Bunker Bay Loop
Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park
Directions - Located near Dunsborough, from town take Cape Naturaliste Road north for 14 kilometres until you reach the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse car park. The trail head is located on the western side of the car park, to the left of the entry to the lighthouse.
The Hike - With the Cape Naturaliste Track already in the bag this morning, it was time to reacquaint myself with another lovely trail in the area, the Bunker Bay Loop. This was a trail that I thought would be fun to visit just after Christmas in 2018 and despite it being summer, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few wildflowers still out. Thanks to the overcast weather, lighting on that day was much better than the super bright conditions I was treated to for this post but as I can't control these things, I made do.
With the Cape Naturaliste Track and Bunker Bay Loop both sharing the same trail head, as soon as I finished the Cape Naturaliste Track, I was ready to go. Locating the start of the Bunker Bay Loop is not easy as you have to walk along the pathway leading to the oversized vehicle parking to the east and then find the sandy track leading through the coastal scrub. After about 100 metres, you cross the exit road for the car park and finally feel like you're on the right path after seeing a big wooden sign for the Cape Naturaliste Walk Trails. Picking late September as the time to re-visit this trail, I was excited to see how many wildflowers I could spot, photograph and add to iNaturalist (like Pokemon for amateur botanists). Right from the very start it was a delight with early finds including a Prickly Hakea, Coastal Honeymyrtle, Cutleaf Hibbertia (with a bonus Jewel Beetle), Rosy Riceflower, Milkmaids and several Cowslip Orchids, that I didn't manage to see on the Cape Naturaliste Track.
Heading in an easterly direction along the linking path between the trail head and the start of the loop section, the lighting was very harsh and the narrow tunnel that the sandy trail runs through was not looking particularly appealing from a visual standpoint. Zooming out produced these harsh photos, so I instead concentrated on trying to see how many wildflowers I could find. I was in luck and along with everything I listed above, there were plenty more that didn't make the photo galleries in this post. Reaching the end of the link trail, I spotted a wooden bench that looks like a great place to rest but also opens up the scrub a little so more wildflowers can grow, such as the Blue Squill I saw. Deciding to do the loop section in an anti-clockwise direction because that's what I did last time, I got my first ocean views that were a little bright, so I was thankful to have remembered my sunnies. Part of the reason why I scheduled my trip for late September was to be in the area for Spider Orchid season, so I was constantly scanning the undergrowth.
My spidey senses were working a treat today as I managed to spot a Broad-Lipped Spider Orchid (Caladenia applanata) nestled in a mess of branches just off the trail. Not a large variety of Spider Orchid, I let out a little excited squee and tried to position myself in the best possible way to get a decent photograph. Buoyed by the find, I continued along with a smile on my face, wondering what else I might find. As it turns out there was plenty to find with a Book Triggerplant, lots of Rhodanthe citrina (can't find a common name but the yellow featherflower in the gallery above) and a Purple Flag. Heading downhill, the views over the ocean are a little limited, only really a small sliver through the coastal scrub, but I knew they'd get better so just focused on enjoying this stretch of trail leading towards the side quest to the lookout over Shelley Beach. At an obvious trail junction, the lookout is down the hill to the right, while the Bunker Bay Loop continues to the left.
After a fairly ho-hum trail so far (not counting the excellent wildflower display), I knew it got better from here in terms of the quality of the scenery. Taking the side trip to the lookout, I descended the jagged limestone path and was once again enamoured by the skeletal trees that have been burnt in a fire sometime in the past. The contrast between the white of the dead branches and the blue and turquoise water looks pretty and I was quite happy to recreate the photos from my last visit. Arriving at the wooden lookout over Shelley Beach, I remembered back to the start of the year when I visited the beach you can see from the lookout, for a nice summer snorkel. While conditions weren't great that day visibility wise, it was still a fun dip and I got to see some cool things. From the lookout you can see all the way to the larger beach at Bunker Bay, plus stare down the limestone cliffs to the rocky waters below. It's a nice spot to take a break and although visibility is limited through the trees, you might have some luck spotting whales in the bay.