CLAIMED to be the most popular national park in WA, this 19,092-hectare giant lays its claim to that crown thanks to the gigantic shed-load of activities available: surfing, swimming, diving, hiking, cycling, touring, camping, fishing and more.
There’s also the epic landscape combination of pristine coastline abutting the often-ferocious swells of the Indian Ocean meshed with heavily timbered forest behind the dunes. Throw in the added bonus of historical homesteads and lighthouses, as well as some amazing caves (thanks to the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridgeline), and it fills that cliché of something for everyone.
To that effect, the park is a long-weekend destination at a minimum, but, thanks to its manageable distance from Perth, that just gives you the excuse to return more than once… and you’ll definitely want to.
The park has four campgrounds – Boranup, Point Road, Conto and the recently-completed Jarrahdene – with all of these being of the first-arrive, best-score type. Point Road has probably the most appeal to off-roaders as it is accessed via a 4x4-only track and is a small campground (it has space for roughly seven tents) sheltered from winds on the edge of the Boranup karri forest, with access to the nearby coastline via Point Road itself.
Conto, with 116 campsites, is ideal for larger groups and those after a bit more space along with some ‘luxuries’, such as a campers’ kitchen, tables, toilets and barbecues. Plus, it’s right next to Conto Springs Beach. Boranup is another small campground (only seven sites) located in the middle of Boranup karri forest, so if you want a bit of solitude (here or at Point Road) you’ll need to be quick, especially in summer and school holiday periods.
Jarrahdene campground is a schmick new addition to the bush accommodation options in the park, with the first stage of what is a $2.7 million investment opened in late January this year. The campground is south of the Margaret River and nestled beside the historic site of the Heritage-listed Jarrahdene Mill, which was built in 1896. The campground has 24 campsites, each with its own table and firepit, with five toilet blocks and four sheltered barbecue areas scattered throughout.
The Cape-to-Cape walking track is rated one of Australia’s best multi-day hiking experiences and, as its name suggests, it travels between Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in the north and its Cape Leeuwin counterpart in the south (both these open to visitors). The full distance is 135km, but you can walk a number of the track’s sections as day-walks or even shorter ambles if you wish.
There are numerous beaches for swimming or diving. The more sheltered Cape Naturaliste and Shelley Cove in the north offer ideal swim spots for families; as does Bunker Bay, located on the northern side of Cape Naturaliste. Anglers can fish all along the coastline and offshore (in your own boat or with a fishing charter). Expect to catch salmon, snapper, tailor and dhufish, but be aware of bag limits.
Surfing is super-popular with the Indian Ocean swells regarded as top-notch by wax-heads worldwide. Margaret River, Guillotines, South Point and Gallows are just some of the surf spots, and there are myriad others.
Away from the coast and it’s time to head underground. The park contains numerous caves, with visitors able to explore any number of them, including Calgardup and Giants Cave. For those not up to an independent caving experience, you can opt for guided tours of Mammoth Cave and Lake Cave.
Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is packed with stuff to do. Our best advice is to tackle a long weekend first in the north, then return a few more times to spend weekends in the south, before exploring the park hinterland. And then do it all again.
36km west of Busselton
Canoeing and kayaking
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