Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park

Rugged sea cliffs, windswept granite headlands, and formations such as Canal Rocks and Sugarloaf Rock dominate the coastline of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, which stretches 120 km from Bunker Bay in the north to Augusta in the south. Most roads in the area are sealed. Gravel roads are usually suitable for two wheel drive vehicles.


School Holiday Interpretive Activity Timetable now available.

You can see humpback and southern right whales from various vantage points along the coast and bushwalking attracts people right into the heart of the park.

At Canal Rocks, in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, the granitic rocks which jut out into the ocean are separated by a series of canals that have been hollowed out by the sea.

Between Cowaramup Bay and Karridale, the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park features some of its most rugged and inaccessible coastline. Facing due west, the coastal cliffs and rocky shoreline bear the brunt of giant ocean swells generated across thousands of miles of ocean by the prevailing westerly and south-westerly winds. Punctuated along the coast are scenic lookouts from which to marvel at the ocean's beauty and power.

One of the loveliest spots to visit is the historic homestead at Ellensbrook, which is managed by the National Trust. (Opens in a new browser window.) The turn-off to Ellensbrook Homestead, off Caves Road, is 9 km from Margaret River, and it lies a further 4 km along Ellensbrook Road. A walktrail leads to a cave and the delightful Meekadarabee Falls, known to Aboriginal people as the "bathing place of the Moon", which is at its best in winter and spring.


Between the months of May and June, huge schools of Australian salmon make their way up the coast north to Perth on their annual spawning run. The salmon, between 4 and 8 kilograms, are keenly sought by anglers with both lures and bait. A bag limit of five fish per person per day exists. Full details are available from Fisheries WA. (Opens in a new browser window.)

Surfing is also popular at many well-known breaks on the western coast, such as Smiths Beach and Yallingup. Coastal walktrails and steps down sand dunes have been provided at many places to help prevent erosion.

In the right weather conditions there are some enjoyable and safe places to snorkel, such as at Prevelly and Gnarabup. Scattered along this coast are sheltered bays suitable for launching small boats, such as Kilcarnup, Cowaramup Bay and Prevelly. Tracks to the more isolated surfing and fishing spots on the coast are often suitable only for four-wheel-drive, because of the rough limestone that protrudes from the road surfaces.

Caves of the Cape

The limestone that forms the rugged coastline also has numerous caves. Two self-guided unlit caves, Calgardup and Giants Caves, were tourist caves early in the last century and have recently been re-opened.

Calgardup Cave is spectacular because of the water covering the floor of two caverns. The special effects of the reflections on the water surface are something to see. Elevated platforms have been built through the cave so people can relax, enjoy the exquisite beauty at their own pace and without a guide. You will not get lost. Educational signs are placed throughout the cave. Adventure sections of Calgardup Cave are available with a guide and can be arranged by talking to staff at the entrance.

Giants Cave has huge caverns within and is about 800 metres long. The cave is unique in that it is a through cave, meaning you can enter a spectacular doline and reappear out of another. Elevated platforms and marked paths are provided, so getting lost is not an issue. There are numerous spots where the caver will want to stop, relax and absorb the world-class cave formation.

Torches and helmets are provided. Wear old clothing and sturdy footwear and ring the Calgardup Information Centre to check opening times as they vary seasonally.

There are other caves you can visit on the ridge. For adventure tours, there are caves which need a trip leader. Contact the Calgardup Guide Hut on (08) 9757 7422. For guided tours into lit caves the two local tourist associations should be contacted for tour times. The Cape Naturaliste Tourism Association runs Ngilgi Cave, phone (08) 9755 2152, while Augusta-Margaret River Tourist Association has regular tours of Mammoth, Lake, Moondyne and Jewel Caves, phone (08) 9758 4541.

See our 'Caves of the Cape' feature.

Boranup Karri Forest

Boranup Karri Forest, within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, lies between Caves Road and the coast, and creates a powerful contrast with the rest of the coastline. Tall pale-barked karri trees, reaching 60 metres or more high, dominate the hilly slopes and valleys. Gravel roads suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles wind through the forest to picnic and camping spots. A short walk takes you to Boranup Lookout, which gives sweeping views over the forest and the coast west to Hamelin Bay.

Boranup is an extraordinary place for several reasons other than its sheer beauty. This is the furthest west that karri, the third tallest tree in the world, grows. The Boranup Forest is isolated from the main body of the karri belt, more than 100 kilometres to the east, by the grey infertile sands and lower rainfall of the Donnybrook Sunklands. Elsewhere in the South-West karri grows almost exclusively on deep red clay loams. At Boranup it grows in limestone-based soils.

The Boranup Forest, as you see it today, is about 100 years old. It is a regrowth forest. Though the last mill at Karridale closed in 1913, the development of the timber industry in this area was important to the State's economy and growth. The timber yard at Hamelin Bay is now an attractive camping area, shaded by spreading coastal peppermints. In 1961, fierce wildfires seared through the Boranup forest, and destroyed the last traced of the old timber town, which once housed more than 800 people. Today's Boranup forest is testimony to the regenerative powers of karri..


Where is it?
Cape Naturaliste, the northernmost point in the park, is 36 km from Busselton and 261 km from Perth.

Travelling time:
3-4 hours from Perth

What to do:
Picnicking, scenic driving, fishing, swimming, caving, surfing, camping, bushwalking, whale watching, snorkelling.


  • BUNKER BAY -- Easy 2.5 km, 1 hour walk through heath, with breathtaking views of the Coast and lookouts, from which you may see whales.
  • CAPE NATURALISTE TRACK -- Medium 3.2 km, 1 to 1 hour walk with views over Cape Naturaliste. Travels through small limestone "pinnacles" en route to a stunning whale lookout.
  • MEEKADARABEE FALLS -- Easy 2 km, 40 minute walk from the historic Ellensbrook Homestead to the delightful Meekadarabee Falls. The trail and all facilities are accessible to the disabled.
  • CAPE TO CAPE WALK TRACK -- This 140 km track from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin can be broken into a number of shorter sections:
    • CANAL ROCKS TO WYADUP -- Medium 4 km, 2 hour return walk with outstanding views. Begin at the car park on Canal Rocks Road.
    • COSY CORNER TO SKIPPY ROCK -- Challenging 20 km full day hike for experienced walkers. The terrain is magnificent but rugged, involves long stretches of sand and scrambles along narrow rock platforms. Vehicle pick-up essential.
    • HAMELIN BAY TO COSY CORNER -- Medium 13 km, 4 hour walk with magnificent views from the Hamelin Bay boat ramp to Cosy Corner and back. It involves some easy scrambling and negotiating short, steep sections.
    • WATER WHEEL TO SKIPPY ROCK -- Medium 3 km, 1 hour walk via beach, rocks and bush begins at the Leeuwin Waterwheel, near the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta.

Brochures are available on walktrails at Cape Naturaliste, Yallingup, Margaret River and the Cape to Cape Walk.

The park has several campgrounds with basic facilities. Camping fees are $6 per adult/night and $2 per child under 16. No bookings are available.

  • CONTO CAMPGROUND - Turn down Conto Road from Caves Road. Facilities include toilets, barbecues, tables, water, individual sites in the bush.
  • POINT ROAD CAMPGROUND - First track to the right from the northern end of Boranup Drive. Four wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Facilities include toilets, barbecues, tables and individual sites.
  • BORANUP CAMPGROUND - Off the southern end of Boranup Drive. Facilities include barbecues, toilets and individual sites.

CALM manages two caves in the National Park, . Both caves have recently been re-opened and offer self-guided exploration. Lights and helmets are supplied as part of the admission fee.

  • CALGARDUP CAVE - is 15km south of Margaret River on Caves Rd. Entry is from 9am to 4.15pm every day except for Christmas Day.
  • GIANTS CAVE - is 20 km south of Margaret River on Caves Rd. Entry is from 9.30am to 3.30pm school holidays and long weekends. Enquire at Calgardup for availability at other times.

Nearby facilities:
Accommodation, shopping, dining and entertainment facilities available in the towns of Dunsborough, Yallingup, Margaret River and Augusta. Sightseeing tours, dive and fishing charters and four-wheel-drive safaris are available.

Best season:
The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park has something to offer visitors all year round.

Sources & Further reading


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 30/09/2011

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