Boranup Karri Forest

Wood Work: Explore the Beautiful Forests of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park

Discover Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park.

Explore the beautiful forests of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park and you’ll be rewarded richly.

As a self-confessed outdoors guy, Ben Tannock likely has, if not one of the best jobs in the world, then at least one of the most envy-inducing occupations in Western Australia.

As Parks and Visitors Services Coordinator for the Blackwood District, Ben spends the greater part of his day managing various aspects of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, WA’s most visited national park and one of the world’s most untouched.

Hiking the Cape to Cape Track
The Cape To Cape Track.

It’s a huge job, not least because of the national park’s size – extending from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, it stretches more than 120km in length, showcasing incredible beaches, more than 300 limestone caves, forest walks, camp grounds carved in bush and stunning ocean views from white limestone cliffs. Not forgetting the 140km attraction that is the Cape to Cape walking track.

“Part of what makes the park really unique is that multiple entrance and exit points allow for a really high degree of visitation,” Ben explains. “Obviously surfing is huge down this way, but then really what it’s about are the very special environments that are unique to the Leeuwin Naturaliste ridge.”

Hiking Boranup Karri Forest
Boranup Forest.

Visually stunning, the mix of closely positioned microclimates – cave, forest, sea, marine heathlands – allows park users to spread themselves across dramatically different environments within the space of kilometres: from WA’s signature mix of white limestone cliff and turquoise water at Contos Beach it’s only 10 minutes by car into the thick of Boranup forest with its towering karri trees and lush undergrowth.

“Also incredibly popular are the two lighthouse sites,” Ben chips in, “the experiences offered at those lighthouses are second to none.” After the taxing stair climb at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse the quaint little lighthouse café certainly serves up a mean coffee and cake.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.

Ben also highlights the region’s spectacular caves as a highlight. The Margaret River Region is home to over 100 caves, which are nestled in the spine of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. These caves have been formed over the last 1 million years by the constant movement of water through limestone.

As for Ben’s favourite private spot, the experienced outdoorsman and devoted Western Australian won’t be drawn. “I’m endeared toward the coast and the bushland so I certainly wax and wane between the two,” he prevaricates. “As long as I’m in the outdoors, then I’m a happy man.”

Jewel Cave Augusta
Jewel Cave.

Ben's tips for getting the most out of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Park on your timeline

One Day

Take a drive the length of Caves Road. Keep eyes peeled for signs that allow day-trippers to break off to remote beaches, pull in to take a gander at some of the area’s magnificent caves, or stretch the legs with a short walk through the Boranup forest, accessible on the other side of the road from the lookout point.

One Night

Three or Four Nights

Strap up your backpack and tackle a section of the famed Cape to Cape track. Four days allows enough time for an end-to-end attempt, or select a few sections and take a more leisurely approach.

Hiking Boranup Forest

Fast Facts

  • Protection from the prevailing south-westerly winds makes Cape NaturalisteBunker Bay and Shelley Cove the most popular beaches for swimming.
  • Head to Hamelin Bay to witness the area’s wild population of sting rays.
  • For fishing and diving, take the 4WD track to Cosy Corner
  • Get a feel for the local pioneering history with a visit to Ellensbrook House, built from crushed shell and limestone in 1857 by local pioneer Alfred Bussell.
  • Most of the park’s remote beaches are not patrolled by surf lifesavers, so take care.