Feature by Max BrearleyOff the Beaten Track, the Cape to Cape Walk

Walking the Cape to Cape isn’t just an introduction to the Margaret River region, but an insight into what makes things tick down here in the southwest corner of Australia.

Published May 2016

Margaret River is famed for its wine, the making of which relies heavily upon the environment. The maritime climate here, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, is credited as a key factor in the rise of wines from the region, offering cool respite to long sunny days. And while the food and wine of the region is undoubtedly a draw, it’s ultimately the diverse landscape, coastal lifestyle, and an ability to experience it daily that pulls people to this south west corner of WA.

At 135km the Cape to Cape has the advantage over longer distance walks in Western Australia. It offers a challenge that can be completed end to end in less than a week, or like the locals, you can choose to break it into sections.

Running from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south, a self-guided walk requires the planning and preparation that you’d put into any long distance walk, but there’s also a wealth of guided options that allow you to think only of what’s around you. Sean Blocksidge of Margaret River Discover Company comments that, “It can be arduous. If you’re carrying all your gear you definitely have to train for it.”

An expert guide doesn’t just take care of the logistics, but gives you the insight into the landscape, the biodiversity and history. Guides in the region include Margaret River Discovery Company and Cape to Cape Explorer Tours, with Walk into Luxury as Western Australia’s first inclusion into the Great Walks of Australia. If self-guided is the way for you, a copy of The Cape to Cape Track Guidebook (Jane Scott and Ray Forma, Cape to Cape Publishing) is the definitive guide to the walk.

The Cape to Cape isn’t a passive experience. It’s one that will awaken the senses from start to finish. Depending on the season the flora and fauna will vary, from land to ocean. Spotting whales off the coast between June and December isn’t uncommon, or experiencing wildflowers from August to October.

Section one

Section one starts at Cape Naturaliste and heads south taking you from the lighthouse to Wyadup Steps by icons of the coastline, Sugarloaf Rock and Canal Rocks.

You can break the walk into these manageable sections, many favouring five, and heeding advice from Sean Blocksidge to not treat it as a race. I haven’t yet walked the Cape to Cape in one go, as being local gives me the luxury of dipping in and out, so it’s sound counsel. As Sean says, “Give yourself time to stop and smell the wildflowers.”

Section two

From the Quininup Clifftop Seat to Wilyabrup Cliffs (section two) you walk a mixture of limestone and granite, which takes in Quininup Falls, in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, just north of Moses Rock.

Section three

Between Meekadarabee Falls and the river mouth of the Margaret River (section three) you might consider the history of the region, from the original owners of the land to the European settlers. Meekadarabee means ‘bathing place of the moon’, while at Ellensbrook Homestead the National Trust preserves a piece of history. Built by the Bussell family over decades, it’s said that everyone from convicts to deserting seamen and local Nyoongar people worked on its construction.

Section four

Contos Beach to Hamelin Bay (section four) takes you from heath-covered clifftops into the regrowth of the Boranup Forest. Another story of the regions recent history, when timber from the region was shipped from the jetty at Hamelin Bay.

Section five

A final push from Cosy Corner Blowholes to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse (section five) finishes the walk and while the waterwheel, a good way short of the lighthouse is the supposed end to the walk, it seems only right to make your way to the lighthouse. Here at the most southwesterly tip of Australia the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. However you walk it, and however long it takes it’s unlikely to be an experience you’ll ever forget.