Martin Chambers

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Bunker Bay kayak route

published: March 28th, 2017

The canoe and Kayak guide to WA

Suitable for:

beach side – small sit on tops and wave skis

trips to the cape – skilled paddlers with sea kayaks or longer sit on tops and surf skis

Caution: beware strong winds or large swell. Not suitable for canoes or open cockpit kayaks at anytime.

Bunker Bay is only 3km from Cape Naturalist but it could be a whole world away. On the west side of the Cape, Southern Ocean swells arrive uninhibited at surf breaks like Three Bears and Sugarloaf. In Bunker Bay they arrive as a gentler shore break and there is a popular swimming beach. It is a suitable place to have fun with just about any type of kayak.

Smaller kayaks could launch from the swimming beach at Bunker Bay itself. Turn right off Cape Naturalist Rd and then right off Bunker Bay Rd to Bunker’s Beach House (a rather good restaurant). You will have to carry down the boardwalk past the restaurant so for larger kayaks put in at Shelley Cove by following the Bunker Bay Rd to the end. Here you will need to carry about 100m down the walk path but it is far less crowded.

When the swell is up or from anything north of west there is a surf break (The Quarries) out from Shelley Cove, and the cove itself might be difficult to launch from. In this case, walk to the right down a sandy track and launch on a rocky beach that is really the end of Bunker Bay itself.

Once out on the water make your way slowly along the shore to the left, towards Cape Naturalist. If the swell is up you will have to give breaking surf a wide berth. From out at sea you will see, on top of the land, the tip of the Naturalist lighthouse.

Caution: The prevailing wind is from the south, so if you get into trouble here you could get blown far out to sea. Only paddle this area in low wind. (If the wind is from the north it will probably mean a big swell and you won’t be here anyway.)

Around the point there is a cove with steep walls and a cave with flowstone. The Leewin-Naturalist ridge is a limestone feature with underlying granite, resulting in the wonderful natural features this area is famous for. This first cove is quite deep and you can approach close to the cave. With calm seas adept kayakers will be able to land on the rocks to look around, and as there is no walking access anywhere along this section it is a rather special thing to do.

Further west there is another cave and a sandy beach protected by reef and some rocky islets. These islets are home to New Zealand fur seals. It is an exciting place as swell and waves rise and fall all around you and if you need to be told how to navigate your way through you shouldn’t be here.

There is another kilometre of deep water between reef, and a low cliffy shore, some offshore rocks, and then the actual cape that is smooth weathered granite. The swells are larger and the rounding feels somewhat more dramatic that it actually is. After all, you have only got this far because the weather is nice and the swell is low.

If you get around the Cape, on the west side landing between the Cape and Sugarloaf Rock might be possible with a high skill set, some luck, and good weather. But why bother? You can’t walk out from here. The way home is back the three kilometres to Bunker Bay Beach House, where you can sit in the café with a latte and tell stories of the time you paddled ‘round the Cape.

The canoe and Kayak guide to WA