Part II of our Western Australian Roadtrip: the long road south

Hopefully you have already read part one otherwise you will be wondering how we teleported 1350km north of Perth. Here’s the story of our journey back south:

Day 9

Start: Lighthouse caravan park
End: Tulki beach camp
Distance: 58km

From the lighthouse camp, we drove into Cape Range national park. Sadly the weather was miserably grey, rainy and windy. Our luck had obviously run out a little as they only get around 8 days of rain a year in this arid part of the world. Despite the weather we drove on and decided, that if the sea was too choppy for snorkelling then a walk would be good.

Beautiful Australian weather…

We picked Mandu gorge and as we drove past the soggy kangaroos along the gravel road we could see the weather coming our way. Zoë’s stomach dictated a lunch stop and it was a good job too. We had been parked up only a couple of minutes when the heavens opened and the road became little more river like. Once the sky cleared we found a window of opportunity and set off through the gorge. The walk along the gorge and up along the escarpment was filled with musical birdsong and a couple of watching rock wallabies peering out from their rocky ledges. The gorge made the disappointment of not jumping straight in the water a little less sore. Afterwards, we found our camp for the night and settled in hoping the rain would be gone in the morning.

A black-footed rock wallaby
Mandu Gorge

Day 10

Start: Tulki beach camp
End: Neds camp
Distance: 28km

A cute kangaroo

We woke up to grey skies but a lot less wind. Maybe it was excitement that woke Zoë up early, but it meant we had time for an early morning beach walk. We couldn’t believe our luck when Matthias spotted two turtles and a shark in the shallows. Raring to go we collected our snorkel equipment from the tourist info centre and set off to the drift snorkel at Turqouise Bay. Within a few minutes of getting in the water we spotted a turtle chomping away on something. It didn’t swim off but instead watched us paddling along beside it. An awesome start to our Ningaloo adventures. The water was fantastically clear and full of life. In a short time we saw hundreds of fish, a whitetip reef shark, a banded sea snake and some beautiful corals. It would only have been better if Zoë’s snorkel and mask weren’t letting water in. After a while of not being able to see or breathe properly we headed to the shore through a fair current. Our second snorkel at Oyster Stacks was just as good. The sun even broke through the clouds to light up the underwater world. Oyster Stacks is a little rocky, but teeming with big fish, octopus and rays. We tried to snorkel once more but the cold was getting to our bones and the visibility at Neds camp wasn’t worth getting cold for. Instead we grabbed the wine, cookies and crisps and had a beach picnic before the rain stopped play for the day.

Threatening skies but an inviting ocean

Day 11

Start: Neds camp
End: Termite mounds rest area
Distance: 123km

When we woke up we were hoping for clearer skies, but we could hear the drizzle on the campervan roof before we even opened our eyes. It was our final day in the national park so we decided to do at least one snorkel and maybe two. We chose Tulki beach in the hope of seeing another turtle or shark. Tulki beach is lovely sandy beach, but the reef is a long way out, so instead we swam over the seaweed field and found baby triggerfish and gobies. The highlight was a huge stingray around 2m across coming out of the blue. We left the water without seeing turtles underwater, but Matthias had spotted one coming up for air at the start. Very chilly, we returned to the van for tea. Warmed up we drove back to the visitor centre with the intention of snorkelling at lakeside. The road was still closed due to flooding so we opted not to freeze on the 1.7km walk back from the sea afterwards. Instead we paid a visit to the bakery at Exmouth before beginning the long drive back southwards.

One of hundreds of termite mounts near the rest area

Day 12

Start: Termite mounds rest area
End: Lake Mcleod rest area
Distance: 234km

View over Coral Bay

Since the weather promised to be better and we had heard good things about Coral Bay, we headed there. It turned out to be a fantastic decision. The coral in the bay is incredible in it’s size, variety and coverage. We spent our day snorkelling around the coral, seeing the colourful fish and sunbathing to warm up again. Finished off with coffee and a muffin, we were two very happy campers. We even managed to drive the 150km south, missing all of the three kangaroos crossing the road, before the sun set.

Day 13

Start: Lake Mcleod rest area
End: Galena rest area
Distance: 455km

With only a few days left for our roadtrip we had earmarked this day as a driving day. Luckily we would be passing through Carnarvon for a rest and look around. Carnarvon isn’t a huge town but it does have a few perks. One being the fish and chip shop, and the other being a few cafes. We would have liked to visit the aboriginal centre but it closed down two years ago. We arrived into town early enough to see the weekly market which was a tad disappointing. There are a few fruit stalls, a goat meat stall, a coffee stall and a load of crafty stalls. We made do with a coffee and bought a bunch of famous Carnarvon bananas. Carnarvon was actually the first place where bananas were commericially produced in Australia and boasts the sweetest still on sale. We were at a bit of a loose end after the market so revisited the one mile jetty. Once a hub of activity for fishing, whaling and transport, it now lies derelict and unsafe. We visited the lighthouse museum to see how the lighthouse keepers lived and had a go at operating the spring and chain water pump. The mangrove boardwalk was fairly uninspiring so we returned to town for some fish and chips before setting off south. The roads are great but the scenery is a little monotonous for 300km. Thankfully, we were vigilant and braked in time when the road train overtook us and met an oncoming car, almost cutting us up (good driving by Matthias).

Inside the lighthouse keeper cottage
Ninja ted (the passenger was bored)

Ninja Ted (the passenger was bored)

Day 14

Start: Galena rest area
End: Oakabella rest area
Distance: 202km

After a long drive the day before, we set ourselves the modest target to complete the Northampton scenic drive, which would take us from the highway through Kalbarri along the coast and then across country to Northhampton. It is actually significantly longer (120km) than the highway but after a recommendation for a bird aviary from a local guy, we decided to give it a go. We set off back through Kalbarri national park and even did a couple of extra kilometres to see just how much water there was in the river after all the recent rain. We weren’t too surprised to see the river flowing and half of the river banks and large rocks submerged. It was a slightly different scene to the drying river arid scene we had seen on our way up North.

Our favourite bird from Kalbarri bird park

Shortly after arriving at the bird aviary, actually called the Australian Parrot Breeding Centre, some unplanned pouring rain temporarily stopped our bird watching. The whole park is outdoors with very little cover so we had some time to shop before we went to see the birds. The avairies were great as neither of us knew anything about Austrlian parrots and there were plenty to find out about. Our favourite cockatoo said hello to us and bobbed up and down as a welcome dance. It was great to see the rarer birds or colour variations as we hadn’t relised that many parrots are pests (mainly to fruit producers) or rare due to habitat loss.

After the beautiful birds we thought we would be driving for the rest of the afternoon. Despite all our research we had not come across the coastal part of Kalbarri national park. As soon as we drove out of Kalbarri we ended up on a tour of the coastal park. The paths have stunning views of the coast where the red rocks meet the turquoise ocean in a big white froth. We spotted several beautiful kestrels but sadly the migrating humpback whales eluded us.

Kalbarri coastal park

After the dramatic Kalbarri cliffs, our road took us inland to a fairly wierd area. All of a sudden there were rolling green hills with tufts of trees and sheep with lambs. It looked just like the U.K. but totally out of place. Eventually our final stop came into view. Hutt lagoon is a famous lake thanks to pigment producing algae that give the whole lake a pink tinge.

The pink Hutt lagoon

Day 15

Start: Oakabella rest area
End: Moore River rest area
Distance: 369km

Our penultimate day with our campervan involved a fairly decent amount of driving and the weather was showery and blustery. We planned to do a few beach walks, but instead ended up with a coastal walk long the dunes at Dynamite bay and a short walk in the sunshine at Thirsty Point, Cervantes. We also splurged and visited the lobster shack which is famous for its Rock Lobster. We wanted to do a tour, but the processing plant was running at mininum capactiy so we settled for a grilled lobster and chips while we watched a very short video. We were a little surprised by how big the Lobster shack was and the number of Asian tourists. We later found out that day tours from Perth to see the Pinnacles usually include a visit to the Lobster shack too. Full of tasty lobster we set off to our camp for the night, which turned out not to exist any more. Luckily, we could park up at another rest area a few km down the road but was a noisy night with road trains entering both our dreams.

Yum, lobster and chips

Day 16

Start: Moore River rest area
End: Perth
Distance: 100km

Ted and his mates

The final day of our road trip turned out to be a rainy one. We were woken at 4am due to an animal clambering around the undercarriage of our camper. We tried to get it out, but when banging didn’t work, we gave in and moved the camper away from the undergrowth. Thankfully, that let us get a few more hours kip before the sun came up. We had earmarked the morning to visit Yanchep national park which we had seen driving north. It turned out to be a good plan. Yanchep covers a large area with some decent walking trails and camping areas. The corner we explored was a little like an English country manor complete with boating lake and manicured lawns. The lake was even named loch McNess, but the Australian wood ducks and kangaroos lounging about made it feel very Australian. We got a chance to get quite close to the kangaroos and spotted a couple of cute little fairy wrens before we started our walk around the loch. Unfortunately, when we were half way round the rain started pouring down and we ended up sheltered under a tree with an equally uninpressed kangaroo trying to stay dry on the opposite side of the path. The rain meant we sheltered in the tea room come chocolatier and waited. When the rains finally stopped we made our way to see the Koalas. Koalas aren’t native to Western Australia but Yanchep has a family of them living semi-wild among some eucalyptus trees. It took us a while to find the first one, but once we knew we were looking for grey lumps cuddling into trees and pressing their faces against the trunk we were on a roll. We were lucky a few of them decided to move while we were there, but usually they sleep most of the day. Another Australian animal ticked off the list, we drove back into Perth and gave back our Britz van.

Koalas hate rain

Grumpy Koala

Total distance: 3500km

Our West Coast adventure was a fantastic introduction to Australia. We saw loads in a short time, but we also saw a lot of nothingness while we drove huge distances. We were very glad we decided to spend longer than the suggested 8 days driving to Exmouth and back. The Australian winter has definitely arrived, but with it the fields and bush turned green and the animals were more active. To say we were a little relieved that we hadn’t decided to drive all the way around this huge country would be an understatement. On the other hand the landscapes and sunsets are magical and make the long drives worthwhile.

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