The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is located on the south-west coast of Western Australia, 261km from Perth. The park stretches for 120km, from Bunker Bay in the north to Augusta in the south. Cape Naturaliste is the northern most point in the park.
The park lies in the Aboriginal land of the Wardandi (people of Warden, the ocean spirit). The wardandi are one of the fourteen Nyungar tribes that live in the South-West. Their land extends from the coast at Stratham to the sea at Augusta.
Brief History of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park
The first noted Europeans to have sighted the area were the Dutch, in 1622. They named the southwestern tip “t Landt van de Leeuwin” meaning the land of the lioness. It was later explored by Matthew Flinders , in 1801, who renamed it Cape Leeuwin with respect to the Dutch who had first sighted the rocky headland.
The area became a popular place for whalers and sealers to collect fresh water and to seek protection from the storms that whipped up off the southern ocean. However the area was officially settled by Europeans in 1830 after the establishment of the Swan River Colony.
New settlers who had arrived in Fremantle on the ship “Warrior” on 12th of March, 1830, were hoping to take up land near the Swan River Colony but, Lieutenant-Governor James Stirling, knowing that all of the fertile land had already been taken up, persuaded the settlers to move south, to an area near Cape Leeuwin.
In 1957 the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park was established from crown land along the Leeuwin-Naturalist ridge and is managed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
What to do in the Park?
Between Cowaramup Bay and Karridale you can find some of the most rugged and inaccessible coastlines in the State. There are several walking trails well marked that you can explore. There is much to explore along the beach and some very quiet and secluded swimming areas.
Along the rocky shoreline you can often see the shy Burrowing Shore Crab watching you from the safety of its rock crevice. These orange clawed creatures will often scurry across the rocks as the waves come crashing in or if you happen to get too close to them.
The Margaret River – Augusta region is re-knowned for its great surfing. Within Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park there are many well-known breaks such as Smiths Beach and Yallingup. Even Conto beach has become a popular place to hang ten. For more information about surfing in the area check out Margaret River Online or just simply have a chat with a few of the locals.
Fishing the Cape
During the months of May – June salmon fishing is popular in the area as the Australian salmon begin making their up the coast to Perth on their annual spawning run. For more information visit Fisheries WA.There are several areas suitable for launching small boats such as Kilcarnup, Cowaramup Bay and Prevelly. Many of the fishing spots are isolated and are often only accessible by four-wheel-drive.
Camping on the Cape
There are three allocated camping grounds within Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park but they only have very basic facilities and no power. The camping grounds can be found at Conto, Point Road and Boranup with fees applying. The fees can usually be paid to the local ranger at the camp site.
Go Cape Caving
There are numerous caves scattered along the rugged coast with the most spectacular being the Calgardup Cave. The Calgardup Cave was originally discovered by Grace Bussell , the daughter of Alfred Bussell . This two caverned cave has water covering its floor which provides a spectacular reflection display of the stalactites suspended above. The Calgardup Cave can be explored without a guide and there are plenty of elevated platforms. The cave can be found on Caves Road (3 minutes north of Conto’s Rd turn off). The cave is open from 9am-4pm daily and does require an entrance fee. The 800m long Giants Cave is another huge cavern that can be also explored without a guide. Both caves are managed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management. The Ngilgi Cave was first discovered by Edward Dawson in 1899 and became the first cave in Western Australia to be opened to the general public. The cave was named after a spirit in an Aboriginal legend. The legend told the tale of a battle between a good spirit (Ngilgi) and an evil spirit (Wolgine). The Cave is open during school holidays and is managed by the Cape Naturaliste Tourism Association . The other significant caves within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park are the Jewel, Lake and Mammoth Cave. These caves are managed by CaveWorks. For further information about the caves in the area check out Caves of Margaret River and the Caves of Witchcliffe.
Cape to Cape Walks
Oh yes there are trails galore. I have listed a few but I am sure that there are many more.
Meekadarabee Falls: Starting at Ellensbrook Homestead the 2km walk leads you to the tranquil Meekadarabee Falls and cave.Bunker Bay Walk: This walk takes a good hour and is about 2.5km of stunning views of the coast.
Cape Naturaliste Track : This track is approximately a 3km (1-2 hour walk) and includes stunning vistas over Cape Naturaliste, a trek through limestone pinnacles and a Humpback and Southern Right Whale lookout point. Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, wildflowers, Western Australia
Canal Rocks to Wyadup Track : This walk is roughly 4kms round trip and will take about 2hours to complete. The trail begins at the car park at Canal Rocks.
Cape to Cape Track : I guess this one is for the super fit. The track will take you 140kms from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. I recommend before attempting this trek you tell someone of your plans and take plenty of fresh water. The track is also broken up into small sections if you decide it is too long an adventure. For more information check out the Cape to Cape Walk site.
Visit Ellensbrook Homestead
The historical homestead at Ellensbrook can also be found in the park. The Homestead was the family home of Alfred Bussell , one of the first settlers of the region and is now in the care of National Trust WA From the Homestead you can find a walk trail that leads to a cave at Meekadarbee Falls. This area is known by the Aboriginals as the “bathing place of the Moon” and is considered very sacred.
Wander Through Boranup Forest
Boranup Forest is an isolated Karri forest , separated from the main Karri belt by more than 100kms.The Boranup Forest is unique in that the 60m tall Karri trees grow in limestone based soils, unlike the Karri trees elsewhere, that grow in deep red clay loams. It was in this forest that M.C.Davies established the Old Karridale town site that was home to the 800 workers and their families who serviced the Boranup sawmills. The solitary chimney stack is the only reminder that a thriving town once existed in this forest. A major fire in 1961 destroyed all that remained of the town. The old timber yard at Hamelin Bay is now a camping site where along the beach you can find the remains of the Old Hamelin Bay Jetty.
Explore the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse & Waterwheel
he Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse can be found standing on the most Southern Westerly tip of Australia, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.
The lighthouse was built between 1895-1896 from local limestone. A little distance away a waterwheel and wooden flume can be found. The waterwheel was once used to deliver fresh spring water to the lighthouse.
Explore the Haunted Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse is about 13kms from Dunsborough and is north of the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1904 and is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of Happy Harry and Mary. There are only 59 steps to climb in this lighthouse, all of which are made of teak.