Driving the 116km from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin will only take you an hour and a half, but give yourself a full day to explore. You’ll see lighthouses (from afar unless you’re paying), gorgeous and secluded beaches, some neat rocks, a few spooky caves and endless wineries for you to visit throughout the Margaret River region.
We packed up our camp and hit the road, driving straight to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. What we didn’t realise until we arrived was that you can’t actually see the lighthouse at all, from any point on any of the trails, so I wonder what sort of job it even does as a lighthouse. If you really want to see it, inside and out, you’ll have to pay $14 for a tour.
You can still enjoy the walking trails around it, one leads you to a whale watching platform which is the perfect spot to watch blue, humpback and southern right whales as they make the journey south for winter. Unfortunately, we were there at the wrong time of year, September to November is when it all happens.
We were told to head to Meelup Beach but stopped first at Eagle Bay to cook breakfast and I’m so glad we did. It was pretty much deserted, with white sand and crystal clear water, the nicest beach I’ve been to so far for sure. Meelup Beach was crowded and not as nice so if you’ve got time to spare, head to Eagle Bay.
This spot is definitely worth a visit, especially if you love rocks as much as the Australians. You follow a wooden walkway until it crosses the aforementioned canal where you can watch the waves crashing into the rocks and surge into the pool below you. It’s mesmerising.
I saw one kayaker who was brave enough to face the current without getting smashed into the rocks, and one snorkeller who only just escaped as soon as he realised where he was heading and swam back trying to look like he meant to go there and was totally cool with it but inside was absolutely panicking.
There is a teeny tiny beach that you can relax on and snorkel from, just steer clear of the canal unless you’re a very strong swimmer.
As you leave Canal Rocks, Google Maps will tell you to join Highway 10 as the fastest route south, but this time you definitely should take the coastal route, Caves Road, and stop as many times as you like along the way at whatever beach, rock or cave takes your fancy.
You’ll pass winery after winery after brewery after winery, and if you can afford a fancy wine tour and you have a willing designated driver then treat yo’ self. The cheapest was around $90 per person so thanks but no thanks, I can buy almost 5 bags of goon with that.
There are over 150 limestone caves along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge and some of the best are around Margaret River. Depending on the cave you’ll pay for a self-guided, semi-guided or fully guided tour.
We chose a guided tour of Lake Cave, it was small but pretty spectacular. You climb down several thousand steps into a crater and when you reach the bottom the stalagmites (stalactites!?) are towering above you. You follow your guide all the way to the bottom, where a tiny ladder disappears under a giant chunk of the ceiling that crashed down years ago, aptly named The Titanic.
Once inside the cave your guide will point out the different stalagmite and stalactite formations throughout, all reflecting in the perfectly still lake. The highlight for me was the “table” that had formed at the bottom of a giant stalactite (stalagmite!?) and was suspended inches above the water.
We spent 10 minutes sat at the end of the cave as the lights turned out and plunged us into total darkness before slowly coming on one by one to highlight each feature of the cave. We took our time leaving, asking a few more questions (the benefits of a guided tour) and quietly suffered through the monstrous climb back to the gift shop. Well worth the $22.50.
So apparently this is where you go if you want to snorkel with stingrays, which are such graceful and ridiculously soft creatures but will sting you if you freak them out or step on them. However, when we arrived here we had forgotten why it was marked on the map and didn’t even go in the water. It’s still a great beach though!
Here’s another lighthouse that you have to pay to step within 500 meters of, but if you drive 2 miles back the way you came, find the right unmarked gravel road and walk to the waters edge you can get a pretty great view, there’s even a beach and a shaded picnic spot if you feel like hanging around.
After a long but amazing day of exploring it was time to set up camp at Westbay Retreat Caravan Park, a very overpriced campsite ($35 for an unpowered site) but this place did have great bathrooms and I’m pretty sure I won at least 1 game of Uno without cheating.
It’s 5 minutes north of Augusta, a small town where you can stock up on food, gas and, most importantly, alcohol to help pass the quiet evenings under the stars, especially if you’re the one getting eaten alive by mosquitos while your soon-to-be arch nemesis just sits there laughing.
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