Cape Naturaliste Track
Start - Cape Naturaliste Car Park
Length - 3.7km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Sand, Pavement
Vertical Climb - 75m
Time - 1-2 Hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 3rd November 2015
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Wardandi People
Directions - Located north of Dunsborough, follow the signs towards the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse along Cape Naturaliste Road until you reach the end. The trail head is located on the western side of the car park with a large information board telling you about the various trails in the area.
The Hike - With the annual family holiday to the South West planned for November, I thought it would be a good idea to take in a few hikes while I was close to some great trails. As we were staying in Dunsborough, I did a quick look on the Trails WA website for a few suitable hikes close to town and made some time to explore the area. First up was the short but sweet Cape Naturaliste Track, a 3.7km loop starting at the famous Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. Waking up to a beautiful clear morning, I managed to get the girlfriend out of bed early and we drove the short 10 minute trip from the centre of Dunsborough out to the lighthouse. The trail starts right next to the information board south of the buildings and provides a map and details of the area. It is also the official start/end point of the Cape to Cape Track, depending on which way you are going.
On our way down the paved path to where there is a split for the Cape to Cape Track and Cape Naturaliste Track we saw ourselves a colourful Blue Wren frolicking on the ground. He wasn't easy to photograph as he moved so often but I managed to get a fuzzy snap of him for the collection. When we reached the turn off for the Cape to Cape we decided that 135km wasn’t a good idea given the level of equipment we were carrying so turned right onto the crushed limestone pathway leading to the loop part of the trail. The gentle downhill start is a relaxing stroll through some Rottnest Tea Tree with sweeping views south towards Sugarloaf Rock and the expansive Indian Ocean. Hardened paths soon give way to soft sand and there was plenty of evidence to suggest that there was a lot of snake activity on the path.
As it was still early we didn’t see any snakes but heard plenty of rustling in the bushes that was probably just skinks rushing away as we passed. The start of the loop is marked by another information board and we chose to go clockwise and down to what is aptly named “Other Side of the Moon”. On the wonderfully placed benches we had a rest and looked out over this limestone blowout that really does look like it could be the moon. There is a path leading down onto the moonscape so we decided to check it out and continued further on to the fantastically empty beach nearby. With nobody in sight we ventured along the white sandy beach towards the granite rock pools to search for some interesting sea creatures.
It didn’t take long to find our first crab but he was a shy fella and quickly scurried away under a rock. Using what little dexterity and flexibility I have I managed to get the camera into position to capture both him and his friend. We had a bit of a poke around the area and I snapped quite a few photos of this amazing location before reluctantly heading off again. We truly are lucky to live in a part of the world where pristine beaches are empty, undeveloped and accessible. Once you reach the path again it is all uphill for a while but your reward is more stunning views, this time looking north. When the climbing stops you are left high above the limestone cliffs with never-ending views of the blue Indian Ocean.
Below us were a few boats trying to be there for the migrating whales. The sheltered waters east of the cape are a haven for migrating whales and there are several species that stop for a rest including the biggest living creature on Earth, the Blue Whale. To take advantage of the opportunity there is a lookout built on the cliffs that gives you a great view of the waters below. Unfortunately we didn’t see any whales on our hike but I can imagine it would be quite a spectacle to see a pod of whales passing by and breaching every now and then. With plenty of photos on the memory card we headed back towards the end of the loop and home to bacon and eggs.
Final Thoughts – I love Western Australia and with such beautiful landscapes, empty beaches and the fresh air sailing off the Indian Ocean, we certainly are the lucky ones. To be able to indulge my hiking passion wherever I go in WA is a luxury and the Cape Naturaliste Track is another cracker.
It is perfectly suitable for a quick morning/afternoon walk and if you are visiting the lighthouse then don’t be shy about giving it a go. You can easily do it with running shoes on and a 1L water bottle provided it isn't a hot day.
I imagine it would be even better in the afternoon with awesome views of the setting sun over the Indian Ocean (another great luxury we have in WA).
If you are visiting Dunsborough then put this on your activity list. I hear there is even a brewery or two you can visit on the way back. Another lovely walk in the area is the Bunker Bay Loop so be sure to check that out too as it starts from the same car park.
Get out there and experience it!
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