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.

Kalbarri

We only intended to stay 1 night but spent 3 in this hidden treasure of Western Australia.

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There is something for everyone, here, including fishing, as the man on Chinaman’s Point in the picture above shows. Huge waves crashed against his favourite spot and we had been warned about the currents at that opening, so it appeared Kalbarri had its share of adventure-seekers. But let me outline the more sedate experiences we undertook.

Arriving in the afternoon, we made our way to the caravan park then dashed out to see Natural Bridge, Red Bluff, Blue Holes and Shell House Grandstand, all accessible from the main road and then boardwalks. The coastline was dramatic and latticed. You could see why early Dutch explorers thought it uninhabitable.

The next day took us to Nature’s Window and Z-Bend in Kalbarri National Park. Now, there is a very long stretch of corrugated dirt road, so if you have a regular 2-wheel drive like us, you might have the same arguments about how best to get through it. For the record, the best way is to travel about 80km/hr, so you skim over the top of the bumps. If you have a motor home DO NOT ATTEMPT the road unless you have a system for bolting down your crockery. We met people whose crockery lay smashed on the ground, they didn’t know how far it was to go and had to turn back, knowing more destruction was likely.

The views are worth it, even when it is around 35C. You are warned to take 3L of water if you intend walking the loop, as it can get up to 50C in the gorge.

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The latticed rocks and layers of colourful sediment are impressive and while wondering why Z-Bend was called that, we spotted a white dot in the distance and zoomed in as far as we could to catch a goat, perched on the ridge.

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But wait! There’s more. While there, we spotted a goanna and directed a number of international tourists to the creature, that put on quite a display and was about a meter long. We also marvelled at the flowers produced by such barren soil.

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Later that day, we headed back to the coast for a look at Chinaman’s Beach, from the top and the shoreline, and Rainbow Jungle – an exotic bird sanctuary. ┬áThere are tales to be read of the Zuytdorp shipwreck, after which the cliffs are named and you’ll see gorgeous birds and flora.

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On our last day, we took in more of the coastal drives and walks, completing Mushroom Rock Loop and visiting Pot Alley and Eagle Gorge. The visitor centre has maps and information detailing the walks and some stops had signs up. The pipe rocks were pretty amazing – I haven’t seen them anywhere else.

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We finished the day with a sunset river cruise, where we learned a great deal about the demise of the cray fishermen and saw some riverbank scenery. It was inexpensive, but a little repetitive.

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A memorable place. There are diving activities, quad bike adventures, canoeing, absailing…something for everyone. Good access to a supermarket, playground, take-away and visitor centre. What are you waiting for?

Take a hat, water bottles and good walking shoes. Let me know if you have any questions about this area or somewhere else in Australia.

Safe travels.