Melbourne native Cate Blanchett escapes the city's hot, dry climate at Elwood Beach, a family-friendly spot four miles south of the city on Port Phillip Bay; the actress learned to bodysurf at Portsea Back Beach, 60 miles south of Melbourne on the tip of the Mornington Peninsula.
TAKE A SUN-WASHED coastline with white-sand beaches, add a wildflower-filled 83-mile trail along limestone cliffswith warm surf below and, a brief jaunt away, prized wines to sipand you've got an overcrowded tourist trap, right? Wrong, mate, if you're on the Cape to Cape Track, in 49,400-acre Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.
Located in one of the most isolated coastal areas on earththree hours south of Perth in Australia's southwestern cornerthe track and parkland are barely on the radar for most travelers.
But just minutes from the trail by car lies the trendy town of Margaret River, a hot new epicenter of epicureanism and home to some of Australia's best wineries. And just a mile and a half away are the cushy chalets of the Merribrook Retreat, whose owners, veteran guide Richard Firth and his wife, Lorraine, run a variety of Cape to Cape trips.
The Firths' six-day trek winds through headlands above sculpted dunes, empty beaches, and world-class surf breaks. Watch for southern right and humpback whales during migration season, from October to December. Or let Firth rappel you 150 feet down into one of the park's huge limestone caves.
At day's end, a chilled wine will be ready to pour, and Firth, a skilled cook, will snag seafood for that night's dinner from your own private coastline.
Merribrook Retreat's six-day Cape to Cape walks cost US$1,422 (based on double occupancy); doubles at Merribrook start at US$177, including breakfast; 011-61-8-9755-5599, www.merribrook.com.au. Check out www.capetocapetrack.com.au for do-it-yourself information.