The Natural Bridge in Albany, Western Australia is one of of the Rainbow Coast’s most extraordinary natural features, along with The Gap.
The Natural Bridge was formed thanks to the gradual wearing away of the rock by the Great Southern Ocean and her powerful waves.
During heavy swells don’t be surprised if you get covered in water spray when the large waves coming crashing in.
It is very tempting to ignore all the warning signs and take a walk along the granite arch but be warned the area is notorious for unexpected “freak” waves. Many an unsuspecting soul has been washed off these rocks.
In fact when you are wandering through the path between The Gap and the Natural Bridge you will more than likely come across a plaque dedicated to the heroes who helped in the amazing rescue of tourist Stephen Matthews. Click to read all about The Amazing Rescue of Stephen Matthews in 1978.
Background to The Natural Bridge
For over one billion years Australia and Antarctica were actually joined together, forming part of a super continent called Gondwana.
The ancient continent was formed mainly of gneiss, a rock created deep in the Earth’s crust. At some stage pressure and friction at the base of these two fused continents caused rocks to melt and slowly rise up through the gneiss. As the molten rock rose it also slowly cooled and turned into granite, which helped to cement the continents together.
Over the course of millions of years, sections of the Gondwana continent began breaking apart. The final separation between Antarctica and Australia happened around about 45 million years ago. The massive rock formations that you will see at the Natural Bridge and The Gap are what was left behind following the split.
Interestingly, the rock formations on Australia’s Southern Coast can still be matched to identical rocks off the Northern coast of Antarctica near Windmill Islands.
How was the Natural Bridge Formed?
Remember how I was saying that pressure and friction at the base of the continents caused the rocks to melt , and as they rose and slowly cooled they turned into granite? Well that granite lay about 20km below the surface. Above it was softer rock that over time eroded away , thanks to wind and water, allowing the granite to slowly rise above the surface. As the granite rose it also expanded and cracked. The wind, waves, water and air pressure slowly wore away at the cracks sculpting them into block shaped sections. The relentless pounding of the waves eventually tore away any loose blocks of granite creating amazing structures like the Natural Bridge and The Gap.
Eventually over time these structures will widen and collapse and new Gaps and Natural Bridges will take their place.
How to Get There
The Natural Bridge and The Gap are located off Frenchman Bay Road, in Torndirrup National Park, Albany. The entrance is clearly marked but if you drive too fast you will miss it. The area is a 15 minute drive from Albany across Princess Royal Harbour.