Ghost House Trail - Yanchep (Yandjip) National Park
This is another trail which has been on my list to revisit for some time! We originally walked this trail some years ago by accident after missing the turn off while walking the Caves Trail. At that time I wasn't overly impressed with the trail but that may have been our state of mind as it seemed never ending considering we were supposed to be hiking a 4km trail! This time we headed off in July and walked in a clockwise direction, as recommended, and I now understand why it is considered to be one of Perth's top trails.
The bush has recovered well after the 2019 summer bushfires which devastated this area and the tracks are now fully restored.
Starting from McNess House Visitor Centre (we even did the right thing and signed in for this longer hike as per recommendations!) a paved path heads towards beautiful Loch McNess where you can spend some time watching the light play on the water as you listen to the many water birds. Follow the lake's edge and you come to the blue boat where the Wetlands Trail starts. The Ghost House Trail incorporates the beginning of the Wetlands Trail as it skirts Loch McNess on it's western shore. This section of the Wetlands Trail is a bit rougher than the more manicured level pathway east of the Ghost House Trail intersection. The paperbarks, ferns and reeds are quite thick so there are only a few glimpses of the lake.
Soon after the massive tree trunk which is sprouting multiple shoots the Ghost House Trail splits from the Wetlands Trail. Prior to the 2019 fires there was a large trail information sign here but now there are only trail markers. The trail narrows into a single file track as it steadily climbs through tuart woodlands. We could hear kookaburras in the distance and other birds were flitting about. Trail makers appear at regular intervals even though there is only one clear trail to follow.
As you approach and then skirt the northern edge of the wetlands you can hear a chorus of frogs. The trail is quite narrow and you will inevitably brush up against the plant foliage so make sure you use a repellent and take precautions against ticks as the animal tracks in the mud prove that this trail is also used by the resident roos.
You come across the Ghost House quite suddenly after another left turn. With the uneven track one tends to have eyes on the ground to watch for trip hazards and there, all of a sudden, is the Ghost House. Sadly there is no information on the history of this old limestone building.
Continue on and you arrive at Shapcott's Hut where there is a long drop toilet, sheltered picnic table and benches to sleep on if you are overnighting. We stopped for our morning tea, admiring the steep cliff on the opposite side and listening to the various bird calls.
The track continues on now looping back to the south on a wider trail for a short distance before passing the intersection to the Coastal Plain Walk Trail - this one is 51km so don't take the wrong turn! The trail traverses through banksia woodland providing another surprise when you emerge next to the golf course! We thought we must be close to the end but there is still quite a way to go as the trail winds back into the bush.
Suddenly there is an old military bunker used as a RAAF radar base in WW2.
The landscape changes as there are more rocky limestone outcrops and limestone rocks on the path as you near cave country. The trail winds through coastal heathland and you will pass the intersection for the Yanchep Rose Trail (one we have vowed to hike another day!) and the Caves Trail. Finally you emerge at Cabaret Cave which is a function venue. We wandered over to look at the gated cave entrance and exit but we couldn't see much. There is plenty of parking here unless there is an event on so this could be a good start/end point. There are toilets here but they are generally only open for events.
We tried to stay true to the Ghost House Trail and followed it from the Cabaret Cave carpark along an older paved track with stone steps which passes by the start of the Dwerta Mia Trail into Boomerang Gorge. The trail then crosses the campground access road and heads back through the bush joining the Caves Trail and then the Woodlands Trail as it heads back to emerge opposite the Koala Enclosure.
Once you arrive at Cabaret Cave you have several options. From here you could divert to follow Caves Trail which passes across the top of Boomerang Gorge and then comes out at Crystal Cave where there is parking and toilets. You can also pre book to do a 90 minute Crystal Cave tour online or at the McNess Visitor Centre.
This is stated to be a 12.4km loop hike and it took us just over 3 hours at a good pace. There are a number of variations you can take which will alter the length and duration of the hike. Trails are clearly marked although the yellow Ghost House Trail markers and the yellow Caves Trail markers are quite similar so look closely at the picture.
Entrance to Yanchep National Park is $15 per car. If you are a local resident the City of Wanneroo sometimes offers free or discounted park entry passes or you can buy an annual pass from DBCA or through RAC at discounted rates for members.
Yanchep National Park has a variety of other facilities including the Yanchep Inn and Chocolate Drops Tea Rooms for a meal or a cuppa, caves tours, large picnic grounds with barbecues, cultural experiences, the koala enclosure and lots of kangaroos! You can also camp overnight on Henry White Oval or stay at the Yanchep Inn. At additional cost to park entry you can attend Tree Tops Adventure or play a round of golf.
The word Yanchep is derived from Yandjip or Yanget which is the aboriginal name for the local bulrush reed found fringing the lakes. Nyanyi-Yandjip (Yanchep National Park) is named after the reeds and the lake which were thought to resemble the hairy mane of the dreamtime creature the Waugul . This area is culturally significant to the Noongar people and has been inhabited and used as a hunting ground for thousands of years prior to European settlement.
In 1834 the first European visitor, John Butler, arrived in the area looking for stray cattle. The caves were discovered by George Grey as he passed through in 1838 and by 1865 a stock route had been established through the area. In 1905 the area was set aside for recreational use but it was not until 1969 that it was granted National Park status.
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In the spirit of reconciliation Out and About- Family Nature Connection acknowledges the traditional owners of the Wadjak boodjar (Perth land) and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
As always when hiking in the bush please help to reduce the spread of Phytophthora Dieback by sticking to the tracks and paths, staying out of quarantined areas and, if possible, clean your shoes before and after hiking. A spray of 70% methylated spirit and 30% water can be effective.