Mount Nameless - Tom Price

Top 5 Things about Western Australia

We had many discussions before deciding what our top 5 things about Western Australia would be. The fact of the matter is, it was really hard to pick just five things. Western Australia is huge and has so many fantastic aspects to it; there was a lot to think about.

 

A Geraldton sunset...

 

The history of WA is pretty interesting. Unlike most of the other states, the Swan colony started off as a free colony instead of a penal colony where convicts were sent. The capital was supposed to be Albany but ended up being Perth because of the fertile soils of the Swan River. We loved how big the state was – WA is the biggest state in Australia and if it was its own country, it would be the 10th largest in the world! It is ten times bigger than the UK and is bigger than Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada all put together!

 

The sunsets were undoubtedly spectacular, and any beach along the west coast is an ideal viewing spot. There were lots of places along the way that we fell in love with – tropical Broome, funky Fremantle, the kooky Principality of Hutt River, the magical Stonehenge in Esperance, the massive meals at the Denmark Tavern and the burgers Alfred’s Kitchen. One thing we noticed when we stayed with friends in build up areas was that nearly everyone keeps egg laying chickens in their backyard. We don’t know whether it’s because eggs are expensive or whether they’re doing their bit against factory farming but we loved it!

 

 

So, without much ado, and in no particular order, here is our Top 5 for Western Australia:

 

National Parks

You can’t dispute that WA has some amazing national parks. Karijini National Park is probably the most well-known park with its beautiful gorges, waterfalls and swimming holes. We were really sad that we had to leave Karijini early due to heavy rains.

 

One of our favourites was Cape Le Grand National Park. We were originally going to skip it but a local insisted that we go. We are so thankful because it is one of the most beautiful places in Australia. We also loved the red soil and dynamic coastline of François Péron National Park.

 

Other national parks that are definitely worth a mention are Kalbarri National Park with Nature’s Window, Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungles, and Mitchell River National Park in the Kimberley.

 

 

Shark Bay

Shark Bay was added to the World Heritage list in 1991 because it displays biological diversity, ecological processes, geological history and natural beauty. We spent about a week in Shark Bay and were blown away by the scenery and wildlife.

 

On your way in, stop at Shell Beach and marvel at the turquoise waters lapping at the blinding white shores made completely out of little cockle shells. If you have a 4WD, head to Steep Point and stand on the westernmost point of Australia. Camping at Whalebone Bay was $10 for the night and is a magnificent place to watch the sunset before you head into Denham for a beer at the westernmost pub in Australia. Make sure you visit Ocean Park and learn about the surrounding marine wildlife from a safe but super-close distance.

 

 

Beaches

Western Australia has over 12,000km of coastline and most of it is made up of picturesque beaches. Hellfire Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park was by far the most beautiful, while Shell Beach in Shark Bay was also spectacular.

 

Cable Beach in Broome was great because not only were we allowed to take our clothes off in the nudist section, but we got to watch the camel rides during sunset. Greens Pool near Denmark and Coral Bay both had an abundance of colourful fish right near the shore and were great for snorkelling.

 

 

Fremantle Prison

We did all the tours at Fremantle Prison. For some reason, we were absolutely fascinated with the place – the history of how and why it was built, the stories of stupidity and escape – and we wanted to see every part of this remarkable prison.

 

 

Breweries

Western Australia has some fantastic breweries. Little Creatures in Fremantle is absolutely fantastic and offers the works – interesting tours, delicious food and awesome beer!

 

In Kalgoorlie-Boulder, we were lucky to find Beaten Track Brewery, and learnt a lot about the beer making process and what hops looks like. Cheeky Monkey in Margaret River and Duckstein in the Swan Valley were also great breweries to visit, for both the beer and the atmosphere. Matso’s Brewery in Broome really blew our socks off with their chilli beer and their Smokey Bishop dark lager. We enjoyed it so much, we went there twice in four days!

 

 

Shell Beach

Experience : Shark Bay

In 1991, Shark Bay was recognised by UNESCO as one of the most remarkable places on Earth after it ticked off each item on the natural World Heritage site criteria list.   It displays major stages in the evolutionary history of the world, as well as geological and biological processes, it is the home of significant and unique flora and fauna, and it is also a place of natural beauty.

 

Whalebone Bay

 

The area was first discovered by Dutch Captain Dirk Hartog in 1616, making him the first European to set foot on Western Australian soil.  Years later in 1697, Dutch sailor William de Vlamingh came through and then another visitor two years later, Captain William Dampier from England.  The French came next with Captain Louis-Francois Saint Alouaran in 1772 landing at the northern tip of Dirk Hartog Island and declaring Australia as French, even though two years earlier the English had arrived in Botany Bay.  Thirty years later, French Captain Nicolas Baudin was sent to Australia by Napoleon and sailed past Shark Bay on his way towards the southern coast of Western Australia.

 

Shark Bay covers more than 2 million hectares and 1500km of coastline and is filled with immaculate bays and swimming beaches, blue lagoons and offshore islands.  It’s home to a huge variety of animals, including 26 of Australia’s endangered mammal species and 35% of Australia’s bird species.  The waters are filled with turtles, dolphins, whales and sharks, as well as a variety of sea grasses, and Shark Bay is also the home of 10% of the world’s population of dugong.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST

Denham

This little town was established by pearlers and farmers after the area was charted in 1858 by Captain Henry Mangles Denham.  The pearling industry was started by an American, who first noticed oysters in the area.  Word got around and pearlers from the surrounding areas and neighbouring countries arrived to work the sandbanks and collect the pearls.  After a while, pearl numbers began to decline and the depression caused the pearl industry to make way for fishing and salt farming.

 

Complete with safe swimming beaches, various accommodation options, supermarkets, restaurants and the westernmost pub in Australia, the Shark Bay Hotel, Denham is the perfect hub for your adventures around Shark Bay.

 

 

François Péron National Park

A short drive north of Denham, this park takes up 52,500 hectares on the tip of Péron Peninsula and is edged by striking cliffs, white beaches and deep red soil.

 

Within the park is the Peron Homestead, an old sheep station that you can walk through.  They also have BBQs, a picnic area and a ‘hot tub’ full of 40 degree water from an artesian well.

 

If you have a 4WD, let your tyres down at the deflation/inflation station and head north up the sandy track towards Cape Péron. There are heaps of places to stop and check out the coastline – you might even see a turtle, shark or stingray.

 

Check out our post on François Péron National Park here.

 

 

Ocean Park

This was a fantastic stop and we loved every minute of the tour.  Our guide was a marine biologist and she provided an incredible amount of information about the animals at the park.  We got to learn about squid, sea snakes, clown fish, sharks and more.

 

Check out our post on Ocean Park.

 

Eagle Bluff & Whalebone Bay

One of the camping areas just south of Denham, Eagle Bluff also has a brilliant lookout over the bay.  If you’re lucky enough, you might be able to spot a shark or sting ray.

 

Whalebone Bay is located about 30km south of Denham.  We camped here on the first night and watched the sun set over this beautiful location.  Camping is allowed for 24 hours only at $10 per vehicle, there are no facilities and it can get pretty windy, but the scenery is fantastic.

 

 

Shell Beach

This naturally created beach extends 120km along the coast and is made up of teeny tiny cockle shells.  It is believed that the shells date back around 4000 years and can be up to 10 metres deep.  The beach itself is perfect for swimming – the water is crystal clear and gently laps at the shore.

 

 

Hamelin Pool

Hamelin Pool is home to the most diverse example of stromatolites in the world.  Stromatolites are ancient colonies of cyanobacteria (blue green algae) that form hard deposits over themselves in shallow waters.

 

We arrived at a beautiful moment when a storm was coming in but the sun still managed to shine through gaps in the clouds.  There was a boardwalk that led out over the stromatolites, and we were fascinated by the very strange seascape they created under the water.

 

 

Steep Point

If you have a 4WD, this is a absolute MUST!  Steep Point is the westernmost point of Australia, and you can only get there by driving over unsealed road and sand dunes.  The track is fairly corrugated so it’s slow going most of the way, but once you get to Steep Point, you will be struck with awe at the terrifying yet beautiful landscape.  Make sure you’re fully stocked with water and supplies because the area is fairly remote.

 

Check out our post on Steep Point here.

 

Monkey Mia

About 24km east of Denham is the place to go if you want to get close to dolphins.  Monkey Mia is a huge tourist attraction with friendly dolphins visiting the area since the 1960s. Over the last 15 years, interaction with the dolphins has been regulated so that they don’t get too domesticated.  They’re fed at irregular times between 8am and noon under the supervision of a DEC officer, and you’re not allowed to touch the dolphins (but they can touch you).

 

We pulled up at the gate to the Monkey Mia Conservation Park, paid $8 each to enter the Conservation Park, then proceeded down to the beach to watch the dolphins come in.  There was already over a hundred people there, all lined up along the beach.  About eight dolphins turned up for the feeding, and if you were one of the lucky ones to get picked, you can have the pleasure of putting the fish into the dolphin’s mouth.  We watched from the jetty and noticed that a green turtle had come to visit as well.

 

 

After the dolphins retreated back into deeper waters, we went for a quick stroll around the resort and realised there really wasn’t anything left to see so we got in the Troopy and left.  Snorkelling and swimming is allowed outside of the dolphin interaction area, but we had a big day ahead of us so we moved on.

 

A birds nest near Hamelin Pool

 

Steep Point - the Blowholes

4WDing : Steep Point

When we arrived in Shark Bay, we were aware of all the typical tourist attractions such as Monkey Mia, Hamelin Pools and the surrounding bay, but what we were really looking forward to was Steep Point – the westernmost point of Australia!

 

Steep Point - we made it!

 

Steep Point got its name from Dutch sailor William de Vlamingh when he anchored by the southern tip of Dirk Hartog Island in 1697.  The general area is called Edel Land and stretches from Steep Point all the way down to False Entrance.  The land has been purchased by the state government for conservation purposes and will soon become a national park.

 

 

The landscape is a combination of limestone, surreal sand dunes and secluded beaches.  The cliffs drop down 200 metres into the ocean and make for some truly terrifying scenery, and the colours are a huge contrast to the red sand dunes of Francois Peron National Park.  The area is only accessible by 4WD and you need a permit or park pass to enter.  Day passes are $11 per vehicle.

The Track

The turnoff to Steep Point is 88km south of Denham. The total distance between the Northwest Coastal Highway turnoff to Steep Point is 185km.  A few kilometres of the road is sealed, but then it’s about 114km of unsealed road before the final stretch over very soft sand.  You have to reduce your tyre pressure to 15-20psi before continuing into Edel Land, otherwise you risk getting bogged, and you don’t want to have to pay the fee for recovery.

 

The road was fairly corrugated, which made the drive slow going, but once we got to the sand dunes, the real fun began.  Up and down with lots of tilts, the Troopy conquered them all.  The track mainly required high-range gears but there was one soft uphill section that needed low-range.  It took us about 3 hours to get to the Ranger hut, just short of Shelter Bay.

 

 

Before leaving for this trip, make sure you’re topped up with fuel because there are only two petrol stations nearby, and the closest one is about 180km to the east.

 

Camping

Pay your camping fees to the ranger, who was a plump lady with a lovely smile, tanned leather skin and a white bob – it’s $7 per adult per night to camp.  The nice ranger lady advised us to stay for one night only and to be outside of Edel Land by midday the next day, because a storm was coming.  She said if it rains, they’ll close the roads, and if they close the roads you’ll be in here for at least four days.   She gave us the westernmost camp spot available, took our money and wished us luck to get out before the storm.

 

There were lots of people camping in Shelter Bay.  You could see boats anchored in the bay as well, which means that they were there for the fishing.  Game fishing is huge at Steep Point and while we would have loved to drop a line, the potential storm did not allow us the time.

 

Steep Point - gorgeous beach!

 

We got to camp at dusk, had a quick dinner and settled in for the night.  First thing in the morning, we set off for the signpost to advertise our position.  There was something really scary about Steep Point.  There was a real sense of being at the edge of the world.  The cliffs were sheer and rugged and we were hesitant to get too close to the edge.

 

Thunder Bay & the Blowholes

Afterwards, we moved onwards to Thunder Bay and the Blowholes.  We would have loved to drive along the Zuytdorp cliffs but we were told that our tyres might not make it past the treacherously rocky track.  The Blowholes blew our minds.  They were like huge nostrils of a snoring dragon, breathing in and out with a blood curdling noise.  Juz found a teeny tiny blowhole and let it suck in her hair.  There was also a huge coastal gorge along the cliffs that made us look very insignificant.

 

 

False Entrance

We only had two hours left before midday, so we scooted south towards False Entrance.  This huge beach has the most ferocious waves – there was no way we were going to have a dip!  We had a quick bite to eat and continued to the exit.

 

 

That night, we made it to Gladstone Scenic Lookout (-25.985206,114.298046) that gives you a great view west over Shark Bay.  We watched the clouds roll in, flash and purge, and then went to sleep, only to be woken a few hours later with the Troopy rocking about in the wind with rain and lightning all around us.  Lucky we weren’t stuck at Steep Point…

 

 

Thunder Bay Blowholes from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.