Nature's Window - Kalbarri National Park

Experience : Kalbarri National Park

Kalbarri National Park is about 500km north of Perth and covers over 180,000 hectares from the coast to the North West Coastal Highway.  The sandstone plain is marked by the Murchison River, which winds for 150km through the national park, creating beautiful gorges and providing the surrounding plants and wildlife with much needed water.  The park is home to a variety of animals like emus, kangaroos, lizards and wedge-tail eagles.  We may have also seen a thorny devil trying to cross the dusty road on our way to the Loop.

 

 

The weather can be quite extreme, with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees at the height of summer.  Make sure you have enough water with you before you go for any hikes in the park, with the best time to go exploring being the early morning or late afternoon.  It’s a good idea to wear sunscreen and a great bush hat like our Barmah Hats to protect you from the sun.

 

Inland Features

The gorges of the Murchison River are easily accessible by road and a quick walk will either lead you to a breathtaking lookout or along a walking trail down into the gorge.  We sussed out all of the landmarks at Kalbarri National Park and were blown away by the beautiful isolation.

 

Hawk’s Head Lookout & Ross Graham Lookout

It was really windy when we arrived, but that didn’t deter us from enjoying the view.  We were amazed at how clear the water was and afterwards, we walked down into the gorge.  The water was refreshing as we waded through it with little fish swimming around our feet.

 

 

Natures Window and the Loop

This location was fantastic and provides a variety of lookouts and a long, 8km hike down into the Loop.  We arrived at around midday and while we would have loved to spend a few hours hiking, it was way too hot and we didn’t want to risk having a bad time.

 

 

We did explore a little bit and were fascinated by the colourful layering of Tumblagooda sandstone, with clear representations of an ancient rippled sea bed.  We got some photos in Nature’s Window, a natural arched rock that perfectly frames the Murchison River below (although the river was a bit dry).

 

 

Z Bend Gorge

Even though this was the last gorge we looked at, it was our favourite!  The narrow waterway drops down 150m with high, rugged cliffs on both sides and a few river gums to break through the red, earthy colour of the sandstone.  We could have sat and gazed into the gorge all day.

 

 

Coastal Features

A short drive south of the town of Kalbarri are the coastal gorges.  Red Bluff is the first rock feature outside of town.  You can actually drive out onto the red rock before going for a walk along the cliffs.  We also checked out the Shellhouse and Grandstand, as well as Island Rock and Natural Bridge.

 

 

Mushroom Rock can be found on the walk through Rainbow Alley, which is a great 3km exploration of a rocky landscape that makes you think you’re walking on Mars!  Some rocks are smooth and knobbly while others are sharp and layered.  Once we got to Mushroom Rock, which is a flat rock perched on a large boulder, we explored the rock pools and crevices and found lots of crabs – brown ones, purple ones, yellow ones – funny little critters…

 

 

The Albany Centre of the University of WA

City Profile : Albany

We love Albany.

 

It’s a big town that has still retained a simple country feel to it and is filled with great, friendly people beaming with community spirit.  It’s a popular holiday spot that attracts a lot of visitors to enjoy the great beaches and vibrant atmosphere.  As we drove through town, we noticed lots of granite rocks sticking up all over the place, dividing properties and providing shade in parks.  The landscape is quite hilly, with two mountains in town – Mount Clarence with the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial to the east, and Mount Melville with walking trails and an observation tower to the west.

 

 

The main strip of York Street is capped with the marina and Princess Royal Harbour, and Dog Rock Shopping Centre at the top end, complete with major supermarkets and clothing brands.  The town hall stands beautifully next to the modern library and also features Western Australia’s oldest canonised church, St John’s Anglican Church.  To the east of town is Middleton, with a great swimming beach and several cafes and restaurants.  Three Anchors is a great place to sit down for lunch and they make a ripper coffee.  Albany also has its own coffee roaster – The Naked Bean.  Check out our post on The Naked Bean.

 

Albany sits along the coast of the Great Southern region of Western Australia.  It was first sighted in 1627 by Dutchman Peter Nuyts but the area was claimed as British ground by George Vancouver in 1791 and the bay was named King George III Sound.  After that, there were plenty of expeditions through the area so the British Government ordered a settlement to be founded to prevent the French from getting their piece of WA.

 

In 1826, the Brig Amity set sail from Sydney under the command of Major Edmund Lockyer and carried a party of convicts and soldiers, a doctor and storekeeper to King George Sound.  Almost 2 months later, the Brig Amity arrived to set up camp and Lockyer named the settlement Frederickstown, but 5 years later, it was renamed Albany.  It grew into a fishing and whaling town with plenty of agriculture and a busy port that serviced the fortune seekers heading to the Goldfields.

 

 

Albany’s whaling station was the last whaling station to stop operations in Australia, closing down in 1978. The whaling station was converted to into a tourist attraction called Whale World that features interactive displays, a 3D whale movie and full skeleton of the last whale taken.  It’s a $30 entry fee so it’s great for people who love learning about the whaling industry.

 

Points of Interest

WA Museum and the Brig Amity replica

The WA Museum is a great spot to learn about the history of Albany and the surrounding area.  When we visited, they also had a great lighthouse exhibition with an artistic light gallery at the end. Entry is by gold coin donation

 

 

Patrick Taylor Cottage is nearby and is the oldest surviving house in Western Australia.  It was built in 1832 by Patrick Taylor, a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Albany to not only become a farmer but to also improve his health.  The cottage has eleven rooms and is surrounded by an English country garden.

 

Towards the water is the Brig Amity replica, which is also visible from the road.  There is the option to go inside and check out the guts of the vessel for $12.

 

 

The Old Farm, Strawberry Hill

Western Australia’s oldest farm, it has been called the Old Farm for over 100 years now. Established as a government farm in 1827, before the Swan River colony, it played a major role in sustaining the first European settlement at King George Sound.

 

Over the years, the farm has had several owners and even fell into a state of disrepair.  The property was purchased by the government in 1956 as a historic monument and it was transferred to the National Trust in 1964.

 

 

There is also a lovely grassed area onsite complete with a stage and small orchard. It would be the perfect place for a wedding or even live music on weekends with some friends and a bottle of wine.

 

Boatshed Markets

A great place to experience Albany’s community spirit, the Boatshed Markets are held every Sunday from 10am to 1pm.  There’s plenty of parking and with local produce, live music, cooking demonstrations, fresh fish and wine tasting, it’s a great way to spend your morning.

 

 

We sampled a huge variety of Luscious Liquids honey as we had a chat to the lady behind the counter. We walked away with a jar of Wildflower honey and a piece of raw honeycomb. Delicious! After lunch, we shared the honeycomb with a lovely family we had met a few days earlier in Esperance. We all ate so much honey that we were buzzing for the rest of the day!

 

White Star Hotel & Tangle Head Brewery

We were keen to visit the local brewery, which was situated at the White Star Hotel.  Tangle Head Brewery started 6 years ago and offers a great range of beers.

 

 

  • Brewhouse Special (German Wheat Beer) – 5.2% golden beer with yeast, fruit and honey.  It was very clean and delicious.
  • Southern White Ale – 5.1% lightly coloured with banana on the nose.  The base is German wheat beer (hefeweizen).  There was also refreshing citrus.
  • Tanglehead Pale Ale – 4.8% a rich caramel colour with honey and caramel.  There was a slight hoppy finish.
  • Limeburners Stout – 4.3% dark black colour with a creamy froth, it smelt of honey, coffee and chocolate but the oatmeal stout was like charcoal – thick and smoky.
  • Ginger Beer – 3.5% very pale and fizzy, it was sweet with a slight ginger burn.

 

Tom, Bella, Dave & Juz enjoying Tanglehead beers!

 

Torndirrup National Park

A short drive from Albany is Torndirrup National Park, a 4000 hectare coastal sanctuary with heaps of rock formations and granite outcrops.

 

Stony Hill Heritage Trail is a quick 450m circuit around one of the highest points in the park and it provides great views of the southern ocean and the surrounding coastline.  The Gap and the Natural Bridge are within walking distance of each other and demonstrate how the constant battery of waves can wear down the rock.  The Natural Bridge is expected to collapse at some stage so make sure you go down and check it out before it does.

 

 

There is no entry fee to enter the park, camping is not allowed, and just around the corner is the Albany Wind Farm with 18 wind turbines that produces about 80% of Albany’s energy requirements.

 

Information & Accommodation

Albany Visitor Centre – Old Railway Station/55 Proudlove Parade, 08 9841 9290

Albany YHA – 49 Duke Street, 08 9842 3388

BIG4 Middleton Beach Holiday Park – 28 Flinders Parade, 08 9841 3593

 

 
 

Hellfire Bay

Experience : Cape Le Grand National Park

Frenchman Peak

Cape Le Grand is truly an amazing place.  Only 50km east of Esperance on sealed road is a sand plain covered in heath lands, swamps and freshwater pools that is framed along the coast by picturesque beaches with the whitest sand you have ever seen and crystal clear water of the most radiant turquoise.

 

Throughout the park are outcrops of granite and gneiss rock that make a chain of mountains – Mt Le Grand (345m), Frenchman Peak (262m) and Mississippi Hill (180m).  The granite mountains were caused by movement of the Earth’s crust over 600 million years ago and the peaks were islands during the late Eocene period.

 

Beaches

Hellfire Bay hides the most fantastic beach we have ever seen, with the whitest sand and the bluest waters.  We chose to stay here for lunch and cooked up some lamb chops on the free BBQ.  We also met a great family who were holidaying from Bunbury.

 

 

While we didn’t get to check it out, Lucky Bay is a favourite for many because of the kangaroos lazing on the beach.  This unspoilt beach was voted the Whitest Beach and also has nearby camp grounds.

 

Le Grand Beach was gorgeous and the white sand went on and on and on.  We did the 22km drive to Wylie Bay along the beach.

 

Hiking

There are several bushwalking trails throughout the park that take anywhere from one to three hours to complete.  We did the Frenchman Peak hike to the summit and got some amazing views over the park and coastline.  The climb is up steep granite slopes, so make sure you have appropriate footware and once you get to the top, there is a magnificent arched cave to give you some cool shade.  If you keep following the markers, you can get to the utmost peak and feel like you’re on top of the world!

 

 

It said to allow 2 hours for the steep climb but we nailed it in an hour.

 

 

Camping

Camping is allowed at two campgrounds – Lucky Bay and Le Grand Beach.  Facilities include showers, flushing toilets and a camp kitchen.  Fires are not allowed.

 

 

If you’re just visiting for the day, gas BBQs and picnic areas are located at Lucky Bay, Hellfire and Le Grand Beach.   Fishing and boating is also allowed and the species that can be caught include Australian salmon, whiting and black bream.

 

4WDing

We took the scenic route back to town and drove along the beach from Le Grand to Wylie Bay. It’s a 22km drive along the sand and gives you great coastal views of the ocean.  Make sure you check tide times and beach conditions before attempting the drive.

 

 

Entry to Cape Le Grand National Park is $11 per vehicle, and if you want to camp, it’s an additional $9 per person.  Parks Passes are also available but they only cover the entry to WA’s national parks, not camping.

 

A pretty flower at Cape Le Grand National Park
 

Sunrise during our Yangie Island hike

Camping : Coffin Bay National Park

A great national park with a variety of landscapes, from high sand dunes and rocky cliffs to serene bays and limestone pavements.  A sealed road will take you as far as Avoid Bay and the Yangie Bay camping area, but if you plan to go any further, make sure you have a trusty 4WD and keep an eye on the tides.

 

There are about six campgrounds in the park.  We stayed at Yangie Bay and watched the full moon rise over the still bay.  Campsites were separated by thick bushes and drop toilets are available in the carpark.

 

 

Fishing is a popular activity in the park at Almonta Beach and Sensation Beach, while there are plenty of walking trails of various difficulties.  We did the Yangie Island Hike, which is supposed to be a 5km return trip, but it was actually 8km.  It passes the Yangie Lookout, which was beautiful at sunrise, and leads to a beach near Yangie Island.  There are plenty of kangaroos to bump into on the way, as well as the odd emu.

 

Point Avoid was also nice to visit.  The coastal views were grand and overlook Price Island and Golden Island. Don’t avoid Point Avoid (unless you’re in a ship)!

 

Entry and camping fees apply.  Permits are available at the self-registration station at the park entrance, or you can get an Annual or Holiday Pass from the Visitor Information Centre at Port Lincoln.

 

Port Lincoln Marina

City Profile : Port Lincoln

Port Lincoln is the Seafood Capital of Australia and has the largest commercial fishing fleet in Australia.  It is located on Boston Bay with Boston Island in the distance and is inhabited by 14000 people.  It has a great natural harbour and the town revolves around fishing, boating and diving with sharks and tuna.

 

The first Europeans arrived in 1839 and while there was a lot of potential for Port Lincoln to have become South Australia’s capital, another spot was chosen because of a lack of fresh water.

 

We were stoked to arrive on the last day of Tunarama and did a bit of fishing at the breakwater which nearly resulted in tuna for dinner.  Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky at all and spent the night at Lincoln National Park.

 

 

Tunarama

Every year at the end of January, Port Lincoln hosts Tunarama, a huge festival that exhibits the culture and spirit of the city.  Port Lincoln has a great fishing history and in the 1960s, the community used to come out and send off the tuna fleets, blessing them with a successful trip, and they’ve maintained this annual tradition throughout the decades.

 

There are heaps of things to do over the four-day festival.  The famous tuna toss has several heats for all ages, with the final toss on the Sunday.  This year’s winner was Tim from Canberra who tossed the tuna over 30 metres.   There are also a variety of competitions, such as sand sculpting, keg rolling, prawn peeling, watermelon eating, and even for the best tattoo at the festival.

 

 

The foreshore is filled with sideshows, carnival rides, food stalls and free entertainment and we watched in awe as giant tuna and squid kites flew over Boston Bay.  We sampled the local goods, including a $5 tuna steak served with bread and salad.  It was cooked just right, with a little bit of pink in the middle.  A lady was giving out free fruit, which we thought was a great idea, and a teeny, tiny puppy was stumbling around and we couldn’t help but give him a cuddle.

 

 

PLACES OF INTERST

Boston Bay Wines

The Eyre Peninsula is a budding wine region, but Boston Bay Wines has been around for 25 years after the founder, Graham Ford, was told that the slopes could yield a good drop.  They produce a variety of wines, from Riesling to Shiraz, and also accommodate for weddings, business events and other celebrations.

 

We took a break from the Tunarama celebrations to check out the wines and these were our favourites.

 

  • 2012 The Great White Sauvignon Blanc – lots of tropical fruits on the nose like passionfruit and peach, and while the entry was crisp and acidic, it finished smooth with lots of stone fruits.
  • 2010 Merlot – rich ruby with purple hues, it smelt ripe with sweet fruits and currants.  The entry was smooth and silky with a vanilla mulberry finish.
  • Riesling Mistelle – a golden liquid with a hint of orange, it was sweet with stewed fruits, raisins and honey.  A smooth entry was followed by a spirited punch and lots of fruit and toffee.

 

We also got to sample some pure, unprocessed grape juice.  It was similar to pear juice, yellow and cloudy and beautifully sweet.

 

Winter Hill Lookout & The Old Mill

Only 5km out of town is Winter Hill Lookout that offers an amazing view of the town below and the ocean beyond.  The Old Mill is located in town and is an old unfinished mill with a spiral staircase around the outside.  It gives a great view of the town and Boston Bay.

 

 

Makybe Diva Statue

The owner of three-time Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva is a fisherman from Port Lincoln.  The bronze statue was made by a local artist and took nine months to complete.

 

The status of Makybe Diva

 

Lincoln National Park

A short drive south of Port Lincoln is a national park with a rugged coastline that offers coastal hikes, great beaches and camping with or without facilities.  Fees apply to enter and camp in Lincoln National Park and these fees contribute to park conservation and maintenance of facilities.

 

 

We stayed at Surfleet Cove and did a quick hike in the morning along the Investigator Trail before driving further into the park to check out the Cape Donington Lighthouse and beautiful campsite at Spaulding Cove.  If you plan to stay there, watch out for the bees.  They love water!

 

 

 

ACCOMMODATION & INFORMATION

Port Lincoln Visitor Information Centre – 3 Adelaide Place, 08 8683 3544

 

Port Lincoln YHA – 24-26 London Street, 08 8682 3605

 
 

 
 

Sunrise over the Flinders Ranges

Experience : The Flinders Ranges

The Flinders Ranges are located 450km north of Adelaide, at the northern end of the Heysen Trail.  Wilpena Pound is the major attraction, a huge amphitheatre surrounded by a ridge of mountains, including St Mary’s Peak.  The mountains continue into the national park, creating beautiful valleys and tree-lined gorges, perfect for bushwalking and 4WDing.  There is heaps of native wildlife running around like kangaroos and emus (bush chooks), as well as introduced stock such as feral goats and rabbits.

 

The Flinders Ranges is abundant with geological features and fossils and most of the rock is made up of quartzites, limestone, shales and sandstones.  It formed about 800 million years ago beneath the ocean before the land was lifted out of the ocean, causing folds and fractures in the earth.  Aboriginal culture is important to the area.  The Adnyamathanha people are the traditional custodians of the region and their name means rock people.  Dreamtime stories about how the land and animals were made are published on plaques around the national park – why crows are black and how the rivers beds were dug through the earth.

 

 

We raced the sun as we drove through Quorn and Hawker to get to Wilpena before dark.  We stayed one night before heading into the Flinders Ranges National Park to our next camp spot – Aroona Ruins.  In the morning, we packed up and headed towards Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.  This part of the flinders ranges is much more rugged and isolated and features Arkaroola, an award-winning wilderness sanctuary.  Unfortunately, after copping two tyre punctures on the way there, we decided to cut our losses and head for the highway to make our way back down south towards Port Augusta.

 

While we were out there in the dry heat, dealing with our second puncture at Balcanoona, we realised that it takes a very special person to see the romantic side of the outback and the life of a bushranger.  The aridity and isolation, flies and thirst – they’re not pleasant.  While the scenery is fantastic, it’s probably more comfortably enjoyed via a Ken Duncan photograph.  Unless you and your rig are fully prepared for the intense landscapes, dirt roads and plethora of floodways, stay close to civilisation because there’s no reception and people are few and far between.

 

 

POINTS OF INTEREST

Wilpena

If you want to check out Wilpena Pound, many walking tracks begin at Wilpena, which is basically a resort town sporting a variety of accommodation from flash cabins to unpowered campsites.  The visitor centre is located right in the middle and while you have to pay for entry into Flinders Ranges National Park, you have to pay more to stay at the resort overnight.  It is a good pit stop to fill up on water, and they have showers, BBQs and picnic areas.

 

 

Kangaroos are everywhere, so be careful during sunrise and sunset, but the scenery is incredible. St Mary’s Peak, almost 1200 metres high is one of the mountains that make Wilpena Pound, and while we didn’t do the Pound hike, we woke at sunrise to watch the mountains turn red.

 

Bunyeroo Valley & Gorge

The drive through the national park was beautiful – rolling hills with dry forests of native pine, dirt roads winding through the valleys and gorges.  The view of Bunyeroo Valley from the Ridgeback Lookout was phenomenal and the Bunyeroo Gorge was nice to drive through.

 

 

Brachina Gorge

We thought we’d go and explore Brachina Gorge before setting up camp at Aroona Ruins.  We found a campsite of people who had found a puddle of water in a creek bed.  The vegetation was lush in this area and we watched goats cross the hillside in the distance, salivating at the thought of a slow-cooked goat curry.

 

Aroona Ruins & Red Hill Lookout

This campsite was great, but would have been even better if there was water in the creek.  There were kangaroos and goats prancing about.  We also saw a rabbit, foraging only a few meters from us, so we ran to get the bow, only to decide not to shoot it because we had a fridge stocked with meat biscuits and lamb chops.

 

 

The Ruins included a log house and shed and were built in 1925.  The famous artist, Sir Hans Heysen stayed in the house a few times to paint the surrounding landscape.

 

During the day, it was hot and dry and we were very lucky to have drinkable water from a tap nearby.  We lazed in the sun like kangaroos, reading and writing and snoozing.  Out there in the wilderness, it’s like time stands still and the hours sauntered by.  Many times the quiet was noticeable and only broken by the sound of flies buzzing about your ears or the distant bleat of a goat.

 

 

Once the sun was low in the sky, we put our hiking boots on and headed for Red Hill Lookout.  It’s a 4.3km hike with plenty of inclines to a fantastic panoramic view atop Red Hill.  It took us an hour to get there, with plenty of wallaroo spotting on the way.  By the time we got back, we were wet with sweat so we rinsed off and enjoyed our first night without the fly on the dome tent, gazing at the stars until we were asleep.

 

 

Parachilna Gorge

We were looking forward to getting to Parachilna and checking out the Prairie Hotel, but when we found out that they’re closed for 6 weeks at this time of the year, we were aghast!  The pub is famous for its Feral Food Platter and atmosphere, but they don’t advertise their closure so people come from miles away, sometimes from other countries to go there, only to find out they’re closed!

 

“Balls”, we said – and boycotted the town entirely.  Instead, we went to Parachilna Gorge and spent another night without the fly on the tent.  A really beautiful camping ground that is free for all, provided that campers keep respecting the area.

 

TOWNS

Quorn

If you’re travelling from Port Augusta to the Flinders Ranges, you may as well stop in Quorn and have a quick look around.  There is an old mill with an exit door on the second floor (???) and the town park has great

 

Hawker

General store is the place to go for coffee, food and advice.  They also have a great selection of camping equipment, a bottle shop and souvenirs.  At the entrance of town are toilets and coin-operated BBQs at 20c a pop.  There are also a few lookouts nearby, like Castle Rock and Camel Hump.

 

 

Leigh Creek

Located at the top end of the Flinders Ranges, Leigh Creek is the oasis in the middle of the desert.  It was originally set up in 1980 as a place to accommodate contractors who were involved in the coal industry.  Over the years, the population dwindled from 2500 to 500 and is now a gateway to central Australia.

 

The town boasts a friendly tavern with a great beer garden and schnitzel day on Wednesday, free electric BBQs by the footy oval, a local supermarket and café, as well as an Olympic-sized swimming pool to provide the perfect relief after a few days in the arid ranges.  Entry is $3 for adults and it was great to have a swim and a warm shower before moving on.

 

Leigh Creek swimming pool - the perfect way to end our time at the Flinders Ranges

Sugar Gum Lookout hike

Camping : Mount Remarkable National Park

Located in the southern Flinders Ranges, this beautiful national park offers a few campgrounds and a selection of great hikes into gorges shaded by red river gums.

 

Mambray Creek Camground

We stayed at Mambray Creek, shaded by big, twisted river red gums along the dry creek bed.  There are 54 designated sites, with plenty of taps offering great tasting drinking water.  In the centre of camp are toilets, showers and deep sinks for dishes and hand washing clothes.

 

 

If you’re after more sheltered accommodation, there is a cabin that offers basic accommodation right next to the amenities.  It sleeps a maximum of four people, contains a stove, table and chairs with cooking and eating utensils but refrigeration and bedding is BYO.

 

Wildlife

We couldn’t believe how close the animals got.  Our first surprise was a curious goanna lurking in the bushes near camp and a band of kookaburras perched in the nearby trees while we cooked dinner on the electric BBQ.  We also saw emus and kangaroos during our hike to Sugar Gum Lookout.

 

Hiking

Daveys Gully Hike – 1 hour loop, 2.4km

A track that everyone who camps at Mambray Creek should do.  It’s a quick trek through a gully before ascending the hill that overlooks the entrance to the national park.  You can see the Spencer Gulf from the top and even Whyalla on a clear day.  Along the way, you’ll see lizards and kangaroos.  Best time to do this hike is in the late afternoon just before sunset.

 

 

Sugar Gum Lookout – 3 hours return, 8km

An easy walk that follows Mambray Creek, the path is shaded by big river red gums.  We bumped into kangaroos, wallabies and a family of emus that dashed ahead as we approached.  A small cabin just before the 600m ascent is interesting to check out before marching up to the lookout, which overlooks red quartzite cliffs.

 

 

Camping is at around $18 a night, plus a $10 entry fee into the park, but if you get a Parks Holiday Pass for $70, that takes care of all entry and camping fees to SA National Parks for two months.