Saturday, 20 August 2016

Quininup Falls (Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park)

A short walk in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, this trail leads walkers from Moses Rock to the beautiful but relatively obscure Quininup Falls. The trail largely follows the Cape to Cape Track along coastal cliffs and heathland, before heading inland along an ad hoc track to the impressive falls. Largely dry over the summer tourist season, Quininup Falls is one of the spectacular rewards of winter in the Margaret River Region. 

Distance: 3.5 km (return)
Gradient: Largely gradual descents and ascents. Some moderately steep sections near sand dunes.
Quality of Path: Trail is well maintained and clear. though very muddy in parts. The sections along the Cape to Cape are clearly marked, with the ad hoc path to the falls fairly easy to follow. 
Quality of Signage: Cape to Cape way markers are obvious and well spaced, though lacking in directional arrows. No signage to the falls. 
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required, though some general navigational sense will be required for the walk off the Cape to Cape to the falls. 
Time: 1 Hour
Steps: Few steps, but definitely not wheelchair accessible
Best Time to Visit: Mid Winter- Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the end of Moses Rock Rd off Caves Rd. Head to the northernmost car park for easiest access. 

Although I've been visiting the Margaret River region for over 20 years, I'd only recently discovered Quininup Falls after reading through the Cape to Cape Track guidebook. Compared to the wineries, caves and coastal features like Sugarloaf Rock and Canal Rocks, Quininup Falls is downright obscure, owing perhaps to the slow trickle the falls becomes over the peak Summer tourist season and the 3.5 kilometre return walk required to get there. Although people complain about the cold, Winter is actually a great time to be in the South West due to the lushness brought on by winter rains. Being on a bit of a quest to photograph the waterfalls of Perth and the South West, a winter visit to the region with family friends served as the perfect opportunity to tick yet another waterfall walk off the list.

Unlike other South West waterfall walks to Beedelup or Lane Poole Falls, Quininup Falls is not clearly signposted - there is no official trailhead provided. Nevertheless, the falls are located as a short spur off from the region's famous Cape to Cape Track, and a vehicle access point is conveniently located a few kilometres away at the end of Moses Rock Rd. Walkers should head to the northernmost car park, where a set of wooden log stairs lead off towards the falls. The car park itself features magnificent views of the Indian Ocean and coastline.

For much of this walk the trail to Quininup Falls follows the Cape to Cape Track. The Cape to Cape is marked with these square peg wooden markers at regular intervals. While it lacks the directional arrows of the Bibbulmun Track, the markers appear more regularly than on the Bibbulmun, and the path is fairly straightforward over the course of this walk.

Something that really surprised Alissa and I however was the sheer amount of mud along this walk. While trails in Tasmania are notorious for their muddiness, it is rarely an issue in Western Australia. Having walked all of the coastal sections of the Bibbulmun Track from Walpole to Albany, we couldn't recall any sections of mud as bad as it was along this trail to the falls.

Having timed our walk to be at the falls near sunset inevitably meant walking towards the sun. The headache-inducing glare was far from optimal, however we were still able to enjoy the lovely coastal views as the trail headed north across the coastal ridge.

There are a few stretches along the coastal ridge that are so muddy that they are completely waterlogged. As a result, there are makeshift solutions like stepping stones and a mad network of ad hoc tracks deviating around the deep, muddy puddles, however all of these eventually return to the main trail.

Jumbles of orange coloured granite formations jut out from the heathlands, having a similar look to Castle Rock along the Meelup Trail. The diversity of granite in Western Australia is amazing - compare these orange hues with the sandy colour of granite in the Perth Hills and the deep greys common to the Porongurups and Mt Frankland.

Leading towards the falls, the trail crosses a wooden bridge over an ephemeral stream that run down to the ocean. This provides an excellent vantage point from which to view one of the many secluded and largely inaccessible bays in the region.

Eventually the trail leaves the muddy grey-brown soils that have dominated much of the walk, and rises up over a sand dune before descending sharply. At the crest of the dune, make a note of the reddish area to the north-east as you will be heading in its direction. 

After descending the dune, there is a divergence in the trail. The Cape to Cape continues to the left, leading to the beach into which Quininup Brook flows. To head to the falls, follow the trail to the right.

The trail skirts an area of unusually reddish soil. According to the Cape to Cape Guidebook, these red sand blowout areas are of spiritual significance to Aboriginal people of the region. As such, walkers should be respectful and walk along the edge of this section without causing too much disturbance to the area.

At the trail rises from the red sand blowout, the sound of the waterfall becomes increasingly obvious, with the upper tiers of the falls peaking out from beyond the coastal heath.

Following a trail down along the brook leads to the foot of Quininup Falls. Although smaller than the epic Lesmurdie Falls in the Perth Hills, Quininup is nevertheless a stunning, decent size waterfall in its own right, framed by walls of orange granite and with a small pool located at its foot.

Scrambling up to the right of the falls brings walkers to another excellent vantage point overlooking Quininup Falls, with some of its upper tiers visible further upstream.

From the falls, Quininup Brook continues it journey to the ocean, running along a sandy stream bed to Quininup Beach. From the falls, there appear to be some informal trails leading further upstream, however with the sun setting we decided to call it a day and head back to the car. Climbing up a sand dune notwithstanding, the return journey is a fairly easy retracing of steps back to the Moses Rock car park.

As we reached our car, we were gifted with a final, lovely view of the Indian Ocean at sunset that capped off what proved to be a short but visually stunning walk - and a nice taster of the Cape the Cape Track. With most waterfalls near Perth or in the South West are either in the Perth Hills or deep in the Karri forests, it is truly surprising that Quininup Falls has flown under the radar for so long given that a coastal waterfall is something of a unique experience in Western Australia. As previously mentioned, the fact that the falls are fairly dry over the Summer tourism season largely explains its absence from most itineraries, however the chance to experience Quininup Falls at its best definitely serves as a strong argument for why there really should be no Off Season in the Margaret River region.


  1. Just want to warn people that due to the illegal construction of a large dam just upstream from the Falls they don't run as often or with as much water volume as previously. Satellite imagery can show you the culprit - neither state nor local govt agencies interested in remedying this, sadly