Hike the Cape to Cape Track in Margaret River without having to rough it
A luxury guided hike on WA’s Cape to Cape Track includes magnificent coastal scenery, glimpses of rare flora and fauna and every creature comfort.
- January 2020
“You guys trod on a baby snake,” calls a voice behind us. My mum and I look down at our hiking boots. We had been transfixed by the giant whale bone resting on the rocks before us. Looking like a Sculpture by the Sea installation, the weathered bone is all that’s left of the humpback carcass that washed up here at Wyadup at Margaret River, forcing the closure of the public beach. But all of a sudden it seems less impressive.
The alert jolts us out of our trance and fellow hikers Bob and his grandson Josh are racing over. “You stepped right on it, it went crazy,” says the 14-year-old, smiling, as we gather around. Sure enough, it’s a snake. Spooked by the unfortunate placement of a boot, it reared its head at the walkers trailing behind before slithering away, unharmed.
“It’s probably a baby dugite,” laughs our guide, experienced walker Anne Collell. “The babies are very feisty but usually too small to do any damage.” A few hours into our four-day walk along the Cape to Cape Track in WA’s south west, the plot is thickening. But baby snakes are the least of our worries.
“The weather is coming in,” says Anne, as we scramble up and down the rugged coastal track, a mix of sandy single-file paths, granite rocks millions of years old and low vegetation, from Smiths Beach to Injidup. The wild, turquoise ocean begins to blacken under a greying sky. Wind beats my raincoat and rain pelts my face. The walk will go on rain, hail or shine but there is an end in sight. “We’re almost there, not far now,” shouts Anne. “Your accommodation is tucked away over there,” she adds, pointing.
Sopping wet, leaving 5.5km and a trail of footprints on the wooden deck behind me, I look like something the cat dragged in when we enter the luxurious ocean-facing Injidup Spa Retreat soon after. Moments ago we were exposed to the elements, fighting off rain and howling wind on an unprotected coastal track. Now I’m sipping sparkling wine from Hay Shed Hill with Mum and enjoying the ocean views beyond our private plunge pool as our wet clothes dry on the rack inside our roomy two-bedroom digs.
Stocked with a gourmet hamper, wine, cheese and craft beers from the eclectic Margaret River region, three hours south of Perth, this two-bedroom villa is our luxurious base for the next three nights as we embark on a 41-km guided walk with boutique tour operator Walk Into Luxury. And with comfy beds, a fireplace and heated floors, there will be no cold, sleepless nights.
“We knew there were plenty of soft adventure seekers in Australia who wouldn’t be up for gruelling hikes and camping overnight on the track, but who definitely wanted to get into nature and explore regions like ours in comfort,” says Nikki King, managing director of Walk Into Luxury. Recognised as one of the Great Walks of Australia, this exclusive four-day itinerary is the Perth-based tour provider’s signature experience. Tracing the coastal ridge of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, it takes in the best sections of the 135km Cape to Cape Track and elevates them with luxe lodging and foodie experiences, including multi-course meals at Margaret River wineries, a private chef dinner and epicurean packed lunches.
Officially formed in 2001 by local botanist and bushwalker Jane Scott, the Cape to Cape Track is a moderate walk on mixed terrain that showcases the rare flora and fauna of this scenic region. With many of the plant species growing here found nowhere else on earth, including the spider orchid and old man’s beard, its superlative as one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots is well deserved. Forged out of old trails made by fishermen and surfers, the track extends from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south, snaking through thick coastal heath, isolated white-sand beaches, seas of wildflowers and towering karri forests. I don’t really need to keep my eyes peeled for the thousands of species of wildflowers, approximately 200 species of native orchids, kangaroos, birdlife and sealife including whales, dolphins and seals, as Anne has got it covered.
“That’s our ringneck parrot,” she says as we quietly set out from Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse the next morning, daypacks strapped to our backs. “We call them ‘28s’ because when the French [explorers] arrived, they thought they were saying 28 in French,” she says with her warm smile. We’re making our way along a sealed trail that winds through thick, head-high heath to the lookout at Sugarloaf Rock. Today, we’ll cover 14km of mostly flat terrain that traces the coastline hugging some of Margaret River’s most famous surf breaks. I can tell the ocean is near because the patchworks of greens surrounding us are considerably lower now. Pruned by the relentless winds, they don’t grow any higher than a few feet. “People think it’s a manicured botanical garden but it’s all natural,” says Anne.
The dreamy coastal sections of the track are staggeringly beautiful, as if rendered in watercolour, with the clifftop trail clipping turquoise bays and sandy, white coves. At one point, we pause in silence to watch dolphins surfing the white-crested waves rolling in, and enjoy morning tea of hot chocolate and biscuits on an exposed rock face out in the ocean.
But it’s within the protected karri forests and cozy heaths that conversation is honoured. With all of life’s distractions, it’s not often I get to chat so freely with Mum. Up the back, I hear Bob and Josh engaging in walk-and-talk therapy, too; laughs, social media, bullying, hobbies, no topic is off the table. Later that night, over a four-course dinner with wine pairings at Cape Lodge, 70-something Bob explains he takes each of his grandsons on walking holidays as a sort of coming-of-age ritual. I knew going on this trip with Mum would bring us closer, but sharing in the bonding with two strangers has been a pleasant by-product of this journey.
Some of my more candid moments go undocumented. Later that day my right foot spooks another baby dugite onto the narrow track as we meander along the path bordered by thick vegetation. The little serpent is going berserk, propelling itself towards me as I lurch back. I know what I should normally do in these scenarios, but reptile infants are another story. Mum grabs my shoulders from behind. “Just stand still!” she urges. Eventually, the critter calmly slithers back into the undergrowth. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that you should always listen to your mother.
Walk into Luxury: 1300 662 452, +61 (0)8 9528 4162, walkintoluxury.com.au opens in new window; Injidup Spa Retreat: 31 Cape Clairault Rd, Yallingup, +61 (0)8 9750 1300, injidupsparetreat.com.au opens in new window