In the Margaret river region there is a stunning 135km hike through national park between two lighthouses at Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leuwin. Although not far from the boutique vineyards of the Margaret river region this is a remote experience where the meeting point of the Indian and southern oceans collide with spectacular vistas, whales, wildflowers and more.
Situation and History
The trail runs along the coast in the Margaret river region in South West Australia.
There is an excellent guide book that covers this walk. “The Cape to Cape Track Guidebook” is a fantastic resource with a combination of maps, photos and descriptions which aids in some of the difficult to navigate sections. The northern-most section of the trail between Cape Nauraliste and Sugarloaf rocks is specially constructed for disabled users so has a wide sealed path with easy gradient. The section of the trail South of Margaret River township to Cape Augusta is more remote with no settlements en-route, so ensure you are self sufficient and experienced if embarking on this section.
Planning your Trip
The trail is long so allow an adequate number of days or break your trip into manageable sections to be completed over a series of shorter breaks. Starting Elevation: 100m above sea level Average Gradient: Hilly Trail Grading: Varies between Well maintained paths, scrambling sections, beach sections and river crossings The walk is predominately exposed so ensure you have adequate protection from the sun or rain. A number of tour operators run guided tours on the trail and offer the benefit of arranging accommodation and transport to and from the trail. A comprehensive listing is available here Gear Hiking boots are recommended as there is a lot of uneven terrain and stairs (not to mention the bonus added protection from snakes). If you are camping it is critical to note there are very few water sources on the trail – careful planning is required to ensure you don’t run out.
Access to and from the hike
There are several access points along the route making it possible to do a car shuffle. If you are planning to attempt the entire route unsupported you will need to plan how to retrieve your car well in advance. Public transport is quite limited but it is possible to access the hike with a combination of bus and taxi and some forward planning if you aren’t pressed for time:
- There is once a day bus that services the region run by TransWA
- However the bus doesn’t directly meet any of the trail heads, instead it stops at several of the towns (Dunsborough/Augusta/Margaret River) which are further inland. From the towns you could arrange a taxi to get to/from the trail head (circa 10-20km drive). Another possibility if you are booking accommodation en route is to contact the owner who may be able to assist in arranging something.
- Taxis are relatively expensive and need to be booked in advance. Note that these companies only have a few vehicles which do get booked out during peak holiday times and festivals.
Navigation & Facilities
The trail is well sign posted. Square pine posts mark the way roughly every 100–200 m, each post bearing the yellow and white Track logo There are toilet facilities in most of the towns on the walk and at the visitors centre. The Track passes through four settlements, Yallingup, Gracetown, Prevelly, and Hamelin Bay which have basic general stores There is only a very small tidal range along the Capes Coast see here for details There are several campsites and caravan parks for walkers wishing to camp out along the Track. They provide places to camp roughly a day’s walk apart along the length of the Track. Four low-key campsites have a bush toilet, a rainwater-tank filled from the toilet roof, a picnic-table, and seats. These no-fee campsites provide no shelter and users need to carry their own tents. There are two other more-developed National Park campgrounds along the Track where camping fees are payable, that have toilets and fireplaces. Except at the DPaW campgrounds of Contos, Point Road and Boranup, a ‘fuel stoves only’ policy applies. On some days in summer there is a Total Fire Ban.
Snakes and exposure or dehydration are top risks. During winter river crossings can be deep and swift especially after heavy rainfall. There is an alternative around the Margaret river but is a significant detour. At the northern end of the trail there is a sign-in book which is used to gauge track numbers rather than for search and rescue purposes
Flora and Fauna
Wildflowers in spring are a highlight. Coastal wind stunts growth and means not much shelter on the route. Snakes and goannas can be seen on the trail on sunny days. Whales migrate along the coast from May to December.
We embarked on the first half of this hike over a spring long weekend. Our target was to complete the northern section from Cape Naturaliste to Margaret River. The region had experienced large rainfall in the weeks preceding our walk, we discovered the Margaret river was impassable and were concerned whether some of the smaller crossings we were expected to cover on our rotue would also be precarious. The first day we set out at Cape Naturaliste and the weather was sunny and windy. Our progress was slower than expected on the scrambling and beach sections – sand was hard work. The river crossing at Wilyabrup was not as bad as expected (about mid calf) but the water was icy cold (we took boots off to keep feet dry). We reached the road end just past Wilyabrup as the light was fading and got picked up by our support crew. The next day we rejoined the track where we stopped. This section of the track had more of a remote feel with some stunning views. We got as far as Gracetown before the rain set in so decided to call it a day leaving the rest of the trail yet to be conquered….