Cape to Cape – An Epic Adventure

Following the coastline of Western Australia’s beautiful South West is the 135km long Cape to Cape Track (C2C). The C2C is a challenging multiday hike that takes you along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge between the lighthouses of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. This spectacular trail features stunning scenery including coastal clifftops and headlands, caves, blow holes, pristine beaches, waterfalls, rock climbs, karri forest, a hidden oasis and river mouth crossings plus so much more.

On Boxing Day 2018 we set off on our 7 day/6 night journey at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. We were picked up in Prevelly by the very charismatic Gene from Cape to Cape Explorer Tours and dropped to our start point. It was a cool overcast Summers day, we were carrying 16kg packs and were heading to Yallingup, a total of 14kms. An easy first day… or so we thought! Day 1 of a multiday hike always takes you by surprise due to the extra weight you are carrying. But the scenery of Cape Naturaliste, Sugarloaf Rock, Three Bears beach and Yallingup kept us motivated and the icy cold beer and Vietnamese pork salad at Caves House at the end of our day was a fine reward! The highlight of day 1 was the exhilaration we felt as we hiked over some of the coastal headlands just past Three Bears, the views took our breath away! The lowlight of day 1 was the 4wd tracks that lead to Mt Duckworth Campsite… they are long and without views, but this gave the legs time to recover from the rocky terrain we had just encountered.

Day 2 was a tough one! As we left Yallingup at 8:30am headed for Moses Rock, the sky opened up with a light shower – not what you’d expect during Summer, but a lovely refreshing start to the day! From Yallingup we followed the coastline around Smith’s Beach to Canal Rocks then onto Wyadup and Injidup Beach. The coastline here is superb and if you have time head down to Canal Rocks and Wyadup for some rock hopping. The trail takes you on a short steep scramble up some rocks from Smith’s Beach to Canal Rocks Rd, which is tough with a heavy pack but a whole heap of fun and probably my favourite part of this day! Using our The Capes Guidebook written by Michelle Ryan at Walkingtwobytwo we navigated our way along the track. We stopped at a seat under some trees at Injidup Beach to have a delicious trail lunch. Continuing on some undulating 4wd tracks past Cape Clairaut you will eventually reach a beach section near Quinningup Falls. As it was Summer, the falls were quite dry but still a worthy detour from the trail.  Not long after climbing up a ridiculously steep sand dune that made you feel like you were going up an escalator the wrong way, we reached some lovely rocky coastal clifftop views of Moses Rock, so stopped to take it all in one last time before we headed up the trail a little further to the Moses Rock Campsite for the night. The campsite is set under a canopy of Melaleuka Trees and is quite pretty, it has 2 picnic tables, a rainwater tank and long drop toilet. On the menu tonight was a very hearty Campers Pantry Lamb Casserole – my favourite meal of the trip and just what I needed after a big day of hiking! Hot tip – follow the trail up the hill to watch the sunset, you won’t be disappointed! But once that sun goes down – the mosquitos attack!

Our third day started with dressing a couple of blisters I had unluckily acquired on day 2, sadly the dressing didn’t help and I was in pain from the get go, but I was determined to distract myself with awesome views so carried on! With a 21km day from Moses Rock to Ellensbrook Campsite ahead of us we loaded the packs and headed down, then up, then down, then up (and so on) some sandy 4wd tracks to start the day. Not long after we came to the point where the Wilyabrup Brook meets the ocean. Walkers during Winter months need to be careful of the river mouth crossings, but as it was Summer, a couple of steps in 1cm water was all we encountered so we charged ahead to the star of the morning – the Wilyabrup Sea Cliffs! As you near the sea cliffs, you will be climbing under melaleuca trees, over rocks, and across a gully. I also highly recommend climbing down to the base of the cliffs so you can fully appreciate just how amazing these natural structures are. After we climbed up the wooden steps to the top of the cliffs we continued along the trail through some scrubland (gaiters are definitely recommended for these narrow scrub sections). The scrubland leads you to a series of log steps that take you down to a beach and through the dunes past the Gallows and Guillotine surf breaks – a sign you are getting closer to surfing hotspot, Gracetown! As you ascend from the sandy dunes, the trail takes you along an old 4wd track for a stretch, before it turns into a narrow trail that leads to some fun rock hopping. The coastline along this last stretch is filled with impressive giant granite boulders and is quite rugged. There are loads of rocks to perch yourself on, to stop and admire the view – which we did! The Cape to Cape is not a race, it is a journey and it is definitely important to ‘stop and smell the roses’ whilst having your C2C adventure!

As we reached Gracetown, the pain in my feet became unbearable (there may have been a tear or two) and I was forced to take action as the pain was starting to threaten me continuing on our adventure. After a delicious lunch and refreshing drink at Gracie’s, I had to release the pressure in the blisters and my partner in crime dressed them using gauze and fixomal (little did we know this would become our morning routine for the remainder of our trip). It did the trick though, and the journey from Gracetown to Ellensbrook was relatively pain free and really enjoyable! Leaving Gracetown, we passed the memorial from the 1996 limestone cliff collapse where a number of children and adults sadly lost their lives. Reading the memorial and learning about the tragedy was really moving. As we headed away from Gracetown, we entered a desolate lunar landscape with limestone craters that morphs into coastal scrubland. Before long you reach the Ellensbrook Homestead, which is a beautiful heritage listed home surrounded by national park. The C2C walk trail leads you to an awesome grotto around boardwalks and the delightful Meekadarabee Falls. Just up the track is the peppermint tree shaded Ellensbrook – my favourite campsite on the track! One of my favourite parts of multi-day hiking is setting up camp at the end of each day. This is made so much easier when you have an awesome hiking tent like the Wilderness Equipment Space 2, super light, strong and spacious!

Day 4 was the shortest distance of our journey, a 12.5km stint to Prevelly, where we had our car, hot shower and lunch in Margaret River waiting for us. We kicked off our morning about 9:30am and went straight into a monster hill climb to start the day. The hill lead to a narrow windy, undulating dirt track that took us through scrubland for quite a distance until a series of switchbacks lead us down to a beautiful white sandy beach with granite rocks. We decided the rocks made for a great place for a short break, so sat ourselves on a rock, had some homemade trail mix, took in the beautiful view then rolled our pants legs up and continued along the beach towards Prevelly. At the end of the beach we followed the sand dune up then veered right following the C2C signs up and over some scrubland to Horseshoe Bay – my favourite spot of the entire Cape to Cape. As you stand on top of the limestone cliff you will be surrounded by a cove of stunning coastal cliffs, you can see and hear the waves crashing around the reef and a small secluded beach down below. It is truly magnificent! Carrying on, we soon reached the Margaret River river mouth crossing. As it was Summer, the crossing was a giant sandbar so perfectly fine to cross (please note in Winter you will be diverted around away from the river mouth, this is well signed and updated regularly by Department of Parks & Wildlife). From here we were only 1km away from our accommodation for the evening. We had left some supplies in our car, so used this as an opportunity to restock. Day 4 was one of my favourite days, the scrubland was relatively firm underfoot, minimal 4wd tracks, the coastal scenery that we did have was very impressive and being the slightly shorter distance meant it wasn’t as taxing on our legs and feet.

Horseshoe Bay! Amazing!

Starting day 5 with breakfast at the White Elephant Café in Gnarabup was a nice change to campsite porridge! As we left Prevelly we headed straight into a steep ascent to a tower with an elevation of 131m – this certainly got the blood pumping. After following a series of 4wd tracks we came to a narrow trail through bushland that over looked a valley. Soon we reach a set of 365 log steps that lead us to a hidden oasis called Boodjidup Creek and the Frank Mouritz Bridge. This area had a lush Kitty’s Gorge feel to it which was so surreal considering the scrubland we had just been hiking through. Heading across the bridge and continuing along the C2C track we were soon in baron sand dunes alongside a dry river bed watching 2 emus frolic around us. They say that no 1km of the Cape to Cape is like the last – they sure got that right! The sand dunes lead us to the very sloped, narrow and boggy Red Gate beach! This beach section is about 2kms and sure is a tough one! When the tide is up you will be forced to navigate your way through the sand dunes as it is unsafe near the shoreline. Just before we hit the Red Gate beach carpark we spotted a little penguin standing on a rock in the sand dunes – he looked very calm and relaxed so we snapped a selfie (as you do) and left him alone. From Red Gate beach carpark we continued along the beach for a short stint admiring the waves crashing against the rocks before we headed up into the melaleuca trees. The views back to red gate beach from the top of the headlands was quite impressive and it is always motivating to look back and see just how far you’ve travelled. From the top of the cliff we navigated our way down a chain to the bottom and carried on to Bobs Hollow. Our intention was to stop here and cook lunch – but as we put our packs down we must have disturbed the mosquitoes and they started attacking us immediately so we made a run for it (literally) and carried on towards Contos. The things I love about Contos is the amazing Clifftops! This would have to be one of my favourite sections of the entire journey, especially as you near Contos Campsite. Day 5 was so diverse and interesting, a hidden oasis, dry river bed, rocky beaches, chain descents, caves and coastal clifftops. A very memorable 17kms from Prevelly to Contos campsite indeed!

We spent our New Years Eve hiking from Contos to Hamelin Bay – 22kms of forest and beach! To our pleasant surprise we headed downhill from Contos campsite towards Point Rd Campsite (another DPAW operated site). As we reached Point Rd we began a slow ascent up a 4wd track. It wasn’t long before we were distracted by towering karri trees (my favourite tree of all) and found ourselves totally immersed in the Boranup Forest! A light shower of rain, canopy of trees and a relatively flat and firm trail underfoot made this section really enjoyable. After a while the karri tree forest morphs into a peppermint/grass tree forest, the trail turns West and we found ourselves tackling another steep hill. As we turned off the 4wd tracks onto the narrow C2C trail we bumped into a family heading to Contos whom told us about a little alcove just ahead, so we decided this was a great place to stop and cook ourselves some lunch before we hit the 7km beach section. After about a 45minute break we got started and headed for Hamelin Bay beach. As we reached the beach we were surprised with how pure white the sand was and the water was crystal clear – we have some amazing beaches in WA but this has got to be the most pristine I had ever seen! After about 4kms of hiking along the beach, I found myself in a world of pain from the blisters on my feet and had to take a break. We plonked ourselves down on the sand, looked out to the water and Hamelin Bay in the distance and just took a moment to chill. The next thing I knew, my boots were off and I was cooling down in the water – AMAZING! As I turned around my partner in crime was right behind me, and with big smiles on our faces we enjoyed the cool waters of Hamelin Bay beach together. We decided to trek the last 3kms of beach with bare feet and enjoy the feeling of cool water on our feet and legs. Today’s motivation was getting to the Holiday Park so we could buy ourselves a dirty street pie and with every step we took, we got that bit closer to a crusty Mrs Macs pie (which actually tastes amazing after a 22km hike carrying 16kgs I might add). As we reached Hamelin Bay, we were greeted with a Simmo’s ice-cream van and thought ‘why not’ so enjoyed a couple of refreshing ice creams before we checked in and set up camp for the night. Hamelin Bay Holiday Park is a perfect place to camp when doing the Cape to Cape, with all the amenities you could want (ahhhh hot showers) and they will even store your gear for you. We had pre-arranged for our day packs to be dropped off so were excited that for our last day (and longest day) we would only be carrying light day packs!

Day 7, our last day of our big adventure was upon us. We had mixed feelings about this day; we knew it was a tough one and were looking forward to reaching the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse but at the same time it was almost over, and we didn’t want it to end. As we left Hamelin Bay we had a small beach section along Foul Bay before heading up the dunes to a 4wd track. Before long we reached a narrow C2C trail that took us through peppermint trees along an undulating track that lead to Foul bay Lighthouse (a very small and somewhat disappointing structure). From the lighthouse we followed some 4wd tracks until we reached Cosy Corner. I must say Cosy Corner is definitely a highlight of the entire track – you have to navigate along rocky ledges and around blowholes which made it such an exciting section! Listening to the sound the waves make against the rocks underneath you is really awesome and don’t be surprised if you get sea sprayed! We could see Elephant Rock up ahead so continued on. Not far past Elephant Rock we found ourselves on Deepdene Beach – the most dreaded 6km section due to the boggy sand. But as we had our day packs on it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated and got through it just fine. The beach turns into rocky ledges for a stretch and you must be careful here as it would be easy to slip. The trail is not well marked here but eventually you will reach a C2C marker heading up a steep sand dune – this is your exit. Soon we found ourselves on a narrow trail once again and had some reprieve from the sun under the shade from the trees. We decided not to stop for lunch and push through, so we put the hiking poles away and snacked on homemade trail mix and beef jerky as we hiked towards Skippy Rock. It is incredible that we covered so much ground but the Leeuwin Lighthouse still looked so small and very far away. Excited and hopeful that we would get to the Lighthouse before the gates closed we kicked on for our last 3kms of this amazing adventure. 2kms from the end there is a sign in book so we stopped to quickly fill it out! As we reached Quarry Bay we had one last small beach section then over some rocks and up to the carpark. There she was – the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse! Although we had arrived 5 minutes before closing, the gates must have been locked early so we couldn’t go up and touch it which was a little disappointing but… we had done it – the Cape to Cape Track!

To say we had an awesome time and want to go back and do it all over again is an understatement. Although the trail was much more difficult than we expected, the journey was amazing and something we will never forget. Every day was so different, new coastal views, new challenges, new found admiration of this stunning trail. The Cape to Cape – an epic adventure!

We did it!

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