Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in Ship Shape for Visitors
Always an incredible experience, particularly in whale watching season, the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and grounds in Dunsborough re-opened earlier this year with a new boardwalk allowing panoramic ocean views, and a welcoming café in the former lighthouse keeper’s cottage, plus a kids’ playground.
Zoe Deleuil checks out the new digs and has a chat with the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse Site Manager, Tod Kearns, about the new and improved experience for visitors.
“We wanted to make the whole experience better for visitors, and we’ve Had a really great response to the restoration of old lighthouse keeper’s cottage. We’ve expanded the entrance and gift shop, and we’re also working on a new museum and interpretive centre that will tell stories of keepers’ lives and early colonial history,” says site manager Tod Kearns.
The main attraction is, naturally, the lighthouse itself. Built in 1903 from limestone quarried in nearby Bunker Bay, it’s 123 metres above sea level and offers a rare opportunity to get inside a working lighthouse. With just 59 steps, it’s accessible even for small children or older folk, and tour guides are happy to talk about its history and answer questions while you take in the views.
Once back on the ground, the new café and playground encourage visitors to linger. Run by the team behind The Goose in Busselton, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage Café is a cheerful revival of a building that has been unused since the last keeper left in 1996. Serving coffee, toasted sandwiches and cakes, it’s a handy refuelling stop for walkers on the Cape to Cape trail. The cottage’s original character has been kept alive with cosy interiors of 1950s furniture, vintage books, and local artwork, with puzzles featuring lighthouse images left half-completed on wooden dining tables. Outside, a new deck, shaded by umbrellas, overlooks a nautical-inspired playground.
The new wheelchair accessible boardwalk came about by chance after a bushfire cleared the scrub and started a conversation about making the new vista permanent. Now, visitors can take in sweeping views across Geographe Bay and the Indian Ocean without climbing to the top of the lighthouse. It’s a peaceful, windswept vantage point for spotting some of the 35,000 humpback and blue whales and their calves that pass every year on the way back to Antarctica, after giving birth and raising their young in the tropical waters of the Kimberley. “It’s a whale highway here from September to November,” says Tod. You see them with their calves, breeching, rolling and slapping the water with their fins.”
While you’re here . . .
Walking trails around the site allow for more glimpses of whales and dolphins, and wildflowers in spring.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse marks the southern end of the Cape-to-Cape walk, and you will receive a discount if you book tickets for both.
Consider a Kaya Tour with Indigenous guide Josh Whiteland of Cape Cultural Tours, who offer an opportunity to learn about the Wadandi people and their deep connection to this region. His tours begin at the lighthouse and are wheelchair accessible, but do need to be booked in advance.
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse1267 Cape Naturaliste Road, Dunsborough. Open 9am to 5pm daily (last tour at 4.30pm). Closed Christmas Day. Visit margaretriverlighthouses.com or call 08 9757 7411.
This blog has been adapted from an article written by Zoe Deleuil entitled ‘Full of Beans’, which was originally featured in our Autumn magazine. The introduction to this blog was modified by Emma Pegrum.