There’s no finer way to experience Cape Naturaliste than exploring the wild and wonderful Meelup Regional Park. Rich in biodiversity and home to many native animals, the park is laced with hiking and mountain bike trails, glamorous glimpses of Geographe Bay and true Aussie bush, gumnuts, grass trees and all.

Sure, it’s famous for Meelup Beach and “ocean the hue of a Bombay Sapphire bottle” according to Lonely Planet, but stretch your legs or hop on your bike to delve and discover its other charms.

“It’s the place to watch the moon rise”, explains Josh Whiteland, of cultural tour operator Koomal Dreaming; “the name Meelup comes from the word for eyes, meel. It’s an old camping area, and families would rest beneath the peppies during Bunuru season and drink from the spring that runs down the hill.” Wadandi families moved with the seasons for food, following the many coastal trails during Kambarang, Birak and Bunuru, roughly October to March.

Dunsborough Mountain Bike Park. Photo: Tim Campbell
Meelup Regional Park is laced with hiking and mountain bike trails ready to be explored. Photo: Tim Campbell.

Mountain Biking Meelup

The Dunsborough Mountain Bike Park sits in the southern tip of the Meelup Regional Park and caters for all levels from beginners and families on wide gravel fire trails to advanced mountain bikers on technical black trails. Winding through native bushland in and around Dunsborough’s original golf course, you’ll see plenty of kangaroos and spectacular Geographe Bay views along the way.

Start with a visit to Bike Shed Dunsborough to hire a full-spec drop-seat dual suspension bike. A heads up – bikes are available in limited numbers, so book roughly two weeks ahead to avoid missing out. Owners Graham Clark and Lee Scurlock are happy to advise on where to go or link you up with a qualified MTB coach to help get the most out of your visit.

Dunsborough Mountain Bike Park. Photo: Tim Campbell
Pick your pace through different circuits available at Dunsborough MTB Park. Photo: Tim Campbell.

Three ways to explore

If you’re happy to go it alone, start at the Dunsborough & Districts Country Club entrance and follow the maps and signs. There’s a $5 Casual MTB User Fee which allows you to explore the trails for up to 5 days, with all proceeds going back into the trail maintenance. It’s important to read and understand the grading of the circuits; green is for beginners; blue is intermediate and black circuits are for advanced riders. A hot tip is to download the Trail Forks app and you’ll have every MTB track in the world in your pocket, including the grading. There’s a free 14-day trial.

Want a little support? Book a qualified MTB coach to guide you and your family through the trails. Andy Van Kamm is one of the Bike Shed’s professional coaches; “If you’re a family looking to do something more memorable than sitting at a coffee shop, come on an adventure and do an MTB tour.”

Andy’s also built the park’s many picnic tables, perfect for taking a break in the shade of a gumtree. He loves Meelup’s extensive network of tracks and trails and reckons “you can do any number of kilometers in any number of hours.” He recommends cycling mid-morning in winter when there’s some warmth in the sun, and summer mornings before the day heats up. “And always take plenty of water!”

Dunsborough Meelup Regional Park
A hike at Meelup lets you fully immerse in the generous nature. Photo: Rachel Claire.

Hiking Meelup Hills and the Coastal Path

Hiking through Meelup trails isn’t just a lovely way to exercise – it’s an immersion in nature’s generosity. Meelup’s walking trails are graded 1-3 by Australian standards, with one short universal access path and many paths suitable for families and steeper rockier paths for people with some bushwalking experience.

The easiest place to start is on the gravel coastal track that leads from Old Dunsborough to Eagle Bay. It skirts tiny “pinch me, I’m dreaming” beaches, so be prepared to strip off and jump in, as the water is too good to miss. Park along the way at Castle Rock, Meelup Beach, Gannet Rock or Point Picquet to break the 7km stretch into a shorter stroll.

Head into the hills for sweeping bay views, to hear the call of Baudin’s cockatoos and to reflect on Castle Bay’s terrible time as a whaling station in the 1840s. There’s the Whaler’s Lookout Walk above Castle Bay, where humpbacks and southern right whales can be seen close to shore in spring. The Lookout Circuit from Meelup offers the chance to see the Moodja tree (Nuytsia floribunda) in vibrant orange blossom in December. The Meelup Brook Loop and Car Rally Trail are a treat following autumn and winter rails when the brook is bubbling away. You’ll find maps for eight different trails at www.meeluppark.com.

Josh Whiteland Indigenous Experiences
Josh Whiteland, local Wadandi man and owner of Koomal Dreaming Aboriginal cultural experiences. Photo: Elements Margaret River.

Look out for wildlife and wildflowers

Bring your binoculars as you might spy migrating whales and zipping birds on your walk, depending on the season. There’s quendas and kangaroos at dawn and dusk, and whales, fairy wrens, emu wrens, orchids and other wildflowers in spring, and watch for reptiles in summer.

Caring for country

“How fortunate we are to access a place as amazing as Meelup! There are so many native animals, bandicoots and echidna, lizards and birds, and caring for country is how we can keep it beautiful”, according to Josh Whiteland.

“Be mindful of how unspoiled and unique the park is. Stay on the paths and be careful not to break the vegetation. Appreciate it, look after it and it will stay beautiful.”

Josh’s favourite place to unwind with his family is Eagle Bay, where celebrating the spirit of the place brings him closer and more connected to country.

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