I’m polishing off the last of my shakshuka at Smiths Beach Resort when my guide Andrew Haskell walks in clad in full wet weather gear. “Ready for a walk?” he beams, making no mention of the ever-deepening puddles outside.
Surrendering to the Cape to Cape Track
There’s a degree of surrender required when you have to leave somewhere comfortable and dry for a hike in bucketing rain but once you’re wet, you’re wet, and there is nothing left to do but enjoy it. Within minutes our lungs are charged with salty air and we’re rock hopping south across a vast bed of granite spilling into the frothing Indian Ocean.
This is the Cape to Cape Track, one of Western Australia’s most treasured trails covering 124km of dazzling coastline between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin, in the state’s southwest. To do the whole thing requires 5-7 days – the route drizzles across karri forests, wildflower-covered heath, pristine beaches and a whole lot of cliff tops – and while Cape to Cape Explorer Tours offer guided walks of its entirety, today we’re tackling a half-day taster.
Ancient geology highlights a special landscape
Down south the terrain is dominated by limestone but here at its northern end, granite reigns. It bubbles up in great lumpy protrusions tinted pink and orange, and scattered with emerald bushes pruned by the wind. We undulate with the land, working our way between boulders and copping views over the misty ocean.
Despite the conditions, there is beauty and peace in having such a landscape to ourselves. It feels special and it is. Granite here is between 50-1100 million years old and this corner of WA is recognised as a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International.
“To qualify, you need to have at least 1500 species found nowhere else on the planet,” says Andrew. “We have more than 3500.”
It’s a statistic not easy to grasp though walkers will be impressed by whatever they find. Heath monitors are abundant, then there are rare orchids, birds, kangaroos, bandicoots and whales, to name a few. If I were walking the whole track I’d learn all about them, and more. Every day, guides focus on different aspects of the trail – flora, fauna, geology, marine environment, indigenous culture and European history.
“Doing the full hike gives people an incredible picture of the area,” says Andrew.
Making a splash at The Aquarium
I make a little discovery of my own when we reach ‘The Aquarium’, a popular snorkelling spot where lumps of granite offshore shelter pools of turquoise water so clear and sand so luminous they glow defiantly in the grey light. A flash of yellow alerts me to the delicate body of a weedy sea dragon (similar to a seahorse) washed up with the tide and draped over a rock. I’m caught in the wonder of it while the waves slosh around my shoes.
Who cares about being wet when there is such beauty to be found.
Later at Smiths Beach Resort I sink into a hot bath and reach for the morning tea Andrew gave me that I didn’t pause to eat on our walk, a finger of homemade coconut and raspberry slice. It’s wrapped in paper and sealed with a quote from Rumi: “Lovely days don’t come to you, you should walk to them.”
The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Western Australia.
Need to know
- The Cape to Cape Track runs 123km in WA’s southwest. Cape to Cape Explorer Tours offer pack-free guided and self-guided walks from 3-7 days. The half-day walk described spans Smiths Beach and Canal Rocks.
- Smiths Beach Resort sits right on the trail (in Yallingup) and has divine luxury apartments and beach houses a stone’s throw from the water.
- Drop in at Lamont’s Restaurant (Smiths Beach Resort) for fresh pastries and takeaway coffee to a la carte dinner.
- Smiths Beach is a 3hr-drive south of Perth, or half an hour from Busselton if you’re flying from Melbourne with Jetstar.
- Prime season is Sep-Nov for wildflowers or Mar-May for mild and sunny conditions.