Contos to Hamelin Bay
Start - Contos Campsite
Finish - Hamelin Bay
Campsite - Holiday Park (Tent Sites, Cabins)
Distance - 22.4km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 333m
Time - 5-9 hours
Date Hiked - 20th September 2020
Traditional Custodians - Wardandi People
The Hike- The penultimate day of my Cape to Cape Adventure and what a wild night it was. Waking up every now and then to a strong blast of wind or a heavy shower, I am pleased to report that the Nemo Hornet stood up to the challenge quite well. With the worst weather of the week forecast to hit this coming day, I was very happy that the first 15km or so would be spent hiking through the inland forests where I would be somewhat protected. Having prepared what I could the previous afternoon including topping up my water bladder, I could enjoy the toasty burrito sensation for a while longer today. I didn't want to chance the weather too much and with a sunny period in between a couple of showers, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to speed pack everything and get going. Dismantling a wet tent is never a fun activity and I doubted I would get a chance to dry it out during the day so had to use the winds to my advantage and shake it out as best I could. Luckily the Nemo has two grab handles that form part of the weatherproofed tub/wall so you just hold those and shake.
While I was finishing up, a couple of hikers appeared from the depths of the campsite and we had a brief chat about plans for the day. It turned out these two ladies have been on the same schedule as me but doing it as a series of day hikes, leaving cars at either end every day. It was amazing that I didn't bump into them earlier in the trip but thinking back now, I believe I passed them just after Bob's Hollow the previous day. They had a head start on me by about 15 minutes today and given I was heading into the forest where I really enjoy slowing down to admire and photograph the little details, I didn't expect to catch them up. Having picked the Whistlers Loop of Contos because I knew there was a direct exit onto the track leading south, I headed to the edge of the hill and started my day. From up here you can see the road leading down through the landscape but thankfully you are not on this vehicle track for too long as it doesn't look very entertaining. While very windy from this elevated position, you immediately descend and into the comfort of the protected forest. Straight away the wildflower and orchid display was on point with a good mix of familiar varieties like Cowslips and Donkey Orchids mixed in with some flowering Banksia and Hakea.
The sandy vehicle track continues for the first kilometre of the day and I was relishing being in the forest for an extended period of time, just taking in the wildflowers and greenery. Often wandering from side to side depending on what I spotted out of the corner of my eye, there were some great finds including the pretty purple Salt and Pepper bush, the always interesting Drosera Vine and the unique Petrophile. Reaching the bottom of the hill, this is weirdly the lowest point you reach until dropping down to the coast near Boranup Beach. Given the iconic Karri forest at Boranup that you see on this day, I was expecting them to be found in a low valley but that isn't the case. Taking a left turn you head towards the other campsite that is in the area, Point Road. If you don't want to stay at Contos, this is another option but is lacking a water tank so be aware of that if you plan to stay here. Given you have to pay a fee for both campsites and they are only a kilometre apart, the only reason I would stay here is if I really wanted to camp in the forest, avoid the crowds or if Contos was fully booked. The quality of the forest through here instantly brought a smile to my face with large Marri and Peppermint trees growing in all different directions. This definitely had a wild feel about it and certainly notably different to the regrowth forests you get along most of the Bibbulmun Track.
As expected, the couple I ran into at Contos the previous afternoon that were staying at Point Road had already left. Worryingly they were planning on getting to Deepdene today and I would not expect the Blowholes section to be particularly safe with the weather predicted for today. Point Road isn't a walkers only campsite and you can expect to find an information board, toilets, BBQ and a few tables so I admired the camping spots for a bit before moving on. The Peppermint trees through here are quite a sight to see and there is a magic to this forest that I really enjoy. Fallen, mossy trees line the trail as you continue along Point Road towards the first of the Karri forest that this day of the Cape to Cape is famous for. Rounding a corner, the mixed forest is replaced with the sight of these smooth trunked giants and it brought a big smile to my face. The Karri forests of Western Australia are some of my favourite places to be and I was happy to be back among these beauties, even if the experience was a little brief. I remember thinking to myself that the undergrowth in this area looked very scruffy and not at all what I would expect from the typical species that grow under Karri. I wouldn't be surprised to find out it was mostly weeds but I was a happy camper none the less. Leaving the Karri forest after a brief dalliance, you take a right turn up Georgette Road and this begins a climb that lasts just over a kilometre.
Struggling to remember if this was the only bit of Karri forest you come across, my mind was wondering why it didn't take you through the more popular parts of the Boranup Forest that have become a favourite of the Instagram crowd. While a little disappointed, I can see why this route has been chosen as it relies heavily on the vehicle tracks that criss-cross this area and it would have been a big expense to implement single track through here (although hopefully one day we get something fitting this bill). As soon as you start climbing the forest starts to change back to mixed Marri/Banksia woodland. Again, this is no bad thing as I love all forests and the Grass Trees through here were very impressive with a variety of formations and heights. While I was protected through here, the winds were still noticeable but I wanted to stay here for as long as possible to delay the inevitable stretch of beach walking that was ahead. I was still early in the day so focussed myself back to the excellent walking through this part, photographing all the wildflowers I could see and watching out for the birdlife that I could hear all around. Being a wet part of the state, I wasn't surprised to see the occasional fungi growing on the side of the trail and the mossy trees had me thinking this was a lovely winters day.
At the top of the hill you reach another turn where you follow Brozie Road and I couldn't help but stare at the wooden sign and say Brozie in a stereotypical American surfer voice whilst giving a shaka hand signal (yes, I'm a simple idiot). While California does have a lot of Australian eucalyptus trees planted around the place, this was far from the typical scenery you get there. Spotting more purple Hovea and ancient examples of Grass Trees all over the place, Brozie Road was quite an enjoyable place to walk along. Lining the trail were some very girthy trees that added to the wild feeling of this place and I'm happy this is part of a national park that won't be logged or mined, a fate that affects a lot of WA's native forests. Turning onto Davies Road (or Daves Road depending on what sign you read), you continue along a flatter section that lasts for the best part of four kilometres. This means you can settle in and enjoy the walking with little to do but slow down and enjoy the scenery around you. This wasn't hard for me as over the past few years I've perfected the art of meandering slowly through forests, much to the annoyance of anyone who has hiked with me.
With the undergrowth shielding your view as the trail subtly snakes through the landscape, I arrived at a point where the Karri forest returns and what a spectacle it is. Memories came rushing back of this part as it was a warm day back in 2014 when I was last here and the coolness of the forest was a feeling I had forgot until now. This forest felt more natural with a well built up undergrowth of different native plants that just felt right. Immersing myself in the quality of the forest, I couldn't help but completely stop and just have a moment to soak it all in. The thing I love about Karri forest is that the canopy spreads out and provides a feeling of enclosure that is unfortunately missing in most Jarrah and Marri forests because it is logged and burnt so frequently that the mid and upper levels don't get a chance to develop this way. Despite the cloudy conditions that make the "looking up" shots a bit washed out, I felt it was important to show how nice the canopy looks. The stretches of Karri forests are on and off again through here and it was fitting that I should come across Donovan Road given my podcast co-host absolutely loves the Karri forest and is known to give them big hugs whenever he can.
Continuing along Davies Road, I was in hiking heaven with just excellent forest all around, plenty of wildflowers to photograph and the occasional run in with a local. A kangaroo skipped out onto the track but quickly changed it's mind after spotting me coming so I wasn't able to get a photo. My presence through here wasn't exactly quiet with the crunch of my shoes on the sticks and leaves, along with the gentle ambient music playing through the speaker in my hip belt pocket. I switched it off when I heard some voices in the distance and a group of four day hikers approached from the other direction. We exchanged pleasantries as we passed and I continued on my very merry way. Passing more old trees and entering patches of Karri forest, I really didn't want this section to end. Slowing down even further, I was inspecting more and more of the undergrowth in search of orchids or different wildflowers. Coming across a bright Acacia, I thought I'd take a picture. Noticing a green Jewel Beetle on the fluffy flowers, I lined up a shot. It then became apparent that there were more beetles around and once my eyes had adjusted, it dawned on me that I had interrupted a Jewel Beetle orgy in the middle of the forest.
Feeling somewhat perverse, I snapped away, increasing the aperture value and trying to get as much of the scene in detail as possible because how often do you run across something like this? In my research about their mating habits (yes, I went there), apparently the males are known to try and mate with brown beer bottles so that's a very Australian trait of them. Here though they had some of their own kind and it was a bit of a fortunate find. Feeling slightly dirty, I moved on and discovered something a little more savoury in the form of many different forms of fungi. Having enjoyed my time at Shannon National Park earlier in the year with my niece exploring the Karri forest for different types of fungi, this was a nice call back to that experience. One particular tree was sporting a great number of structures up and down its trunk with the moss gladly adding to the scene by covering the tops of the fungi. I love seeing this in the forest and my eyes are always drawn to the different shapes, colours and textures that grow organically in the decomposing forest. Not far along there was a pretty dry log next to the trail that was home to a sizeable fungi that could have been a Beefsteak variety. Capturing it from all different angles, this was the type of experience I was hoping for during this day.
Reaching the end of Davies Road I had a good laugh at the duel sign stating both Daves Road and Davies Road. I imagine that a guy named Dave was tasked with making and installing the first sign and thought he'd change it to be Daves Road but later they fixed it and he insisted they not remove the old sign. Turning right, this marks the end of the Karri forest you'll see on the Cape to Cape and I was quite sad to leave it. There is one last stand on the corner and leading a little way up the hill as you climb Trig Road. The view up the road isn't very pleasant given what you've just walked through as it looks like you are ascending into barren, sandy land. At this point another shower rolled through so I'd thought I'd spend some more time in the Karri forest and snuggled against one for some protection (having lost my rain jacket the previous day). Trying to delay the inevitable was fun for a while but after the shower passed it was time to face the music. Reaching the top of the hill I was happy to see that it wasn't scrappy dune heath but a lovely continuation of the mixed forest you walk through earlier in the day along Georgette Road. The Bullich through here was a nice change and kind of a mini Karri tree with its smooth, pale trunk.
Reaching a slight dip in the track, it was a remarkable sight to witness a swath of Grass Trees either side of the road leading quite a way into the distance. An unusual spectacle as they typically dot the undergrowth in random places but I guess this must be special spot for them to grow. Continuing to climb towards the Boranup Hill Lookout, confirmation that this area must have high conservation values comes in the form of a Do Not Burn sign that was very refreshing to see. Those that have listened to the podcast know my views on the heavy handed approach of DBCA when it comes to prescribed burns, choosing the scorched earth method over a more subtle approach. I imagine most DBCA officers from the Perth or Collie office would rather take to their car with a baseball bat than hammer one of these signs into the ground but the Margaret River office must be better lot. Reaching the Boranup Hill Lookout sign, it was an easy decision to take the 1km side trip for the views. After a bit of a flat section leading through some excellent Banksia and wildflower filled bushland, you have one final little zig-zag up the hill before reaching the lookout.
As I approached the little uphill finish, another shower came through so I ran the final bit so I could seek shelter under the lookout. This didn't end up being very helpful but I had a sit down for what would become my lunch rest and shielded myself as best I could. Sitting there under the wooden lookout platform, I couldn't help but think that the day was only going to go downhill from here, both literally because look at that elevation profile (I'm here all week, try the tacos) and figuratively because soon I would be facing the 60-80kmph winds without any protection. Despite being at the highest point in the area (195m ASL), there is enough cover here to protect you from the wind and after the shower ended I climbed up onto the wooden platform for some 360 degree views. Watching the rains disappear to the east, I switched views to the west and it was hard to see the ocean thanks to the Peppermint trees growing so tall and the blurred line between incoming rain and the horizon. It was very windy up here so I didn't stay long, instead retreating down to the base where I communicated with the outside world to let them know I was fine and continuing on through the weather warnings. After a bit of a rest, I gathered everything up and moved on. This final stretch to Hamelin Bay wasn't going to be pleasant but once I was there, I could relax and that would be the worst of the weather over.
Backtracking along the side path to the lookout, I was soon on Trig Road again as it took a left turn and descended gradually down towards the coast. I kept expecting the scenery to change from pleasant mixed forest to the kind of open heathland you get closer to the coast but the lovely walking kept on going. The wildflowers continued to be excellent with some Flame Peas making an appearance along with some Boronia. Turning right onto Boranup Road, this is where you really start to descend down towards the coast with a much steeper gradient. The initial track after the turn didn't look particularly exciting with a blown out, sandy look to it. I realised that I had not done this section of the track as the last time I was here I took an earlier beach exit heading north and ended up walking along Trig Road for much longer than I should have. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the track then heads off the wide road and onto some pleasant single track. The tunnel style coastal vegetation provided a little protection from the winds but being able to see the dark skies in the distance confirmed that the bad weather wasn't going to end anytime soon. After having a break in a Peppermint grove while a passing shower rolled through, I arrived at the dunes above the beach and said goodbye to the comfortable walking.
Ahead of me was about 6.5km of beach walking with no escape from the elements. The entry to Boranup Beach is so steep and eroded that I really wondered how walkers going northbound actually got up the dune without crawling on all fours. Immediately buffeted by the howling winds whipping off the Indian Ocean, it was just a matter of putting my head down and toughing it out. Last time I was on this beach it was the most beautiful conditions with compact sand, bright sunshine and a calm ocean but today the beach was washed out, the wind fierce and the ocean a frothy mess. While I wasn't enjoying the soft sand or howling winds, I was really loving the moody and stormy scenes stretching out towards the horizon. When the sun ocassionally shone through, the turquoise water would light up and provide a stunning contrast against the dark skies. Battling the sideways showers as they rolled through, I kept up a good pace, motivated by the thought of potentially upgrading to a cabin instead of the tent site I had booked. After much slogging, I spotted some walkers in the distance and used them as more motivation. Getting closer and closer, I eventually caught up to them as they headed into the dunes to avoid a washed out section of the beach. It was the two ladies from the morning and I joined them as they took a break, backs against the dunes in a semi-protected spot. We were shielded enough that we could converse without shouting and it was nice to be out of the full force of the wind for a moment.
Checking my GPS, it was a sad sight to see that we were only halfway to Hamelin Bay and it would be another 45 minutes to an hour before it would all be over. Keen to get going, I wished them well for the rest of their day and set off once again. With my wide brim hat blown over my face to provide protection, I occasionally peaked out from under it to take in the wildness of what was in front of me. Passing rock ledges that were great foreground objects against still turquoise waters on my previous visit, were passing distractions on a hard slog of soft sand walking. With the headland of Hamelin Bay getting closer and closer, I willed myself on and eventually arrived at the boat ramp after what was one of the least enjoyable hiking experiences of my life. Hanging around to take a few photos of the famous Hamelin Beach Jetty, I didn't like my chances of seeing the local stingrays that make this a popular tourist spot. Soaked through and with enough sand in my shoes to fill another beach, I headed down the long drive that leads through Hamelin Bay Holiday Park towards reception. The friendly staff there were more than happy to upgrade me to a basic cabin for the night and I headed back down the road to drop my pack off and have a shower. After rocketing through the beach section pretty quickly I had a few hours of the afternoon to enjoy so settled into the warm bed with a few cups of tea and demolished a packet of Shapes while reading a book cover to cover over the evening. With the weather somewhat settled by the time sunset came around, I left my cosy retreat and headed down to the beach to photograph the moody colours of the late afternoon. An eventful day to say the least and only one more to go until the finish at Cape Leeuwin.
Final Thoughts - What a day, what an experience and what a great track this is.
I'd marked this day off as one I was looking forward to the most thanks to Boranup Forest and the beach walking of Hamelin Bay. This was of course before I knew the weather forecast but in the end I don't think I would have it any other way.
Sure I would have enjoyed it more in the moment when I was walking along Hamelin Beach with sunnier skies but that would have meant less ideal lighting in the forest.
I also think that knowing the horrible experience of walking along the beach with winds buffeting me with such ferocity made me appreciate my time in the forest even more.
Boranup Forest was better than I remember and it's no secret that I really love my forest walking so it comes as no surprise that this stretch was right up there as a highlight of this trip. You can't beat being amongst the trees with wildflowers and orchids lining the track and lots of little delights to discover.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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