Ningaloo Reef

We departed Denham headed  for the famous Ningaloo Reef via the town of Exmouth – not that we had actually booked anywhere to stay, after perusing Camps Australia and determining that were five or six camping areas within the National Park area itself we decided that surely we would be able to find a site even during school holidays?  There had been mutterings from some of the grey nomads we had chit chatted with about having to get there first thing in the morning to wait for a site but I think we had forgotten that in between having the conversation and arriving (or completely forgotten which area they were talking about, after four months it was all starting to blend into one!)

So it was a bit of a rude shock driving into Exmouth to find a big board up on the outskirts stating the national park was full!  Mind you – so were all the caravan parks.  We were beginning to think parking on the side of the road might have to be an option (you aren’t supposed to but driving hours back or forward from Exmouth didn’t really appeal). So began the big caravan park ring around to find that two at least had overflow areas – now this is a new concept for us, not sure if it’s just a WA thing but we have discovered that the parks in these high traffic tourist areas reserve areas for folk like us that turn up in town without a clue that it’s school holidays and wonder why we can’t get a site.  I think it must be bad for tourism turning people away because they keep the overflow areas and the Lighthouse Caravan Park we checked into was only just finishing grading the new overflow area that afternoon and were even still waiting on council approval!

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Beachcombing

Anyway – crisis averted and a dirt pad is better than driving on – although it was really annoying to drive into the national park the next day and find that sites had become free! We even extended our stay here for another day, this is close to one of the most beautiful spots we had stayed so far with the clear green water, snorkelling, beach combing, massive clam shells to be collected and perfect weather.  The beach was a short walk across the road and over the dune and we spent a lot of time there while the husband attempted to catch fish – or I should say attempted to catch legal size fish as there were some throw backs!

 

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Treasure

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Beautiful Coral Bay

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Finding a Spot

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Coral Bay

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Beach Bums

 

We failed miserably at our attempts to teach our kids to snorkel however – they found the water too cold to wade in and try it at Coral Bay, where you can literally snorkel off the beach (but perhaps with a wet suit at this time of year?) We took a glass bottom boat tour out to the reef itself (after discovering the exorbitant cost of swimming with the whale sharks – unbelievable!) Where it was attempted to put the girls in the water with a pool noodle to snorkel – but this too ended miserably!  Admittedly there was quite a strong current so it wasn’t like we could just float along side them and teach some technique, it was all I could do to stay in one place while they got their snorkel and mask on – and the first mouthful of water pretty much stopped their snorkel escapade dead in tracks.  Oh well – two wet cold short people returned to the boat while the grown ups took turns snorkeling at least!  The fish and coral were beautiful, perhaps not as amazing as the Great Barrier Reef but the whole stop over in Ningaloo was a relaxing, sunny beach retreat.

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Snorkelling

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Albany

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Five days and nights free camping reached the record of Bay of Fires in Tasmania so when we departed Millers Point for Albany there was high level of shower desperation in the air (so to speak)! Also we had been free camping on dirt sites so the key requirement for a caravan park in Albany was grass – lots and lots of clean, green grass. Emu Point Acclaim turned out to be the park of choice and Emu Point itself was delightful, literally a point of land near the van park that had a little cafe perched at the end, a playground and calm stretch of beach that little ones would enjoy – and an off-shore ocean lap swimming pool complete with lane ropes! So wished it was summer at that point. Every morning I managed to escape for some peace and solitude, walking along the beach path that wound itself along the harbor and gazing out at the islands dotted around.

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Emu Point at Sunset

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Emu Point in the Sunshine

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Beachfront Walk

Our lucky streak with the weather continued as well (initially at least) and we were able to see Albany Harbor in all it’s sunny, crystal clear blue-green water glory – almost warm enough to brave the cold water and jump in, it was incredibly tempting. However instead we went fishing off the jetty and enjoyed the view – but not the fish, only catch of the day was a small crab attempting to steal bait, cheeky sod. The water was so clear that every single detail of the ocean floor was visible – in retrospect it was pretty obvious there were no fish to catch but the short people enjoyed the practice!

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The swimming pool clear Albany Harbor

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Fishergirl

Albany turned out to have a lot to see and do within close range and we ended up extending our stay twice, finally spending five nights and days in this neck of the WA woods. The wind farm we thought was going to be a bit boring (a walking track through a wind farm?) was actually awe inspiring, a field of eighteen wind turbines soaring into the air above us while we wound our way through a pretty walking track with elevated viewing platforms and visual of the nearby wild ocean coast line. The route also collided with the “Bibbulmun Track” a path that is sometimes boardwalk, sometimes dirt, sometimes part of a remote track and makes it’s way from Albany to Perth for those fit enough (or crazy enough) to want to walk/ride roughly 1000 kms. Being there at sunset the photography was perfect and even the girls were impressed with this spot – and it’s not easy impressing five year old girls with technology! Apparently this supplies 80% of Albany’s power supply as well, I’ve been surprised by how many towns in WA use wind power for either some or most of their power needs, great to see.

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A visit to Elephant Rocks near Denmark yet again made me pine for warmer weather – the Blue Pools looked devine in all the pictures but not quite the same under cloudy skies however the short walk to see the massive granite boulders that resembled wading elephants was worth the effort. I’m sure I could see Elephants – but the husband wasn’t sure, maybe it an individual imagination thing!

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Elephant Rocks

Bremer Bay and Millers Point – Serenity…

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After Hopetoun we decided to continue with the free camping theme, braving further bathing in our sink and use of the little foldup toilet seat that has become invaluable (especially for those short people only learning the art of the “bush wee”!) We found a little spot in the Camps Australia book called Millers Point, half an hour out of Bremer Bay and both of these places turned out to be absolutely stunning (I’m going to run out of descriptors if this beautiful scenery continues!)

Millers Point is actually a finger of land that juts out into the Beaufort Inlet West of Bremer Bay and is also a popular fishing spot based on the shacks setup there and the fisherman putting their boats in each night.  We arrived late in the afternoon on a dead calm day without a ripple on the glassy surface of the inlet in front of us or behind us.  We setup in record time and parked ourselves in the camp chairs to watch the inlet turn to orange, pink and finally royal blue as the sun set behind us.

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View from our campsite over Beaufort Inlet from Millers Point

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…and our view as the sun set….

 

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Sun setting behind us – you get the idea!

This was possibly the most perfect spot we had found to date in terms of camp setup – we were the sole occupiers of the camp ground, it was so quiet you could hear the surf breaking in the distance, the girls entertained themselves on the shores of the inlet, splashing and fossicking, we had a superb fire pit already established, wood was plentiful and the view – well, that was amazing.  In the morning we were entertained by these tiny little blue tailed birds that were fascinated by their own reflection in our car windows – although Craig was less than impressed with the bird poop on his 4WD!  I don’t think we had felt this relaxed since Coles Bay in Tasmania, not even the lack of a shower detracted from the absolute serenity of this camping spot.

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Chateau d’ InnsPlayground

 

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Foreground and background – beautiful 🙂

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My husband is a pyromaniac

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Marshmallows anyone?!

 

From this little hideaway we explored the nearby Bremer Bay, where once again we were gob-smacked by the gorgeous beaches. We could drive onto the main beach in town, a sweeping vista of white sand and green water (yet again!) and even the ‘fisherman’s beach’ where boats set out and local’s tried their luck at the jetty was a little gem of a blue green cove. Speaking of locals – this place was incredibly friendly, everyone went out of their way to help or advise travelers, especially the two gentleman in their boat who picked up our daughters ‘croc’ shoe that was sedately floating out into the harbor as we watched helplessly from the rocks!

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Jetty at Fisherman’s Beach Bremer Bay

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Fisherman’s Beach – apparently we aren’t fisherman!

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Main Beach in Bremer Bay – no words

 

Although Craig tried his hand with the fishing rod alas we were still fish-less by the end our stay, think the lack of boat may be seriously hampering his style – although it’s always fun trying (I guess). The up side of his fishing expeditions was the discovery of a beach just out of Bremer Bay only accessible by 4WD and with the deepest, softest most extensive dune system I’ve ever come across, it was like the Sahara.  Yet again we had the entire stretch of white sand to ourselves for the day and surprisingly for this far South in late May the day was warm and sunny – so all the girls (somewhat daringly) stripped down to underwear to romp around the sand dunes and soak up some Vitamin D. Needless to say clothes were within quick reach just in case some other intrepid fishermen decided to turn up in our little piece of heaven!

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Home away from the Chateau

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Hot enough for this!

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Beaches of WA – Sigh…

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..but no fish!!

 

 

We reluctantly headed off after three days in this glorious location, headed to Albany and probably yet more overwhelmingly incredible scenery – Western Australia I think I may be in love with you….

 

 

 

The Nullabor

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Driving across the Nullabor always seems like some magical mystery tour that all Australians should complete one day, like a rite of passage. The very name is part of Australian folk lore and it has always evoked images of desert, dust and aboriginal tribes in my mind. We initially considered shirking this rite of passage, looking at endless kilometers with bored children, however investigation into the cost of freighting the car and camper soon put those thoughts to rest! We decided to man-up and head for the border – sort of like Thelma and Louise but with a husband and two kids in tow instead – so nothing like them except in my imagination…sigh…

The launch point across the Nullabor crossing is Ceduna in South Australia, we arrived in the middle of a storm in the dark so decided to book into a cabin for the night to avoid setting up in the rain. Looking back I’m still convinced that our good friend Lisa telling us to “enjoy a night of luxury” via facebook was what jinxed us – the first indication of trouble at the cabin site was the fact they were all ATCO huts. This could have just been an aversion from years of staying in them for military purposes so we reserved judgement – until opening the door. I’m not a snob, I have no problem with budget accommodation as long as it’s clean and in good repair – this place was neither. At first it was just funny, like staying in the middle of an op shop – or maybe someones garage sale, but once we realised the extent of how grubby this place actually was it became slightly horrifying – almost as much as paying $110 when we could have been in our comparatively pristine camper. This did however make me realise how unpretentious children really are, there is no pre-conceived notion of standards with them – the girls thought the place wonderful as there were bunk beds and a deck out the front to sit on.

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We were out of there first thing in the morning with a great sense of relief – and no bed bug bites amazingly, and off across the plains. The reality of the Nullabor crossing was nothing like the images in my mind – instead of dust there was this rainy, wild vista with huge cloud formations on the horizon, stretches of blue along the Australian Bight and a lot of low shrubbery adorning the red dirt beneath. There were road houses and towns so fuel was never an issue and we met a bunch of lovely grey nomads who always seemed to be towing absolute behemoths of caravans for just two people and maybe a pooch.

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Did not expect pouring rain!

It was a bit frustrating at first not being able to see the coast line from the road – as soon as we came to a look-out area we pulled off to gawk at the Great Australian Bight for the first time. The look-out area had multiple warning signs, thorough fencing and a prominent cross to make sure everyone stayed away from the edge – apparently the cliffs around here are very prone to slippage. Once you glimpsed this coast line for the first time it was apparent why – there is nothing but sheer edges on this particular edge of our great Southern Land! Stunning though, reminded me of the great ocean road in Victoria but on a grander more threatening scale.

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Great Australian Bight

We spent our first night in the Nullarbor National Park free-camping 52 kilometres from the border and although it was possible to drive right to the cliffs to camp this spot had no fences and edging up to take a photo made my stomach contort in ways its just not supposed to. The thought of having our five year olds racing around there just about made my stomach revolt completely so we backed off closer to the road and safety where they entertained themselves thoroughly in the piles of road construction gravel and puddles (who knew that would be natures playground?!)

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The girls favourite gravel pile

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Muddy Puddle Fun

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Sunset over the Plains

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Watching the sun go down over the horizon with a glass of wine in hand atop our adjacent mound of gravel in the middle of nowhere – really felt that we were seeing how magnificent our backyard is. Although a little nervous about being in the middle of nowhere camped just off the main highway overnight there were plenty of other intrepid travellers doing the same thing and we made it through all three nights across the Plains – only incident we had was a couple of German back packers who turned up unexpectedly at our door one night to borrow our axe – that sorted of felt like the start of a bad story but Craig ended up going over and having a beer with them all later that night so clearly I have watched one too many horror stories! As beautiful as it was we were all very glad to get to Norseman and the end of three very long driving days – the girls were absolute troupers but enough was enough of endless miles of straight road..

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Sign Post at the Western Australia-South Australia border – long way from home!

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Setup on the Plains – Hitched up Still in Case of Quick Getaway!

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The Great Australian Bight – stunning!

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Close up View of Unprotected Cliff Edge – Yikes

 

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Yorke Peninsula

20130531-104908.jpgYorke Peninsula is the “boot” of South Australia and home to my mum whose family all originated from this region. Visiting family again gave us the opportunity to briefly live in something other than 6×2 meters of enclosed space – although that isn’t as bad as it sounds provided the weather is fine and we can embrace the great outdoors! The girls (and my mum) were delighted to see each other again and we had the rare opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with all three of our female generations – leaving my long suffering husband as the one and only male yet again ! We did conclude Mother’s Day at the rather good local winery (Barley Stacks) where he scored his own present – a five liter plastic container of tawny port. Although this doesn’t sound particularly classy the port was good quality and the container perfect for storage and use camping – should last Craig at least two months of camp fire night caps depending on stress levels!

The Trip Poison of Choice

The Trip Poison of Choice

York Peninsula is primarily farming land however we ventured right down to the bottom of the boot’s foot to the Innes National Park (considering the name it seemed appropriate that we visit!) My mum hadn’t seen this region so we were happy to show her what was in her own back yard – it’s very true you don’t play tourist in your home State very often. Turns out this is another of those wildly beautiful edges of Australia with light houses, cliffs and jetties into the big blue, proving Craig wrong about South Australia being boring – think seeing as I originated from here he’s pushing his luck a bit there…

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Naracoorte to Robe South Australia

Our trip out of Victoria to South Australia was a nostalgic one for me, having grown up in the South East in the country town of Naracoorte. Driving through the outlying towns (or even just seeing direction signs) brought back memories of netball/football games, awkward teenage crushes, youth group shenanigans and visiting friends on their farms. Country towns must suit parents of girls  – boys I liked always seemed to be far, far out of town! We stopped by the house I grew up in, where our first family pet (rough tough little black poodle called Simmaron of all things) was buried under the now huge willow tree in the front yard and I grabbed a quick picture before the now owners decided we were stalkers and called the police on us. Funny how places always seemed so much bigger when remembered through the eyes of our smaller selves.

As the husband isn’t quite as enthused about my childhood memories (particularly the first boyfriend discussion for some strange reason) it was a quick walk down memory lane before our next destination, the seaside fishing village of Robe. It had been a very long time since I visited Robe so my impressions of it were vague but it turned out to be a beautiful and peaceful sea side stop. We arrived almost at sunset in weather positively balmy for the South this time of year and headed to the beach out the front of the Big 4 to play. Other than dealing with sympathetic looks re: my black eye we had a very quiet and uneventful stay in Robe, some would say this is par for the course for South Australia however it’s always nice to go back to your roots – and realise how far you’ve grown from them!

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Grampians National Park

We returned to the ‘mainland’ from Tasmania without incident or sea sickness (phew) and moved into my dad’s place en-masse for a few days. My dad and step-mum are always good natured about these invasions, dealing with the noise, chaos and mess in exchange for cooking, cuddles, fresh made juices and for my dad assistance with the odd job. The husband had lined up a bunch of modification to our camping setup after the trial run in Tassie – which at first I thought was just more male tinkering. However, it was proved he does know what he’s on about (no-one tell him though) as the carpet on the floors absorb noise, dust that would otherwise end up in beds and stop our feet from freezing. The new high density foam on our bed has dramatically improved our quality of sleep (and lowered the level of crankiness) and a hand held vacuum? Worth every penny with the camper now carpeted! Dad and husband spent a day making some very nifty movable steps for the girls to climb into their bed without demolishing the couch cushions and I think there were other things that were technical and essential but slip my mind – not being directly related to comfort or security.

After all this busy-ness it was a little reluctantly (again) that we packed up and hit the road for South Australia. First stop was the Grampians National Park, I hadn’t been to this area since I was a teenager on Youth Camp but I had vague memories of it being beautiful. Apparently I’m not senile yet as it is an absolutely stunning part of Victoria, driving into Halls Gap there were kangaroos literally everywhere – in the school grounds, camp grounds, by the local shops – everywhere! This was exciting until I walked around the back of the camper one morning with the girls in tow to find a reasonably large buck just lolling around behind our living quarters! He didn’t seem in a hurry to get away from us and the girls were almost hypnotised by him so we all just stood for five minutes and stared at each other. This impasse ended when Craig came to investigate and the kangaroo stood up to full height in quite a threatening manner – apparently even male humans aren’t popular with these boys.

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Seemed to like the girls pink pyjamas !

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Hello Roo

Once again we subjected our children to the cruel and unusual practice of hiking for hours on end over mountains but to their credit there was only one truly monumental melt down otherwise they were complete little champions about it all. It would have been good to do some of the more challenging hikes and access the stunning scenery from these paths but that is just going to have to wait until the girls are older. Evenings were spent around the camp fire toasting marshmallows and we were glad that it was this route we had decided on rather than the Great Ocean Road (also beautiful but done many times before).

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Post Short Person Melt Down – I’d had enough too!

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Big Day for Short Legs!

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Looks like a face to me!

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Follow the Leader

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Beautiful View after a Very Long Walk!

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Coming up the Canyon at the Peak

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Troopers

The only down side of this stop-over was a slight safety malfunction that was extremely embarrassing considering I am a so called safety professional (don’t mechanics always have the worst cars??) One other modification Craig made in Melbourne was a connection for the van stabiliser legs that allows us to use an 18V hand held drill to wind them down instead of man (or woman) power. I objected initially as it seemed like quite a good upper body workout while on the road but Tim the Tool Man insisted. So in Halls Gap he passed me the drill and requested that I wind up the stabiliser legs – after looking at him blankly I think the penny dropped that I really am not that familiar with electric drills – especially not in this capacity! So a very brief instruction session followed which included making sure I slowed the drill down as the legs were nearly up – the first two were a bit quick so the next I bent down to check what where the legs were and obviously loosened my grip on the drill. I’ve never been punched in the face but in the movies it never looks like a big deal – I’m assuming this is incorrect if the big heavy handle of an 18V drill smacking me in the eye socket at full speed is anything to go by. To the husbands credit he initially cradled my head and made sure my eye was still in it’s place before commenting that people were going to think he hit me! Although no-one accused him of this, as the beautiful blue, purple, green and yellow hues of my eye emerged I did get a lot of funny looks – and very few souls actually worked up the courage to ask me what happened, I’m assuming in case I said I walked into a door (because the drill story is so much more plausible!) There have been many jokes about me not doing as I’m told or listening and needless to say I haven’t been authorised to use power tools since then….

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Ouchy