Normally in July we have a Peugeot Lease and pick up a car in Milan and head all the way down to Calabria (Joe’s family) and then head back to Molise (my family) with many stops enroute before returning the lease in Rome and heading home to WA.
Well who would have thought that in 2020 Joe and I would have embarked on a 13 day driving holiday in Western Australia, loved it and would even consider doing it again – actually by the sounds of it, we will be doing it again as COVID-19 is here to stay for quite awhile and interstate and overseas travel will not return to normality or any normal capacity any time soon.
Western Australian tourism is booming and I can now certainly understand why – our Western Australian coast is spectacular and well worth the visit. We have such a diverse and rugged landscape that every stop we made was an OMG moment and a photo opportunity. I had only ever been as far as Monkey Mia for a weekend back in 1990 when I was working with American Express Travel and a girls’ long weekend in Broome probably in 2000.
We headed off on a Friday, took the Indian Ocean Road and our first stop was the Gravity and Discovery Centre and Gidgegannup – we had a look around, took the obligatory photos – actually had coffee and a sandwich here. Great place to stop with the kids if you are on your way north or even in Perth and want something different to do as it is only an hour away. We continued on our drive towards Jurien Bay for dinner with friends and could not go past Cervantes without stopping at the Pinnacles So many different formations, you could drive along the track and hop out and take photos – it was amazing.
I had not been to Jurien for about 20 years, friends have a holiday home there and it was nice to catch up with them. Jurien foreshore has had loads of work done to it from when I was there last and also happened to bump into friends from Perth who we hadn’t seen in years. We only spent the night and it was off to Kalbarri for 4 days - what can I say – we had a great time. We stopped along the way at Greenhead, Leeman, Port Dennison and Pink Lake at Port Gregory. Pink Lake well it was pink, what a sight to see, apparently the colour comes from the Algae that lives in the lake – at different points of the lake the colour is more defined.
Kalbarri was so busy that we were told to book 2 nights for dinner – one night we went to watch the sunset and then went to get fish and chips to eat on the beach - well - they open at 5.30pm and close at 7.30 pm, well the closed sign was up at 6.10 pm – they had run out of fish and chips, so it was off to Kalbarri Pub, where we got the last table and the queues were 20 folks in front of us 20 folks behind us ordering meals and drinks. Most businesses were screaming for staff – they were all complaining about no backpackers and not enough locals to pick up the slack.
Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs - Natural Bridge, The Bigurda Boardwalk, Island Rock, Shellhouse Grandstand, Bigurda Trail, Eagle Gorge, Pot Alley, Mushroom Rock Nature Walk, Red Bluff Lookout all worth the walk and the effort to visit. Most of these areas are linked by boardwalks, the coastline was just beautiful, you could see whales playing out in the ocean, pods of dolphins swimming through the waves and people everywhere in awe of the spectacular sights. On our second full day here, we did Kalbarri National Park with its twin skywalks that overlook the stunning Murchison River Gorge, Natures Window and so much more. There is a café at the Skywalk, the trails are well maintained, public facilities are available – it has been money well spent and with the amount of visitors there it proves that it has been and will be a success for many years to come.
We then headed off to Denham with a stopover at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites, there are only 2 places in the world that can say they have the oldest living fossils in the world and Shark Bay World Heritage Park is one of them and it has the most diverse and abundant example. We stopped at Shell Beach and there were shells as far as you could see -billions of tiny shells, upto 10 metres deep and stretching for over 70 kilometres. Here we decided to leave something for our granddaughters Sophie, Ivy and Lola who were coming to Monkey Mia mid-August with their parents. We had a sharpie – we found 3 larger shells on our travels, we wrote their names on them and we hid them. There was a bush on the beach, we cleared away some shells, we placed the shells down and covered with small branches. We took photos of the beach, of the bush and sent it to our girls and told them to try and find them when they came to Shell Beach. They did find them – they had practically given up, but Ivy (4) persisted and she was the one who found the shells. They were so excited and a great little activity for them.
We headed into Denham and again very busy here cafes and restaurants quite full. The petrol station that week had run out of either Petrol or Diesel having sold 21,000 litres. They had to wait 2 days for their delivery. Here we caught up with by chance, my dad’s great neighbours, John, Gabriela and Simon Labriola and also our lovely clients Mark and Karin Donovan. So funny being in a car park, 1000’s of kilometres from home and you hear your name being called. We headed off the next morning to Monkey Mia and the dolphins. It didn’t disappoint – dolphins and people everywhere. The RAC Resort looked really nice and the Restaurant and Shops were full of guests. Lots of children which was lovely to see.
Wooramel Station Riverside Retreate was our home for 1night. We chose this because of the artesian spas. There are 4 spas filled with warm artesian water about 37degrees they say – very relaxing and I guess 8 people can sit in there quite comfortably in these rain water tanks. Very rustic and fits the landscape. Interesting bunch of people you meet whilst sitting in a rainwater tank overlooking a very dry river in the middle of nowhere. We spent the night in one of the rooms - like a donger and it had its own ensuite – they were lovely rooms. On Wednesday and Saturday night they have a barbie by the campsite and you can BYO or order meats from them - but you must book.
Off to Carnarvon and a stop at the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum - this was very interesting. This was Joe’s pick – and well worth the visit – the interactive activities were great for kids and adults alike. We visited Quobba’s Blowholes (thanks Karin and Mark for the tip), we spent hours here watching the formations, so well worth the drive. We did the Fruit Loop and bought the obligatory frozen chocolate coated mango. This was our turning point – we headed back to Geraldton for our last 2 nights. We stopped at the Billabong Roadhouse (in both directions actually), what a busy little place that was, people and caravans everywhere - petrol was affordable $1.12 per litre and the food and drink wasn’t that badly priced either and service was great.
Geraldton was a pleasure. The foreshore is well maintained and very visitor friendly. It looks like the local council has spent a lot of money in the region. I was really surprised at how much I liked Geraldton. We visited the HMAS Sydney Memorial and the Museum of Geraldton plus so much more. I will definitely go back to Geraldton and have a further look around. Our drive mostly was a lot of open landscape with not a lot going on, as we headed towards Perth the fields were full of bright yellow canola plants and the roads were still full of caravans with eager holidaymakers heading off on their wonderful adventure touring Western Australia.
COVID-19 has ignited in us a desire to travel our state and country – so it looks like February or March we may head off to Esperance for 2 weeks … shhhhh … don’t tell everybody - too many tourists taking advantage of our beautiful sights….