Last Updated on May 13, 2021 by Travels with Kids
If you are planning to head to the Stirling Ranges you are in for a big treat. These beautiful mountains are a special place to discover Western Australia’s remoteness and unique flora (and some fauna)! The Stirling Range National Park also encompasses Western Australia’s southwest highest mountain, Bluff Knoll at 1099m, which is most famous when it has snow on it. Nearby Toolbrunup Peak is less well known but clocks in at a very respectable 1052m (ASL). Here we have provided you with a guide to the Stirling Ranges, and the nearby Bluff Knoll accommodation options for staying nearby.
Are you specifically looking for Bluff Knoll accommodation? Then click here.
This post may contain affiliate links, from which we would earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. More info in my disclaimer.
Stirling Range National Park
The Stirling Range National Park features the only major mountain range in the southern part of Western Australia. It has peaks that exceed 1000 meters above sea leave. There are magnificent views and some incredible flora. Many of the wildflowers seen in the Stirling Ranges are seen nowhere else in the world!
Within Western Australia, the Stirling Ranges, or more specifically the highest peak, Bluff Knoll is also famous as it’s one of the few places in Western Australia where snow sometimes falls. As a Western Australian you know that if there is snow on Bluff Knoll, it is COLD.
The Aboriginal name for the Stirling, Koi Kyenunu-ruff, means “mist rolling around the mountains”. Actually, as the mists surround the mountain for much of the year you are pretty lucky if you get a clear day.
And seriously the view from Bluff Knoll is an awesome reward. From the top of the peak on a clear day, you can see far and wide. Look for the Porongorups to the south, the coastline, and Mount Manypeaks to the southeast and extending west are the other big peaks of the Stirling Range, which we include in our recommended hikes in the Stirlings.
The Stirling Ranges are believed to been formed in the Paleoproterozoic Era which was between 2 and 1.2 million years ago! They are formed of metamorphic rock derived from quartz sandstones.
Western Australia’s highest peaks! Ok, compared to many other parts of the world Western Australian mountains are very low –more like hills than mountains! Even compared to the rest of Australia the Western Australian peaks are, um, low. Of all the states, Western Australia’s highest peak is the lowest. That is, every other state has higher peaks than Western Australia!
Australia’s highest peak is Mt Kosciuszko in New South Wales, at 2228m, and you can read about it in our Australian Facts For Kids. Western Australia’s highest peak is Mount Meharry at 1253 metres – with the 20 highest peaks in Western Australia in the Hamersley Range.
This means that the highest peak in the southwest: Bluff Knoll, 1073 metres is not very high! However, given it sees snow on cold years and is only 4 hours’ drive from Perth and also a non-technical climb, it gets a lot of airplay compared to the other places!
The Stirling Range National Park is famous for being one of Western Australia’s premier – challenging – hiking destinations. We cover them below.
What If I Don’t Want To Hike In The Stirling Ranges?
We will start out for the non-hikers! If you are not physically able, then you should definitely do the Stirling Range drive which goes through the center of the park offering stunning views of the different peaks. While the drive is on gravel (unsealed) roads, they are often graded to be suitable for 2 wheel drive. If you have a hire car check your conditions of hire carefully as often you are not allowed on gravel roads.
You could also drive up to carpark at Bluff Knoll and get out and look at the views. You also could do a DIY Bluff Knoll walk from the interpretative shelter and on one of the first sections to get a taste.
How To Get To The Stirling Ranges?
About 400km from Perth (or 4 hours’ drive) the Stirling Range National Park is easy to access by those with a 2WD car. It’s also conveniently located 100km North of Albany meaning that you could do it on a long day trip from Albany (check out Things To Do In Albany Western Australia) or combine it with a visit to Porongurup National Park (check out Hike To Granite Peak).
What If I Want To See Bluff Knoll Snow?
It is true that if you want to see snow in Western Australia Bluff Knoll provides your best chance of doing so. In colder years it might snow a couple of times a year on Bluff Knoll. In other years it doesn’t snow at all. You have to be a bit of a weather watcher and look for extremely cold fronts coming up over the southwest. Only when conditions are optimum will the snow land on Bluff Knoll. Your best chance to see it is being there at sunrise when the snow sticks around for an hour or two.
If you want to see snow at Bluff Knoll, DO NOT come unprepared. With a 600m difference between the car park and the summit along with the variable weather conditions that this area is known for, it is best to overpack for Bluff Knoll. Pack plenty of water, a rain jacket and something warm to wear as conditions can and most likely will change while you are there.
Bluff Knoll Hike
Famous throughout Western Australia, the Bluff Knoll hike to 1099m is famous because of the snow, its height, and as being a challenging climb. When you see that it is only 3.1km to the summit you might think that it would be easy. That is, about a 6.2 km return! Well, let’s just say – it is not. As mentioned above there is a 600-meter change in altitude between the carpark and the summit, which means the trail is steep!
It takes between 3- 5 hours to do the round trip hike depending on your fitness, how long you linger at the top, and also weather conditions at the time. This Mumma did a snow-seeking hike about 20 years ago and quite literally stayed at the top for about 1 minute. Needless to say, conditions were very windy and freezing cold, but unfortunately no snow!
Bluff Knoll Hike With Kids
If you are thinking of taking your kids hiking up Bluff Knoll, we suggest you read our helpful guide to Hiking with Kids. I hadn’t thought to do the hike up Bluff Knoll with my cherubs until my friend recently successfully went with her 5 and 7-year-olds! I guess you need to know your kids – can they manage a 4-6 hour walk that features a lot of uphill climbing? Also, if you are traveling with a baby or toddler, make sure you can carry their weight up the hill. This is not an easy hike and again, you don’t want them to be getting fractious!
Our opinion is you should attempt something easier/flatter for about half a day as a first attempt, rather than doing Bluff Knoll straight away. Or, even consider the hike up the Castle Rock Granite Skywalk which is much easier than Bluff Knoll. It is also one of the Best Things To Do In Mt Barker WA.
Our next hiking goal will be Mt. Hassell before tackling Bluff Knoll on a winter’s morning!
If you have older kids, and they are experienced hikers (or at least fit), then you might consider a hike up to get the amazing views from the summit of Mt Toolbrunup. Mt Toolbrunup is the second-highest peak in the Stirling Range. This is considered harder than Bluff Knoll, as you climb non-stop to the summit as you ascend over 500 vertical meters. Also, the trail is not a series of steps leading all the way up. Instead, you tackle a fun scree field where you have to scramble up piles of rocks that have been deposited on the side of the mountain over the years.
Stirling Ranges Walks/Or Easy Hikes?
Are there easy hikes in the Stirling ranges? Not really! I guess it is all about how you define easy – and how fit you are!
Mt. Trio Hike
Mt Trio is 2.7 km out and back (that sounds ok!) and is rated as moderate due to the first section of the path being steep (though it is on a boardwalk). After the steep section (on stairs) it then continues onto a plateau at the summit (846m ASL). From here you can get great views of Toolbrunup and also of Bluff Knoll at sunrise. Mt Trio is mentioned as having great wildflowers during the wildflower season. If searching for wildflowers is your thing, then you must read Where To Find The Best Wildflowers In Western Australia.
Mt Hassell Hike
Mt Hassel is slightly lower than Mt Trio, at 827m (ASL) and similar length/ time as Mount Trio walk. Whereas the difficultly at Mt Trio is in the first section, at Mt Hassel, it is at the end. The walk finishes with a short steep scramble over a dome of rock that forms the summit. It is therefore not recommended to do the Mt. Hassell hike in wet or windy conditions. There are excellent views of Mt Trio & the neighboring Mt Toolbrunup. It is a bit of a scramble at the top, but that’s part of the fun.
Toolbrunup Hike /Climb
While on paper the hike to Toolbrunup is 4km return, the Trail classification is Grade 5 meaning it is difficult – and at 1052m ASL it is the second-highest peak in the Stirling Range and is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be fit, and agile, and able to scramble up steep rock sections. Your reward at the end – uninterrupted views in all directions!
Even less distance than Toolbrunup it is also a Grade 5 hike, being just a 2.6km return but described as very difficult for the first kilometer and not as varied as the Toolbrunup hike. However, like all the other Stirling Ranges hikes, once you reach the peak you are greeted with amazing views!
Safety When Hiking The Stirling Ranges
While the Bluff Knoll hike and the others described here are not long in distance, they should not be underestimated. They are known for their variable weather. Be prepared for sudden cold changes that cause the temperature to drop and rain or hail to set in.
You should be fit and healthy, and capable of taking on steep and uneven surfaces. Make sure you wear hiking boots or strong footwear, have weather-resistant clothing, and sun protection. Take plenty of food and carry two to three liters of drinking water per person, even though these are half-day walks.
Adequate hiking boots are a must. Some of our favorite hiking boots are from Merrell. They make great hiking boots and shoes for men and women. Click each photo to check current prices on Amazon.
Where Should I Stay When Hiking Bluff Knoll?
If you want to get up and have a go climbing Bluff Knoll before sunrise, or to see snow, then you will want to stay nearby in order to get more sleep! That is why we have made a summary of Bluff Knoll accommodations.
Hiking enthusiasts, once they have “wet their appetite” for Bluff Knoll, might want to come back again. I was inspired by Western Australian hiker and blogger “Life of Py” who described doing Toolbrunup in the morning and Talyuberlup in the afternoon followed by a spectacular sunset. He describes those two as the “two best hikes”! I would definitely recommend checking out Life of Py for more info on these routes.
Bluff Knoll Accommodation
There is not a lot of Bluff Knoll accommodation – or even in the Stirling Range accommodation which is also known as the locality of Amelup.
The Lily, Stirling Range
When we go hiking one of the Stirling Ranges hikes, my aim is to stay at The Lily. This is a truly unique Bluff Knoll accommodation option. Heck, it’s unique to anywhere in the world. The Lily is an authentic five-story 16th Century replica Dutch Windmill. We’ve stopped in on road trips to take photos before. This Dutch windmill is operational and produces wholemeal stone-ground Spelt flour for health shops, commercial bakers, and also apparently the IGA chain!
Near the windmill, you will find the self-contained accommodation which is very unusual itself. There are replica Dutch Houses and the reconstructed 1924 Federation style Gnowangerup Railway Station from Gnowangerup.
The Lily provides a lovely breakfast basket with fresh home-baked Spelt bread. The interior of the cottage is spacious and comfortable, and charmingly filled with ornamental clogs and frogs! A perfect base from which to do bushwalks in the Stirlings and the Porongorups, & visit nearby wineries.
Last, but definitely not least of the accommodation options at the Lily is a Dakota DC3. That’s right, you can stay in an old airplane! This plane offers amazing views of the Stirling Ranges and of the windmill. The story of how they got the historical aircraft and convert it into aircraft is well worth hearing. If you are interested in history you’ll understand how important the DC3 was to aviation history!
Stirling Range Retreat
The Stirling Range Retreat is found by the northern entrance to the Stirling Ranges and is another excellent choice of Bluff Knoll accommodation. They have a wide range of options, from basic, unpowered campsites to more luxurious chalets.
The campsites look out over paddocks and have access to a great camp kitchen and facilities. They also have motel-style accommodation, onsite vans, and park cabins.
The best non-camping accommodation is the rammed earth chalets. The reviews vary, but it seems it depends on what your expectations are. They are quiet and comfortable and have a double bed and bunks in the same room. There is also a play area for children plus an excellent and very welcome swimming pool; obviously not when it is snowing on Bluff Knoll!
Kendenup is a small locality about one hour’s drive from the Bluff Knoll Carpark. It is a rural option that might appeal if you are looking for something different, and not too far away from the Stirling ranges. At a pinch, you could describe this as Stirling Range accommodation.
Kendenup Cottages and Lodge
We stayed for a night at Kendenup Cottages and Lodge and loved it! This is a function center in the middle of farming land and makes a wonderful base to explore both the Stirlings and the Porongorups. The Stirlings – Bluff Knoll is a 55-minute drive, and the Granite Skywalk 35 minutes away.
When looking at the website before booking we found it confusing – is this a backpackers, a pub, or a restaurant? We’ll explain so you understand better!
The Kendenup Lodge is a wonderful all-encompassing function center that would be the perfect place for an isolated function, wedding, or work event. There is a lodge building that is quite like a backpacker – but far better quality, and more elegant. Also, there are a number of single, double, and family rooms off the main corridor, at the end, there is a kitchen where you can self-cater. There is also a bar and restaurant which are open on the weekend. We were there when the bar was closed. I think as a family with small children we were glad as I wouldn’t necessarily like to be going back and forth to the kitchen via the bar. Reviewers recommend finding out if there is a function on like a wedding before booking as it sounds like it might impact your experiences.
Our choice for the next stay would be one of the two family cottages. With the pizza oven, gardens, horses, bikes to borrow, there is so much to do and see here. Best of all the Kendenup cottages are pet-friendly! We were delighted to find this pet-friendly accommodation and would definitely stay again! We’d rate this as one of the top Bluff Knoll accommodation options.
Note – This is a stunning and isolated area and a special bush experience. But it is isolated, and quite far from anywhere. In addition, though Wi-Fi is advertised and available, it was hardly functioning when we were there. (Ok, it didn’t work for us). But – this is part of the appeal in our view!
Taste Kendenup is the restaurant at Kendenup Lodge and is known for cooking excellent steak! They showcase Australian dishes and regional produce and are open for dinner Friday and Saturday nights, by prior arrangement. Bookings are essential!
Bluff Knoll Camping Options
If would like to bush camp locally, then the Moingup Spring is a basic bush camp amongst the trees is your best bet. It is in a central location in the Stirling Range National park. You need to pay National Park camping fees.
Alternatively, there are two caravans park-style Bluff Knoll Camping Options, just outside the park. We’ve already mentioned above the Stirling Range Retreat which has swimming pools and a range of amenities, or alternatively the Mt Trio Bush Camping and Caravan Park which has a range of caravan-style camping facilities.
Mt. Trio Bush Camp and Caravan Park is located in a natural bush setting on a working farm. It is just 10 minutes from the Bluff Knoll carpark making it a great place to base yourself for an early morning climb of Bluff Knoll. They allow small lap dogs by prior arrangement.
If you are looking for Stirling Range walks, then the Mt Trio Nature trail has been developed for those who aren’t keen on climbing a mountain. You can get more information on walks around this farm and bush camp from the Mt Trio office.
If you are camping while then we would highly recommend that you make sure you head outside during the evening for some stargazing. There is no light pollution here, so you can get a truly spectacular view of the night sky.
Bluff Knoll & Stirling Ranges Practical information
As mentioned previously this locality is known as Amelup. The best place for provisions, meals, and fuel is the Amelup Road House located on Chester Pass road. They have some supplies, fuel, and takeaway
Bluff Knoll café, located directly opposite Stirling range retreat gets good reviews for its welcoming atmosphere and hearty country food.
If you feel like traveling further, the Borden Tavern is about a 30km (20minutes) drive from the Stirling Range retreat!
The Verdict – Bluff Knoll Accommodation & The Stirling Ranges
As you can see, there isn’t a lot of Bluff Knoll accommodation – but it is a great place to stay for an early morning Bluff Knoll hike! Our number one choice of place to stay would be the iconic Lily! We hope you have also found our overview of the Stirling Range hikes useful as a starting point for planning your trip! We will continue to update this page as we take on (hopefully) the Mt. Hassell and Mount Trio hikes in the coming months – plus stay at the gorgeous Lily!
Like It> Pin It> Bluff Knoll Accommodation & The Stirling Ranges