Updated: Apr 29, 2018
Cape Le Grand, Esperance to Augusta and Margaret River
After a fantastic few days in Cape Le Grand National Park, just to the east of Esperance, we have made our way further west to the Margaret River region of South West WA. The granite outcrops and beautiful beaches we found in Cape Le Grand continue throughout the region. It sometimes seems that we are meandering slowly, slowly westwards and other times we skip past huge tracts of coastline and National Parks.
Leaving Esperance [via the supermarket, fuel station and water tap] we managed a day of car park tours of the beaches to the west of Esperance.
The sun was shining but the wind and swell were making it less pleasant to spend time exploring the beaches, or even throwing in a line and having a fish. We started at 11 Mile Beach, then 10 Mile, 9 Mile….. you get the drift. The beaches were different, sand only golden yellow, not blinding white as in Cape Le Grand. There were more limestone rock formations evident although we could see granite outcrops out in the bay, showing as wave swept small islands. We passed a cunningly named Wind Farm Road, leading to a Wind Farm 😊 but this also serves to remind us it’s a coastal, windy place down here in the South West corner of Australia.
Finally we made it all of 60 kms out of town before stopping at Quagi Beach campsite for a quick overnight stop that lasted a couple of days.
I should mention we have been bumping into a family who are travelling from Sydney, in the same general direction and with similar time-frames to our rough plan. So it was no real surprise to meet them again at Quagi Beach and we enjoyed another couple of days exploring and fishing around this little area.
We ventured down a narrow 4wd track to a nearby beach, Fanny Cove, and had a great little fishing session while the girls played around in the sand. Helen caught three species of fish, Herring, Silver Trevally and Whiting, while all I could muster was a heap of Herring, although I was having great fun just using a chrome twisty lure catching fish after fish.
The next day our plan was to continue down the coast towards Bremmer Bay, a renowned fishing spot to the eat of Albany, or to sneak into Ben Stokes National Park where a guy had been catching heaps of Bream, so of course we did something slightly different and a bit mad, a small 330km diversion to Wave Rock up at Hyden.
I had visited Wave Rock a million years ago, in the rain, after a camping trip to Perth. I seemed to recall there was little else to do in the area other than see the rock, take a few pictures and drives a few hundred kilometres to the next place on your map. The rock hadn’t changed 😊, and although the caravan park were trying to encourage people to stay and explore the area it was fighting a losing battle as most people, ourselves included, came, saw and left within the hour.
There was another rock formation close by called the Hippo’s yawn, hopefully the picture and your imagination work the same and you can see the similarity. This stop took 10 minutes, but only because I was sending SMS messages.
From Wave Rock we headed south towards Stirling Ranges National Park and found a small spot to visit along the way, Buckley’s Breakaway, before our overnight stop at The Jam Patch.
Buckley’s Breakaway is an insight into the land formation on the region, the colours in the late afternoon light were mesmerizing although the flies were doing their best to remind us we were in the bush. I took a heap of pictures trying to capture the soft colours of the rock formations but don’t really think the photographs do the site any real justice.
The Jam Patch was an unlikely but wonderful overnight stop, arriving as the sun was setting we found an old [Wheat Belt] meeting place and Tennis club from the 1930’s set among tall Salmon gums. The tennis club had remained in use for about 50 years and the remnants of three tennis courts were clearly visible. The information boards telling a story of families from the surrounding small Wheat Belt towns and farms, getting together on a Sunday, to socialize and have some fun over a game of tennis in the bush.
Our Campsite was soft, flat and level, a winning combination for our trailer set-up. We cooked as the last of the light played out on the Salmon gums and enjoyed a really fantastic bush camping experience.
Onwards towards the Stirling Ranges and a half-made promise to climb Bluff Knoll, (we had visited in 2016 but just stared at the summit from the car park) after setting up camp nearby in the National Park we sat around and had a relaxing afternoon doing not much.
Next morning I encouraged everyone to get up early so we could go climb Bluff Knoll, there was low cloud around and the day certainly didn’t look very inviting, we quickly packed the trailer and drove to Bluff Knoll.
The summit was in cloud when we started the climb, it is only about 3 kilometres to the top but almost each and every step was uphill. Did I mention the steps; hundreds and hundreds of them. Zoe and Sophie were wondering why there was no chair lift to the top, I had a few moments wondering the same. Perseverance payed off and after 90 minutes, seemingly spent staring at my boots as we climbed slowly uphill, we arrived to the summit bathed in low cloud, no real views to be seen but a great feeling of accomplishment.
As we sat there and caught our breath after the walk, the clouds started to clear and we progressively got better views of the surrounding ranges, but the real views came as we were heading back down and the clouds lifted completely. The pictures are only from the phone but hopefully give an idea of the views, especially on the descent. Oh yes, the steps were just as much fun on the way down and somewhat surprisingly, it also took 90 minutes to get down from the summit.
We made our way round to a small camping site at Kenderup, it became our base for a few days as we took advantage of their great showers to get clean for a change and encourage Zoe and Sophie to complete some school work. We needed a day trip to Albany to resolve some problems with the trailer electrics, now thankfully sorted out although it was a painfully expensive little exercise. While waiting for the trailer repairs to finish, we spent some time in their library doing schoolwork and a quick visit to the ANZAC war memorial overlooking Albany harbour.
Our brief visit to Albany reminded us of the history of the area, Albany was the staging point for Australian and New Zealand troops departing for World War 1 in 1915. The troops went on to train in the middle east before being deployed for the first time at Gallipoli. The rest is history and created the ANZAC spirit we know today.
We also found a day to climb the Granite Sky Walk in Porongurup National Park. Fortunately, it was a much gentler walk uphill to the lookout, and a final scramble up through some granite boulders and a ladder to reach the viewing platform.
The weather was perfect and we had great views of the surrounding country but Zoe and Sophie were far more interested in the climbing challenges of the boulders than the views.
A couple of days later we headed out of Albany, accompanied by weather forecasts of rain, rain and more rain to come over the next few days, not so great when you are camping.
We had also heard there was a great fishing beach just outside Albany called Shelley Beach, the salmon were apparently running and so I convinced everyone it would be worth a quick look. The camping guide mentioned the road was not in great shape and the camping site not suitable for caravans and camper trailers, seemed like an invitation to me and we drove slowly down to Shelley Beach. The road was ok, not sure what the fuss was about, but the camp site was quite small and as described, not really suitable. We managed to find a spot to set up and stayed a couple of days while I tried in vain to catch the elusive salmon, I had no luck with them but we did catch plenty of Herring, most of which went back, we kept a few for a feed but it was great fun giving the girls a chance to catch some fish. We had some birds visit the tent, Fairy Wrens, Silvereyes, Scrub Wrens and a red-eared Firetail.
The forecast rain came and almost created an indoor swimming pool for us, but the sun came out and dried things off so we had a dry pack-up before heading towards the Pemberton forests, it is always much, much better to pack up dry than wet.
We thought it best to be somewhere with good facilities, so stopped at a small caravan park in the Pemberton region at Quinninup. We had a bit of a surprise turning into the driveway as we were greeted with hundreds, if not thousands of gnomes and smurfs at the edge of the property. It turns out these had been rescued from another place nearby where they had become a nuisance on a property. We heard some of the story, but I think it is best left to your imagination or Google to determine the reality behind the gnomes.
The forecast rain came in dribs and drabs but there was a good camp kitchen where the girls could do their school work in relative comfort and with power for the PCs for a change [it’s a bit of a continuing battle to keep the PCs fully charged].
On Saturday afternoon we went out to suss out the local bakeries and cake shops in readiness for Zoe’s birthday on Sunday 😊, we found a likely spot in Pemberton before the rains came and turned the rest of the afternoon into a grey, damp event. The girls played at the park, I walked in the rain and we all studied the forecast for the coming days.
The rain came overnight and again on Sunday morning, but with an excited birthday girl in tow we set out for lunch and cake in Pemberton via the Diamond Tree, a former fire watch tree.
Zoe and I unexpectedly got the chance to climb to the viewing platform, 54m above the ground. We thought it would be too wet to climb the iron pegs up to the top, however the sun came out, the pegs were ok and with a little encouragement up we went. Zoe was beaming when we got to the top, a real birthday adventure. The colour and light playing through the tall, wet Karri trees was fantastic, a real pleasure before heading into the bakery shop to pick up a few small cakes and onto a cafe for a birthday lunch.
Monday saw us do a wet, wet pack-up (yuk) and head out towards Margaret River. We had booked a spot at Conto’s campsite in the Cape Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, close to Conto’s beach another renowned fishing spot. We discovered the beach was closed due to recent shark attacks and some washed up whale carcass’s creating a bit of a shark feeding opportunity. I checked out the rock fishing spots but without the right gear it would be a little dangerous fishing the rocks, so my fishing plans were dashed ☹.
So instead of fishing, we have spent a couple of mornings in teh library at Margaret River doing schoolwork and afternoons touring around, looking longingly at some world class wineries but not going in for any tasting sessions. I have been on a self-imposed abstinence from drinking since Adelaide, so far so good but this was a fair test of willpower!
Yesterday was ANZAC day and I got up at 5am to go to the dawn service in Margaret River. As always the dawn service is an emotional reminder of the courage and sacrifice the original ANZACs made during WW 1, and the continuing commitment of service personnel both during and after operational postings to protect our current way of life in Australia.
We continue our journey on Friday, turning northwards towards Perth and then afterwards the great adventures of North West WA await, via Jurien Bay and the lobster shack in Cervantes.
For now, wherever you may be, stay safe, travel well and take time to cherish all the those around you.
Regards Roy, Helen, Sophie & Zoe
PS – we are sitting in the library at Margaret River, the girls are doing school work and there is a guy playing Spanish guitar outside, life is good.