Cape Arid National Park is located over 800 km southeast of Perth, and almost 125 km east of Esperance in Western Australia. Is it worth driving that far? The answer is yes. Especially if you are looking for some outback experience. I was truly fascinated by this place, its exquisite beauty and wildness, and the fact that there are hardly no people. Cape Arid National Park is equally beautiful as Cape Le Grand National Park, but significantly less popular. Find out more about one of the best places to visit in Western Australia.
HOW FAR IS CAPE ARID FROM PERTH?
Cape Arid National Park is located over 800 km southeast of Perth in Western Australia, and encompasses nearly 280,000 hectares. As you can imagine, it’s a remote, and isolated region, mostly accessible by 4WD vehicles. If you don’t have such a vehicle, you won’t be able to explore too much here. In fact, you will get to the westernmost part of the national park only. That section is Thomas River at Yokinup Bay, 125 km east of Esperance, and accessed via unsealed road. It has stunningly beautiful beaches, and crystal clear waters.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?
Australia’s summer is the best time to visit Cape Arid National Park. Plan your visit from December to February, especially if you are coming here to chill out on the beach, and swim in the ocean. Just be mindful of fire warnings over that period of time. This region is extremely dry, therefore, it’s recommended to check the alerts even daily. Spring (from September to November), and autumn (from March to May) are not bad either. Definitely avoid visiting the national park in winter (from June to August). It may be rainy, and windy.
IS THERE AN ENTRY FEE?
Park visitor fees apply in Cape Arid National Park. A day entry fee is AUD 15 for a vehicle and needs to be paid at the entrance stations. If you want to avoid paying entry fees for accessing national parks in Western Australia, a purchase of periodic pass is a smart choice. It will help you save some money if there are other national parks on your itinerary. Make sure to print the pass and keep it displayed on your dashboard at all times. It’s worth to say that separate fees apply for camping in national parks regardless of having this pass.
WHERE TO SEEK INFORMATION?
Cape Arid National Park has no Visitor Centre. Don’t expect to get any reception there either. If you seek information about road conditions and weather alerts, dial the national park contact number beforehand. There’s no petrol station past Condingup, so keep that in mind while filling your tank up, and consider taking some jerry cans as well, if I plan to drive towards Israelite Bay, and Mount Ragged. The closest shop with some simple products is in Condingup too, at the above-mentioned petrol station.
WHERE TO STAY OVERNIGHT?
Cape Arid National Park has a couple of campgrounds. Those at Pt Dempster, Pt Malcolm, Mount Ragged, and Thomas Fishery are accessible by 4WD vehicles only. If you don’t drive such a car, you can stay overnight at Thomas River campsites (Belinup and Yokinup Mia Mia). They are accessible by 2WD cars via unsealed road. Toilets can be found at Mount Ragged, Thomas Fishery, and Thomas River. No reservations are taken for any campgrounds. The camping fee needs to be paid for staying at Thomas River. It’s AUD 11 per night for an adult. Belinup and Yokinup Mia Mia have the best facilities, including a power generator.
IS IT SAFE?
Cape Arid National Park is outback Australia. In other words, is a remote, isolated, and wild region, especially its northern and eastern part. Having said that, make sure to have an ample amount of food, drinking water (there is no water provided in the national park), and fuel. If you want to drive towards Israelite Bay or Mount Ragged, don’t forget to reduce your tyre pressure. That will lower the chances of getting bogged. Some roads in the park may be periodically closed. Check the alerts before driving there.
WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO DO?
Cape Arid National Park is definitely my kind of place. I truly love exploring the Australian outback, and being surrounded by nothing else than wild nature. My favourite place here is Mount Ragged. A mountain standing proudly in the middle of nowhere. Getting there is not easy though. You need to drive 50 km on sand, but I do think it’s worth it. Off-road driving is a great fun anyway. Just avoid getting bogged! Cape Arid National Park also has some stunning beaches that are pretty much always empty. More details below.
Israelite Bay was the first place I ventured to in Cape Arid National Park, and it turned out to be a slight disappointment. I did enjoy four-wheel driving, and I don’t regret doing those 70 km on sand, but overall I think that it’s not worth the effort. In short, Israelite Bay is an average looking beach with ruins of the Telegraph Station built in 1895. Better beaches can be easily found at Thomas River, and Thomas Fishery. So feel free to skip this part, and drive straight to Mount Ragged instead. Israelite Bay is not a must for me.
Mount Ragged is situated in the northern part of Cape Arid National Park. You will get there via Balladonia Track (starts at Fisheries Road, and goes further north) or by taking Gora Track (if you are heading there from Israelite Bay). Both tracks are suitable for 4WD vehicles only. The walking track to Mount Ragged is not too long. The final section requires a little bit of rock scrambling though. Take your time to admire the views, and sign into the guest book on the top. Overnight stay is possible at Mount Ragged campsite. Enjoy!
Mount Ragged Carpark – Mount Ragged – Mount Ragged Carpark
Walking track: 3 km, 2 hours (return)
Trail difficulty: class 5
Trail access: 4WD
TAGON COASTAL TRAIL
Ready for some hiking along the coast? Check out the Tagon Coastal Trail in the western part of Cape Arid National Park. It’s a 15 km return hike that features some of the best beaches in this region. Start walking from Thomas River campground or Dolphin Cove carpark. The second option will shorten the distance a bit. Both starting points are accessible by 2WD cars through unsealed road. Tagon Coastal Trail ends at Kennedy Beach, but you can finish it whenever you want, for example at Tagon Bay, and then head back.
Yokinup Bay – Dolphin Cove – Little Tagon Bay – Tagon Bay – Kennedy Beach – Tagon Bay – Little Tagon Bay – Dolphin Cove – Yokinup Bay
Walking track: 15 km, 4 hours (return)
Trail difficulty: class 4
Trail access: 2WD (unsealed road)
Cape Arid National Park isn’t too popular among West Aussies, so it’s very likely that you will end up being alone there, even in high season. When it comes to beaches, they are as beautiful as those in Cape Le Grand National Park, and surprisingly almost always empty. Make sure to visit Yokinup Bay, Tagon Bay (both accessible for 4WD vehicles), as well as Dolphin Cove, Little Tagon Bay, and Kennedy Beach. Make sure to bring a swimsuit with you, put a thick layer of sunscreen, set off towards the coast, and have fun!
- Len Otte Nature Trail – 2 km, 1 hour (loop), class 3, 2WD trail access (unsealed road)
- Mount Arid – 4 km, 3 hours (return), class 5, 4WD trail access
These are the best things to do in Cape Arid National Park. Are you going to hike Mount Ragged? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
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