The Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail is made up of old rail trail built over many years. The main section follows the route of a railway that was in use from 1929 to 1957.

Nornalup to Albany was a permanent WA government rail line, and not temporary wood harvesting line - that is why it is generally solid and firm compared to much of the Munda Biddi Trail.

To get the full ride gpx or the ride route summary, select the "Route Sheets" tab above, and click on the download buttons for each.

This is my video of the Denmark Nornalup heritage trail, filmed in 2016. The Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail and Munda Biddi (Map 8) ride together along Wilson inlet to Denmark, then the Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail follows the old rail line to Kent River. The final section goes from Bow Bridge into Nornalup. The Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail can be ridden from Walpole to Denmark, and used as an alternative to the Munda Biddi. I hope you like it.

I have tracked the Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail from Walpole to Hay River in 5 sections (totalling 83.8 km). You can use the first 4 sections as an alternative to the Munda Biddi map 8 (totalling 75 km from Walpole to Denmark). It is :

  1. Walpole to Gulley Rd - 10.3 km on Munda Biddi Trail (from Map 8 )
  2. Gulley Rd to Bow Bridge - 18.8 km. 2.6 km is on the South Coast Highway but it is on the highway as it goes through Nornalup, so it is slow area and very quiet. Station Rd is then a gravel road for 4.6 km in length. The off road section is 11.5 km to Bow Bridge, and is a very pretty ride (the last 1200m is on road and highway).
  3. Bow Bridge to Parker Rd is 9.7 km on the South Coast Highway. There is presently no alternative, although one is planned.
  4. Parker Rd to Denmark Rail bridge is 34.4 km is on Trail or quiet gravel roads, with a couple of sandy sections. Allow another 1.6 km to get into Denmark.
  5. Denmark Rail bridge to Hay River is 10.8 km. The section to Rudyard Beach Road is of excellent rail trail, some of it right on the edge of the Wilson Inlet. The remaining section is a little softer or overgrown, but still very good. This section is also part of the Munda Biddi (Map 9)

The 10 km section between Bow Bridge and Parker Rd is not expected to be open for a few years, once bridges over the Kent and Bow Rivers have been re-built. I have a map that shows form from Bow Bridge to near Quarram Siding, but I could not find it.

Riding the Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail from Walpole to Denmark (as an alternative to the Munda Biddi trail):

Advantages:
1 big day's ride, not 3
75 km Walpole to Denmark
No hills, mostly rail trail
Less gravel roads
1 shop on way at Bow Bridge
Can save you 1 or 2 days if your time is tight

Disadvantages
13 km on highway (some at 90 km/hr, some 110km/hr)
You will miss Greens Pool, Monastery Landing and the Lights Beach sections
May reduce your end-to-end ride to under 1000 km

Riding the Munda Biddi Trail Map 8 from Walpole to Denmark:

Advantages:
See Greens Pool, Monastery Landing and Lights Beach
No highway riding
You will do over 1000km on an end-to-end ride

Disadvantages:
3 days ride
156 km Walpole to Denmark
Hills - up to 225 m high
Long section on uninteresting gravel road between the two huts.
No shops along the way
2 km of badly corrugated road on the way from Lights Beach to Greens Pool

No huts are available on the Denmark Nornalup heritage trail, and there is some accommodation at Nornalup & Bow Bridge (see below for some suggestions). An alternative is a combination of both rides e.g. ride Walpole to Nornalup on Munda Biddi, Denmark Nornalup heritage trail to McLeod Rd on Denmark Nornalup heritage trail, then jump on the Munda Biddi (both trails intersect near here) to Jinung hut to overnight under the karri trees. Then Jinung hut to Denmark via Munda Biddi the next day (40 km). That way you bypass the boring parts of Map 8, and only miss Monastery Landing, plus save 1 days riding.

Unfortunately, I am not going to make the call for you. I have holidayed in Denmark every year for the past 15 years, so I have ridden most of the trails and seen the sights many times. It is a truly superb part of the planet and whichever option you take you will enjoy. Good luck!

Nornalup accommodation:
www.valleyofthegiantsecopark.biz (Caravan & camping)

Bow bridge accommodation:
www.ayrsailean.com From $22 camping for 2 riders (discount for single riders) to $240 per night for luxury (all prices from 2015)
www.nutkinlodge.com.au $200 to $260 per night
treeelle.com From $250 per night for 2 riders including breakfast supplies. Luxury accommodation with shopping service, spa and massage available.

In Walpole, the route didn't go through town as indicated on Map 7 & 8, even though I have the latest edition of map. It is no big deal - the markers are clear, so follow them. The visitor centre is located in a pioneer cottage in Pioneer Park, just opposite the main street. The Trail passes behind the visitor centre. There are toilets, picnic tables etc at Pioneer Park, and shops are across the highway. See: www.walpole.com.au

Coalmine Beach: It seems that an early settler found what he thought was coal in a cave on the banks of the Inlet. Subsequent exploration found the little amount that was found to be of poor grade and uneconomic to mine. Coalmine Beach is on the south shore of the beautiful Nornalup Inlet. The Knoll is a peninsula, which divides Nornalup and Walpole Inlets and is accessible by the one-way sealed Knoll Scenic Drive. This drive follows the perimeter of the Knoll with views of Walpole and Nornalup inlets. It is just off the edge of the Munda Biddi map as the trail joins the Coalmine Beach road. The loop is about 3 kilometres long.

The Nornalup estuary is unique among south coast estuaries in that its sand bar never closes. Consequently, the estuary is tidal, and the continual flushing by ocean waters means the inlets are a healthy environment for marine life. Fresh water feeds into the inlets from the Frankland, Deep and Walpole Rivers all year around, although 80% of the flow comes in the wettest months of June to October.

The first 10 km of this map takes you around the Nornalup Inlet and then parallel to the South Coastal Highway. The Giant Tingle tree (indicated on the map) is about 2km up Gully Rd - but it is a one way road and you would need to ride against the flow, uphill, to get to it - not recommended. From here, I take you down into Nornalup, then on to Station Rd, which was the old railway line and the start of theDenmark Nornalup heritage trail.

Nornalup, on the South Coast Highway, started as a railhead and farming settlement nestled on the Frankland River. It has no facilities such as shops. Even the water at the public toilets is signed as not for consumption.

The Bow Bridge roadhouse is a great place to stop for snacks, meals, drinks and a break from riding. It has a small general store, cafe and fuel. It too started as a railhead and farming settlement.

800m from the junction of the Trail and Parker Road is the Old Kent River Winery. They offer wine tasting, substantial meals, snacks, cold drinks and ice cream and seasonal fruit and vegetables. It is a great place to stop

In 1895, the Millar brothers secured private leases for 20,000 acres of old growth Karri forest in the Denmark area. They built an extra 26 km of railway from Torbay to Denmark to service their mill. By 1900 they had a total of three mills in the area, employed 750 men, and sent two train loads of timber per day to Albany.
The Millars exploited the forests so rapidly that they cleared the local forests within ten years. By 1905 they had closed the mill and Denmark was almost deserted. After lengthy negotiations the WA Government bought the Millars' property, including the town, land and the railways for 50,000 pounds. The railway line to Albany became a commercial line in 1908/9, after the land was offered for farms and housing. The WA Government Group Settlement scheme of 1923 saw the migration of many new families to the district.
Rail extensions assisted the local dairy, agriculture, timber and fishing industries. The overall plan was to build the Denmark to Big Brook Railway. The construction of this line would have connected Denmark to the timber mills of the Pemberton area and completed the link to Bunbury.

Work on the Denmark to Nornalup line commenced in 1926, employed 300 men and took nearly 3 years to complete. Even though the distance was only 54 km, the country was rugged and presented many engineering problems. Deep gullies had to be filled with earth, rivers and creeks were bridged, and huge cuttings were carved out of the gravel hillsides. The ruling grade on the whole line needed to be 1 in 60 (6%). These low gradients mean the Trail is ideal as a cycling route.

The work was very rough, carried out with picks and shovels, axes, cross-cut saws and gunpowder. No machinery was available back then, just a steam shovel to excavate some of the bigger cuttings. It was all down to hard work by the men and their horses. Keep this in mind when we ride over so of the cuttings and embankments, especially the Henderson Cut.

The railway line was opened in Nornalup in 1930 and provided passage between the town and Albany. It serviced 900 people on 15 group settlements along the line. Two trains a week ran, which carried passengers, collected farm produce and delivered goods and supplies. Railway trucks even brought cattle for the settlers' farms.

The history of the group settlement scheme is a sad one, with a lot of hardship and failure. Government planning was poor, stock failed to thrive because the soil lacked some essential trace elements, the Great Depression hit and the Australian climate challenged the farming success of newly arrived English migrants. Despite protests from Denmark residents the Denmark to Nornalup Railway Line was closed in 1957. Four original timber rail bridges are used on the trail - all are noted in my route notes.

Near the Denmark River mouth on the former railway reserve is some old railway stock and a railway turntable. The old Post Office, was relocated there in 1988. The alcove at the front has a photo display of Denmark's history.

The Denmark visitor centre is at the junction of the South Coast Highway and Ocean Beach Rd. It is located 500 metres west of the Denmark town centre and is open seven days a week 9am to 5pm. See www.denmark.com.au The Munda Biddi rides right passed it.

Wilson Inlet was formed about 6000 years ago in the last Ice Age. Formerly a lake fed by river flow that was blocked by moving sand dunes, the rising sea level broke through to form the inlet. As with many souther inlets, a sandbar blocks the opening into the sea when the river flow drops in Summer. Since 1931, the inlet has been opened mechanically. This was originally done to stop the railway line (now the Munda Biddi Trail) from wave damage, and to protect flooding of farm land in Winter. Where the trail follows the edge of the Wilson Inlet, between Denmark River mouth and Rudyard Beach, there are shelters and interesting signage. Along the Inlet are Aboriginal fish traps , some dated at approximately 4000 years old. See them in my photo gallery.

To see a video of ride between Denmark and the Denmark River bridge, then later on the rail embankment see below:

To see a ride along the Wilson Inlet, between Denmark River and Hay River see below:

GPX files I have available:

Walpole to Gully Rd (Nov 2014)
Gully Rd to Bow Bridge (Jan 2015)
Parker Rd to Denmark River (Jan 2015)
Denmark River to Hay River (Jan 2015)
Parker Rd to Bow Bridge (June 2015)
Denmark to Parker Road (Jan 2016)

In the gallery you can see my article from the June 2015 edition of "Ride On" magazine about this ride.

This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia. This page is on the Denmark Nornalup Heritage trail.