The Cape to Cape Walk Track is a long-distance walk trail located in the far south-west corner of Western Australia, 250 km south of Perth. It meanders along the whole length of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, which forms the backbone of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Its start and finish are the lighthouses at the tips of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. The Track extends over 135 km of coastal scenery, sheltered forests and pristine beaches, and is in close proximity to the caves, vineyards and other features and attractions of the „South West Capes – Margaret River Region“.
The original Aboriginal inhabitants of the area, the Wardandi people would have known the ridge and its resource’s intimately, and would regularly have traveled its length. Soon after the first European settlers arrived at Augusta in March 1831, John Dewar and Andrew Smith traveled to the Swan River on foot, recording the section to Cape Naturaliste in their journal
. They seemed to have had little difficulty traversing the country, reporting that much had been burnt, and they traveled alternately on the beaches or three to four miles inland along a ridge of low hills. It took them six days to reach Cape Naturaliste, much the same time that it takes now, though probably in slightly less relaxed fashion, as they started before sunrise, and sometimes marched by moonlight.
Since those days, the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge has become increasingly populated, with roads and tracks criss-crossing the land. Most of these, however, run east-west, whereas the coastline runs north-south, and much of the remaining bush land between has grown thick and impenetrable. The coastline and a significant proportion of the ridge are now reserved as the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. In the 1980s Jane Scott, a local resident, found ways of walking from the one Cape to the other (pers. comm. 1987).
In 1988, a Federal Government Bicentenary Grant provided funding to the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW), then known as the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), for a project to develop the dedicated walk-track.
The Track was officially opened in April 2001 and is managed by the DPaW with assistance provided by the Friends of the Cape to Cape Track.
The present Track is a combination of different types of terrain and surface. It varies from smooth, wide tracks, to narrow rocky paths, to soft sandy beaches and a few rough scrambles. The intention is to create a low-key bush-trail that blends into the environment, rather than a highly engineered walkway. However, the track between Cape Nauraliste and Sugarloaf is specially constructed for disabled users. This section is suitable for wheelchair use, but the rest of the track is designed as a single-use walking track, and cannot sustain the wear and tear of other users such as horses or mountain bikes.
Some sections currently make use of old vehicle tracks, and other sections involved cutting new paths. The Track includes several quite long stretches of accessible beach, allowing opportunities for cooling the feet, as well as helping to minimise construction and maintenance costs. To help control erosion, and to make life easier for walkers, there are built steps on some steep sections.
Many streams form sandbars in summer but flow through to the sea in winter. The only stream with a formal bridge crossing is Boodjidup Brook.
Access points along its length allow walkers to sample the Track as a series of short walks over time. Many people actually complete the walk over several months or years as a series of one-day or half-day walks. The goal for some walkers will be to complete the whole Track at once, but for many, enjoying a short walk now and again is feasible.
Square pine posts mark the way roughly every 100–200 m, each post bearing the yellow and white Track logo. Larger wooden signs usually show the way off beaches.
The climate along the Capes is not extreme, having a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. The area rarely experiences frosts, and snow has never been recorded. Summer temperatures only occasionally reach the high 30s °C. This southwest corner, starting with Cape Leeuwin, is the first part of the Australian mainland to feel the force of the Roaring Forties or winter gales that whip across the southern Indian Ocean. The minimum temperature is always above 0 °C.
There are several campsites and caravan parks for walkers wishing to camp out along the Track. They provide places to camp roughly a day’s walk apart along the length of the Track. Four low-key campsites have a bush toilet, a rainwater-tank filled from the toilet roof, a picnic-table, and seats. These no-fee campsites provide no shelter and users need to carry their own tents. There are two other more-developed National Park campgrounds along the Track where camping fees are payable, that have toilets and fireplaces. Other, more elaborate, campgrounds with accommodation along the Track are commercial operations.
The Track passes through four settlements, Yallingup, Gracetown, Prevelly, and Hamelin Bay.
The quality of water is highly variable, with creeks generally flowing from vineyards and farmland. All drinking water, except that from town taps should be treated. Don’t rely on streams because they dry up in summer.
In summer, walkers should carry a minimum of 3 litres of water for a day’s walking, and more if camping.