Deepdene to Cape Leeuwin
Start - Deepdene Campsite
Finish - Cape Leeuwin
Campsite - The End!!!
Distance - 15.7km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 209m
Time - 4-6 hours
Date Hiked - 21st September 2020
The Hike- The final section of my six day Cape to Cape Adventure and after a lovely morning walking along limestone platforms, past large granite boulders and on beaches, I had 15km of mostly beach and cliff walking until I reached Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.
Having caught the two ladies I had met the previous day tackling the tough beach stretch into Hamelin Bay, I decided that some company would be nice and joined them as we walked towards the Turner Brook crossing. At this point I had my shoes off and tied to my bag so was enjoying the feeling of sad between my toes. The ladies were sticking to the high parts of the beach and while I had found the area closer to the water was harder, it wasn't always the case with big soft spots so we all elected to take the known evil closer to the dunes. With the skies getting darker off to the west, we got one good view looking towards the lighthouse in the distance as the sun illuminated the white tower.
It seems that Deepdene Beach is the most talked about beach on the Cape to Cape with an almost mythical status about it's length, depth of sand and potential for a bad time. Some hikers claim that the sands are like a Sarlacc Pit and just taking one wrong step will see your leg consumed by the deep sand while others say the whole ordeal will take between 4-5 hours when the winds are blowing. I am of course being hyperbolic but the 7.5km stretch from one end to the other is something you need to be prepared for. I personally don't find soft beach walking to be too much of an issue and even with gale force winds the day before on Hamelin Beach, maintaining a good pace is just a matter of a good headspace and a determination to reach the end. It does help that I'm a fairly young buck with plenty of kilometres in my legs over the past few years but by this stage of a N-S end to end, your trails legs should have come into their own. Reaching Turner Brook, it was a short hop over the narrowest section near the ocean end and after a bit of coaxing, both Julie and Karen were on the other side. From here we stuck to the upper section of the beach as the lower sections where we might find patches of hard sand were on a slope that can cause leg and feet issues after a while.
I find Deepdene Beach much more interesting than Hamelin Beach, mainly because there are plenty of cool rock platforms close to shore and they attract more life in the form of sea birds. While the clouds had well and truly set in, the wind wasn't too bad compared to the previous day and it didn't feel like it was going to rain anytime soon. I chatted away with Julie and Karen who were sisters that lived in different parts of the state and we discussed various hikes we had done. They were due to do the South West Coast Path in England but thanks to COVID, they had to adjust their plans, hence the trip on the Cape to Cape. We were getting some very English weather so it was almost a direct substitute but not really. I was intrigued by the bird life and stopped a lot to photograph the Pied Oystercatchers, Seagulls and Pacific Gulls. Not being used to having company on this hike, I realised how much I stop and break the rhythm of anyone that hikes with me. The ladies eventually just kept going and I caught them up, a method that worked for everyone. Finding a washed up buoy, we all stopped for photos as the molluscs were plentiful on the bits they could grab onto.
The total 7.5km length of Deepdene Beach is a bit deceiving as it's not all on soft sand like Mazzoletti Beach is. After about 4km of fairly same-same walking (excluding the rock platforms mentioned before), you reach a spot where it becomes clear that the trail takes a rockier route along the coast. We took this time to have a bit of a rest and I put my shoes back on to avoid some painful walking in the upcoming kilometres. The change was a welcome one and I don't have any memories of this from my last trip in 2014 so it did come as a bit of a surprise. I'm not sure if the beach has drastically washed away or if I just forgot that this bit existed. Either way I was a happy camper as I love a bit of rock hopping and it certainly made the walking feel less arduous. Just after we entered the rocky zone, the heavens decided to open with a small shower passing through. Having lost my rain jacket before Redgate Beach, I was hoping it would be a minor inconvenience but Karen and Julie decided to put their rain jackets and pack covers on just in case. It didn't last long and it was soon back to being just a gloomy, non-threatening sky. The limestone through here was highly enjoyable with a jumble of formations sticking out in every direction.
This would just be the start of it and I was stopping quite frequently to take photos. Karen and Julie had also begun to fall behind and with a 3pm pickup time, I was doing the maths on whether I could hike with them a little longer. Waiting on them to catch up, I made a decision that we would part ways here and I would continue to the end on my own. I had been talking about the book I had read the previous night at Hamelin Bay and Julie was quite interested in it (Island Home by Tim Winton) so I fished it out of my bag and gave it to her. It's a great read, basically Tim Winton's musings on Western Australia, the landscapes and the people as he's seen them change over time. Saying my goodbyes, I wished the ladies well and bolted off into the distance. Reaching some excellent scenery in the form of a dark and wide platform, this area has a bit of a wild feeling to it. Adding to that is the really twisted and decaying shapes that the limestone has eroded to over the years. There are some really gnarly formations all throughout this area culminating in a series of small caves that although very inviting on a wet day, have the chance of collapsing at any moment so be careful with your exploring.
Along this stretch you can also find a few more blowholes that are a feature of the section between Hamelin Bay and Deepdene that I walked through earlier in the day. Not quite as active thanks to their proximity to the water being a little further back, they must still get a workout when the tide is up or the waves surging through. Reaching one final rocky headland that you must negotiate, I wasn't sure if the track took a different path around but sure enough there was a marker just up and around the corner to guide the way. In the distance I could see one final stretch of soft sand walking and the beach exit that I had remembered as being quite a difficult jaunt through the dunes. After savouring the last of the sustained beach walking for my Cape to Cape journey, I was faced with the exit and memories came flooding back of tackling this beast on my last trip. I remember getting to the top of one dune here and basically thinking "are you kidding me" after seeing that I had to descend and then rise again on really soft sand. Knowing the challenge this time I just put my head down and slogged it out because I had one last stretch to do before it was all over.
After the initial exit you dip down into an area behind the dunes and even with the cooler temperatures you could feel how much the dunes radiate the heat. On a reasonably warm day, these areas feel like an oven so I was happy to be thawing out a little on this mild afternoon. Facing the biggest piece of the dune ahead, I noticed the wooden boards stacked on the side of the trail that I'm guessing were used or are planned to be used to get some kind of relief for hikers through here in the form of stairs. Before the trudge up the collapsing sand of the dune I admired the survivors of the coast, small plants and flowers that seem to love the nutrient poor sand of the shifting dunes. These fragile plants are important for the stability of the dunes so stick to the trail and don't venture off if you don't need to. Your reward for making it to the top of this big dune is a view off towards Cape Leeuwin and another reminder that the finish is not too far off. Standing in your way is one last hill containing the Augusta Cliffs and then an enjoyable descent down towards the beacon of the lighthouse. Walking behind the dunes, I was expecting to head straight up onto the cliffs from this point but you head back towards the water for some last views of the limestone coast that provides such and interesting foreground to the photos.
You do eventually start making your way uphill for the final time and this will be the final challenge of a N-S Cape to Cape trip. After some single track, you reach a very wide vehicle track that at the time of my visit looked to have been mowed either side. I think this is how it naturally is but it still looked foreign compared to everything I'd seen so far, maybe it had been cleared by the local parks department due to fire safety. This hill was a little tough with some sections reaching a 15% gradient and with not much to look at besides a nearby grove of Peppermints, I found myself pushing on just to reach the top. This did take it out of me late into the day but it was the last hill and I was falling a bit behind schedule. I allowed myself a small break at the top of the hill where the track leaves the vehicle track and heads along the Augusta Cliffs on single track. With no more climbing to do, I rewarded myself with some lollies and started to enjoy the walking through thick Peppermint lines trail that were teeming with wildflowers and orchids. This section really is magic with the occasional view looking towards the lighthouse and then these closed in sections that I find really enjoyable.
Some of the finds I had along here include Grannys Bonnets, so many Pink Fairy Orchids, Fan Flowers, Golden Buttercups, several varieties of peas, Coastal Banjine, Old Man's Beard and a new one that I'd not seen before that I believe is a Branched Fringed Lily. If you've followed these Cape to Cape posts then you'll get the impression that the more vegetated sections are the ones I enjoy the most so it was a nice way to finish the experience. The single track keeps winding along the edge of the cliffs for quite a while and it was a good chance to make up some time. My mental maths had me needing to average just over 4kmph and with some really cool parts to experience right before the lighthouse, I wanted to give myself some time to enjoy those without feeling rushed. That did become hard with all the different varieties of wildflowers and orchids along here and I would have loved to have included all of them in the photo galleries. This area really has a richness of diversity the more you explore with different fungi popping up, some stunted eucalyptus trees growing in the trying conditions and a few Banksias making an appearance on the edge of the trail.
I had a few strange encounters along this section including a couple on some bikes trundling along the single track. I'm not sure about whether that is allowed but they were fairly polite about passing me. The other thing was a local out for a walk with his dog and daughter, something that I know is not allowed (the dog part that is). Still being within the confines of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, it's a silly thing to take your dog into areas where the possibility of 1080 baits is high, especially when the dog is off-lead like this one was. I didn't say anything as I passed, not wanting to spoil my finish into Cape Leeuwin. As the track starts to head downhill, I knew it wouldn't be long until I was on the flats heading around the various bays towards the end. Coming across the registration station for walkers, it was a bittersweet moment knowing the trip was almost over but happy with what I'd experienced over the past six days. Signing out, I took some time to rest here on the benches and reflected on the week in the shade of the Peppermints. While the sun wasn't out, the shade was handy as another shower rolled through, this one being a fairly light one thankfully. Moving on, I departed the registration station and headed down towards the rocky beach before Quarry Bay.
This was yet another really cool section with a jumble of granite platforms and boulders in a sea of sand and shells. Add in the lighthouse in the background and it starts to feel pretty special. Being the south-western tip of the state, this little pocket of terrain is exposed to some pretty harsh conditions as the winds whip up from the roaring forties and bring with them the storms and rain from open ocean. You get the sense of being at the end of the world here and as you wind into Qaurry Bay, there is a sense of respite from the elements. I had good fun exploring this section with lot of rock hopping to negotiate and a pretty cool sight of seeing the water trickle down the edge of the limestone caves that encompass the edge of the bay. These fascinating formations look like the inside of a cave that has been exposed to the world and I'd hazard a guess that at some point they may have been a fully enclosed cave system. This little bay is great to explore and I came across a couple of Pied Oystercatchers looking for food on the rocks. Departing the beach a little further along via some wooden stairs, the lighthouse can be seen in the distance, although it still seems to be a long way off.
In reality it's less than a kilometre and another section I remember from my last trip popped into view. The grassy plains that have the illusion of extending all the way to the lighthouse make for a pretty scene and lovely photos. Happy that is wasn't warm and I didn't have to worry about snakes, I forged on towards yet another highlight at the Water Wheel. The lichen covered granite around here is a familiar sight that can be found up and down the Capes and is really good fun to walk through. Being exposed to the elements here, it makes you appreciate how tough life must have been for the first lighthouse keepers way back in the early 1900s when the roads and cars we have today were just a dream. Spotting a few Pacific Gulls close to the final little beach section, I could see the Water Wheel in the distance so rushed towards it. Despite the terrible weather, there were still tourists around and I was half expecting my Dad to be here having a look around. That wasn't the case so I took plenty of photos of the barnacle encrusted relic and continued on. This area must be popular with fishers as you pass a large granite section with a life preserver attached to the side. This marks the very last section of walking you must undertake before you reach the finish.
The lighthouse is tantalisingly close and there are plenty of opportunities to frame it with one of the new Cape to Cape markers in the foreground, something I did with every one I saw on this last part. It's a weird way to finish this part as the track heads towards a fence and then makes a sharp left to take you to the car park. Waiting near the fence was my Dad and it was good to see the old man at the end of a long journey. He had already sussed out the area and talked to the man at the lighthouse entry so told me that as a walker, I was allowed free entry to the little compound. We passed Mum who was quite happy to stay in the car and made our way to the lighthouse for a symbolic end and more photos (even though I didn't start right at the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse). As I approached the impressive white beacon, the skies cleared a little so I could take some nicer photos than if it was still grey and gloomy. Feeling a little tired and cold, I made my way back to the gift shop where I purchased a book on the wildflowers of the area and received my end to end certificate (cost is a $5 donation to the Friends of the Cape to Cape). A remarkable six day journey with some great memories in the bag and no major issues. It was a great experience and even with the horrible weather for days four and five, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you to everyone who has read these posts and I hope they help if you're planning a Cape to Cape journey of your own.
Final Thoughts - What a final day to have on what has been a fantastic track that showcases some of Western Australia's finest coastal scenery.
I'll start with some thoughts on this section before having a waffle about the experience as a whole.
Deepdene gets a bad rep online and when you talk to people but in my opinion, it can be tough but nothing that any reasonably fit hiker should be worried about. It's not all sand bashing with some really enjoyable sections of rock hopping that contain some amazing scenery to photograph.
The Augusta Cliffs section is outstanding in spring with all the wildflowers and the final section from Quarry Bay to the lighthouse is some of the best walking on the whole track.
My thoughts on the Cape to Cape on the whole...
I said it on the podcast and I'll repeat it here, the whole track is way above any of the coastal sections of the Bibbulmun Track by some margin with less dune bashing and plenty of highlights on every day. There are only a few small areas that I could point to and say that they dragged on or weren't terribly enjoyable and that says a lot about a track spanning 130km that is frequently on the doorstep of civilisation.
Hiking this in spring is really the time I'd recommend anyone to do it as the wildflowers and orchids are a really unique part of the experience. Add in the migrating whales that I wasn't fortunate enough to see and it makes for a really special time of the year.
Navigation wise, the new markers and their placement are a big upgrade over the previous system. Only a couple of times did I have to refer to my map to see where the track went so all up I would compare this to the level of ease I experience on the Bibbulmun Track. Having said that, always carry a copy of the guidebook and have a GPS map as backup on your phone.
I had my reasons for delaying a return visit here and I'm glad that I did. The new camera and increased skills as a photographer have allowed me to showcase this track to the best of my ability and hopefully you see it that way too.
No doubt I'll be back to hike this one again and if you feel like contributing to the upkeep of this world class track then please donate to the Friends of the Cape to Cape.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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