Blog

Wildflower Way, Western Australia

It is a widely known fact, in Australia, that Western Australia has the best display of Wildflowers in Spring and if you’re a fan, maps are available from which to choose a self-drive or managed tour. As we were in Geraldton, we took the Wildflower Way, visiting Mullewa, Morawa, Perenjori, Coorow and Moora. We could have made the circle larger, but you really CAN see enough wildflowers for one day.

The first suggested site, St James’s chapel, Kojarena, is not just for the wildflowers nearby, but to celebrate the extraordinary work of priest, architect, poet (and more) Monseigneur John C Hawes, whose designs are also in Geraldton, the UK and the Bahamas. This chapel was built in 1935 on land donated by a neighbouring family.

After that we stopped whenever we saw a good clump of flowers. I’m not going to attempt to name all the flowers we saw, but will create a collage to display many of them.

We had coffee at Mullewa in a place that sold art by the owner, which was very Australian and bright.

Lunch was at Morawa and this was a cute little town featuring, as others on the region, some form of tribute to the flowers, but one to the Lions Club, as well.

We camped by the Moore River, after NOT finding the famous Wreath Flower (far right, above) despite many stops. It was a demanding but beautiful day.

Moore River Campsite

Put a Wildflower drive on your bucket list, so that you get sick of sighing at the sight of so many forms and shades.

Kalbarri National Park

Still in the Coral Coast, we made our way to Kalbarri National Park, passing through the Northern Explorer Wildflower trail as we went, and camping at Galena Bridge en route. Not far from our intended stopping place, we decided to pull over, have a walk and photograph some of the flowers. This, at least, stopped our distraction with them and we could continue in a smooth line to the camp, which was alongside a healthy river.

The drive was so enjoyable with bursts of colourful wildflowers that were sometimes organized into type and at other times were just a mix and patchwork of all sorts. It was stunning to see a field of smokebush on one side and the other had hakea or some pink wattle. We got such joy from it and couldn’t believe our luck at being here during what was considered the best wildflower season ever.

When we last visited, 7 years previously, the road in was heavily corrugated and we’d heard they had done work on it. We were gobsmacked at the changes, but the new carparks are not big enough to accommodate caravans, which is why you leave them near the entrance. More flower-lined bitumen took us first to the skywalk which is unbelievable. As an engineering enterprise it is impressive and scary and beautiful. The floor can be seen through, so not only do you walk 25m out from the cliff edge, you are also suspended 100m (?) over the gorge as well. There are some spatial moments that are quite challenging. The view, of course, of the 420 million year old gorge is spectacular and not really captured on my phone.

Again, the local flora was on display and unmissable.

From here we drove a short way to Natures Window Loop walk, without a clear idea of how far we would go. After negotiating some upward demands, we ended up in a group of walkers, then out-stripped them as they stopped for information on specific areas. A couple returning from ahead, said they had reached a point where, after a steep descent and walking along the sandy river bed, they had to scuttle under a ledge. They thought that, as it would still be another 4 hours to return and they had an engagement, they would turn back at 3km. Following this, we decided to do 2km and then return. We were happy with this, and the group of much older walkers passed on happily and gave us encouraging remarks about what we had achieved. We would be prepared for a longer walk next time, with more water and an earlier start, although we had begun before 9.

It was a quick drive to Z Bend and a 600m walk to the lookout. Here we encountered some tourists who were taking selfies at the best spot, and of course only two at a time. The walk there is downhill and the path loaded with wildflowers, but the uphill return was a bit more demanding, as we did it at a good pace.

We collected the van and went to Kalbarri for some groceries and to have lunch on the foreshore. It was quite lovely, but we could feel a chill in the air.

Kalbarri is about 570km from Perth and we drove all the way to a free camp outside Geraldton, 155km away, with beautiful views and a coal train snaking through the hills.

Plan your trip, as best you can in these times, because you may set yourself a target that demands you come back. We met two women who, travelling separately, discovered that they were both headed to Natures Window to do the walk that one had begun with a husband (now deceased) and the other had missed for some reason, 20 years before. It’s a far away place to have to return to, but now we’re in the same boat, as we want to say we’ve done it!

Travel safe. Take plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen.

Carnarvon

At Minilya Roadhouse, not far from Carnarvon, we discovered that no fruit and vegetables can be brought in to Carnarvon, so we put all such items in a bowl and walked from family, to couple, to single, offering our healthy produce to supplement most people’s take-away. Many took it gladly and only a couple thought my jagged chin reminded them of a fairy tale where the moral was NOT to take the shiny apple. Once in Carnarvon, we discovered that it is the food bowl of WA, providing 70% of Perth’s winter fruit and vegetables, and coming from a State with very strict border food restrictions, we understood how one bad apple can wipe out a whole area.

Quiet Carnarvon is often a stopping point, or base, for those heading north to Coral Bay and Ningaloo Reef. On the mouth of the Gascoyne River and Indian Ocean, we thought it would give us a rest from the mad dashing we had been up to, but this pretty town holds a great deal to do. The esplanade overlooking Whitlock Island, provides picturesque sunsets and even a heritage tramway walk that we only followed as far as the bridge to Babbage Island.

The Carnarvon Space and Technology Centre is a must for tourists, informing us of the role the Casshorn antenna played in Australia’s first television broadcast to the BBC in 1966 and its live telecast, relaying Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon to Perth’s audiences in 1969. Later that year a wider, steerable antenna was built to improve communication between the NASA Tracking Station and the USA. The entrance fee is modest as volunteers run the centre (keen caravaners can hook up, here, while volunteering for a few months) and I thought we might spend an hour there, tops, but we were there about 3 hours. There are interactive experiences, replicas, historical footage, and information boards.

I think I can safely say that our favourite experience was the simulation of the full sized Apollo space capsule as it takes off. You can look outside the windows and see Earth. The equipment on display reminds me how far we have come with technology, and how fast. Great, cumbersome pieces of metal with thousands of switches, line up along walls and sit back-to-back in darkened rooms. Games to test your skills and have you think about other possibilities are dotted here and there and to keep the numbers small and allow social distancing, you are encouraged to visit all the spaces (pardon the pun) while you wait for your name to be called to the simulator (no line-ups). There is free coffee or tea and soft drinks can be bought. A great trip back in time.

Point Quobba Blowholes are about 20km north of Carnarvon along bitumen roads, unless you have the map with the dirt road. The coastline is stunning and the blowholes not hard to find, as water jets up frequently from many spots. As you leave the carpark and head towards these spouts, the ground is quite sharp and rocky. If that doesn’t deter you, the many signs warning of the numbers of people who have been swept from the rocks, even this far back, to their death below the ragged cliff, is enough to have you work with zoom.

The blowholes are silent, no hiss or swoosh, and you might catch a rainbow. Some vantages give you views of the coastline and its layers and ledges.

Further back, the vegetation is dense and definitely warrants closer inspection, to appreciate the colours and forms.

We walked along the coast toward a shelter and discovered a beautiful protected bay that we think was Point Quobba, but as there was a campground in both directions, we were not sure. The variety of shells and fossils was extraordinary and it seemed as if someone had made a small collection for us. We collected some as we went, bleached over years and indicating some pretty big seafood for the original owners.

On our way back we stopped at Miaboolya Beach, where a natural sandbar reduces the waves and creates a lagoon with no waves, for safe swimming. We strolled around here, looking at odd sea sponges, but the soft sand had us park in the carpark which was a good km or more from the beach and the terrain demanding.

The information sheet we got from the Carnarvon Visitor Centre mentioned a bird watching site at Chinaman’s Pool, not far from town, so we headed there at sunset and found the river. The only birds we sighted were the two rainbow bee eaters, on a fence as we hit the dirt road, but it was a pretty spot.

There is an indigenous cultural centre in town and that interested us, but we couldn’t determine whether it was open to the general public. A short walk provides a look at some heritage architecture and you will find most things you need can be bought during office hours. Just out of town you can get fresh vegetables, fruit and fish from the source. In fact, mangoes were going to be booming in a couple of months, with overladen trees drooping under their loads.

Once the town was known for its One Mile Jetty with a history over 100 years and the extension of the tramwalk from town. But Cyclone Seroja destroyed the jetty in April 2021, with restoration on part of the jetty not begun.

Our caravan park had a few distinguishing features, one of which was that it backed on to the first caravan/truck washing station we had come across, with high-powered hoses to get the job done, and local persons brought food in two nights a week, which was eaten around small campfires near the pool, where travellers could gather and swap stories. I’m always amazed at the people I meet and their tales.

Travel safe. Head West.

Hopo and HOTA – hidden gems of Australia’s Gold Coast

In June of 2020, my family was divided in one State and one Territory. Covid had locked down the Territorians and was rampant in another State, showing every indication that it would spread rapidly to other States and Territories. With uncharacteristic optimism, in this climate and after much voting, we booked our Christmas in the Gold Coast, Queensland.

View of Surfers Paradise from our apartment

Ever a popular destination for Australians, at this time of year it is muggy and there are frequent storms. But we knew it would be warm and had the beach, two ingredients for lifting our spirits. We were not disappointed and did the usual ‘Worlds’ and rainforest walk, but we came across a couple of activities that were surprises.

Deciding on a river cruise one day, we investigated our options and decided on boarding Hopo – the hop-on, hop-off ferry to 5 major attractions in the Gold Coast (GC). As the only destination at which we wanted to disembark was HOTA, we saw the others briefly and paid less for the 2 hour journey, to boot. The crafts are very comfortable, with adequate shelter when the rains came, and allowed people to practice social distancing, after showing your full vaccination status on arrival.

Looking back on Surfer’s Paradise

A commentary is provided as you go, about the types and prices of some of the yachts berthed there, the buildings and notable landmarks, and even Jackie Chan’s house was pointed out (for those of us who knew who he was).

Not so rich and famous, I thought this Alpine houseboat – or is it a church? Was quite unique.
Yachts moored here can come from Europe

HOTA, or Home of the Arts, was a treasure-trove of creative activities and displays. Beginning life as the Gold Coast Civic Centre in 1976, ten years later it became an Entertainment and Arts Centre and in 2018 it was renamed HOTA and today it has multiple facilities, including a roller skating rink, music and theatre performances, a gallery, cafe and we saw families swimming and picnicking on the banks of a lake.

Looking over the complex from the gallery
Amphitheatre and skating rink on the right

We concerned ourselves with the gallery and, as one not too bothered about art, it was magic! Not too big, holding a huge variety of exhibits, like short movies, things you just wanted to touch even though the sign said not to, sculptures, photos and an impressive gift shop with pieces to purchase. As you enter the gallery, the attendant at the door suggests an order of floors to provide you with the best experience and tells you not to miss the hidden work!

The piece de la resistance, the ‘hidden work’ is a sculpture that has it’s own attendant, who calls you over should you forget and go to walk by. Encased in darkness, Iris – the messenger, is by Sam Jinks who is “Known for creating eerily lifelike representations of the human body…” (from the plaque).

She is so lifelike you don’t want to disturb her

The attendant told me that each hair is placed separately and would represent many hours or weeks of work, alone. The wings are 24k gold and as Iris gazes into the reflective waters of the River Styx, there are so many angles from which to enjoy and photograph this piece. It is so realistic and beautiful.

Although the other visitors detract from Iris, you can see she is life-size

We visited the floors in the order suggested and were not disappointed by anything. I took a selection of photos of the ones that moved me the most and will include the artist.

Donna Marcus’s ‘Offspring ‘
Butterfly drawing, by Maria Fernanda Cardoso
Jimmy Ortso’s carved wooden pelicans
Mothering Garden, by Kathy Temin

An hour and a half was spent here and then back on the ferry for a return to Surfers Paradise, having seen Broadwater Parklands, Sea World and Marina Mirage on the north bound trip. HOTA is free, so all this entertainment in 3.5 hours for $18/adult. I can get seasick, but not a qualm on this vessel and they brought down the plastic walls to keep us dry when the rain came in. Give it a whirl!.

Incident- ambivalence, by Aleks Danko.

Exmouth and surrounds

A very popular destination in Western Australia, this northernmost part of the Coral Coast region is far from metropolis and features World Heritage Ningaloo Reef. There are caravan parks and campsites and National Parks all along the west coast. Heading in that direction, we tried to secure a campsite a week earlier, but had very slim pickings.

We thought that 4 days in the region would enable us to see all that we had researched at a pace that lent lots of time to beach combing or sitting around in our deck chairs, but it was not to be. Two nights was all we could get, and driving distance to any of the tourist spots.

The Fortescue River provided a stop for morning tea and then by the side of the road for lunch. It did the trick and we had a walk around, looking at the river and the cattle, goannas and pelicans.

Another traveler responded to my surprise at seeing pelicans by saying that they follow the rain and if you see them fly off, they’d be heading for water. I think this place was called Ashburton River Rest Area.

We arrived at Bullara Station, 80km from Exmouth,  around 2.45pm. It was a dirt road in and we were a bit nervous, but the few corrugations were tiny, and the road was very short. We were met at a ‘meet and greet’ spot where we got a brief history of the station and told about the main features. The station had been cattle but now ran sheep and this required an extensive year-long team. That night was damper night, so a guy made damper at 5.30 and we could bring a drink and whatever we liked on our damper, to the area behind the camp kitchen, and he told tales of his wanderings and of coming to this station.

‘Lounge’ with TV, set up beside livestock pens.

There were some walking paths, and they liked people to have a look at the old buildings and make sure we saw the Lava Tree ablution block.

As our camp was near there, we made it an early destination. The concrete slab floor had a tree growing out of the centre, the toilet was on the right, with a wash basin and soap and paper towels, and on the left was a bucket, suspended high over the floor and two taps nestled in the corrugated iron wall. We had been assured that the water was hot and the pressure strong, so we are both looking forward to trying that in the morning.

Unfortunately, the birds and I wake too early and no-one had lit the fire to warm the water, so I went for a more conventional shower block, with disappointment I confess. The early morning fog was beautiful, though.

Still early, we headed into Exmouth and by 8.30 had a coffee at Mutts Cafe, before my husband wanted to visit the secondhand bookstore across the way, while I took photos of the friendly wildlife.

Corolla eyeing me off
Little magpie hoping for scraps

Heading around the North West Cape, towards Cape Range National Park, we stopped at Vlamingh Head Lighthouse to try and spot whales. It’s very popular, despite the steep climb, and we were rewarded with ‘spurts’ offcoast, visible without binoculars. There were about 8 whales circling and playing in the expanse before us. This is the top of Ningaloo Reef, so a great spot for the whales.

A spray to try and catch, as evidence

Heading to our next station stay, at Yardie Homestead Caravan Park, it was nearing 11.30, and the grounds were very large but well-appointed. The sites had little shade, but we were not planning to be hanging around, so it didn’t matter. We asked at the office about good swimming beaches and the gorge walk, nearby.

First stop Mandu Mandu Gorge and we attempted the 3km walk that was supposed to be 2 hours, so we set out to beat that. It was pretty demanding at the end, after the first half was walking on river bed stones, with the difficulties they bring. But then, uphill, downhill, loose stones, steep inclines, steep descents for 1.7km and although there were some good views, back into the gorge and out to the Ningaloo Reef, it was taxing. We were both very pleased that it took us less than an hour.

It was definitely necessary to head to Turquoise Bay for a cool down. Aptly named, the bay was such a gorgeous shade of blue/green and the moment we stepped into the water, fish approached us boldly. Some were about 40cm long, all were silver, and they seemed pleased when we turned up the sand at our feet. The nearby reef provides such a huge variety of sealife and we regretted that we forgot our snorkelling gear.

We cooled down for a bit and then went for a walk to see if we could see other fish in other parts of the bay. Near some unusually eroded rocks we found a variety of crabs and a starfish, but no more fish.

The crabs were very skittish and we first noticed them when they scuttled away, over the rocks or under ledges, waiting for a few minutes before peering out to see if we had gone. It took some patience to wait for them to appear in order to capture them.

There was a lookout we had observed on our way to the gorge, and we decided to investigate it. In fact, we thought there were 2, but were only able to identify one of them on our way. This was a bird watching one and there was a bird hide built beside the mangroves, which looked fairly new. A soft breeze blew in the hide, and the scene was peaceful, despite the noisy bird nearby that remained hidden.

In fact, when I went to find it, a cute little bird hopped right in front of me on a branch and didn’t seem too bothered about being photographed, but moved much faster than I could with my phone camera. We returned to camp  we were mindful of the comment that someone had put on wikicamps, about people needing to be secretive when they stare(???) so practiced that, we think.

By 7.37 next morning, we were bound for Coral Bay. It was a shock to see how much it had grown and how full and busy it was. The increased traffic could have been that we were visiting at an earlier time of the year, or the restrictions imposed by Covid were keeping Western Australians in their own backyard and swelling the usual tourist population. With some trepidation, we made our coffees and took them to the bay. The shape and colour immediately brought back memories and I wanted to stay, but Alan was put off by the busy-ness and was happy to keep our original plan, so we put our feet in, walked the front beach and then left the Exmouth region, sure we would return in a few years.

Who wouldn’t?

Flowering gums

Ready for Christmas, this Corymbia ficifolia (gum) flowers a glowing red.

Buds in varying stages
Spent blooms reveal those upcoming gumnuts, still sticky with nectar

The tree is over 40 years old, but hasn’t grown very tall, so close-ups and enjoyment of the beautiful blossoms is easy.

Whether it’s in the shade or sunlight, you can’t miss them

By contrast, at my back door is an infant lemon myrtle gum, which is showing a soft blossom that is faintly honey-scented.

At 1m it’s all shades of green
A close up highlights the riot of little white flowers with translucent petals

The leaves are considered medicinal by indigenous Australians and I love adding them, chopped, to my Anzac biscuits.

If you love seeing different flowers, you’ll see more in Cee’s FOTD.

Pull up a seat while you walk Centenary Steps.

Built in 1939 to commemorate the early pioneers of South Australia, these impressive steps lead to a bluestone path at Rocky Bay, Port Elliot.

You can stop at different intervals, although it isn’t very taxing in either direction, and admire the beautiful views. This post is in response to Xingfumamas challenge, which gets me to notice cool places to pull up a seat.

The path is from Horseshoe Bay to Knights Beach and has stunning scenery and some secluded waterholes if you are very careful. There are strong currents and underwater rocks.

Green Bay

Another reason to visit Pt. Elliot.

PPAC Port Elliot

As we strolled along the very short shoreline from the caravan park to the famous Flying Fish Cafe, we spied these wooden walkway artworks.

An oozing octopus
Stuck starfish
I thought surfboard fins but my husband said a school of sharks

We couldn’t find anything that said who the artist(s) are, either there or online. So, if anyone knows, please share.

These are for Marsha’s Always Write blog, PPAC#26