Heading Home

We left the coast and our first stop was Peak Charles. The walk to the top was above Class 5 with ability to haul yourself up and crab crawling on your hands and feet so we decided to give that a miss. Unfortunately it was also back to the flies – nearly as bad as in Central Australia. We hid from them and waited for it to cool down before heading up to Mushroom Rock.

We left on the rough Lake King-Norseman road and then up the highway to Norseman and headed west on the Hyden-Norseman road, otherwise known as the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail, which was in much better condition. We drove all the way to The Breakaways, an eroded colourful cliff. During the night it rained and we sat it out in the morning venturing out to enjoy the enhanced colours brought out by the rain.

We drove 50km in the afternoon and the clay road gave us a good coating of mud. We stopped at McDermid Rock and it was interesting to see all the puddles on the rock filled with the rain. We used the water to give the car and van a bit of a washdown.

It was still overcast the next day as we passed Lake Johnson and on to Disappointment Rock. Both the rocks on this trail have excellent walks with little signs giving information. Even after all the rocks we had visited we were still learning new things. The person who made the signs had a sense of humour as we visited the hour glass rocks creating a table and seats for the gnomes picnic area.

We were now on the home stretch as we headed out to cross the Nullarbor. A side trip to Cocklebiddy cave and then a night spent on the Bunda cliffs where we were buffeted for half the night. It was worth it for the golden hour views. We had a Southern Right whale and calf just below the cliffs when we arrived. A walk along the cliffs and a cautious look over the edge ensured we didn’t get too close as the cliff is crumbling away all the time.

Across the border we headed to Fowler’s Bay on a recommendation. Ray wasn’t so impressed but when I found my way up onto the dunes I loved it. It looks like the town is in danger of being swallowed by the dunes and they were certainly worried back in 2011 until the winds changed.

We detoured south at Penong to visit Lake Macdonnell and finally get a pink lake. We also returned to the granite rocks on the Eyre Peninsula – staying at Pildappa Rock and paid a short visit to Tcharkuldu Rock. We had an overnight at Mowbray Creek in Mt Remarkable NP and then another one at the picturesque Booky Cliffs on the Murray River south of Berri. Our final night was fittingly spent at Pental Island where we had started our trip.

The South Coast

We left the sunshine of the inland and headed back to the wet coast. We had rain at Denmark so the Green Pool didn’t live up to the sunny beach pictures of the brochures but it was pretty.

We headed on to Albany where we visited Torndirrup NP and all it’s coastal wonders. Another day was spent at Two Peoples NR and the appealing Little Beach.

A free campsite that came highly recommended was Betty’s Beach. Camp was among shacks right next to the small white beach bookended by granite boulders and with a view across to Mt Manypeaks. As you can see we found it as good as we were told.

A stop off to visit Waychinicup NP and then we were into Fitzgerald River NP. We stopped at the west side first, staying at St Mary’s Inlet and walking at Point Ann.

Then it was back out to the highway to access the other more popular end of Fitzgerald River. The NP campsite was booked out but there is camping run by the shire in the park on Hammersley Inlet and we found it very convenient except for the 25 degree hill to get out where we had to take a run up. We walked out to the beach and explored the jagged rocks. The inlet was scenic for sunset and night shots. We climbed Mt Barren which gave a great view down onto the coast and found the cave at Cave Point but it was inaccessible.

Everyone said we had to camp at Lucky Bay at Cape Le Grand NP so we ensured we booked in – but only 2 nights! We arrived and knew we wanted longer but there was no internet for Telstra. The camp host went above their role and helped us book in for another night.

We walked on the coast path across to Thistle Cove which gave expansive views out to the granite headlands and islands. Another walk was to Boulder Bay which involved walking steeply down the granite hillside to a bay enclosed on all sides by boulders. On our return we passed a very long snake which gave us a surprise.

 

 

Frenchman’s Peak dominates the drive in and we duly headed up. A nice sidle around the side and then straight up the rocky mountain as it got steeper and steeper. Granite is excellent to walk on though as long as it’s not wet. Under the peak is an enormous cave that goes right through the mountain and was more interesting than the top itself though we did go up.

A feature of Lucky Bay is the kangaroos on the beach. They got mobbed when they headed there and I felt sorry for them but they did go up to people unfortunately looking for food because obviously some people do feed them.

Another recommendation was the Duke of Orleans Bay on the other side of the park – said to rival Lucky Bay. Well we headed there and the camping was nice but certainly didn’t beat Lucky Bay. However the beaches on the other side certainly rivaled Cape Le Grand with large and small beaches and picturesque headlands and islands.

Southern Forests and Ranges

We camped near Pemberton in a forested campsite on the Warren River with a huge kitchen. We had it to ourselves on the first night and we were very thankful as it poured with rain as we cooked dinner. We used it as a base to explore the Karri forests in the Pemberton area. We visited the Gloucester tree and it was too windy to climb but that didn’t worry us as the height I got off the ground for the photo was quite enough.

We had some bird encounters with a very tame kookaburra at camp and a grey shrike-thrush that liked itself in our car window.

We visited Beedelup falls and a walk through tree before heading to the eerie Goblin Swamp. This is seriously under publicised as it had one mention on all of the brochures we had and no pictures. Luckily I had seen a picture in a magaine article and wanted to go there. It has amazingly contorted paperbark trees growing in a swamp and my pictures do not do it justice.

We moved on to Walpole and this was a base for exploring the tingle trees – another eucalypt – not as tall as the karri but much wider as they form enormous buttresses. I went on the treetop walk which is similar to the Otway Fly. The rivers were brown with tannin as in Tasmania and forming natural foam as they cascaded down falls into large pools. We also climbed Mt Frankland, another graite boulder but much mossier than our previous ones in the wheat belt. It is also used as a fire watch tower in summer, as are the climbing trees.

Stirling Range is a highlight of the south coast and after turning down the poky NP campsite, we based ourselves at the private Mt Trio campsite which was lovely and even had a paid, guided tour for orchids. We climbed Mt Trio where the track went straight up the side of the hill and then Bluff Knoll which was not quite as steep. Finally a scenic drive through the heart of the range.

The Porongurups are the little brother of the Stirling Range but with their own charm. We only did the one walk up Castle Rock which was a lovely gentle gradient. At the top a lot of effort and money has gone into building a platform on top of the rock accessed by some rock scrambling with the help of aids and then up a ladder. It made for a fantastic experience and view.

From Woodland to the Capes

We stayed in the Dryandra woodland where I visited Barna Mia – a wildlife sanctuary that offers night tours of animals that aren’t normally seen. Unfortunately numbats are diurnal and so didn’t feature, but we did see mala, bilbies, woylies, boodies and Quenda. The animals are kept in fox and cat free enclosures and are given food to bring them out for our viewing. The food only accounts for 5% of their daily nutrition so they still need to fend for themselves. We were given red lights which gave strange effects to the photos but black and white worked well.

We headed for the capes with a stop at Busselton to admire and walk the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. It was pointed out to us that there was a chick in a silver gull nest and it blended in so beautifully we would have missed it. They have a train for those who don’t want to do the walk.

The waves were huge on our first day and it made a visit to Canal Rocks an adventure as the water rushed through the gaps and wet the bridge. It had calmed down by the next day as we visited Cape Naturaliste where the lighthouse is well hidden in the shrubs, Sugarloaf and Castle Rocks.

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A visit underground was next on the attractions as I liked the idea of a cave with reflections. We headed into Lake Cave and I wasn’t disappointed though it was only one chamber it was full of features and the water added to the beauty.

 

We took  a scenic drive through the Boranup karri forest and found the limestone formations at Cosy Corner. We finished our visit to the capes by viewing Cape Leeuwin lighthouse from a distance, much more impressive than Cape Naturaliste. The water wheel that was used in its construction is now totally calcified.

A Granite Loop

We decided we were heading south too fast and it would still be cold so we headed east on a loop to visit some of the numerous granite rocks out there. First a few nice birds and flowers that we saw on the way.

Wongan Hills was our first stop which had one granite rock and lots of other hills (as the name suggests). It was a very nice town, well set up for tourists and clean. We have found most of the little towns are very well presented and welcoming and a credit to Western Australia. We climbed a hill and met a legless lizard and then moved on to our first granite campsite at Billiburning Rock which we had all to ourselves.

The days fell into a pattern of visit some rocks and then stay at the last one. They were all different and each had a different feature as we picked which ones we would visit. Datjoin Rock had a bean shaped rock and pink flowers, Beringbooding Rock had a huge tank to store water for farms but came too late as most of the farmers had moved away. They now use the water for stock and crops. Elachbutting was huge with it’s own wave and a cool tunnel where a huge slab had fallen off the side. It also had lots of spider holes that we thought they had beautifully decorated with wattle flowers but decided in the end they’d just got caught on the webs.

Eagle Rock had a nice big rock on one end and Baladgie Rock was great with caves in the side where I disturbed nesting peregrine falcons and views down to the salt lakes that surrrounded it.

Frog Rock was one of my favourites. It wasn’t big or dramatic but the top was studded with little pools and gardens in the moist holes. The Humps and Mulka’s Caves are the alternatives for people who find Wave Rock too touristy. They are nearby and the cave is filled with hand stencils (472 of them) made by aborigines. On the Humps we saw many Ornate dragons as we have seen on many other rocks. They scurry at great speed across the rock but I manage to sneak up on some for a photo. Wave Rock was full of tourists and we were glad we had taken the opportunity to see some other amazing rocks.

A change of scenery saw us visiting eroded, colourful cliffs and Buckley’s Breakaway and then the Tin Horse Highway at Kulin. Our last couple of rocks produced a swimming pool made by the locals and a foggy morning for the 3rd largest monolith.

 

Wildflower Country

We headed on to Kalbarri with a stop at Murchison River where we washed three and a half months worth of dirt off the car and van.

The first day at Kalbarri was spent exploring the coast and all the rocky cliffs and beaches.

The next day was the inland gorge of the Murchison River. We headed to Natures Window first where we were unlucky to be behind a group of Asians so we had to wait as they took all the permutations of photos – but they were very quick. We then headed to Z bend which we found the highlight but there wasn’t an Asian to be seen because it is not on Instagram! We headed down to the river through a narrow gully and enjoyed the views under the multi-coloured cliffs. The gorge further inland was tame in comparison.

Pink Lagoon wasn’t as pink on an overcast day so we headed on inland to Mullewa in wildflower country. We took a trip out to Pindar to see the famed wreath lechenaultia but we were a bit early and they were only just in flower. We also admired the church designed and built by Monsignor Hawes.

We had been hearing about Coalseam Conservation Park so made sure we stopped in there. It has stunning displays of annual daisies creating great drifts of colours.

We headed back towards the sea crossing a line of hills that obviously caught the wind judging by the windfarm. We also stopped off at Greenough where the local River red gums also caught the wind. A lovely free camp at Cliff Head – luckily we weren’t there last November when a whale carcass washed up as it would have smelt.

I had been wanting to see a thorny devil all trip and at our next caravan park the owner rescued one from the driveway and we got a close up look.

Stockyard Gully cave didn’t quite live up to Tunnel Creek but it was still very interesting and we had to tread warily as the entrance had huge feral bee hives above.

Leseur National Park was glorious as we were there in spring and at every corner of the road there were different flowers.

The Pinnacles at Nambung NP was another sight I was looking forward to. We visited in the day and were impressed by the extent of the rocks and that we were able to walk anywhere. We also went back at sunset when the sun cooperated for us and provided different lighting.

We were then down at Perth where I had to go to get a new camera but we found a lovely and painless way to visit the city. We stayed at Yanchep NP in a beautiful setting and drove to the station where we parked for $2 for the day and got an all day pass for public transport for $5.60. We used the trip to also visit Kings Park where we could see lots of beautiful wildflowers all together.

 

Heading south

Point Quobba was our next stop with a lighthouse to view and the best and most reliable blowholes on the coast. Every wave sent up a number of spouts from holes in the rock shelf. We were also privileged to see a humpback close in to shore.

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We then went inland to Kennedy Ranges which had come highly recommended and luckily didn’t disappoint. We stayed three nights and every night had a chat around the communal campfire which are so much better that everyone wasting wood and not interacting at their own individual fires. There were three gorges to see – Temple, Drapers and Honeycomb and each one was different. As well we climbed up to the escarpment to overlook the campsite and the flat country around.

A stop off at Wooramel River Retreat as recommended and a dip in the spa pool had us refreshed as we headed on to Hamelin Pool and the ancient, but boring looking stromatolites. The whole area is made up of shells and was used as a building material. We did get a great sunset!

Francois Peron NP was our next destination and I wanted to go to one of the northern campsites. We managed the first part of the sandy drive easily but then ignored the sign that said – Soft sand, no caravans. We don’t feel like we have a caravan but we shouldn’t have ignored this sign as we quickly sank into the bottomless, soft sand. Out with the shovel and tracks but no progress. Luckily a passing expert took pity on us and snatch strapped us out. We got him to wait until we had turned around and were back on firm ground ready to retreat. Of course I forgot to take any photos but on the next day we came across a family from Hong Kong with a hire car in the same predicament but he hadn’t let down his tyres so I took pictures of them instead.

The camp at Big Lagoon that we could get into was lovely so we didn’t miss out and drove up to the Cape easily the next day without the van holding us back. It had the beautiful red sand contrasting with the blue sea that I had wanted to photograph.

We finished our trip to Francois Peron with a dip in the hot tub at the homestead and farewelled Shark Bay with a night at Eagle Bluff, a pretty spot amongst the flowers.