The Big Lap - West Coast
We reached Perth and had an amazing time there, but I’ll bypass that for now.
The west coast of Australia really motivated us to commit to doing the full lap and two weeks between Perth to Exmouth did not disappoint. We had the expectation that civilisation was sparse and there wouldn’t be a tonne to do but the reality differed. For a driving holiday I found the density of activities just right.
A note here on our driving style. We stop a lot. I remember travelling as a child we basically were not allowed to stop. Use the toilet before you go and that’s it for 3 or 4 hours, regardless of the adult driver. Lucy renders that technique impossible, unless I want a very wet passenger seat. Stopping every 30 to 40 minutes is great because you really get a sense of the local area and you get to spend 50% more time on the road……
The thing about the WA coast is the photos do a lot of the talking, so we'll walk & talk:
First up was the Pinnacles, just over 2 hours North of Perth (3 hours for us). I read a bit about these in advance and people are very excited by them and while I can understand why, I was indifferent to them. Hangover bay is across the road if you're feeling ropey.
Jurien Bay Jetty
A quick stop at Jurien Bay for a veggie pasty and a look at the jetty. Incredibly tempting to jump off but there are signs saying not to do it and I didn’t have the self-confidence to be disobedient.
There is a big beach campground here with tonnes of spots, beautiful sand dunes and stunning sunsets. Even the sting of a jellyfish wasn’t enough to spoil the mood. There were a couple of resident dolphins to share the bay with too.
Coronation Beach Campground
The nearby town of Geraldton is surprisingly nice and has plenty of hip cafes with amazing food and coffee. I don’t know exactly why I was surprised. I just expected it to be a backwards. Happily proven wrong. You can catch some waves there too but none big enough for me.
Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park was stunning. It is split into a coastal park and an inland park with red gorges. Each visitor to the inland park is accompanied by roughly 100 flies that will be on you for the duration of your stay. That service is complimentary and mandatory. Without a net, you will die of frustration. With a net, you look like a preppy jerk. To ensure you are not comfortable, the gorge is 10 degrees hotter than the coast. There is a loop hike which looks incredible however it had to be completed before 7am in March due to the heat. That said, it was well worth the effort and detour from the main highway.
Eagles Bluff / Denham / Monkey Mia
Not far from Kalbarri, but inexplicably a 4 hour drive, is Denham, a nice seaside village on Sharks Bay where people and emus live in harmony. I twisted my ankle warming up for a run here. Don’t warm up on untested grass, emus won't help you. The famous Monkey Mia resort is the other side of the peninsula where you can feed dolphins and take a boat trip to see whale sharks in Shark Bay. What impressed us most was Eagle Bluff lookout point south of Denham. From a high vantage point you can see through the crystal clear water to spot turtles, sting rays and sharks! Bring binoculars.
Blowholes, they really work, who knew? It was here that a Belgian couple dug their camper into some soft sand. They were lucky I managed to pull them out as I'm not really your "go-to-guy" in these situations and my French is very poor. From a free camp here it was not far to the aptly named Coral Bay. Great snorkelling. We swam with a turtle for the first time here. Lucy named him Morty.
Exmouth - sunsets and our van in the baking evening heat.
Ningaloo reef is unique in that nowhere else on the planet can you access a large coral reef so easily. There are easy access beaches in Cape Range National Park and we went snorkelling on three early mornings, seeing tonnes of fish, turtles, sharks and sting rays. There are coastal drifts that you can simply float on and enjoy the marine life below. It is possible to see gentle whale sharks but we were not so lucky.
You could easily spend many weeks on this coast and there is plenty we bypassed along the way. Many of the above were seen in a morning or afternoon and at times we were at risk of burning out we did so much so fast. We were happy to spend four nights near Exmouth and that alone was worth the trip up the west coast. It’s a good thing too, because back in civilisation, things were beginning to escalate and suddenly we had some thinking to do about our next move........
Roa at Sandy Cape Beach
The Pinnacles at sunrise