Stokes National Park lies on the south-east coast of Western Australia, a short hop from Esperance. As it offers ocean and estuary waterways, the park is popular for fishing, swimming, boating, birdwatching, walking and camping.
This feature was originally published in 4x4 Australia’s March 2012 issue
Stokes Inlet can often be closed to the sea – a trait common with estuaries of the area – but as one of the largest and deepest, it manages to retain water and the associated wildlife.
There are a number of picturesque campgrounds in the park offering broad appeal. At just 6km off the South Coast Highway via the gravel Stokes Inlet Road, Benwenerup campground (33 49 02S, 121 08 59E) offers the best facilities.
Campsites are cut into the scrub, offering privacy and level plots, some with inlet views. Other facilities include a covered camp kitchen with sink, gas cookers and picnic tables, hybrid drop toilets and rubbish bins.
The campground has only been open for 12 months or so, with everything looking fresh and new. Camp hosts help manage the campground in peak periods, gathering camp fees and distributing information. Continuing along Stokes Inlet Road, the park reaches the day use area, facing the inlet. A covered shelter with gas cookers is provided.
The area owes its history to pastoral holdings and mining interests. Stokes Inlet was named after John Lort Stokes, a friend of Surveyor-General John Septimus Roe. Alexander and John Moir established a homestead near the eastern shore of the inlet and grazed sheep through the coastal vegetation.
They shipped their wool from nearby Fanny Cove, together with sandalwood from the surrounding country. The cove was later used by miners on their way to the Dundas and Norseman goldfields. The naked limestone walls of Moir homestead stand within the national park to this day.
To access the eastern side of the inlet, either cross by boat or backtrack to the South Coast Highway (33 46 00S, 121 08 08E) and enter via Farrells Road, 16km further east (33 44 18S, 121 17 55E).
Turn right at Farrells Road and continue for 7km. Engage four-wheel drive and reduce tyre pressures for the run down to Fanny Cove. Turn right at Fanny Cove track (33 47 55S, 121 17 54E), which meanders through soft sand towards the coastline.
After 14km, turn right to the Moir homestead ruins (33 50 20S, 121 10 47E). The homestead is fenced off because of the potentially unstable nature of the walls without a supporting roof. A walking trail leads down past the ruins.
4x4 Tips: Top 5 beach driving tips
Backtracking to the road junction, turn right towards the Fanny Cove campground (33 51 20S, 121 11 33E), a further 2km down the sandy track. Fanny Cove is popular with boaties, with some reasonably large, dual-axle rigs frequenting the area. Keep that in mind as you traverse the soft, sandy track en route to the beach – particularly approaching the blind bends.
For those that enjoy the tranquillity of a coastal campsite, Stokes NP and in particular Benwenerup campground is hard to go past as either a cosy weekender or an overnight stop as part of a much bigger trip along the untouched west coast.
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Stokes National Park is around 80km west of Esperance, WA.
PERMITS AND ACCESS
Park entry is $11 per vehicle.
Benwenerup campsite: Gas barbecues, camp kitchen, picnic tables, toilet, walking tracks, boat launching. 2WD accessible. $7 per adult per night ($2 child).
Fanny Cove campsite: Gas barbecues, toilet, walking tracks and boat launching. 4X4 only. No camp fees.
Shoal Cape campsite: Toilet and walking tracks. 4X4 only. No camp fees.
Skippy Rock campsite: Gas barbecues, picnic tables, toilet, walking tracks and boat launching. 4X4 only. No camp fees.
For further details contact the DEC Esperance on 08 9083 2100 or see dec.wa.gov.au.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Spring to autumn.
WHAT TO TAKE
Insect repellent, water, fishing gear, binoculars, recovery gear, canoe, walking shoes, bird book, air compressor and tyre pressure gauge.
The closest main town for supplies and repairs is Esperance, otherwise Munglinup, 30km west of the park, can provide most basic requirements.
Easy to medium. The beaches and coastal tracks can be very soft. Reduce tyre pressures and drive to the conditions.
MAPS AND GUIDES
VMS iTOPO Zone51 South
HEMA Goldfields, Esperance & the Southern Coast of WA.