Moses Rock to Ellensbrook
Start - Moses Rock Campsite
Finish - Ellensbrook Rock Campsite
Campsite - Water Tank, Toilet, Table
Distance - 19.1km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 355m
Time - 5-8 hours
Date Hiked - 18th September 2020
The Hike- With a very enjoyable day in the bag between Yallingup and Moses Rock, I didn't think the walking could get much better. With my last day of good weather ahead, I was determined to make the most of it so brewed a coffee and went to the nearby lookout while I ate breakfast.
With the morning easterlies blowing light, the ocean was pretty calm and my gaze once again was seeking out passing whales. My luck didn't turn around as the flat water revealed no giants of the sea so I headed back to the empty campsite and began packing up for the day. My original plan was to stay at Ellensbrook Campsite this evening and have my longest day on the track between Ellensbrook and Contos the following day. With bad weather approaching, the idea to switch up my itinerary and finish today in Prevelly didn't gain momentum until mid-morning. With a long day not on my mind, I thought leaving just after 8am was an early departure, which it is based on my usual routine and only having initially planned for a 19km day.
Heading towards the lookout I had visited a couple of times already, the views looking south were still impressive and at this point you can see all the way to Gracetown if the weather is clear. That would be my planned lunch stop and I was looking forward to a tasty meal but I had to get there first. Descending down the hill, the first section to Wilyabrup Beach is very familiar coastal heath with Pink Banjine being the main wildflower you'll see along this stretch. In the distance you can see the first big highlight of the day with the Wilyabrup Cliff standing proud on the edge of the water. It is the main feature of the first 4km of the day and the anticipation of seeing it up close makes the morning walking go very quickly, even if I was sauntering a little bit. The green edges of the cliffs leading down to the beach were a pleasant difference to the previous days and made it feel more like the coastal walking you see in the south of England (albeit in very brief stretches). Looking down from the cliffs at the rocks below felt very West Australian with the turquoise waters and I always enjoy watching the waves crash upon the rocks, causing spray to fly everywhere.
As I rounded a corner, the beach came into view and I could see two fishermen enjoying their morning. With most of the beaches between the Capes accessible by 4x4 for surfing or fishing, there is always the chance of running into a local on your travels or just spotting them in the distance like I had with numerous surfers. Reaching the comparatively small Wilyabrup Beach, the big task for winter and spring walkers is getting over Wilyabrup Brook. As always, it's best to assess the situation first by inspecting the ocean side and also upstream where there is a series of rocks that can be used if you're confident. Wanting to save time and avoid taking off my shoes/putting them back on again, I worked out a path over the rocks that looked easy enough. My last steps would be onto a carved out island of beach sand and then onto the opposite bank. I made it to the island but it didn't have the structural integrity I had hoped and collapsed not long after I had hurriedly stepped onto the firmer sand of the beach. With a somewhat successful crossing, I headed towards the fishermen and gave them a good morning before spotting the beach exit not much further along.
The soft sand of the dune exit was a good way of getting the legs working again as you climb up to the car park used to access Wilyabrup Beach. From here you disappear into the maze of Peppermint and Myrtle thickets that cover the cliffs and it's a nice section of walking filled with wildflowers, orchids and spooky looking paths. The only off-putting thing about this section is the unavoidable walking you have to do in sight of the private property that is to the left. The track is squeezed into this small corridor and the ugly sight of big fences creeps into your view on the open parts. I'm not sure if it's to keep whatever they have on their farm from escaping or to keep us dangerous walkers away from their property but it just wasn't a pleasant sight, especially at one point where a stream runs down the hill and they blocked the waterway with a myriad of odd bits and pieces that looked like a scrapheap. I digress because it doesn't last too long and the intermittent views of Wilyabrup Cliffs just up ahead had me excited.
When you finally reach the point at which you descend down the wooden steps, it's a really cool moment on the track. It's hard not to be impressed by a big chunk of rock poking out from the earth and Wilyabrup Cliff is no different. The almost Easter Island statue nature of the cliffs make for an imposing sight and that feeling only gets bigger as you descend down towards Biljedup Brook. I was fortunate enough to spot a group abseiling in the distance and it really put the size of the cliffs into perspective. I think it may have been the cadet group I ran into on the previous day but didn't wander down to where they were to confirm. As you stand at the lowest point where you cross the very small water course, staring up at the orange granite leaves you in awe with just the sheer size and beauty. It's definitely a unique spot and a great way to start what would become a pretty epic day. After crossing the brook, you head up towards the metal staircase that is used to get up to the top of the cliffs. A useful rest point, I took some time to attend to a hotspot on my foot before continuing on, hoping to be taken right to the edge of the cliff.
My dreams were dashed and I didn't think to take the short side trip down the track towards the abseiling point (you'll find a toilet there if you need it). That's not to say the views from up above the cliffs weren't good, you still got sweeping ocean views and the occasional piece of orange granite jutting out from the heath. I think the next C2C trip I do, this will be a must do side trip as the view from the edge of the cliffs would be pretty spectacular I would think. Through the dense coastal scrub you continue south away from the cliffs and start a slow descent down towards the next beach section. Here the birds were flittering everywhere and I slowed right up trying to spot one before it spotted me and flew away. I got lucky with a Silvereye way off in the distance still perching on a branch. While well camouflaged, I was happy just to get a shot of one as they are prevalent all throughout the coastal sections and it was nice to have one in the galleries to prove smaller birds exist on the Cape to Cape. The track through here is very familiar with a single path through the scrub in the foreground and excellent coastal views looking south providing the backdrop. Another fairly steep set of wooden steps drops you down to what I thought was going to be a nice beach walk but you never quite get there.
Instead you spot one of the old Cape to Cape wooden signs that are still surviving out here and the track ducks behind the big dunes. While a little disappointed at first, I was actually a bit happy for the change up as the northern section doesn't feature many of these types of detours. I'm not sure why the track doesn't go along the Cullen's Beach as it's right there and as far as I can tell, the beach is wide enough with a good exit that it shouldn't be an issue. You can take the beach if you like as the exit is very easy to spot. I'm sure walkers on a windy day would appreciate the protection (this would be me in the following days) but I was happy admiring the coastal survivors that amazingly grow in the nutrient bare sands. Rising up yet again, you return to the cliff side walking that is a mainstay of the morning. I spotted a few surfers down in the water and had another go at surf photography as they had varying success at catching waves. Up ahead was an important part of surfing life in WA with the first of the Shark Warning System alert posts. I'm guessing when a shark is detected, these let out an alarm loud enough for surfers in the water to hear. I wouldn't want to be walking past when that happens but a good system for the surfers to have and I believe it was put in place to address fears from the organisers of the big surf competitions.
Past the wooden lookout point connected to stairs leading down to the beach is the beginning of another enjoyable stretch that leads all the way into Gracetown. Heading downhill, the landscape starts to flatten out and the track takes you much closer to the water than the morning's walking did (beach sections aside). This marks the transition from more limestone dominated cliffs to more of the orange granite you got at Wilyabrup Cliffs. Passing a few large boulders just sitting there in the scrub, you reach the first of a few water crossings at Veryiuca Brook that is easily managed thanks to a series of stepping stones. Eventually you leave the wide track near a car park and enter some lovely single track that includes a new-ish wooden bridge over Miamup Brook. Spotting Whaleback Bay in the distance, I was intrigued by what looked like a boulder beach I was hoping the track would visit. Upon reaching the edge of Whaleback Bay, I was happy that the track did in fact head down towards the water but stopped short of taking you on the boulders for obvious safety reasons. The rounded rocks form a nice pattern on the edge of the small bay but I wasn't lucky enough to spot any whale backs of my own.
Heading away from the bay you enter a thicket of orange poison-peas that added a splash of colour to the day. With a bit of shelter, it was very pleasant walking as you pass a few bigger boulders on your left. Rocks like this will forever interest me as I love to imagine the forces over many thousands of years that go into shaping and creating the different angles and features of each rock. I think it was around this time that I seriously considered extending my day and finishing in Prevelly instead of Ellensbrook. All throughout the morning I had toyed with the idea but along this stretch I committed to the notion and decided I would organise everything when I stopped in Gracetown. The numbers running through my head of average speeds, time spent crossing Margaret River and other planned breaks were slightly distracting but it was easy to forget all that when confronted with a pretty stream. One such stream appeared ahead with the seasonal water course cascading down some granite ledges and out towards the ocean. This is a really nice spot to stop and have a break if you have the time and I afforded myself enough to take a few photos, dip my hat in the water and have a bit of an explore of the rocks leading up the hill.
Moving on, I was excited to get into Gracetown and have something for lunch, not knowing how good the entry into town would be. Rising up through some more wildflower filled thickets, there is a clearing you come across with views down to the cliffs. Head through another small tunnel of vegetation and you arrive at one of the more impressive sights of the day, staring out towards North Point. You guessed it, this is the northern point of Cowaramup Bay that protects Gracetown and is a low lying rocky platform I imagine can get pretty dicey when the winds are blowing and the waves a crashing. Skirting the edge of the cliff that leads down to the water, the track takes a sudden right turn and plunges you down the edge, looking like you will soon be walking right next to where the waves crash. This cool little detour I really enjoyed as I love a good rock scramble and this was a fun section. You don't actually go right to edge, instead making a left turn and hugging the rocks as the carved ledges provide a platform to walk on. Little rock pools appear everywhere and I found a crab that unusually didn't scramble off at the first sight of me (I suspect it was no longer living).
Around this point it wasn't very clear where the track went so instinctively I continued on the rocky ledges, following where I thought a trail would go. Being so close to town and no doubt a popular spot for people to explore, there were numerous goat tracks through here. I wasn't following the official track but it was hard to get lost given I could see Gracetown so eventually I made it to the gravel car park near the boat ramp. With the sun blazing away, this area had the feeling of an idyllic coastal town where your troubles wash away and you can spend a whole day exploring beaches, the rocks or snorkelling in the bay. I made a decision to head along the beach here instead of following the official track as it walked along the road from the tarmac car park. While the sand was very soft, the scenery was much better with orange granite everywhere and the water close by. A larger section of granite can be found in the middle of the beach that requires some scrambling to get over but this was just added enjoyment to the day. I was mindful that I had been going very slow since the last creek crossing so hustled along the last beach section. Departing the sand, I found the path that leads into town over Cowaramup Brook and it was much quicker now I was on pavement. Having never visited Gracetown before, I would love to return during late spring or summer and spend a few days relaxing in the sun.
The track doesn't go into town if you follow it properly but given there is a spot to have a meal at Gracie's General, I think most walkers make a detour in. It was quite warm when I arrived so was happy to take off my pack and have a sit down in the cool insides of the store. It was around 11:30am when I stopped, having done 11.3km to this point so with a good distance to go I had to make some decisions. I selected a Caprese Roll from their selection of handmade gourmet options, grabbed a Powerade and sat down to plan my afternoon. I had enough reception here to message Caris but not good enough to complete a booking at the Prevelly Holiday Park so she kindly did that for me as I ate my roll. With a cabin booked in and a destination to get to before dark, I had 19km of walking ahead of me including a river crossing that I was confident wasn't going to cause any big dramas based on what I'd seen on the Facebook group. Leaving Gracie's feeling refreshed, I plotted my course out of town to re-join the track and continued along the next leg of my journey. Intercepting the track at Huzzas car park, this area has a sombre feel to it if you know the history of the area. The site of a tragic cave collapse that claimed the lives of nine people in 1996, you pass a memorial to them at one of the lookouts leaving the car park. It's a reminder that the limestone caves of this coastline aren't places to stop and rest under, no matter how solid they look.
After heading towards South Point, the track swings south and you start a cool section of walking through what is called the Blowouts but is more like a moonscape. There is something similar on the Cape Naturaliste Track but this is on a much bigger scale. The exposed limestone platforms are something else and add yet another element to the day that is new for the Cape to Cape. Picking your way across the jagged landscape is good fun and I enjoyed photographing the different textures. The area south of here is a very popular surf spot with two main breaks being Big Rock and Left Handers that both have car parks that you'll intersect. The Left Handers car park is paved and is home to a surfboard roofed lookout area that is a nice feature. The views along this stretch of coast continue to be amazing with the headland just before Prevelly now visible in the far distance. It would be a good half day of walking before I was there and a good reminder that I needed to pick up the pace where I could. Luckily this section, while very pretty in it's own right, contained a sameness about the view that I could appreciate while also turning on the jets a little bit.
Occasionally stopping to look for whales and photograph the skeletons of trees that I'm guessing were previously burnt in a recent bushfire, there was a lot to like about this section. The way the track wound it's way up into the hills and presented you with these expansive views looking either out to the wilds of the Indian Ocean or up towards the rolling green hills. The contrast of colour through here was also very impressive with a vivid combination of greens, blues and whites. The fluffy white clouds were helping a lot and thankfully weren't obstructing the sun so I managed to get some pretty nice photographic conditions. With the birds fluttering around as I walked through the sometimes shoulder height scrub, a really cool section was waiting just up ahead. I had forgotten this part of the podcast where Erika raved about the wattle that blankets both sides of the track. At one point you are facing the ocean and the effect of having the bright yellow of the wattle mixed with the turquoise of the closer water and the deep blue of the outer ocean was a delight. Despite having a place to be by sunset, it was an easy decision to slow down here and enjoy the scenery in front of me. It wasn't just the wattle through here with plenty of other wildflowers visible including Fan Flowers, Native Geranium and Native Roses.
A darker cloud had appeared on the horizon as I reached the point where the track starts descending towards Ellen Brook. Although not threatening at the moment, it was a good reminder that weather was expected over the next few days and I should enjoy the sunshine while I could. Reaching the blowout section before turning inland, a very large mat has been placed on the dune as part of a rehabilitation effort. It's nice to see these measures being taken and I hope it succeeds. I was quite surprised when a little further down the track I arrived at Ellen Brook where it reaches the ocean and the track turned inland. I guess my pace had been faster than I thought and was happy that it wouldn't be long until I was at Ellensbrook Homestead. I passed a father and son heading the other way before reaching the car park for the homestead and the start of another enjoyable and different stretch of the track. Dating back to the 1850s when colonial settlers were claiming land all throughout WA, this site has been preserved past it's original use as a farm. You can book tours of the site or just wander around reading the various information boards explaining what both colonial and indigenous life was like back in the 1800s and beyond. I briefly stopped to read some boards and photograph the homestead but was keen to keep moving towards a more interesting site (to me anyway), Meekadarabee Falls.
Located via a linking path from the homestead, initially you walk along boardwalk before reaching the lushness of the Peppermint and Marri/Jarrah forest running alongside Ellen Brook. To say this was a delight for me was an understatement given my love of the forests over coastal walking and it felt like I had arrived home. The sight of Bracken Ferns brought a smile to my face and it was nice to be out of the sun and walking through the cool surrounds of the forest. A bevy of new wildflowers presented themselves including my first Wisteria/Hovea of the trip and a patch of Blue Squill. There were plenty of people enjoying this short trail to the falls as it's a nice stop if you're in the area. Enjoying the sound of rushing water and the feeling of being enclosed under the tree canopy, getting to Prevelly was pushed to the back of my mind. Reaching the wooden platform over Meekadarabee Cave, there is a unique engagement piece with a waterproof book on the platform telling a story that I'll let you discover for yourself. I took a few photos here but for some reason my mind blanked on this being the actual falls. I have no idea why but I was expecting something much bigger but this isn't the case. The falls I believe are set behind the cave but I don't remember there being a small path leading to them like is described in the Cape to Cape Track Guidebook. There is a small weir that was built to service the homestead but that is closer to the start of the trail.
Still expecting a bigger set of rapids, I continued along the path and it soon became clear thanks to the quality of the path being less tourist friendly that the wooden platform was the end. The Cape to Cape continued along the track I was following as it makes it's way to Ellensbrook Campsite but I would not be seeing a magic waterfall or rapids appearing along here. After spotting some 28s in the trees, I eventually made it to the campsite that originally was going to be my home for the night. Having arrived much earlier than I planned, I decided to take a longer break here and enjoy the spot that I was looking forward to camping at before the change of plans. I filled up my water bladder for the last leg and then explored the area around camp. At first glance it doesn't look very special with the toilet and water tank surrounded by a few large clearings that you can put your tent up in. The real magic of this place is found by following the small trails nears the picnic tables down towards Ellen Brook. Here felt special as I found a spot on the bank and observed either a Darter or Cormorant sitting high on a branch above the water. This felt very much like The Shire if it was infested with Arum Lily's (these invasive weeds have taken over large parts of the Cape to Cape). While it was a shame I couldn't spend the afternoon relaxing by the water, the break did me some good and I was excited to start the next leg into Prevelly.
Final Thoughts - I've broken this day up into two posts because it would have been way too large for just one post and if I were to do a seven day Cape to Cape itinerary then I would have Ellensbrook to Prevelly as my shortest day.
I thought Yallingup to Moses Rock would take some beating in terms of enjoyment but this leg to Ellensbrook continued the excellent walking.
Experiencing a great deal of variety along this stretch including the awe-inspiring Wilyabrup Cliffs, the walk into Gracetown, the moonscapes leaving town and then the wattle lined track, finishing with the lush forest leading into campsite, this was special.
It's hard to find fault with any section from Moses Rock to Ellensbrook and it gets a big tick in my book.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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