A luxury walking tour in Western Australia delivers spectacular vistas of coastal wilderness and wildflowers, writes Kelly Allen
Before heading to Margaret River for a four-day walking trip, I had anticipated extraordinary coastal scenery, sensational wine, delicious regional food and luxurious accommodation.
What I didn’t have any idea about were the incredible wildflowers blooming in masses throughout the region. Purple, yellow, blue, pink, red and orange – some as large as my fist, others as tiny as a baby’s fingernail.
There are spider orchids, pink fairies, purple pansy orchids, wild geraniums, and my favourite, donkey orchids (like a donkey’s face with long ears). I had no idea I liked wildflowers, but I quickly became that person who stops every few minutes for a floral photo-opportunity.
Fortunately, the rest of the group feels the same, so on the first day we’re a bit slow as we ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ over every new flower, every passing petal. No matter, this is a wilderness walk through coastal nature at its best and none of us are in any mood to rush.
The area surrounding the Cape to Cape Track is one of Australia’s most important biodiversity hotspots, and it’s easy to see why.
There are more than 2,500 species in the region, 80 per cent of which cannot be found anywhere else. Every season in Western Australia’s spectacular southwest region has its own unique beauty, but August to November is the best time to experience its wildflowers.
The entire Cape to Cape Track extends 135 kilometres from Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in the north to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in the south and takes about a week to complete, with most people camping in tents or at caravan parks along the track.
For those who love walking, but prefer not to rough it, locally owned and operated Walk into Luxury specialises in small group and private walking tours in the Margaret River region.
Along the way, guests enjoy gourmet food and fine wine as well as a deluxe villa with heated plunge pool and muscle-soothing optional spa treatments at the day’s end.
Walk into Luxury has carefully curated the most scenic sections of the iconic track, showcasing the coast’s unique terrain, flora and fauna as well as the best culinary and vineyard offerings the region has to offer. It’s no surprise this is one of the Great Walks of Australia, an exclusive collection of outstanding nature experiences across the continent.
Over four memorable days and three relaxed nights, our group of 10 is led by skilled guides, Tracy and Ann, along rugged sandstone clifftops, across wild and remote beaches, and through vast karri forests.
We see whales, dolphins, kangaroos and native birds including eagles throughout the day. Unlike some walks that start at the crack of dawn, most days start at 8am (you are on holiday, after all) and cover an average of six to 15 kilometres.
On our first morning, we are treated to a private tour of Ngilgi Cave near Yallingup by local Wadandi and cave custodian Josh “Koomal” Whiteland, whose family has a strong history in the region.
Josh is incredibly knowledgeable about the region’s unique flora and fauna and shares his passion for native foods and bush medicine.
He tells us the Dreamtime story of Ngilgi (pronounced Neelgee) – a good spirit who triumphed in battle against an evil spirit, Wolgine – and then plays the didgeridoo from the depths of the cave. The captivating sound echoes through the natural amphitheatre and sends chills up my spine.
My favourite day starts at beautiful Redgate Beach, exploring stretches of white sand and turquoise bays, hidden caves tucked into the cliffs, and finishing the day in Boranup Karri Forest.
The walk is classified as moderate, and except for a couple of sets of stairs and a sand dune, there isn’t anything overly difficult to cope with. Our group ranges in age from mid-40s to mid-60s; some are keen walkers while for others, this is their first organised trek. It’s actually ideal for beginners, avid hikers and everyone in between.
Injidup Spa Retreat, where we are shuttled back to each afternoon, is a welcome sanctuary located on the walking track above Injidup Beach. Each of the 10 self-contained two-bedroom units has heated stone floors, a kitchen, laundry, dining and sitting room.
Afternoons at the resort are spent enjoying a spa treatment, exploring the beach, or curling up with a book in front of the fire in your villa. A pre-dinner soak with a glass of wine in the heated plunge pool swiftly becomes a daily routine.
Glass bi-fold doors open to a private deck with a barbecue, plunge pool and unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean. The minibar is stocked with premium regional wines, gourmet cheeses, homemade cookies, granola, and bread and jam, all provided by local gourmet
cafe Merchant and Maker.
I usually don’t give hotel minibars a second glance, but this one impressively reflects the curated values and all-inclusive offerings of Walk into Luxury, and I happily partake in sampling everything throughout my stay.
Merchant and Maker also supply our picnic lunches, which include hearty fresh salads like chicken and Asian coleslaw on spinach leaves
or Indian curried rice with roasted vegetables.
Homemade fig and nut bars, cakes, cookies, and healthy energy balls are generously handed out at morning tea – so much for thinking I might shed a kilo or two.
Dinners are also special events with a four-course menu at Cape Lodge overlooking the lake on our first night, and a delicious in-house private dinner prepared by local chef Andrea Ilott on our final evening.
Slow-roasted lamb with middle eastern spices, roasted vegetable salad, grilled red snapper, and a spectacular Persian love cake with labna for dessert are just a few of the culinary treats and, of course, we enjoy copious sparkling and still wines each evening.
On our final day, we walk about three hours before being transferred to award-winning winery Wills Domain for a very long, very delicious celebratory lunch. Think rainbow trout with horseradish, glazed beef short rib, miso roasted Jerusalem artichoke, and a Snickers-inspired salted caramel, chocolate and peanut dessert.
All too soon, it’s time to head back to Perth. Our driver, ‘Trusty Rusty’ as we have come to refer to him, navigates the three-and-a-half-hour journey while we laugh about favourite parts of the trip. It’s not the hardest nor the easiest walk I’ve ever done, but it’s certainly the most luxurious.