As you plan your visit, remember it’s not solely the destinations that captivate you but the rich insights, shared laughter, and new perspectives you’ll gain along the way.

Embrace this opportunity to explore with an open heart, guided by one of the most knowledgeable and engaging locals you’ll ever meet. Prepare to be charmed, educated, and inspired.

We urge you to experience the Walpole wilderness for yourself. Stay tuned for links to related posts that will help you explore this region’s offerings further.

Join us in discovering a unique corner of our world that Lars and I are incredibly fortunate to call our backyard.

Looking to road trip around the area?

👉 Download our FREE Road Trip and Travel Planner, or read more about it here.

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Shelley, a former primary school teacher with a law degree, and her husband Lars co-own Lifejourney4two. Their adventure began in Perth, Australia, and has since taken them through Europe and Africa in motorhomes and bush campers. Shelley's travel guides combine practical advice with engaging stories, mirroring their shift from 'One Day' to 'Day One'. Together, they aim to inspire others to embark on their own travel dreams.

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