Exploring the Cape to Cape in WA
Updated: Dec 23, 2019
The Cape to Cape Track stands out as one of the best tracks in Western Australia, a state not known for its hiking trails, and arguably a highlight when visiting Australia.
Stretching along the 'Cape' of WA, from Cape Naturalist in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south, the walking track covers a vast array of scenery and landscapes. From towering bluffs, rocky outcrops along the water's edge, to forests, plains of low-lying scrub and plenty of sandy beaches, it has an amazing variety of scenery.
The Cape to Cape Track can be tackled in a myriad of ways ranging from trying to tackle the whole track in a day (for the madmen) to an 8-day pleasant stroll, staying in luxury accommodation every night. You can even break up the hike into sections and complete it over a few months.
Start of Walk: Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
Finish: Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse (or vice versa)
How Many Days: 4-7
Best Time of Year: March-November
Accommodation: Anywhere from camping to 5-star resorts
Zuberant Difficulty Rating: 3
Getting There (& Back)
This can sometimes be the most difficult challenge of the whole journey (for the self-catered hikers that is). If you're travelling with 2 or more, the best idea will be to drive both cars down to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse (or vice versa) at the finish of the track, then hop in the other car to take you both to the start.
For the soloists or those without 2 vehicles, the only real option is to arrange a charter vehicle or to try and hitch a ride from the finish line (both lighthouses generally have plenty of tourists around). Once in the towns near the track (Augusta to the South, and Dunsborough to the North), it can be easier to arrange transportation.
If going for the charter vehicle option, it pays to organise it well in advance so you aren't left stranded.
Cody Hudson (Zuberant Life)
4 Days Self-Supported
I think if I’m being honest, the reason I had put it off so long, was that I didn’t expect it to be that amazing. I’ve been on hikes all around the world now, on 6 continents and I didn’t think something in my own backyard would compare... it turns out I was way off the mark. It is truly a spectacular hike, the views are incredible and the diversity of scenery and ever changing environments keep things fresh as you walk.
Friends of the Cape to Cape, the organisation that maintains the track, recommend taking 6 to 7 days to complete the whole thing. Being a somewhat cocky-smart-ass, I decided to try and do it in 3. I eventually managed it in 4. Some sort of virus on day 1 and an over-heavy pack slowed me down, but really I’d just underestimated the track. There is a LOT of sand-walking. I’d estimate 25% is either along the beach or through sandy trails a short distance off the line of the sea. It is really hard going. It’s slow-paced and causes havoc on your calves and Achilles tendons. Keep this in mind if you’re preparing to do it yourself.
How many days
This is going to depend on a few different factors. A few questions to ask yourself:
What is your fitness level?
Are you camping or staying in accommodation?
Are you looking to push yourself or do you want a more casual experience?
What is your experience of hiking? (this relates to your experience in minimising weight, experience walking for 20km without stopping, not panicking if you are out of water etc..)
For those of you perhaps not ultra-fit and wanting a more nature-immersive and casual experience, 7 days is perhaps the best option. That's around 18km a day which should be manageable for most regular walkers.
If you're camping and self-supported, you likely have some experience already and are comfortable covering longer distances in a day. For you, 5 days should be a good goal.
For the rest, it's up to you how much you want to push it. The Fastest Known Time was done in 2019 by Shane Johnstone. He did the whole track in under 16 hours which is just a ridiculous achievement. Anything 3 days or under is a true achievement in anyone's book.
Guided options vs Self Supported
There are really 4 ways to tackle the Cape to Cape:
1. Self-supported end to end (own logistics)
2. Self-supported end to end (outsourced logistics)
3. Guided end to end
4. Self-supported or Guided sections.
What is best for you is going to depend on your experience, your fitness level and how confident you are with planning a trip and organising all your own logistics (including accommodation, transport, food, water and gear).
Although not especially challenging physically or logistically, you can quickly get into trouble if you run out of water, especially during the warmer months. For that reason, we recommend getting a few overnight hiking experiences under your belt before taking this on by yourself.
For those of you looking at supported or guided options, we recommend Cape to Cape Tours. They're extremely knowledgeable of the local area and run a quality operation with excellent guides and support.
Gear you will need
If you're going through an operator, they will likely provide their own gear list for you to follow. If you're just doing day walks, the gear you take won't be nearly as important, however, you can still select some of the gear below for your walks.
Hiking boots or trail shoes (High top boots not necessary)
Gators (some people choose to use gators to avoid the old sand in the boots fiasco)
Long-sleeved shirt (not cotton)
Light fleece top (for those brisk mornings and evenings)
Socks (Both hiking socks and warm socks for overnight)
Warm jacket (For strolling around after you've finished hiking for the day.)
Thongs/slip-on shoes for camp
Tent (Lightweight 3 seasons tent is perfect. The lighter the better)
Sleeping bag (Again, lighter is better. Ideally down to 0 degrees rated will ensure a comfy sleep)
Sleeping mat (a blow up sleeping pad will make life much more comfortable)
Backpack (50-70 litres probably necessary for longer hikes. Make sure it's well fitted)
Waterproof bag cover
Sunglasses (With UV Protection- polarised are great)
Small first aid/snake bite kit
Waterproof stuff packs (for clothes and anything else that you don't want getting wet)
Toothbrush and paste
The great thing about the Cape to Cape, is that there are numerous places to stop and replenish food and supplies along the way. So it won't be as necessary to carry everything required from start to finish. This is likely what you'll require..
Lightweight stove and fuel
Lighter and back-up matches
Pot and lid
Swiss Army knife
Thermos (for coffee on the go)
Water Water Water
This is where most people will find themselves in trouble on the Cape to Cape Track. Water can be rather sparse and even marked water spots can be dry at certain times of the year. As such, you need to carry at least 4 litres of water with you at all times. Replenish your supply whenever you come across a water source.
Water purifying tablets are also highly recommended. If using Iodine, it's a good idea to use some sort of electrolyte powder alongside the tablets. This both improves the taste and helps replenish your vital reserves. Hydration, after all, isn't just water, it must be balanced by adequate electrolyte intake.
Time of Year/Conditions
The Cape to Cape can be hiked year-round, however, the March- November period is recommended. The intense summer heat and increase in snake numbers will make December-February a less than enjoyable experience (for a through-hike). Day hikes would be easier to manage as you can select a cooler day. In terms of the weather and track conditions, late August through early October (early Spring) are best. This gives you mild, temperate days with less rain and beautiful evenings and the spring flowers are also in bloom.
Planning Your Trip
There are a few distinct landmarks that can be used to define sections and plan your itinerary. Of course, it will also depend on where you're going to be staying.
Here are a couple of example itineraries for a 5 and 7-day trip.
5 Day Itinerary
Cape Naturalist - Moses Rock Campsite (33km)
Moses Rock - Ellensbrook (19km)
Ellensbrook - Conto (24km)
Conto - Deepdene (27km)
Deepdene - Cape Leeuwin (18km)
7 Day Itinerary
Cape Naturaliste to Yallingup (14km)
Yallingup to Moses Rock Campsite (21km)
Moses Rock Campsite to Ellensbrook (19km)
Ellensbrook to Prevelly (14km)
Prevelly to Point Road Campsite (22km)
Point Road Campsite to Deepdene (22km)
Deepdene to Cape Leeuwin (18km)
8 Days Guided Single central location overnight
Its fair to say that I signed up for the Cape to Cape, WA track knowing very little other than it’s an iconic experience aspired to by hikers. My saving grace was that I opted for a group tour guide option that promised to ensure that all I had to do was turn up with the right gear, fitness and attitude and they would supply the rest – lunch, dinner, accommodation and local tour guide. Cape to Cape Explorer Tours – more then delivered on this! I found out during my trip that more than 50% of hikers choose to experience the track this way. With many more choosing to accomplish the track in sections with a day or two’s rest in between. Being the person I am – I chose the 7 days, 8 night back to back experience.
Read Chrissie's Full Cape to Cape Experience
How Fit Do You Need to Be?
Fitness is relative and sometimes can be a hard thing to define. If you are of moderate fitness, you will likely be able to complete an end to end trek of the Cape to Cape. However, as with the case in any experience, the fitter you are, the less you'll be struggling and Battling, the more you can enjoy your surroundings.
At a very minimum, you'll need to be able to comfortably complete a 20km hike on off-road terrain. On the actual track, you'll need to be able to replicate that back to back for up to 7 days in a row.
It's also recommended to have completed several overnight hikes, so you'll know what to expect in terms of preparing your campsite, your food and getting ready to go again the next day.
As for specific training, 3 sessions a week should suffice in the lead up to the hike. 10km+ sessions with a 15-20kg pack along a beach is a great way to prepare. If you're confined to a gym, hop on the StairMaster or incline treadmill for an hour and increase the frequency of training.
Need Help Planning Your Own Hike Along the Cape to Cape?
Get in touch with your experience level, your details and what you're looking for in a Cape to Cape experience. We'll point you in the right direction.