Cape Naturaliste Birding Sites

Key Species : Southern Giant-Petrel, Cape Petrel (good chance), Great-winged Petrel, White-headed Petrel (winter chance), Soft-plumaged Petrel (good winter chance), Blue Petrel (small chance), prion sp. (small chance), White-chinned Petrel (winter), Grey Petrel (small chance), Flesh-footed Shearwater (spring/summer), Hutton's Shearwater (chance), Little Shearwater (spring/summer), Black-browed Albatross (good chance), Shy Albatross (good chance), Yellow-nosed Albatross, Red-tailed Tropicbird (September to May), Southern Emu-wren, Red-eared Firetail. Mammals : Humpback Whale (chance), Southern Right Whale (chance), Long-finned Pilot Whale (chance), New Zealand Fur-seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) (chance).

Cape Naturaliste is located about 3 hours south south west from Perth.  From Perth, head south to Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton (Post Office S33 39 02" E115 20 48") and Dunsborough (Post Office S33 36 57" E115 06 26").  Cape Naturaliste is 13 kilometres north west of Dunsborough.  Cape Naturaliste is one of the best seawatching sites in the south west, and is a must if you want to see Red-tailed Tropicbird.  I have visited Cape Naturaliste for the day from Perth on a few occasions but I recommend that you stay for one or more nights in Dunsborough.  I have listed a few possible places to stay at the end.

I recommend the rocky point at Bunker Bay if the conditions are suitable, otherwise try the lookout at Bunker Bay or the cliff near Cape Naturaliste.  Sugarloaf Rock is really only recommended for Red-tailed Tropicbird.  The maritime museum is worth a quick check for Red-eared Firetail, and the cliffs and car park near Cape Naturaliste is a good chance for Southern Emu-wren.


1. Sugarloaf Rock (lookout S33 33 36" E115 00 27")

From the Dunsborough roundabout drive along Caves Road for 500 metres and turn right at Cape Naturaliste Road.  After 10.2km turn left at the turnoff signposted to Sugarloaf Rock.  Continue for 2.8km to the car park at the end.  Walk up the path to the lookout.  A spotting scope is very useful.  Sugarloaf Rock is famous for the Red-tailed Tropicbirds that breed there every year.  This is only site in mainland Australia where Red-tailed Tropicbirds can be seen reliably from the coast.  I have seen up to eight every visit there from September to late May.  I usually found that they are easier to see in the middle of the day and the afternoon.  Perhaps they are away feeding in the early morning.  I have seen a few seabirds such as Flesh-footed Shearwater, Yellow-nosed Albatross, Australasian Gannet, a Cape Petrel and a probable Northern Giant-Petrel but you will see a lot more closer to the cape.  Southern Emu-wren can sometimes be found near the car park.  I have also seen Whimbrel and Eastern Reef Egret on the rocks below.


2. Bunker Bay (rocky point S33 32 15" E115 01 57")

The turnoff to Bunker Bay is 1.1km on the right after the Sugarloaf Rock turnoff.  It is 1.4km to the car park at the end.  Bunker Bay faces north and is a good place to watch seabirds when the conditions are right.  In a strong westerly or a very strong south westerly the birds are blown around into Geographe Bay and you are sheltered at Bunker Bay.  I usually walk down to the rocky point slightly to the right of the beach.  There is also a path along the coast to the left for about 750 metres to a lookout (S33 32 16" E115 01 52").  Follow the path and turn right at the second seat onto an overgrown limestone track to the lookout.  In September 1997 I saw Cape Petrel and Hutton's Shearwaters plus the more common seabirds.  In late September 1998 I saw Southern Giant-Petrel (a juvenile and my first adult), Soft-plumaged Petrel, Little Shearwater and Shy Albatross.  In July 2000 I saw Wilson's Storm-Petrel, Southern Giant-Petrel and New Zealand Fur-seal.


3. Cape Naturaliste (S33 32 xx" E115 00 xx")

1.4km from the Bunker Bay turnoff there is a gravel road on the left.  This road can be badly corrugated.  Follow the road for 1.6km to the end and park in the small car park (S33 32 14" E115 00 34").  Southern Emu-wren can usually be found near the car park or nearby along the track to the cape.  There is a track that heads north along the top of the cliff towards the cape.  I usually follow this track for about 40 metres and follow a very small track for about 30 metres down to the top of the cliff ( S33 32 13" E115 00 29").  This is the site that I usually watch from.  Keep as low as possible out of the wind to keep your scope as steady as possible.  You can shelter just below the top of the cliff.  You can also continue walking about 600 to 700 metres towards the cape and make your way down the cliff and out to the point to get a closer view.


4. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse (Maritime Museum S33 32 20" E115 01 10")

The maritime museum at the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse is a very reliable place to see Red-eared Firetail especially on warmer days.  There is a bird bath under the bushes to the right.  Western Rosella is also a good chance.  Splendid Fairy-wrens are very common around the car park.  You can walk to the cape from here but the previous site is closer.


5. Boat Trips

Seabirding from the coast can be very good, but there is nothing like being on a boat with the seabirds coming in close enough to photograph.  I hope one day to organise a pelagic trip from Dunsborough.  One company that does deep sea fishing and whale watching cruises from September to early December is Naturaliste Charters on their 16 metre (50 foot) vessel MV Naturaliste Lady. Contact Terri and Steve Mitchell on (08) 9755 2276.


Also see the Birds Australia WA series of country brochures including Busselton, and my web page for Augusta & Cape Leeuwin.

Dunsborough Tourist Bureau, Seymour Boulevard, Dunsborough 6182 (08 9755 3299)

Dunsborough Seaside Villas, 37 Marshall Street, Dunsborough 6281 (08 9755 3777)

White Sands Holiday Villas, 362 Geographe Bay Road, Dunsborough 6281 (08 9755 3011)

Three Pines Resort YHA (08 9755 3107)

Green Acres Beachfront Caravan Park, Gifford Road, Dunsborough 6281 (08 9755 3087)


Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2002 Visits Last Modified 31st January 2002