Saturday, 9 August 2014

KKK No. 10 - The Coral Coast to Perth

 “K K K”

No: 10

The Coral Coast to Perth

WA’s Coral Coast stretches 1100 kilometres from Exmouth down to just above Perth and boasts some of that States major tourist attractions and natural scenic beauty, with Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay and Point Quobba among its ‘hotspots’.

Old OTC Satellite Dish

It’s our 111th. day away and we’re up early packing for departure from Quobba Station and then revisit Carnarvon to inspect the old OTC Satellite Dish, the Mile Long Jetty and top up provisions before continuing on southwards. Early Wildflowers are now coming into bloom.

WA Wildflowers
We passed through km upon km of endlessly flat, red, open Saltbush plains, seeing only a few cattle but many goats, and an Emu mother in the table-drain, as we sped past so perilously close, was hopefully instructing her 5 chicks about ‘road safety matters’.

Our first overnight stop was at Gladstone Beach, a Council-run campground 6km from Yaringa on the eastern foreshore overlooking Shark Bay, which became a World Heritage Marine Park in 1991, one of only a handful of places in the world to achieve that status. The bay was discovered in 1616 by Dutch Captain Dirk Hartog, but named by English buccaneer William Dampier on his visit in 1699, for its many Tiger Sharks, before sailing on to Timor.

Whalebone Bay
Next morning we passed through 65km more of red saltbush scrub to the Overlander Roadhouse where we took the road to Denham. The weather was overcast, with distant rain showers, but we managed a few photos of Goulet Bluff and Whalebone Bay during sunny breaks enroute to the pretty seaside township of Denham, Shark Bay’s commercial centre.     

After a coffee break and look around, we continued a further 28km on to Monkey Mia, world famous for its friendly wild Dolphins and Emus, and booked in to the Caravan Park within the up-market Dolphin Holiday Resort. 

One of the Locals
The following morning at 8am is Dolphin feeding time; for many years wild Dolphins have come in to the sandy-beach, calf-high shallows at Monkey Mia to be fed by Park Rangers, who pick 8 people to hand- feed fish to adult females only, and yours truly, that’s me, Bruce, was one of those chosen few!! How good is that? 


Thanks Bruce for the fish!
Having now achieved “celebrity status” just two hours earlier that morning, we’re back on the road again retracing our route of yesterday, but stopping to ‘smell the roses’ along the way.

First stop was Shell Beach, an amazing pure white beach and one of only 2 such beaches in the world, created entirely naturally from billions of tiny cockle sea shells layered up to ten metres deep, stretching for over 120km!

Shell Beach - tiny, 5 to 10mm in size
A little farther on is Hamelin Pool, one of the few places on earth where living microbes build marine Stromatolites (strom/mat/toe/lites) . These rocky looking lumps in the highly saline shallow waters are similar to the oldest and simplest forms of life on earth, dating back 3000 million years, built by microbes of blue-green algae, and are incredibly slow growing at 0.3mm a year. 
Hamelin Pool Viewing Deck 
Living Stromatolites
Continuing south on Hwy #1 we enter the Batavia Coast region where the ubiquitous red stony scrub country turns to greener forest grassland and fields of young grain, then find an excellent overnight camp spot on the north bank of the Murchison River beside Galena Bridge, and warm ourselves with a welcome campfire. There’s no moon tonight, and the Milky Way glows brightly in the dark heavens.

Murchison River Campsite
We then leave the main highway and take the Kalbarri Road toward the coast through Kalbarri National Park, where we deviate to see Hawks Head Gorge and Ross Graham Lookout overlooking the Murchison River, and just before Kalbarri township we enjoy the panorama of the town, and river mouth entrance to the Indian Ocean, from the limestone capped Meanarra Lookout behind the town, all of which are situated within the Kalbarri National Park.

Hawks Head Gorge - Kilbarri NP
There’s nothing much to see in Kalbarri village so we head off 25km southwards down the coastal road with its scenic ocean views and decide to camp that night, with two others, at a roadside rest area with a gazebo, and pleasant ocean views beyond an open grassy field. Excellent dry fuel lay all around, so another warming campfire was enjoyed. Early next morning an Ultralight Aircraft passed overhead which I was surprisingly able to photograph on zoom.  

Next was Port Gregory 42km away, near the mouth of the Hutt River, which is said to be the windiest place in WA. A picturesque fishing village enclosed by 5km of exposed coral reef, it is also bordered by Hutt Lagoon, also known as the ‘Pink Lake’, due to its pink colour created by the naturally occurring beta carotene. 

A few kilometres long and all Pink
Many of you may recall this region has another interesting aside, in that it is home to the “Hutt River Principality” a self proclaimed micronation established by wheat farmer Leonard Casley, who succeeded from Australia in April 1970 in protest against a newly introduced wheat quota system.

Assuming the title of Prince Leonard with his wife Princess Shirley (who died last year), though not acknowledged by government (and he still pays Council Land Rates), the province is open to visitors daily, issues its own passport and postage stamps, and is a successful tourist attraction in addition to its pastoral income.  

A further 42km finds us in Northampton, one of the oldest settlements (1864) in WA outside of Perth, and home to WA’s first public railway in 1879. With many old historic buildings and cottages, and classified as a historic town by the National Trust of Australia in 1993, it is an interesting mix of history and charm.

By now the countryside was changing to gently undulating open grazing pasture being interspersed with fields of young green wheat, starkly contrasting with fields of bright yellow maturing Canola, offering attractive snapshots of rural scenery. Canola, an acronym of Canada Oil, is the ‘new’ name for the “old’ Rape seed, whose burgeoning popularity occasioned the name change to Canola.

Fields of Canola
Intrigued by the mystique of ghosts, we decided to visit Okabella Homestead, south of Northampton, which is said to be the most haunted house in Western Australia. The old white-washed stone homestead has, over its long history, witnessed the mysterious deaths of a man and a boy, and is open for public inspection as a paid attraction. 

The Haunted Oakabella Station
Rub-a-dub-dub 3 Emus in a tub - Oakabella Stn rustic art
We did a conducted tour of the homestead, fully furnished with much of its original 130 y/o pieces, plus its several outbuildings, culminating with a home baked Devonshire Tea, then stayed that night in their open field Van Park with several others.

In the morning we drove into Geraldton, a bright, modern city with nice ocean beaches and a sizable shipping harbour, and having a distinct holiday atmosphere. After a look at the waterfront we toured the town and reprovisioned foodstuffs, then took the coastal highway with its ocean views through ever green countryside dotted with fields of green and yellow and, increasingly, flocks of sheep.

Near Geraldton
Continuing on Hwy 1 through Dongara, we lunched at Eneabba (E-nee-abba) Roadhouse then continued on through Badgingarra and took the inland road at Moore River, enjoying a very scenic drive through park-like shaded grasslands grazing sheep, down to Wannamal, passing through a few rain showers, a rare occurrence since departing Brisbane 116 days previously.

A cold night was spent in the Wannamal Rest Area, though not unexpected as we venture farther south. Wildflowers, Parrots and Grasstrees were a feature here. Dew, almost the size of rain droplets, covers everything in the early morning, a reminder that we’re free of the semi-arid climate of further northern regions.

Wannamal Rest Area

On July 31, day 118, we’re on our way to Perth, deviating via the town of Gingin which shares its name with Gin Gin in Queensland, a cattle grazing area where Bruce started his Auctioneering career fifty years ago, so the namesake was a ‘must see’.

Before we knew it, Perth’s excellent freeway systems had delivered us to the Baldivis home of sailing friends Nic and Jen Devonport, on lovely rural acreage near Rockingham about 45km south of Perth, where we spent the following ten days discovering Perth, Fremantle and the local region.

Planting Australian Natives with Nic and Jen at Baldivis
Perth is a very vibrant city with its mixture of old and modern architecture wonderfully situated beside the Swan River and all so attractively overlooked from Kings Park with its mix of huge trees; the Perth CBD has grown noticeably since by last visit 10 years ago. Since we are returning to Perth for a family visit in late September, to celebrate Lavinia’s 90th, we will report further on it then.

Old Fremantle Market
Fremantle is surely one of this nation's heritage treasures, with much historical interest amid its well preserved old buildings, streets and parks. Bruce met his comeuppance in the old Round House Gaol when an attractive young Ranger locked him in The Stocks; then we particularly enjoyed seeing the shipwreck museum which features the skeletal remains of the VOC trading ship ‘Batavia’, wrecked on her maiden voyage as a result of munity in 1629.

Bruce in The Stocks!
Time has caught up with us and we need to keep moving, so on Monday we'll head off down to the Margaret River Wine growing region,then on to Augusta and Cape Leuwin, all of which will be delivered to you in due course.

Stay safe,
Bruce and Audrey

1 comment:

Brett Clarke said...

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