When completed, the Wadandi Track will be a 106 km rail trail on the former Busselton to Flinders Bay (Augusta) Railway. The trail will pass through natural bushland, vineyards and farmland to provide riders with a diverse landscape to enjoy.

Stages that are constructed so far are the 11km section between Busselton Jetty and the Vasse townsite (including the heritage bridge across Kangaroo Valley), and between Cowaramup and just passed Witchcliffe (to Calgardup), including Margaret River (approximately 25km). No further sections are planned in the short term.  There is currently no trail between Vasse and Cowaramup.

Currently, the trail follows the existing cycleway along Geographe Bay from Busselton to Vasse (approximately 10 km). The next section follows the old rail line and starts at Cowaramup, goes through Margaret River and Witchcliffe,  (approximately 25 km). The Cowaramup end is easily located at the end of Memorial Drive (signage with directions can be found at the information bay in the main park entry).

The first section of the Track is about 11 km long, and is presently unmarked (as of March 2017) -  I hope my GPX file helps you follow it. The track leaves the Busselton jetty precinct (make sure you drop into the visitors centre and see the train "Ballaraat") and follows the foreshore west. The foreshore path soon finishes and you join the cycleway next to Geographe Bay rd. After crossing a small bridge it turns left on to a residential street, crossing the busier Busselton Road. The next short section is on old form under peppermint tress and is very nice. But it soon crosses the road and joins a paved cycle way. After the golf course, the trail turns right and follows near the Busselton Bypass road. It is nearly all paved to the Vasse roundabout, and crosses Kangaroo Gully on an old rail bridge. I thought this first section of the Trail was nothing special if you are used to proper rail trail. However if you are based in Busselton and not going any further, it is a pleaseant ride.

The Wadandi Track is sometimes spelt "Wardandi", after the local Noongar peoples. They are known as "the people who live by the ocean and follow the forest paths", and lived in this area for over 40,000 years. Displays and relics of Wardandi culture can be found at the Wardan Aboriginal Centre in Yallingup, developed to introduce Wardandi culture to visitors. See www.wardan.com.au

Busselton was one of the earliest settlements in WA. It was first settled by the Bussell family, who discovered the superior farm land in the area and moved to the area in 1834. Being close to the tall timber country, Busselton soon established itself as a leading port. In 1850, timber was being exported and the small town prospered. Jetties for this purpose were built at Wonnerup, Busselton and Quindalup. Of these, only the Busselton Jetty remains today.

WA's first railway line was built just north of Busselton at Lockville in 1871 for the Western Australian Timber Company. The privately owned line was used for the transport of timber to the Wonnerup jetty across the Ballarat bridge, which was removed in 2004. Their original train, known as "Ballaarat" entered service in 1871. It is arguably Australia's most important train - it was the first locomotive built in Ballarat for Australian use, the first locomotive in WA, the first of 3ft 6in gauge to be manufactured in Australia and is the oldest surviving Australian-built locomotive. It was  named after the original spelling of its city of manufacture.  The WATC mills closed in 1887 and by 1888 all the WATC assets were auctioned. The loco was stored in a shed until in 1900 the shed and loco were damaged by fire. In 1925 it was sent to the Midland Workshops for restoration, but it did not return until 1937, where it was housed in Victoria Square. It has been restored and is displayed inside the visitor's centre in the new tourist precinct as of March  2017. The visitor's centre is the old Busselton train station, which was relocated from about 1km away and restored at the same time.

The Busselton Museum  is located in the Old Butter Factory on Peel Tce in Busselton. The museum is worth a couple of hours to visit. It has an amazing model of the Barrabup Mill on the Old Timberline trail. It is open 10am to 4pm Wednesday through to Monday. The one hectare site is on the banks of the Vasse River and is the best $8 you will spend. See www.busseltonmuseum.org.au

Busselton jetty is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere at almost 2 km. Construction began in 1853 and it was continually extended until the 1960s when it reached its current length of 1841 metres. It was closed to shipping in 1972, and following major damage caused by a cyclone in 1978 and a fire in 1999 it was restored and improved. Since 2003 the jetty has offered visitors a tourist train ride, an underwater observatory and an interpretive centre.

Vasse is a small township 10 kilometres west of Busselton. The town is named after the Vasse River and Vasse Estuary, both of which in turn are named after French seaman, Thomas Vasse, who disappeared in the area in June 1801 during Nicolas Baudin's expedition.

In the future,  the Track will leave Vasse and head West to Quindalup, crossing Henry Yelverton's tramway from the 1850's. It will then go South to Metricup, and join the existing Rails To Trails route in Cowaramup.

Henry Yelverton (1821-1880) is an important figure in the area. He was born in London, but in 1845 he reached the Swan River colony aboard a whaling ship. He moved into the timber industry and by 1849 he employed sawyers at his  saw pit just 4 miles from Fremantle at Robbs Jetty. In 1853, while in partnership with a Fremantle entrepreneur, he bought the brig Hamlet to transport timber to the eastern colonies.
Yelverton settled in the Vasse River area near Busselton in 1855. Initially, he was licensed to cut loads of jarrah from crown land, but he then built the largest timber mill in the colony. The mill employed over 100 men and was fed by a purpose built horse tramway extending 21 km in length from the forest to his Quindalup jetty. Some of the Wadandi Track now follows this route.
He had developed a trade in ship's timbers, railway sleepers, shingles, laths and paving blocks, cut from both jarrah and tuart for export to the eastern colonies, India and Ceylon. He also had interests in a whaling station at Castle Rock (near Dunsborough), was licensee of the Race Horse Inn (corner of Market and Leake Streets in Fremantle), and smuggled tobacco as a side-line, which made him popular with the locals (they said he had done more for the district than the government had). He built his own jetty at Quindalup, won the contract to build the Busselton jetty in 1865 (with extensions in 1883), as well as roads, bridges and his tramway and employed up to 120 ex-convicts in the late 1850s. 
In 1865, when all timber exported from the colony was worth £15,693, the quantity shipped by Yelverton was valued at almost £11,000.  In 1868 the Perth Gazette called him 'the oldest and most experienced timber merchant in the colony'. In 1880 he was seriously injured when a huge log fell on him. Because of the risk of moving him a hut was built over him. He gradually recovered and was able to walk on crutches but died soon after aged 58.
His son, Henry John, took over the Quindalup mill. In 1898 when British financiers were showing a keen interest in the WA timber industry, he was bought out by the Imperial Jarrah Wood Corporation, later absorbed into Millars' Karri and Jarrah Co. (1902) Ltd. He remained on but died in 1906 when he was mill-manager at Dardanup.

Cowaramup is 12 kilometres north of Margaret River. Cowaramup Siding, which was located near the townsite, was on the now disused Busselton to Augusta railway. The townsite was gazetted in 1925, originally to support the timber and dairy industries. The town derives its name from the Aboriginal word cowara, meaning purple-crowned lorikeet. Locally known as "Cowtown", the town installed 42 life sized fibreglass cow sculptures around the town as a tourist attraction in 2012.

Between Cowaramup and Witchcliffe, the trail is often referred to and signposted as the "Rails To Trails". The Cowaramup end is easily located at the end of Memorial Drive (signage with directions can be found at the information bay in the main park entry). There are numerous bridges in the 5 kilometres north of Margaret River, crossing a major river, and various creeks and streams. The 4 km section south from Margaret River to Gnarawary Road opened in June 2005. This section has the original rail culverts and passes through farmland and natural bush. It includes two rest areas. The 4km section from Gnarawary Road to Witchcliffe was opened in November 2015, then extended 2km to Calgardup. The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has developed this trail and is planning to extend the trail a further 36 km to Flinders Bay (Augusta).

Margaret River is named after Margaret Whicher, cousin of John Bussell (founder of Busselton) in 1831. European migrants lived in the area as early as 1850, with timber logging commencing around 1870. By 1910, the town had a hotel which also operated as a post office. The Busselton to Margaret River Railway was built in the early 1920's and in 1925 the Margaret River to Flinders Bay line opened.

Margaret River is the foremost wine region in WA with nearly 55 square kilometres under vine and over 138 wineries as at 2008. The region is made up predominantly of boutique-size wine producers, although winery operations range from the smallest, crushing 3.5 tonnes per year, to the largest at around 7,000 tonnes. The region produces just three percent of total Australian grape production, but commands over 20 percent of the Australian premium wine market.

Hundreds of caves are located near Margaret River, all of them within Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Six of these are open to the public. The most famous of these is the Mammoth Cave, which lies 21 kilometres south of the town and contains fossils dating back over 35,000 years. The cave was discovered by European settlers in 1850 and has been open to the public since 1904

The trail links with the Ten Mile Brook Trail at Margaret River. It also links with a cycle/walk trail all the way to the beach at Prevelly which in turn links with the Cape to Cape walk trail which follows the coast from Dunsbrough in the north down to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse south of Augusta.

Witchcliffe's name originates from a cave in the area, which was recorded by a surveyor in 1900. It is believed the name was given by the Bussell family whose property, Wallcliffe, was established in the area in the 1850s. In 1924 the government extended the Flinders Bay Branch Railway to Witchcliffe. The town was built around the timber industry, with the Witchcliffe sawmill being built in 1922 east of town for the W.A. Jarrah Forests Ltd, which was taken over by the Adelaide Timber company in 1929.

The M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Timber Company, was a timber empire in the South West of WA. It employed hundreds of men, laid over a hundred kilometres of private railway, and even built its own private ports for exporting of timber. Having migrated to WA in 1875, Maurice Davies was granted a licence to cut timber in 1876. He erected two saw mills on the Collie River. The success of these mills was limited, so he redirected his interest to the karri and jarrah forests near Augusta. He bought shares in the "Rockingham Jarrah Timber Company" and studied its operation. He quickly realised the mills needed to be located near harbours (to reduce transport costs) and a railway network needed to be established to service the mills, replacing the bullock teams that struggled in the harsh terrain. In essence the industry had to work efficiently for it to be successful.
He obtained timber rights in 1882. His business prospered, and he built numerous saw mills and over 100 kilometres of railway line to move the timber. Jetties were built in to load ships in Hamelin and Flinders Bays, and the town of Karridale was established to house the hundreds of workers employed by Davies. His business became so successful that by 1890 he was responsible for 32% of all timber exported from WA. Timber demand was so great that it became WA's second largest export, behind wool. The London streets of Pall Mall, Piccadilly and Regent were paved with M.C. Davies karri blocks.

By 1894, all six of his sons were involved in the business, and the name of the business was changed from M.C.Davies to M.C.Davies Company Ltd. The business continued to prosper and expand, but the timber markets expanded even more rapidly, and by 1897 the company no longer had the resources to keep pace with market growth. In that year, Davies went to London to float the business as a public company, under the name M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Company Ltd.

The first train the business purchased was "Kate" in 1895. It worked at Karridale, Yarloop, Jarrahdale and Marrinup until 1917, when it was sold to the Public Works Department and sent to the Wyndham Meat Works. It was unused in 1953, and donated to the Margaret River Rotary Club in 1963, who preserved it in the park in Margaret River.

1897 to 1902 were difficult years for the company. A lot of competing companies had entered the timber market in WA, and there was fierce competition. Overseas markets were flooded with Jarrah and Karri. In 1902, M.C.Davies Karri and Jarrah Co. Ltd amalgamated with seven other companies to form the Millars Karri and Jarrah Company, informally known as the Millars Combine. The main Karridale mill was closed in 1900 and the Boranup Mill closed in 1910, and by 1913 all of the M.C.Davies Company mills were closed. The rail line was purchased by the government in 1912 and in 1925 it was extended to Busselton to service the remaining timber industry, the original group settlements, farming and domestic passengers. The line eventually closed in 1957.

Maurice Coleman Davies retired after the formation of the Millers Combine. He died at his home in Perth on 10 May 1913. A memorial park in his honour can be found at Old Karridale . The township of Karridale was reduced to ashes by the huge bushfires of 1961.

During M.C. Davies time in the WA's South-West he was instrumental in establishing sawmills at Coodardup, Karridale, Boranup and Jarrahdene, the town of Karridale, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, the Hamelin Bay and Flinders Bay Jetties, Alexandra Bridge and the extensive railway network that was required to transport the timbers to the ports. He was also the first Chairman of the Augusta Road Board (1891) where he negotiated improved road conditions.

Distances:
Busselton to Vasse Approximately 11 km
Cowaramup To Margaret River 14.4km
Margaret River to Witchcliffe 8.7 km
Witchcliffe to Calgardup  - about 2km
Total Map Distance: 106 km (when complete)

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 Wadandi Track.