Discover WA - Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin
With all the Blue Mountains, Great Ocean Roads and stunning National Parks on the East coast of Australia people sometimes forget about the west. Sure they know we have great wines and that Perth is the one of the most isolated cities in the world but the hiking and outdoor options mostly get lost to the east coast.
One of the best West Australian hiking options is the Cape to Cape Track that hugs the coast for 135kms along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge between the lighthouses of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.
Although not well known it’s a 5-8 day hike along the west coast taking in some of the best beaches in the world (I’m a born and bred Sandgroper so slightly biased). The most famous of these beaches is Margaret River which hosts international surf competitions such as the Margaret River Pro and was featured in the 1966 movie The Endless Summer. If you’re not a surfer but the name Margaret River sounds familiar you may know it for it’s award winning wineries though these days there is everything from breweries, distilleries, chocolate factories and adventure activities like rock climbing, mountain biking and whale watching to cover a variety of interests.
Since the Margaret River region attracts thousands of visitors each year it can be hard to find some space in this small pocket of Australia but spending some time on the Cape to Cape track does just that. There is nothing but space with uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean coast line and a real sense of isolation despite the proximity to local towns and communities.
For me and many other people this was the draw to hiking this track. Not only do you get the sense of wild freedom but you are always within mobile range and never far from the next coastal community and help. The track itself is relatively easy with no mountains to cross or hills to climb and since the terrain is mostly coastal the worst you have to deal with is walking in the soft sand along the beach.
While it sounds easy, this track should not be underestimated. Given the coastal vegetation there is little to no protection from the elements so you will need to be prepared for all weather conditions and while walking on white soft sand for endless kilometers sounds romantic the reality of it when walking with a pack can be quiet different.
When the trail doesn’t have you on high following the limestone cliffs, it will have you meandering through sand dunes or granite rocks or walking directly along the soft sand beaches for kilometres. Further south the trail heads inland through Karri Forrest which has a beauty all of it’s own and rubbing against tree branches overhanging the track and listening to the sounds of birds instead of the ocean makes for a nice contrast before once again heading to the coast to complete the track.
I chose to walk the Cape to Cape track end to end in the dead of winter and use the free camp sites along the trail. During my 7 day hike I got sunburnt, windswept, rained on, bitten by mosquitoes and massive blisters on my feet so, by the time I was ready to make camp each night I didn’t mind that they were basic at best. Their locations suggests they were almost an afterthought once the track was established as many do not have a view or beach access however they do have flat ground (mostly), a picnic table, toilet and rain water tank to refill drink bottles. What they lack for in scenery they do make up for in isolation as they are hiker only meaning they are unmolested by vehicles and other campers.
Many people do not walk end to end and instead choose to just walk sections or days of it then break up the hike with side trips to explore caves, have a boozy lunch at one of the wineries and stay in the many caravan parks and accommodation options in the coastal towns. This is a much more civilised way of achieving the same result and for those not on budget constraints there is even organised tours that will drop you at the trail head each morning and shuttle your luggage to the next destination so you can walk unencumbered by a pack full of wet camping gear like me.
Regardless of whether you intend on doing a single or multi day hike on the Cape to Cape having a map is a must. The track is well sign posted for the most part however the markers are sometimes stolen, used for firewood by camping surfers or even run over by 4WD’s as they dune bash their way in search of the perfect wave. I personally had very little interaction with the surfers and only saw them from a distance but watching them as you walk breaks up the monotony and makes for some entertaining rest stops when up on the cliffs looking down at these seal like creatures playing in the surf.
If you come to specifically walk the Cape to Cape be sure to leave yourself enough time to explore the local area and if you come to explore the local area be sure to leave time for hiking the Cape to Cape track as they are synonymous with each other in this region and neither should be missed.
For more information on the Cape to Cape Track or on the South West region of Australia check out these links -
Travel and Adventure Coach