Bunker Bay Loop
Start - Cape Naturaliste Car Park
Length - 3.5km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Sand, Rocky Sections
Vertical Climb - 98m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 28th December 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - From the centre of Dunsborough take Cape Naturaliste Rd north (well signed) all the way to the car park. The trail head is located on the eastern side of the car park near the old orange bollard and through this short trail you will find the Cape Naturaliste Walks sign.
The Hike - With the Christmas holiday period arriving it meant some family time down in Funbury. Although a much shorter visit this year I still wanted to get out and explore a new trail given I was in the area. One place I always mark down for summer hikes is around Cape Naturaliste as it is only an hour from Funbury and being right on the coast means it doesn't feel as hot as the middle of the bush. With that in mind I decided that the Bunker Bay Loop would be a nice little escape as I'd already taken in the Cape Naturaliste Track a few years prior and enjoyed it. I'd agreed to help my brother in law do some garden work at 9:30 so it was a pre-dawn start but that just meant that I enjoyed a fantastic sunrise as I cruised the highway towards Dunsborough.
Arriving at Cape Naturaliste I noticed the roads were wet and with dark clouds looming I wasn't sure the worst was over. Nothing wrong with a bit of summer rain but I had a laugh as I'd looked at the rain cover in my pack before I left and decided to leave it at home. With bright early morning skies when I started it was a matter of locating the correct trail to start with and this was found with an old orange bollard marking the way. With the Cape Naturaliste Track exploring the western side of the cape, the Bunker Bay Loop explores the eastern side and as you'd guess with that name, provides some great views of the popular holiday location. The start of the trail is pretty inconspicuous with a sandy track taking you through the coastal scrub but I was happy to see some late season wildflowers still in bloom. Also catching my eye was a striking looking hakea that reminded me a little bit of the Royal Hakeas found in Fitzgerald River NP.
Given the trail takes the shape of a tadpole with a short there and back section heading towards a loop, when I reached the trail junction I had to decide which way to go. I had briefly glimpsed Bunker Bay and the glorious sunrise to the east so I decided to head in an anti-clockwise direction to try and capture that scene a little better before the dark clouds rolled in. With a mix of overgrown sandy tracks and the occasional sections of weathered limestone rocks, this is merely just a means to an end with the coastal scrub blocking most of the good views. When you do arrive at the views though it is worth it and I was privy to a pretty awesome show being put on just for me (had the trail to myself at this point). Those first views of the turquoise waters of Bunker Bay mixed with the golden light streaming through the rain clouds brought a big smile to my face and definitely justified the very early wake-up.
With more wildflowers on display here I had fun trying to capture them in the sunrise photos along with some dead trees that provided a gnarly feature to have in the foreground. You can also access the loop from the car park down at Shelley Beach so at the trail junction where this path meets the loop I decided that I would go and check out that track a little bit before continuing back towards Cape Naturaliste. As I started to descend the rocky path I felt the first sprinkles of rain on my skin and very soon it had evolved into a constant drizzle. Shelter was at hand though at the bottom of the hill with a shaded lookout overlooking Bunker Bay and the picturesque Shelley Cove. Trying to keep the camera dry whilst photographing everything in sight was becoming a challenge but worth it for the cool scenes in front of me. With the golden streams of light now a forgotten memory, replaced with a more subdued grey sky, I moved back up the path to continue the loop back towards Cape Naturaliste.
By now the drizzle was more like light rain and my camera was starting to get quite soggy. It has copped plenty of punishment before but you never know what might be the last straw so I kept it dry and moved on. Luckily the section leading away from the trail junction was nothing to write home about with just sandy tracks, overgrown scrub and limestone pockets. The rain didn't persist and soon I had lovely clear views of the coastal cliffs that are found on the north side of the cape. A few goat trails appear leading down to the cliffs, made worse by a trail marker that actually points you in that direction (it should be two markers pointing you east-west). Having explored the goat trail and surmised it didn't lead anywhere (although someone later asked if I found the cave so maybe it did) I moved on and to some of the best coastal views of the whole track.
A little side trail takes you to a limestone ledge where you can gaze west and view the impressive coastline that has been blown out by the elements over the years. The exposed caves with stalactites hanging down was cool to see and I imagine this would be an area for seals to gather although I didn't see any on my visit (they must have been snoozing). I enjoyed this spot the most out of any on the trail with the open ocean in the distance, the rock down below and the coastline stretching out towards the horizon. A small hilly section from here takes you through some of the nicest scrub on the trail and onwards towards the final lookout, a more formal wooden fenced affair.
Here you can admire and reflect on the large expanse of ocean in front of you, watch the rocks below for signs of life (or in whale watching season spot migrating whales) and look up and down the coastline. Now on the other side of the largest section of caves, the views looking east are very impressive. With a very calm morning and moody skies it was a lovely place to be just taking in the sounds, smells and sights of the coast. Voices behind me drew me out of my thoughts and I was soon joined by three guys on a morning walk. I left them to enjoy to the views and headed up the hill to finish the trail. Taking in the last soothing smells of the peppermint trees and the now abundant sunshine streaming through the fluffy clouds I was soon back at Newt. With enough time to stop in at Dunsborough for a coffee and a bakery treat, I had those to console me as I drove home listening to the woes of the Australian Cricket Team as they faced India in the Boxing Day Test. Another summer hike in the bag and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
Final Thoughts – Cape Naturaliste is better known for the lighthouse and being the start/finish of the famous Cape to Cape Track but if you're in the area on holidays then there are plenty of options for shorter hikes.
The Bunker Bay Loop is one of those options and being a short drive from Dunsborough and the popular alcoves of holiday homes along the cape, this is the perfect way to start your day.
While it does make a great summer hike option for those wanting their fix, this is truly an all year trail with the whale migration taking place from around July to November and of course the brilliant wildflower display from late winter to late spring.
Get out there and experience it!
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