Cape Leeuwin is one of the most scenically spectacular places to visit in the Margaret River region of Western australia, and there’s plenty of history there too!
This is the extreme south-western most point of the Australian continent, and the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Great Southern Ocean – a bleak and windswept place almost completely surrounded by huge crashing waves and sparkling blue sea.
At the very end of the Cape, on a narrow peninsula of granite jutting out into the ocean, there stands a tall lighthouse, built in the late 19th century. The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse affords spectacular views and is open for touring by the public.
This peninsula, with its stunning scenery and historic attractions associated with the lighthouse, is enclosed within the Lighthouse Precinct, a fenced-off area that you pay a fee of $8/adult (concessions apply) to enter. To climb to the top of the lighthouse (well worth doing!), you must join a tour for an additional $12/adult.
Where is Cape Leeuwin in the Margaret River Region?
Cape Leeuwin is located in the far south of the Margaret River Region, at the opposite end of the Cape-to-Cape Coast to Cape Naturaliste. Augusta is the closest town to Cape Leeuwin, but Margaret River town is only about half an hour’s drive away. It’s a little bit further to drive to from the northern Margaret River Region towns of Dunsborough, Yallingup and Busselton, but even still it’s within day-tripping distance (1 hour drive each way).
The Story of Cape Leeuwin
Cape Leeuwin is named in honour of the Dutch ship Leeuwin (Lioness in Dutch), the first ship known to have sailed in the Cape Leeuwin area. The Leeuwin sailed past in 1622, but it was the English explorer Matthew Flinders who named it Cape Leeuwin, in 1801.
As one of the great Capes of the Southern Ocean (along with the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Horn and Tasmania), the Cape Leeuwin coastline has a treacherous history as an important maritime landmark, and a final resting place for 23 ships (all but one of which were wrecked before the lighthouse was built!).
In 1881 a proposal was made to build a lighthouse on the Cape to make shipping safer. Building began in 1895 and was completed in 1896.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
At 39m-tall and 56m above sea-level, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the third-tallest lighthouse in Australia and the tallest in WA – and one of the most visually stunning. The lighthouse stands tall in its lonely position at the end of the dramatic granite peninsula, stark-white against clear blue summer skies, and through bleak cold fronts and wild storms off the ocean.
The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was one of the last in the world to remain manually operated with a clockwork mechanism, only switching over to automatic electrical operation in 1982.
The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse Tour: Is It Worth Doing?
The Cape Leeuwin lighthouse is one of the major tourist attractions in the area, and it has the fees, opening hours and occasional mobs of people that go with this.
But in my opinion, if you’ve driven all the way down to Augusta then it’s definitely worth paying the $8 to have a look around the lighthouse precinct. As for the lighthouse tour – I’ve done it several times now and have always felt like I got my money’s worth, but then I am the sort of person who likes views and scenery, and is interested in lighthouses and the history of the area.
It’s worth noting though that my Mum who generally despises tours and commentary, also enjoys going on the Lighthouse tour!
Meeting of the Oceans
Cape Leeuwin marks the boundary between the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean.
Don’t laugh, but I find the experience of standing where two of the world’s Seven Seas meet sparks my imagination and contributes a sense of drama to the already very dramatic coastal scenery, even if it is just an arbritary line on the maps!
In very rough conditions you can (supposedly) actually see the two oceans clashing where the waves and currents meet from different directions, creating bigger waves and treacherous conditions for boats! But it’s not something I’ve ever been able to see on my many visits to Cape Leeuwin (including during winter). Sure, I’ve seen turbulent seas with big waves crashing along a line out to sea near where the oceans meet, but it looks to me like it might have more to do with the location of reefs and rocks than the mixing of the oceans…
So Much More to See and Do Out at Cape Leeuwin!
The Old Waterwheel
The fossilised water wheel is a curiosity worth visiting on a trip out to Cape Leeuwin. It was built to help pump water from a spring up to the lighthouse cottages, and over the years the wood that it was originally made from has been coated in, and partially replaced by minerals. It’s now calcified and frozen in time, like a stalagmite.
Flinders Bay Beaches, Rocks and Look Outs
On the drive out to Cape Leeuwin from Augusta along Leeuwin Road, take your time and make stops along the way to walk along the beaches and rocks, and take in the views of Flinders Bay.
Don’t miss the views of the lighthouse from Point Matthew, presumably named after Matthew Flinders because there is an information plaque about him near the carpark on the point.
Sarge Bay, the 1.5km-long south-facing beach adjacent to Cape Leeuwin to the east, is a wild uncrowded beach with mostly gentle waves where you can swim or walk along the white sand in solitude, with great views of Cape Leeuwin and the lighthouse. This beautiful beach is easily accessible from Leeuwin Road or the lighthouse precinct car park.
During the Autumn and Winter months whales are frequently spotted in Flinders Bay so it’s even more worth while hopping out of the car and looking out to sea.
On a hot day there are many gorgeous spots to stop and swim on the way out to Cape Leeuwin, the most obvious being Granny Pool (just around the point to the west of Storm Bay and the Flinders Bay Caravan Park). Granny Pool is a naturally formed 100m-long swimming pool with calm shallow water, bordered along its seaward edge by low rocks.
Scenic Views From Skippy Rock Road
On your way out to Cape Leeuwin from Augusta, or the way back, consider taking the Skippy Rock Road, a gravel track (suitable for 2WD cars) that takes you off Leeuwin Road inland and up a hill, before looping back down towards the coast and Cape Leeuwin. The views of Cape Leeuwin from this scenic drive are even more beautiful than those from the beaches and lookout points along Leeuwin Road.
Detour off the main Skippy Rock Road down to Quarry Bay or to the barren dune area behind Skippy Rock, where you can find a small field of Pinnacles-like rocks. Both these spots are good for fishing, and for snorkeling when the waves and wind are both very calm.
Cape Leeuwin is the End Point of the Cape to Cape Track
The Cape to Cape Track is a 5 to 7 day hiking trail following the length of the dramatic Cape to Cape Margaret River coastline (with an inland section through the Boranup Forest). The start/finish points of the track are Cape Naturaliste in the north and Cape Leeuwin in the south.
The section of the track from Cape Leeuwin to Skippy Rock makes for a great scenic walk of about 2 hours return, easily combined with a visit to the lighthouse precinct and a tour of the lighthouse for a fantastic day’s outing.
Visiting Cape Leeuwin
Where is it and how do you get there?
Cape Leeuwin is at the far south of the Margaret River region, and is the terminus of the Bussell Highway. To get there you need to first drive through the town of Augusta. As the Bussel Highway reaches Augusta it turns into the town’s main street (Blackwood Avenue), and if you continue south along this road it turns into Leeuwin Road.
Along the way there are several places where you can stop and walk on the rocks or walk on a beautiful deserted beach. At the Matthew Flinders Lookout you get good views of Cape Leeuwin and the lighthouse in the distance.
For a slightly more scenic detour, turn left off Blackwood Avenue onto Albany Terrace, which follows the shores of Hardy Inlet and Flinders Bay before meeting up again with the main road.
Also Visit Cape Naturaliste, the other Margaret River Cape!
The Margaret River Region is bounded by two spectacular Capes: Cape Naturaliste (A on the map below) pointing south and Cape Leeuwin (B on the map) pointing north, with the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge running between them for about 100km. They’re almost like mirror images of each other.
Visiting both the Capes gives you a cool sense of completion to your Margaret River adventures.