Walk this way: Three of WA’s best hikes
Walk in the company of giant trees, ocean-battered coastlines and maybe even a whale or two in southern Western Australia.
From the cliffs along the Cape to Cape Track, the only things that move in the Indian Ocean are humpback whales. Breaching from the sea, they launch like rockets no more than a few hundred metres from the trail.
As walking moments go, it’s a rare treat, and it’s just one of the many pleasures of bushwalking in southern Western Australia, home to some of the finest trails in the country.
A CAPED CRUSADE
Stretching for 135km between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin – lighthouse to lighthouse – the Cape to Cape Track is one of Australia’s best and most varied coastal trails.
Taking around a week to complete, the walk follows dramatically rocky coastlines and a succession of beaches and surf breaks, wanders through the country’s westernmost karri forests, and skims the edge of the Margaret River wine region, before ending at the point where the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean collide. Whale sightings are common through spring and early summer – a time when wildflowers also carpet the way.
At times the track feels remarkably remote, especially along the empty sands of Deepdene and Boranup beaches at the track’s southern end, and at other times it offers up moments of bushwalking civilisation – a bed, a meal, a brew – as it passes through small towns such as Yallingup, Gracetown and Prevelly Park.
One of the Cape to Cape Track’s great pleasures is its accessibility, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to commit to a week on foot. It’s possible to sample some of its best sections on day walks, whether picking along Smiths Beach and Canal Rocks out of Yallingup, or taking in the lofty views from the track’s highest cliffs between Redgate Beach and Contos Beach.
A STIRLING WALK
If it’s mountains you crave, WA’s greatest peak challenge is the across the stunning Stirling Range, north of Albany. The state’s only alpine walk, it climbs on well-graded paths to the summit of 1095m-high Bluff Knoll, the highest mountain in southern WA, before commencing a tough 16km traverse across the top of the Stirling Range to Ellen Peak.
There’s no marked track across the ridge, and the two- to three-day crossing involves plenty of scrambling and route finding. But the rewards are as epic as the challenge, with the Stirling Range home to one of Australia’s most prolific natural wildflower displays. More than 1000 flowering plant species grow on the range, including more than 120 types of orchid. Far below, farmland rolls out to the horizon, providing a stunning contrast – so rugged up here on the ridge, so rural down on the plain.
1000 REASONS TO WALK
WA’s biggest name in bushwalking is the Bibbulmun Track, a 1000km-long trail from Kalamunda in the hills behind Perth to Albany on the state’s south coast. It’s an unforgettable journey among trees and seas, winding through the tall forests of the south-west before following the coast into Albany.
The infrastructure is exceptional, with the track passing through a dozen towns and 49 walker-only camp sites (each with a sleeping shelter, tent sites, picnic tables and rainwater tank) spaced a day’s walk apart along the length of the walk.
Only about 100 people hike the Bibbulmun end to end each year, with most bushwalkers sampling the track in bits. A favourite section is the 50km through the tall timber between Walpole and Conspicuous Beach, walking among magnificent red tingle trees and karri forest – some of the heftiest and tallest trees in Australia. The track passes right by the Giant Tingle Tree, with its fire-hollowed trunk so large that early tourists parked their cars inside it.
At Conspicuous Beach, the Bibbulmun hits the coast for the first time, beginning a gorgeous 160km stretch of coastal walking through four national parks into Albany. As you take your final steps along the Southern Ocean shores, there’s every chance you might even spy another whale or two.