Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park
Directions - Located south of Yallingup, to reach the start of the Quenda Trail take Yallingup Beach Road out of town, turning right onto Caves Road. Follow this until you reach the turnoff for Canal Rocks Road where Cape Lavender is located on the corner. Follow this up the hill and turn right onto Smiths Beach Road, following it down the hill to the car park that's located on the bend in the road. The trail head for the Quenda Trail is located on the footpath leading to Smith's Beach.
Note - The section between Yallingup Beach Road in the north and the top of the main part of Smith's Beach is subject to an annual closure between July and October due to erosion issues. Please be aware that if the closure is in place, you'll have to return back via the inland dunes.
The Hike - Yallingup and the northern parts of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park are home to a number of enjoyable day hikes, along with the Cape to Cape Track running right through it. Having hiked most of them, there were still three that I had not had the pleasure of walking for just that trail alone. As part of a four day trails trip in peak wildflowers season, I half day visit to Yallingup was on the cards to check out the Quenda Trail, along with the Wadarnup Trail later in the afternoon.
After hiking and then biking the Coastal Walk Trail and Whale Trail in Augusta that morning, the weather had thankfully cleared up a lot as I drove north to reach Smith's Beach. The Quenda Trail had been on my radar ever since I hiked through here on the Cape to Cape Track in 2020, and had to take the inland dune section thanks to the Smith's Beach winter closure. Back then I had been impressed with the wildflowers in the dunes, along with the lovely beach walking on the touristy bit of Smith's Beach. Keen to see how it all linked up with the section that is closed during the winter months, this trail ended up being one of the highlights of this whirlwind trip. Arriving at Smith's Beach, the car park was full, which was no surprise given it was school holidays and the wind had died down compared to the morning gales in Augusta. I was fortunate to get a spot, so set about applying sunscreen and getting my gear ready for the third hike of the day. I felt a little out of place as I was in my hiking pants and carrying my day pack, not boardies and a t-shirt like everyone else.
Carrying on, I made my way down the path and towards the wooden boardwalk. It doesn't take long before you are presented with awesome views overlooking Smith's Beach from the lower lookout (there is a set of stairs leading up to another lookout to your left). With bright sunshine, white fluffy clouds and a pristine looking beach below, I was excited to get down and take more photos. There is a wooden staircase leading down onto the beach, where you are presented with the challenge of crossing Gunyulgup Brook that flows seasonally during winter and spring. Usually not a problem for the beach goers that aren't wearing trail runners, I found a section that I could jump in one go rather than faff about with taking off my shoes. Heading north along the main part of Smith's Beach, there were plenty of people enjoying the sunshine, along with a compliment of surfers in the water catching waves near Super Tubes. The beach was looking stunning as I reached the end, and as I made my way up into the dunes, there was a woman taking photos of the surfers in the water with her Kelpie keeping her company (dogs are allowed on Smith's Beach but no further).
Leaving the beach, you head up the hill into the dunes, ignoring the track to the left as that's the way you'll come back. Spotting an old school Cape to Cape Track marker on a post, this brought some memories back from the first time I attempted this week long trail back in 2014. The design has since changed but it was nice to see a relic still surviving in the wild. I knew what to expect from here, so once the short climb was over, I settled into the walk and activated wildflower spotting mode. It didn't take long before I spotted my first flurry of colour, with a few Pink Fairies, some Basket Bush, a Western Coastal Wattle and a Purple Tassel all appearing in this first section. Taking a left turn and following the brown boot markers, this starts a 1.5km section along an old vehicle track as you head through the coastal heath. It doesn't take long until you reach the first excellent viewpoint, with stunning vistas overlooking Smith's Beach, the expanse of the Indian Ocean to the west and the coastline north of Yallingup leading to Sugarloaf Rock.
Meandering along, there are several wooden benches along here if you want to stop for a rest or simply take in the views. Thankfully there is some shade provided by the larger Peppermints and the smell of these endemic trees instantly reminds me of this part of WA (which is why I have one in my backyard). This section feels a bit like a rollercoaster with all the changes in gradient but the views are excellent when you reach the top of the little hills and the lower parts provide a small amount of respite from the sun. The wildflower spotting continued all the way to the end of the vehicle track with Parrot Bush, Dunsborough Donkey Orchids, Purple Flags, Cowslip Orchids, Milkmaids and Native Rose all appearing at this time of year. Taking a left turn at the end, the path leading down the hill takes you through a thicket of mallee that is markedly different from the previous section of walking thanks to the lack of undergrowth (apart from what I'm guessing is invasive grasses). It doesn't last too long and soon you arrive at a decision point on the trail.