At the start of the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, along the Coral Coast, lies the tranquil town of Jurien Bay. Its lovely sandy shores, pontoon and modern jetty sit close to the Jurien Bay Tourist Park and is an easy drive to Lesueur National Park.
With a population of around 1500 people, there is a shopping centre and basic resources, with parks and crayfishing (Western rock lobster) industry. Although it was known to the Dutch in the 1600s, it was first surveyed by Frenchman, Louis de Freycinet, in 1801 and settled by the English in 1850. However, the town was not gazetted until the mid 1950s.
The original jetty was built in the mid 1800s around the growing farming community and a fishing interest developed from then. The new bridge was constructed in 2010/11, 8 years after the original was closed due to storm damage that made it unsafe.
A short drive from Jurien Bay, along the Brand Highway, then Cockleshell Gully Road, is the Lesueur National Park. The Gully Road is dirt, but suitable for a 2-wheel drive, although be cautious after rain. Lesueur covers nearly 27 000 hectares, is known for its conservation efforts and is home to 10% of Western Australia’s known flora. With over 900 plants, it is also a popular location for wildflowers, for which Western Australia is renown.
We took the 18.5 km scenic drive, which is a ragged circle around the park, taking you along bitumen roads, in your car or on your bike, to the most scenic range in the park. We crossed creek beds, but they were dry, and stopped at lay-bys to take photos, being sure not to disturb any foliage or wildlife and not to leave the trails. Walks are also available and to ensure no contamination there are boot-cleaning stations. The photos are all of the wildflowers, with a few grasstrees, but just a selection, as I featured many in my blog, Wild and Woolly Flowers. I don’t know the names of them all, so I won’t flaunt my ignorance by tagging some and not others.
If you have any questions about this region, let me know.
The area is within an hour of the Pinnacles, so you could fit it in with that visit!
Cape Leeuwin is where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, in Western Australia. You do not see any discernible line, or join, at the most south westerly point of mainland Australia. But you will see the lighthouse, and if you take the tour you can have some amazing views of the surrounding area, sometimes through the windows on the upward climb. It was one of these that prompted my entry in this week’s Photo Challenge: Windows.
With 176 steep steps spiraling upward, each time I got to a window I thought about the lighthouse keepers who had taken this flight, every night and every morning. Between 1895 and 1982 there were three keepers housed nearby. With electrification, only one was present from then until 1990, when total automation began and no more keepers were needed. It is an impressive tower, 40m tall, with 2m thick walls at the base and 1m thick walls at the top; it stands out on the horizon as you approach. It is the tallest lighthouse in Western Australia.
Leeuwin, Dutch for ‘lioness’, is the name of the ship from which sailors charted the coastline as early as 1622. After Australia had been claimed for Great Britain and Matthew Flinders was charting the island, he named the cape Leeuwin, acknowledging the early map makers whose work assisted him. I often ponder those early Dutch explorers and the opportunity lost to them, of colonising Australia.
Well-maintained boardwalks and trails enable you to look around the area and explore.
Many have taken photos of the ‘divide’ of the two oceans, trying to see some line or separation. Certainly, the Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, is very cold and has northward currents. The Indian Ocean is warmer and has different currents, so you’d expect something to be visible at, or near, their joining and I have seen photos where the taker captures some turbulence. The following photo does not suggest anything out of the ordinary. In fact, rocks are sometimes blamed for any odd movement in the water.
Margaret River forms the background region and there are other lighthouses – Hamelin and Cape Naturaliste being quite famous. At least 12 ships were wrecked near Hamelin Bay. There are many walks, including a cape-to-cape walk that takes 6-7 days, walking 20-25km per day, which I am told has some stunning scenery and only a short spell of steep track. The region is renown for its wine and surf and is a great place to spend some time. We spent the remainder of the afternoon on nearby beaches, in forests and walking the coastline at Hamelin Bay.
Hamelin lighthouse keeper’s cottage
Mark it as an area to visit – an outermost point on the Globe. Take your hat, but tie it down firmly as it is very windy, particularly from the balcony at the top of the lighthouse.
And if you venture up the spiral stairway, pause to look out the windows; you can choose between a couple of oceans or tranquil cemetery.
Iconic Broome, Western Australia, with its much-photographed sunsets, Cable Beach and pearling history, draws many people to it, each year.
After travelling on the Stuart and Victoria Highways for several days, we had seen a lot of desert. The sight of the turquoise waters of Broome was such a relief and we had the good fortune to secure a site in the Cable Beach Caravan Park. Straight to the water we went, only to discover that it was like entering a hot bath. The shock had barely registered when we had to turn around and race back for our cameras, as sunset was approaching.
The sunset dash happened every night, where people rushed to the shores like moths to a candle and took up various positions to get THE selfie, or shot of the brilliant red orb majestically morphing into the water. I have hundreds of photos of sunsets and it really is in a league of its own. The resemblance to the Aboriginal Flag is unmistakable, too, although upside down, I realise.
Cable Beach, itself, is very long and has good sand. The surf has a strong undertow so if you are not a confident swimmer, stay close to shore. This may prove difficult, as it can deepen quickly and the current drag you in.
The facilities along the shore are good, with restaurants and more casual dining on offer. We ate at Zanders and had great food with superb views of the sunset. There is a good path along the foreshore if you have a bike or want to jog on concrete. Cable Beach is named after the historic 1650km long submarine cable that was laid from Java to Broome in 1889. This extraordinary feat, performed in 10 days by a ship, saw the cable come ashore on this beach – hence the name. It enabled greater communication between Europe and the East. There are other beaches around Broome, notably Town Beach, with it’s Japanese artwork.
Gantheaume Point is a dramatic and prehistoric site where you might see dinosaur tracks, if you get there at low tide, but if not you will be hypnotised by the colours and the contrasts and you may see ospreys nesting in the lighthouse. The rocks are sandstone and form that typical layered structure so common in the north of Australia.
It is a well-equipped sprawling town, with service stations, shopping centres, schools and all the mod-cons. It is renowned for its markets, but we must have been there in the down season, as many shops were closed and the market seemed small and unremarkable. The town provided another quirky sign for southerners who were travelling in potential cyclone season.
We visited the banks of Roebuck Bay where the history of pearling, which put the town on the map, was told at Cygnet Bay Pearls. Originally, Aboriginal people collected pearls when they presented themselves at low tide and used these when white people came, to trade. The first Australians were sometimes imprisoned and At one time in the early 1900s Broome provided 80% of the world’s pearls. They are not farmed in the old way any more, using divers to collect and prise open the shells, but generally are artificially inseminated in farms. The historical equipment and stories around the room, along with the largest pearl harvested, were very interesting and a good way to pass the time until our talk began.
We watched as two pearls were ‘harvested’, using instruments that made the similarity to IVF very close. It was spell-binding and we held our collective breath as the prize was taken away, weighed and had its diameter measured. I thought I’d been at a birth. The first was a class ‘C’ baroque and was very lined. The second was a class ‘B’ , 113mm in circumference, valued at $1930. It was passed around the room and we all held it and looked for the discerning features that had been pointed out. The owner reduced the price to $1400 and the elderly couple behind us bought it, as it was her birthday the next day. Clearly out of my league, I headed to the discount display and bought a black pearl ring for my friend back home, at $20.
There are acquaintances who travel to Broome regularly and take the tours out to the horizontal falls or the tidal shelf. I will definitely try to see the horizontal falls some time, and will probably go back to Broome one day but, at the risk of being shouted down, I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about.
On the coast of the Pilbara region, Western Australia, lies the port of Dampier. It provides a small swimming spot for nearby residents and a large port for tankers moving salt, petrochemical, iron ore and natural gas. Rio Tinto is a big customer and Red Dog made the town famous.
Despite being small, it plays a big part in the export game and for workers who have come to the mines it is another spot to cool off in the hot climate. The beach is a pleasant stretch of sand and water with adequate shade. The movie Red Dog brought the local tale of a cattle dog who befriends miners to the cinemas, and the statue has perhaps received more visitors, since.
Heading for Karratha, you should take the turn off to look at the Woodside northwest shelf development project. Some great maths is available in the cross section of piping on display and you can look over at the extremely long train loading up with ore; it must be at least a kilometer long.
Across the road from the mining display is a track that leads to an Aboriginal rock art site in Deep Gorge. At the time we travelled, in October 2014, there were no signs or recognition or requests not to photograph. I have heard that the site is now a tourist spot and that the gorge has the largest collection of petroglyphs (rock art) in the world – some 300 000 of them! I have also learned that the Burrup Peninsula, which holds Deep Gorge, has it in Murujuga National Park. The path is slippery and rocky, but not too steep or difficult. The Yaburarra Aboriginal people ask that you do not tread on the art, but around it. I must say that the style and forms are only a very little like the art I have seen in Kakadu, and really look as if it is a record of travel and trade. Otherwise, it is almost Kiwi-like.
You don’t get progress without a cost, and there are many monuments in the area, to miners who lost their lives.
Big profits, big hauls and big machinery. Ben Hur to the power of ten. The story of the transportation of the transport is incredible.
We loved Karratha, as a central spot to explore the region. It has beautiful flora and nearby bays, such as Hearsons Cove or Honeymoon Cove Beach near Point Samson, via Wickham. There are rocks and views a-plenty, although a great deal of the rocks are red with iron. Karratha is a large town with big shopping centres, schools and all that you need. We stayed at the Karratha Caravan Park and with relatives, but there is no shortage of accommodation.
Nearby Roeburn has a sad but interesting history and a visit to the old gaol is a must. There is a large Aboriginal population in the town but the history reveals shocking mistreatment at the hands of white people. The information in the gaol and the artifacts are enthralling and a plant shop adjoins, with specimens that can withstand the climate.
As Jane Austin says in Pride and Prejudice, near and far are relative terms. If you see my blog on the Northern Territory, you can cover a lot of ground in a short time. Fast travel isn’t for everyone, though. And if you start in a big city like Sydney, you will possibly not get so far, but have seen a great deal.
Western Australia is the largest State and has almost every climate type (see below), producing every kind of environment. Before I went, people warned that it was a long way to anywhere, but it really is about a day’s travel to many of the locations (8-10 hours drive at 100km/hr). We did it in 39 days, but that included a long stop in Perth and other extended stops, as well as inland treks.
Every State has a lot to see and do. You would have to look at the time you have and marry it with the things you want or love to do.
The time of the year
As a big island, we have an enormous range in climate. Our climate is temperamental. Check before you leave.
In everyday language, above the Tropic of Capricorn (see map in A good State to be in) you will be guaranteed warm to hot weather all year. Clothing – strictly shorts and light tops.
The vast desert region occupying most of the centre is cold at night in the dry season, loosely corresponding to Winter (June – August) and mild at other times. Do not underestimate how hot it gets in the desert – we have met travellers from Europe about to embark on the Tanami Desert , carrying no water. THAT IS CRAZY! You’ll need a hat, too.
It is hot to extremely hot in the Wet (October – April) and can be tremendously humid.
October to April (roughly) is the cyclone season, so floods and very high winds would deter most travellers from the ‘top end’.
There is no Spring or Autumn in this region, although wildflowers (famous in Western Australia) bloom in what would be called Spring south of the Tropic.
As you would expect, from the Tropic it gets cooler as you head south and warmer as you go north. Winter in the south is from June to August and you’ll get lots of rain and cold winds but our snow regions are sparse. Our minimum temperatures don’t commonly go below zero but in the open it’ll be cold.
Summer in the south is from December to February, but we can have 40C in March (not unexpected in South Australia).
Western Australia is windy.
In geographical terms, the following map could help:
The things you enjoy seeing and doing.
We are a population that hugs the coast and once won most of the Olympic swimming competitions. We are a beach culture. However, in the north there are ‘stingers’ in Summer. These are jelly fish that sting and some can be fatal. While some beaches have vinegar or warm water for removing the tentacles or sting, not all do and it is common in these regions for people to do most of their swimming in chlorinated public or private pools.
Climbing – we have plenty of hills and ranges to climb.
Walking – with so much space and distance there is a walk to suit all abilities and ages. Many have bike access or are wheelchair friendly.
Train rides – I’m not sure if we can compete with the speeds of Europe, but we have some delightful and some dramatic steam train journeys, including the 52 degree incline of the Blue Mountain rail journey. Then there are the epic journeys between states and across the dessert.
Underwater adventure – whether it’s the fast disappearing Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays or the Ningaloo Reef, we have underwater scenery to amaze you. Swim with sharks if that takes your fancy, but make sure you are in the cage!
Cycling – It is mandatory in many States, now, for all new roads to have bike lanes. We have the Tour Downunder for a reason, so there are tracks and roadways for everyone.
Scenery – what can I say? We have it all – the good, the great and the unusual.
Birdlife – a very large variety of birdlife can be found and you are better off checking the location you are thinking of or going to http://www.birdlife.org.au/ before deciding where you’ll bird watch.
Wildlife – Our unique marsupials are world renowned. We have most of the deadliest snakes in the world, so research that and tread heavily where you go.
Fishing – yep! I’d recommend joining one of the Barra (Barramundi) safaris for adventure, but look out for the eyes floating on top of the water.
Food – we are a multicultural country so I defy you not to find your culture’s culinary delight. We offer food trails in most States and several in some. Free samples, too!
Wine – ah! Bacchus couldn’t ask for more. Light wines in rainy areas, heavier in the dry. Don’t look for anything in Queensland or Northern Territory , as the humid climate and the grapes are not friends. Although they do import from the rest of us, so you’ll find something. Beer is the poison of those regions.
Botany – plants and flowers to satisfy Joseph Banks. We have such a wide range you’d need to check local areas.
Camping – of course. But we are a big place with lots of isolated areas. Be careful and sensible.
Before leaving on a holiday to Western Australia, people asked if I was going for the wildflowers. That was news to me!
But before the journey was over, I became adept at spotting flora.
Western Australia is renowned for its wildflowers, having the largest number of varieties in the world (1200) and there are some dramatic and worthwhile trails that enable you to catch them in the right season, which is generally September/October.
We stopped in all sorts of places, in 40C heat and 18C cool climate, crouched down in the dirt, hoping to avoid snakes and semi-trailers, and did our best. I have since tried to find the names of them all, but gave up after hours and files of pdf docs. So none get names, fearing calls of discrimination or stupidity – after all, some might be weeds, for all I know, and noxious.
So I have put together a photomontage of some of the flowering plants I saw in WA, Australia, from Karijini, Karratha, the Pilbara, the Coral Coast, Lesueur National Park, Kalbarri, Carnarvan, Geraldton, Perth’s King’s Park, Margaret River, Esperance, and the random stops where we couldn’t be sure where we were.
I have tried to select a range to tempt you westward…
Travel safe. Stop and see the flowers, with your hat and water.
In Australia, stray animals of the domestic and wild kind are a danger to drivers, particularly at night. Camels, goats, kangaroos, wombats, cows, sheep, horses…the list goes on. If you are traveling at 100km/hr or more and you hit an animal it can be fatal for you both.
But occasionally you get an unusual warning, as the following shows.
The one on the right is from Denmark, Western Australia and a passer-by said that in her 10 years in the area she had never seen one. It doesn’t instill the same kind of fear, to be sure. The one on the left is unusual in the length of vigilance the driver must show. It is common to have distances of 1-10 km of stray animals, but this is so long, it could only happen in Australia! It is from the Pilbara region in northern Western Australia, where there are plenty of very long stretches of road.
We arrived in the afternoon at the Commodore Regent Hotel, our accommodation, which was ideally situated, and the room perfect. When we asked the host, an amiable man, if we could make it to Cataract Gorge he told us that we could make it anywhere in Launceston. He was not wrong.
Second in size to Hobart in the south, it is a town nestled between river and hills, organised well and easy to navigate. In reply to the landlord, we asked if it was walking distance and, again, he said you could walk anywhere. We didn’t know if he had mountaineering types in mind and neither of us would profess to be that, so out came the map and he advised some good options, given our brief time. Like many of the people we met in Tasmania, he was not native to the island, but passionate about it.
We went straight to Cataract Gorge, an easy 7 minutes by car, but did the Duck Trail walk to the power station, at the suggestion of the landlord. It was amazing, but we didn’t get to do the standard Gorge walk, so cannot compare and we missed Penny Royal, which was on the standby list of things to do. The Duck trail took 2 hours return, taking lots of photos. The track is quite good, although steep in some parts but if you keep to the ‘up’ side, it is boarded to the sentinel lookout and then has some gravel and tree root sections. The power station and museum is worth travelling to, if you can brave the ornate suspension bridge at the end.
There are many facilities for a family at Cataract Gorge Reserve, including a swimming pool and playground. It has the longest single chair lift span in the World!
We followed this with a trip to Seaport, again at the suggestion of the landlord, and caught some pleasant views up and down the river. However, we should have veered a little more portside (left) to get views of the bridge. To walk the length from restaurants at Seaport to bridge view, it would take you about 20 minutes return, on good, level ground, suitable for wheelchairs.
Headed into town on foot and, being Easter Sunday, there was not the usual large range of establishments open, but we settled on The Royal Oak (there must be one in every town). We were not sorry, receiving excellent service, food and Guinness on tap.
DAY 2: Went to King’s Park, across the road from The Commodore. This is a must see. The Conservatory, Macaque monkey enclosure, longest bench in the Southern Hemisphere, fountains and gardens are delightful.
Took a walk into town and photographed the historic and quaint buildings – and there are plenty! Settled in 1804 it is one of Australia’s oldest towns.
We left Launceston with the intention of returning on our last day in Tasmania.
Travel safe, with water and hats (and good, stout boots for hiking).
In the mid-north region of South Australia, which is about 2 hours out of Adelaide, lies Burra. It is a fabulous destination for a day, but there’s plenty to see to warrant staying longer.
It began as a mining town, in the mid-1800s, and supplied most of South Australia’s copper and 5% of the World’s copper for more than a decade. Most of the buildings and houses are original, so this historic town (in Australian terms) is charming and interesting.
We did the Burra Heritage Passport, paying a fee to the Visitor Centre and getting a map and keys to historic sites in the town. This is a kind of self-guided ‘tour’ and took us about 2 hours, covering only about 10 km. There are some shocking tales, of mining families that lived in the river bed, digging their homes into the banks – as miners they knew how to dig into anything – only to suffer illness and death when the rains came and the river bed filled up. Generally it was children and the old who couldn’t survive.
The tunnels under the brewery were educative and in very good condition. You could easily imagine being down there, rolling barrels along, probably in the dark.
The open cut mines were a feature of Burra, the miners having experienced cave-ins in Britain from where many came. It was a good solution to a familiar disaster. The buildings on the mine site are well-maintained and quite beautiful. There are little green bits of copper lying everywhere, for the geologist in you.
A row of miners cottages remain and are used as accommodation, opposite the river and caravan park. The park was well-located for exploring the town.
The school was very grand and formidable but I think it is the town hall, now. There is a cottage set up as an historical display of life at the time of Burra’s heyday.
Visiting the lollie shop, after having a great snack in the cafe nearby, I commented on how the door to the rest of the house seemed to drop down. The attendant told us that the buildings were very well constructed and withstood high temperatures in Summer (40C) and very cold in Winter (around 2C at night), with the occasional flood that entered the room where we stood. The shop was on the banks of the river, but it was several metres above it. Most of the houses are stone, from nearby quarries, and the soil was obviously suitable for houses to be dug out of it and on it, as there was very little cracking or signs of movement. Well, I found it fascinating.
There are a few places to eat or buy food and at least one secondhand store that had such treasures it was hard to walk past. It is a snug town, where you feel that you’re returning home, rather than visiting. I had the impression of being in a valley, despite open fields and arid landscapes.
The Burra Visitor Centre has some good information about the megafauna of the region which became extinct about 50 000 years ago. There are fossil displays in the Council chambers but we didn’t get to see them. Various trails can be taken, too, to explore this aspect and vegetation as well.
We travelled fast, of course, and didn’t stop more than two nights, so we were moving the whole time, seeing things, walking, driving. We would go again, for sure. It is a town just waiting for an historical mini-series!
The Clare Valley is to the West, Broken Hill is North East and Morgan is South East. All good destinations to follow with.
Deep in the Pilbara of Western Australia, Karijini should not be missed. To view the 2 billion year-old formations, in a variety of colours and arrangements is worth the drive.
We arrived at the end of the dry, when temperatures were in their 40s and the roads were so corrugated that the ranger said he wouldn’t risk a 4WD beyond Dales Gorge where we ‘landed’.
There are a few approach paths but we came from the north, after visiting Port Hedland. It was quite a scenic drive, although a huge number of double semis were using the road en route to Newman, I think.
The Karijini Visitor Centre, managed by the local Aboriginal people, is architecturally unique and attractive. Designed as a snake, I think, it is also built to withstand fire (common in the area) and so different on the inside from the outer approach. Informative and worth a stop, the workers are very happy to give advice and maps.
So, we were restricted to Dales Gorge, but that’s like saying we were restricted to a corner of paradise. There are a few accommodation options – free roadside (see wiki camps) where people we met said it had a great view but no shade, eco lodges, and the small fee Dales camground where we stayed, but having a parks pass I think it was free. There was minimal shade but excellent toilets that had just been installed. Probably a woman thing.
From here it was an easy 10 minute walk to Dales Gorge and the whole Gorge trek takes about 1.5 – 2 hours. This includes Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. The latter two are simply amazing and when I have one of those ‘if I could be anywhere in the world right now’ moments, it is very often Fern Pool. Cool, lush, buzzing with bird and insect life, I think we stayed there for about an hour. The paths around the falls and Fern Pool are excellent and easy.
Fortescue Falls, with its terraced steps, called us back in the morning, where we decided to have an early swim before heading off once more. There is a warning that if there is ANY SIGN OF RAIN, you are not to walk in the gorge. I believe that in such places when it rains it veritably buckets down and the possibility of flooding/being swept away is very real.
The heat of the day, with little shade and no air conditioning, made a long stay there not desirable, unless we were to spend the days at Fern Pool. There are stunning pictures of the other gorges and swimming spots that we would definitely have visited if we had a more suitable vehicle, but our two wheel drive wasn’t going to cut it.
There is a variety of wild flowers – mulla mulla being populous. Birds, large ants and goannas all contrast the iron-rich red soil.
Most people head from here to Tom Price and then on to Coral Bay, but we headed for Karratha, much to everyone’s shock.
We’ll definitely go back to Karijini.
Take good, closed walking shoes as tracks are rubble-strewn and sometimes steep. Snakes are not uncommon but we didn’t see any. DON’T FORGET YOUR HAT AND WATER whenever you leave your campsite. We had a little car trouble and pulled into the service station at Auski Roadhouse, in the middle of nowhere. The mechanic on hand had been there for 15 years, but was originally from within a block of our house.