After seven days of walking from Walpole on the Bibbulmun Track, I reached Northcliffe. One of the smallest track towns on the Bibbulmun, it is nevertheless a necessary stop given the long distance between Walpole and Pemberton — if not for a night, then at least for a resupply.
The Northcliffe General Store, which also serves as the local petrol station, is quite big and sells everything I needed in my cold soak diet: oats, nuts, biscuits, wraps, and so on. I also treated myself to a Milo ice-cream.
I also remember briefing entering Karri Country Good Foods, a store that sold plenty of dry food and other local groceries. They were closing just as I entered, so I didn’t have an opportunity to see if there was anything of an appropriate quantity for trail meals, but it’s worth checking out if it’s open.
There is no shortage of dining options throughout town, such as Linda’s Dinners providing pub-style evening meals out of the Northcliffe Workers Club from 5-8pm. For a fresh brunch-time bite before leaving town, I went to Hollowbutt Cafe to get myself an apple pie to dine in, and a few pastries with a banana milkshake to go.
If you’re planning to walk through, but still want to get some clothes washed, Dawn Shybottom’s Wash House is at the Northcliffe Family and Community Centre ($4 for a wash, $2 for drying).
Updated with information from 2019.
While there are accommodations all around for visitors, most of them are located a fair distance away from the town; one of the few within the town centre is the Northcliffe Hotel & Motor Inn. But their cheapest option is $60 per night for a single room (without an en suite bathroom). I also found an ad at one of the shelters for Central B&B. The ad stated that they were an accommodation in town at $75 per person or $100 for a twin share. The latter rate is probably the most affordable — if you are hiking with a partner. I’ve also been told by other Bibbulmun hikers of another stellar AirBnB option called Pipinnvale Cottage B&B that is listed on AirBnB as $120, but apparently has differently-priced options depending on what kind of accommodation you choose on their property.
Watermark Kilns/Karri Hill Cottages are listed on the Bibbulmun Track website as a ‘walker-friendly accommodation’, so I assume they provide pickup services. But at a lowest rate of $120 per night for two guests, it’s also not very cheap, and definitely not cheap enough for a solo hiker. They’re also located pretty much next to a Bibbulmun Track shelter, so you might as well stay there instead.
Paid camping with facilities ($17) is available at Aroundtu-it Caravan Park, located a short distance from town but a walking distance from the track, on the northward side of the Bibbulmun. I’ve been told that the owners may drive hikers into town to do their shopping. This is a budget accommodation option that would allow a hiker to get a bit of a clean up.
I ended up going with Gilvonnie’s Farmstay: a local homestay that didn’t break the bank at $40 per night that included breakfast and dinner. They’re a distance away, but the host drove into town to pick me up. They’ve been housing walkers for many years, but given their advanced age, they told me they might stop providing this service soon.
With no new alternatives stepping up to provide convenient and affordable accommodation in town for Bibbulmun Track walkers, future hikers may end up passing straight through, stopping only for a quick resupply.
Things to See
Northcliffe may not have a wide significance, but like many small Australian towns, its history is somehow exhaustively documented. At the Northcliffe Pioneer Museum (free entry), you can learn more about the history of Northcliffe as a site for Group Settlement by British immigrants to develop the agriculture in the area in the 1920s. Lots of artifacts and historical records from that era are curated and maintained by local volunteers, one of them the lady who hosted me in town.
The Northcliffe Visitor Centre also happens to have an adjacent room where I found beautiful photography exhibited. It’s a nice place to appreciate the visual art and sit down for a bit, while using the free Wi-Fi!
Northcliffe may not be the easiest place to find affordable accommodations for the budget-minded hiker, but if simply passing through, you’ll definitely be able to resupply, find something good to eat, and even learn a bit about the town from the local museum. It’s worth stopping for at least a few hours, before heading on to Pemberton. I do hope something like a hostel would be set up for hikers, although that may be too much to ask for a sleepy little town that doesn’t get much traffic.