Hike the Cape to Cape Walk Independently: a self-guided hike in coastal WA!

Cape to Cape walk independently

Hiking the Cape to Cape walk independently is an incredible experience. The Cape to Cape is a 135km trek in coastal Western Australia between the Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin lighthouses. People often ask if the hike needs to be completed with a tour or guide, and the simple answer is, no. A large number of people hike the Cape to Cape walk independently every year. The trail lends itself to solo and self-guided hiking and frequently cuts through small country towns, so you’re never far away from assistance if needed.

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How to hike the Cape to Cape walk independently

The trail is about a 3 and a half hour drive south of Perth. Hikers completing a thru-hike can expect to spend 5 to 8 days on the trail.

There are numerous ways to complete the hike. Camp, plan an itinerary around the numerous towns and stay in accommodation, rent a house for the week and get dropped off / picked up each day. Alternatively you can complete the trail over a longer period of time in small sections and day walks. Or incorporate a combination of these. There are tour groups who offer guided walks, or you can go it alone.

IMG 6789 Atlas Introspective

With so many options, there’s a version of the Cape to Cape to suit all hikers, including a 3.7km section between Cape Naturaliste lighthouse and Sugarloaf Rock carpark that is wheelchair, gopher and stroller friendly.

We hiked the Cape to Cape walk independently over 6 days, staying at both free and paid campsites, with a one night stay in a cabin in Prevelly.

Read on for the itinerary we used hiking the Cape to Cape walk independently: The Cape to Cape: a 6 day itinerary.

Difficulty

The Cape to Cape is not technically difficult and is suitable for experienced hikers with a moderate level of fitness.

Completing the Cape to Cape walk independently involves carrying a full pack with tent, bedding and cooking supplies etc. Expect to hike approximately 20-25kms per day, carrying 10-15kg over a varied terrain, including soft beach sand, rocks, cliff tops, dirt trails and 4WD tracks. Preparation should include a fitness regime that reflects this. Walk at home, preferably carrying your full pack, as well as weight training.

There are some unique aspects of hiking the Cape to Cape walk independently to consider, including long stretches of soft beach sand (6-7kms), climbs up and down loose rock and river crossings. Expect to get your feet wet most days.

It rained most days when we hiked the Cape to Cape walk independently in October which made sections of the trail slippery and a river crossing difficult. Monitor the weather forecast for strong winds on days you’ll cover the limestone clifftops and walk near blow holes.

beach view 1 Atlas Introspective

Planning to Hike the Cape to Cape Walk Independently

When to go

You can hike the Cape to Cape walk independently at any time of year, but the best time is Spring and early Autumn. The fast-moving & deep river crossings, slippery rocks, coastal winds and large waves during Winter mean extra considerations and preparations should be made. Ensure you take enough water during Summer and have adequate sun protection. Keep an eye on the Parks and Wildlife website for updates regarding diversions, alerts and conditions on the trail.

Whale migration

The southern whale migration occurs between August and November and if you’re lucky you might see some of the 35 000 whales migrating from Antarctica to warmer waters. Whales can be visible from the track, but if you want to get closer to the action, there are whale watching cruises from various locations in the region.

Fiona selfie storm Atlas Introspective

Wildflowers & bees

The wildflowers in Spring attract a lot of bees so bring an EpiPen if you experience severe bee allergies.

Tread carefully during Spring and Summer as you are likely to see snakes on the path. The narrow sandy tracks are the perfect spot for snakes to sun themselves in the warmer months.

We hiked the Cape to Cape Walk independently during October to avoid the heat of Summer and enjoy the wildflowers. It rained most days so make sure to pack wet weather gear. I also carried my clothes and sleeping bag in dry sacks inside my backpack which kept them dry on the trail.

yellow flower trails bees Atlas Introspective

Direction

Your options are North to South or vice versa. Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin (N to S) is more popular as you have the sun on your back. The southern end section is slightly more difficult, but completing it at the end of your trek means you’ll have the benefit of increased track fitness.

Getting there / Getting Away

Both Dunsborough and Augusta are serviced by public transport, so you can hike the Cape to Cape walk independently & without a car.

Alternatively, arrange a lift for the beginning and / or end of the hike or those travelling in a group can leave a car at either end of the trail.

We drove to Cape Naturaliste and left our car in the public car park. This is allowed, but do so at your own risk and don’t leave valuables in your car. At the end of our hike, we took a taxi to Augusta and then caught public transport to Dunsborough. From there we took another taxi to Cape Naturaliste to collect our car and travel back to Perth.

cape to cape broken sign Atlas Introspective

Navigation

Despite solid attempts to sign post the trail, we frequently saw posts where the marker was missing or had been removed, making navigation difficult at times. We read the Cape to Cape Walk guidebook before hand and used the Cape to Cape app and the Walk the Cape to Cape track map. This helped us to get back on track when we strayed from the trail. It’s worth downloading both the app and having a hard copy of the map as phone reception is patchy along some sections. Also, if you’re camping you won’t always be able to charge your devices.

Water

All the campsites we visited had a water tank. But there’s no guarantee these will always be reliable, and when we passed through towns we weren’t always able to top up our water. Some places used bore water or cafe’s refused requests for water refills, citing covid-safe practices. Aim to carry approximately 4 litres per person, per day if you are staying overnight, and boil all water sourced from water tanks prior to drinking.

Cape to Cape Walk Independently: packing

You may also be interested in reading about my favourite hiking gear.

What to Pack: Gear

2 hiking packs Atlas Introspective
  • Hiking Pack
  • Dry sack / plastic bag / zip lock bags to keep sleeping bag, food and clothes etc dry
  • Hiking mattress, pillow, tent, sleeping bag
  • CamelBak, bowl, cup & spork, Jetboil & fuel (cooking)
  • approx 3-4 litres of water per day (see above ‘water’)
  • Meals & snacks (see suggestions below)
  • Maps, apps, GPS (see above ‘navigation’)
  • Torch &/ headlamp
  • Lantern
  • Camera &/ phone
  • Toothbrush & tooth paste, toilet paper, deodorant, sunscreen, mosquito repellant (all travel size)
  • travel towel
  • First Aid kit: thermal blanket, triangular bandage, bandaids, gauze, antiseptic, snake bite kit, ibuprofen
  • Gerber multi tool
  • Mobile phone & / personal location beacon
  • Hiking poles
  • Ziplock bags/ plastic bags to store rubbish until you finish
  • Gaiters
  • a few pegs to dry out your socks/ clothes inside the tent overnight

If you don’t usually trek with hiking poles, I suggest you try them for this trail. There are a lot of steep inclines and the poles will take some of the weight off your legs and help keep you balanced. They can also be used to feel out the depth of water during river crossings or be used as a splint in case of emergency.

Gaiters are another worthwhile investment. Some of the trails are quite over-grown and the scrub will either cut your legs or tear your pants, and gaiters offer some protection. They also keep the sand from getting into your boots on the beach and dune sections.

Keep your phone, camera, maps and guidebooks in zip lock bags to protect them from getting wet.

What to pack: Clothing

I packed and needed all of the following but the clothes you need may change dependent on the season. This was my packing list for Spring / early October.

Fiona on the trail Atlas Introspective
  • 6 x underwear (not cotton)
  • 3 pairs of (merino) hiking socks (one to wear, one spare, one to sleep in)
  • Hiking boots & gaiters
  • 2 pairs of pants (1 for the day & 1 for camp / sleeping)
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 3 (merino) t shirts (2 for the day & 1 for camp / sleeping)
  • 2 (merino) long sleeve shirts (1 for the day & 1 for camp / sleeping)
  • Puffer / down insulated jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Cap & beanie
  • Watch
  • Sunglasses
  • Camp shoes / thongs
  • Buff / neck gaiter

Meals & Snacks

The following quantities are for two people.

  • Dried fruit & nuts 500g
  • Muesli bars x24
  • Snickers (fun size) x24
  • Dehydrated soup (Continental Soup Sensations) x8
  • Dehydrated ramen & pasta (2 person serving) x4
  • Tea, coffee, sugar, powdered milk
  • Hydralyte
  • Beef jerky- DIY recipe

Breakfast was typically coffee and 1-2 muesli bars. Lunch was 1-2 muesli bars unless we were passing through a town and bought something. Dinner was soup & / pasta, unless we were passing through a town with a restaurant. We ate trail mix and snickers through the day for extra energy and had Hydralyte every day to avoid dehydration.

view of final lighthouse Atlas Introspective

Where to get Food on the Cape to Cape walk

One of the perks of the Cape to Cape walk is that you hike through lots of quaint costal towns and can enjoy a hot meal, decent coffee and top up your supplies. Below is a list of places I was able to purchase food on the trail (North to South).

Yallingup

Our first night on the trail was camping at Yallingup Beach Holiday Park. From here it’s a ten minute walk to the Caves House Hotel where you can buy a hot meal and a cold beer. What better way to celebrate your first night of the trek! Next to the Caves House Hotel is the Yallingup General Store and Cafe where you can get a hearty breakfast and coffee before you return to the trail.

Gracetown

As you come off the beach, Gracies General Store is just off the trail on Bayview drive. They sell pastries, sweets, coffees, pies and sandwiches and was a popular lunch spot for fellow Cape to Cape hikers when we passed through.

Prevelly

We stayed at the Prevelly Caravan Park and the reception office where you check-in doubles as a general store that sells food, drinks and fresh sandwiches.

Next to the caravan park is the Sea Garden Cafe which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner & offers take aways.

Hamelin Bay

The Cape to Cape passes Hamelin Bay Holiday Park. The general store on site sells basic pantry food as well as drinks and hot pies.

Cape Leeuwin

As you enter the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse you pass through a gift store and cafe. The scones are a house speciality.

day 1 trail Atlas Introspective

The Margaret River mouth crossing

During Winter the Margaret River mouth is largely uncrossable and a diversion track is in place. But sudden rainfall at any time of year can make river crossings throughout the trail dangerous. Parks and Wildlife post regular updates regarding trail conditions.

Some hikers attempt the Margaret River crossing in Winter. Be aware that the water can move quickly and it’s often deep (chest high). Occasionally budding entrepreneurs set up a canoe service ferrying hikers across the river mouth but it can’t be relied upon.

There’s a Cape to Cape facebook group and the Margaret River crossing is a frequent topic of conversation, so you can get updates on the state of the river to inform your decision. During my hike, the diversion was recommended by Parks and Wildlife, so we took it. Even if the water wasn’t chest high, I wasn’t game to carry a 13kg pack above my head. The diversion doesn’t add a significant distance to your hike, it’s just less scenic. But if you hike to the river mouth crossing then change your mind, you have to back track a fair way.

Danner boots night tent Atlas Introspective

Footcare on the Cape to Cape walk

135km is a fair distance and your feet will take a battering. Ideally you’ll have broken in your hiking boots well in advance, but even that may not be enough to prevent injuries and blisters.

Blisters are caused by friction and moisture, so keep your feet as dry as possible. Bring decent quality hiking socks, preferably merino. Have a rotation of socks (minimum of 2) so that if it rains and your feet get wet, you have a back up.

When you stop for lunch, take your shoes and socks off to let your feet dry out if you can. Peg your socks up inside the tent at night, which should be enough to dry out merino socks.

Blister prevention

As soon as you feel a hot spot or blister, treat it immediately. Fixomull tape is perfect for blisters and can be cut to size. I had a nasty blister between my toes and although I was too late to prevent it, Fixomull kept it clean and stopped it from hurting as much.

Wear gaiters when you walk on the beach stretches and dunes to stop sand getting into your boots. When you take off your boots for river crossings make sure to brush off all the sand before putting your boots back on. It doesn’t take long for small amount of sand to feel like sandpaper.

Hikers knot lacing Atlas Introspective

Boot lacing techniques

Sometimes on downhill tracks your feet slide forward & hit the toe box of your boot. Over time this repeated impact can cause blisters or bruised toenails. Use a surgeons knot to secure your laces at the top of your foot before lacing above the ankle. This will help to lock your heel in place and stop your feet sliding when you are walking down steep hills. Hiking poles can also help.

In case of injury / emergency

Hiking the Cape to Cape walk independently means you need to have contingency plans in place for injury and emergency. Any prior injuries are liable to flare up on a multi day hike so visit your GP before your trek and if you have weak knees or ankles make sure to bring a brace or compression bandage. While there are several points along the trail that are accessible by car, it is ultimately a walk-only trail and so it’s important to honestly assess your capacity to continue in the event of a re-injury.

last day lighthouse Atlas Introspective

Familiarise yourself with locations that are accessible by car prior to departure so that you can make informed decisions on the trail if you get stuck. You don’t want to tough it out and push on to the next location, only to get stuck somewhere where a rescue lift is more difficult.

Read on for a 6 day itinerary on the Cape to Cape walk.