The Great Ocean Road runs for 243 kilometres between Torquay and Allansford on the south eastern coast of Victoria, Australia. It is heritage listed and is one of the worlds most scenic coastal drives.
Our last stop on this trip before we arrived home was to spend a few days on our boat down on the Gippsland Lakes. The first night we tied up to a friend’s jetty, and the following day we ventured towards Lakes Entrance and stayed for the night at a lovely little spot called Barrier Landing which is a narrow strip of sand dunes separating the lake from the wild seas of Bass Strait.
Have you ever drifted serenely on perfectly calm waters, watching the sun sink slowly in the west while the colours change around you, reflecting off the sky and water? It is a surreal experience that makes me realise how lucky I am to live in this beautiful country.
All that was missing from this perfect evening was a pod of dolphins frolicking in the calm waters!
Elanda Point on Lake Cootharaba is a camp ground and canoe-adventure business. We set up our camp right on the shore of the lake, well away from several school groups that were sharing the campground, although I have to say the kids were a pleasure and the only sound we heard from them was laughter.
It’s not often I am up in the morning early enough to take photographs of the sunrise. Why was I up so early? You may well ask…
We were not planning on staying at Carmila Beach but on impulse turned left off the highway to check it out, and at the end of the soft and sandy track came across a secluded spot amongst the trees, out of the wind, that seemed to have our name on it.
Because we were a little late arriving and it was a warm afternoon, we didn’t bother to collect any firewood. However, once the sun went down, the temperature started to drop so after a fairly early dinner, we retired indoors when it got dark and read for a while before going to bed early.
We passed through Bowen on our way north to Cape York, but decided it was worth a closer look now that we are heading south again. Of course, it was a bit grey and wet when we were here last, so it wasn’t really looking it’s best. Now that we are here again, we are finding it hard to leave! We have kayaked, cycled, snorkeled and walked and still haven’t managed to see all that Bowen has to offer. We have eaten fresh prawns on the foreshore, mango sorbet while walking on the wharf and had a magnificent meal in the pub. We’ve watched the sunset from the beach and felt the ‘Blowin’ in Bowen’ breeze every afternoon. The sun is shining, the weather is warm and Bowen is a very nice place to be.
One of the goals of our trip this year was to visit the northernmost point of mainland Australia. We started this part of our adventure in Cooktown where we left our caravan behind and headed off with a tent and some basic camping gear. The roads from Cooktown, travelling north up Cape York, are generally unmade roads with some short sections of bitumen along the way. The quality of the dirt roads varied from excellent (driving at up to 90km/hr) to appalling (travelling at less than 20km/hr) and included water crossings, some of which were very deep and a little concerning because the water went over the bonnet of our 4WD.
This is a great little business. There is the pub, with accommodation plus the camping area near the river at the rear. They also run a mechanical repair business (very busy because lots of people trash their cars on the rough roads up here), a general store, and fuel pumps. So pretty much anything you need in Coen, they can help.
No, I had never heard of it either. Hull Heads is just down the road from Tully Heads, which is near Tully. Tully has the dubious distinction of being arguably the wettest place in Australia. Luckily for us, the rain stayed away while we were there. Hull Heads and indeed the whole coast along that region, is still recovering from Cyclone Yasi which devastated the area in early February 2011. Many of the houses have been rebuilt, but there are still blocks of land that are now vacant and waiting for a new dwelling to be constructed. As you walk along the stretch of sandy beach, there is evidence everywhere of the destruction caused by that monstrous storm; huge trees are snapped off like toothpicks, and the sand is still littered with broken trees and debris from that time.
But if you look the other way, the gorgeous islands can still be seen out over the sea, there are still stretches of golden sand and we didn’t come across any crocodiles, although there were plenty of signs warning us not to go into the water, or stand at the water’s edge.
And once you get used to the idea, and realise there probably aren’t any crocodiles waiting to eat you as soon as you set foot on the beach, you can walk for miles and enjoy the sunset.
Finally it was time to move on, so we packed our things and headed north, up the road to Boreen Point. It was freezing! We weren’t allowed to light a campfire there so we huddled around the tiny butane heater at the water’s edge while the sun went down, then all crawled into bed at a very early hour to try and stay warm. Next camp we will be sure we can have a fire! Even so, Boreen Point was very pretty and serene and we will be back at some time in the future to take our kayaks up the river where we have been told there are lots of lovely peaceful camping spots.
Rainbow Beach is such a romantic name. Tin Can Bay maybe not so much…Anyway, we headed up to the Great Sandy Straits to find our next camping spot. What we had forgotten from a previous visit here was the camping area at Inskip Point, where you can bush camp right on the beach.
The facilities are very basic (long drop toilets, and that’s all) but that is a small price to pay for the privilege of staying in such a great spot. We set up opposite the beach, organised some firewood, and were soon set for a few days of peace and relaxation.
Our camp is near to where the car ferry goes over to Fraser Island, and across the water, you can see cars driving along the beach. Fraser Island is probably the largest sand island in the world and you wouldn’t get very far with a conventional vehicle, as there are no made roads on the island so you need a four-wheel drive to get around over there.
We spent a couple of lovely weeks in Mooloolaba catching up with family and friends and enjoying all that the area has to offer in the way of little trips to interesting places such as Buderim, where we walked up through the rainy-rainforest to the waterfall, as well as eating out and drinking lots of great coffee at some of the myriad restaurants that line the esplanade in Mooloolaba. One sunny afternoon Peter took us all out sailing on the 40ft catamaran that he and Val have been living on for the past few years while they sailed around the pacific islands. The boat is for sale now, and I am sure they will miss it when it goes to a new owner. We will also miss flying over to stay with them in some of the exotic places they visited.
Another day we took the kayaks out for a paddle up the Mooloolah River and through the canals lined with multi-million dollar houses, each with it’s own private jetty at the bottom of the garden. It was interesting to check out the houses and the expensive boats moored at the back of the properties. The river was the colour of cocoa, because of all the recent rains. Fortunately for us, the weather had pretty much cleared by the time we arrived, although the evenings were still cool.
The day we picked Mel up from Brisbane airport, we spent the day exploring Brisbane via the City Cat that travels up and down the Brisbane River, stopping off for yummy Yiros from a Greek restaurant at South Bank then strolling back into the city itself via a riverside boardwalk that meandered through the mangroves and past the Botanic Gardens, finally ending up at Eagle Street Pier where we caught the City Cat back down river to where we had parked the car.
We spent several days in Mooloolaba, and I wrote this poem after an evening walk along the spit where we watched the sun set through the pandanus that line the pathway…
Mooloolaba, one misty eve; the sun sinks in the west…
The trees are bathed in golden glow, the time that I like best.
Mooloolaba this winter’s day is warmed by winter sun
And people stroll along the shore when day is nearly done.
Mooloolaba, as night draws in and walkers head for home;
I sit and watch them on their way, ’till I am left alone.
In the morning we made our way to Monkey Mia to see the dolphins. We weren’t sure what we would find because we had been told it is very commercialised, but we found it was interesting and fairly informal. Everyone lines up along the water’s edge and the rangers give an informative chat about the dolphins, their family trees, and how they can tell the individuals apart.
The dolphins are wild, and free to come or not come as they please. At feeding time, buckets of fish are brought down and people are randomly chosen to feed a fish to one of the dolphins. Each adult dolphin gets 500g of fish, the juveniles get 300g, and they are only fed in the mornings, so they must forage for the rest of their food and don’t become totally reliant on the handouts. Peter was one of the lucky ones chosen for feeding.
The beach at Monkey Mia is a tranquil and unspoilt marine sanctuary. There is an informative display in the main centre, as well as a variety of free wildlife films shown throughout the day, and we enjoyed our visit very much.
Shell Beach is on the way out of the Shark Bay area, and instead of sand, is composed completely of millions of tiny snowy white cockle shells.
The shells are used locally for paths and driveways, and sold elsewhere for various uses including shell grit for poultry and birds. A couple of the local old buildings are built from blocks of conglomerate shells, when you look closely you can see all the individual tiny shells that make up the building blocks. The loose shells are considered a renewable resource since new shells are deposited all the time. We have never seen anything like it.
Coral Bay is as picturesque as ever. There is quite a bit more development here than last time we visited eight years ago, including some houses and a fancy boat ramp and big car park at the southern end of the beach, but the beach is just as lovely and inviting.
The coral has apparently been damaged by the last cyclone, there is not as much colour and variety in the corals you see when snorkelling off the beach. Nevertheless, the sea life is prolific and schools of fish surround you as you swim just out from the beach.
At three-thirty every afternoon, there is a fish feeding session on the beach where you can stand in the water and hand feed the hundreds of huge fish which swarm around your legs. The kids love it! It is an amazing feeling when they glide past your legs. They have no fear of humans at all, which is not that surprising considering this is a sanctuary area, as long as the fish stay away from the fishing beach a few hundred metres to the south.
The water in the showers comes from an artesian bore and comes out of the tap hot and salty. You wouldn’t want to make a cup of coffee with it, that’s for sure. Even brushing your teeth, you need to make sure you don’t forget and rinse your mouth with tap water…it’s not very nice! And it’s not great for washing your hair either. However there are several fresh drinking water taps around the park, so once you get organised, it’s not a problem. The lawns here are salt resistant couch, and the sprinklers need to have a very fine spray so the water cools before it hits the ground. You can see dead lines in the grass where the hoses have lain on the lawn for too long and the heat has killed the grass.
The weather is so warm and sunny that we spend lots of time on the beach. Very relaxing!
We saw this ta-ta lizard on the beach. They are called ta-ta because they run a little way, then wave with their front leg, like they are saying goodbye. Very cute…
Just to make you jealous, here is another view of the beach.
And to make Peter jealous, here is another picture of the fish he can’t catch…
World-renowned Ningaloo Reef lies along the Western Australian coast, about 1200 km north of Perth. Ningaloo reef is famous for it’s snorkelling, as well as it’s amazing sea life, including Whale sharks, Manta rays, humpback whales, reef sharks and turtles. Our first night we went up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset and were thrilled to see more whales than we have ever seen in one place before, breaching and playing just off the coast for hours as the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon. Then the following day, walking on the beach, we saw lots of turtles swimming around in the shallows, and one huge one right up on the beach, letting the waves wash over it’s back. I thought this one might have been sick or even dead, but when I got nearer, it looked me straigh in the eye then turned around and swam away, looking a bit offended at being disturbed.
It’s been a bit windy since we arrived in Exmouth, so we haven’t been able to do much snorkelling as the wind stirs up sediment in the water, making it cloudy. However the day we went into Cape Range National Park, the wind dropped a bit in the afternoon and we were able to have a swim and snorkel, which was really nice. We saw heaps of big fish and some lovely coloured coral at Oyster Stacks. We also walked up and along Yardie Creek Gorge, at the southern end of the park. Even though it can’t compare to the gorges in Karijini and the Kimberley, it is still very impressive and the creek itself is a beautiful deep blue.
On our way home we could see kites above the sand dunes, so we ventured in to have a look at the kite surfers who were enjoying the windy conditions.
‘Bella’ belongs to one of the surfers, and took an instant liking to us. When Peter sat on the sand, she cuddled up next to him and tried to crawl onto his lap. Don’t tell Gypsy, she will be jealous. Bella actually looks a bit like Gypsy.
Peter has been fishing here, with some success. Most afternoons he has headed off to a different beach to try his luck. Even though it is windy, it has been warm and sunny and it is still pleasant on the beach. I often walk through the dunes and along the beach with the camera. Some of the dunes are huge expanses of white sand that look great when contrasted with the turquoise waters.
All sorts of treasures wash up on the beach; there are heaps of coral and sponges and more sea urchins that I can count. Unfortunately unbroken sea urchins are a rarity, I think around 99.9% of them have holes so I have only collected three good ones.
Picture endless fine white sand stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see in either direction. Then add in so many shells studding the beach that you can’t help but crush them under-foot, no matter where you walk. Oh, and don’t forget pristine clear aqua waves lapping gently on the shore. This is Eighty Mile Beach. It is just beautiful, and almost perfect…except that no one swims here because of the sharks and sea snakes that inhabit the waters. It is a fisherman’s paradise and many of the people we met stay here for months at a time, even though it is in the middle of nowhere and reached by eight kilometres of rutted red dust track off the highway.
Once again Peter found some like-minded musicians and they enjoyed a couple of afternoons making music together and entertaining the crowd that soon gathered.
Shell collecting is almost a compulsory pastime at Eighty Mile Beach. No matter if you think you will just go for a little walk and look at the scenery, it is impossible to come home without some little treasures in your hand.
This perentie suddenly appeared from under our car and strolled through our campsite. He took off when he saw me watching him. Later I found he had caught and (almost) eaten a snake. I didn’t wittness the fight, but apparently he had a five minute battle with the snake. No prizes for guessing who won!
And at the end of the day, there is always a gorgeous sunset over the water to enjoy
We found that the longer we stay at Barn Hill Station, the more we like the lifestyle. It is the perfect place to kick back and relax with a book, take a long walk on the beach, go for a dip in the ocean, explore the amazing rocky cliffs or go fishing off the beach. And every day has the same beautiful, warm, sunny weather typical of winter in the north of Western Australia.
I spotted this hermit crab on the beach one afternoon when I went for a walk to the south end of the beach.
These cheeky Crested Pigeons, with their staring red eyes and Mohawk hairdo, were amusing as they pranced around our camp. There are lots of these at various places up here, they are not at all shy and will even come into the caravan if you leave the door open…ask me how I know that!
Barn Hill Station is at the other end of ten kilometres of red sand track that heads west off the highway about 120 km south of Broome. It is a working cattle station; we know that for a fact because we came across one of the station bulls on the track on our way in! The weather is a balmy 30*C and the sun is glinting on the endless blue sea. Lots of the people staying here have been here for 3 months… or 6 months; they just come up for the winter and stay here. I can understand why, it is very peaceful and so beautiful. We think we have the best spot in the campground, with a fantastic uninterrupted sea view and lovely shady trees.
The beach is just superb, with wide sandy expanses, all backed by amazing red cliff with interesting and sculptural rock formations at either end of the beach. You can walk for miles. When we rounded one of the headlands at the far end of the beach, we were amazed to find a huge cave carved out of the rocks by the wave action. Unfortunately for you, I didn’t take the camera, so you won’t see it until you come to Barn Hill!
The amenities here are a bit different, there is no roof on the showers and toilets, so you can get an all-over suntan while you shower, and a shower of gum tree flowers and leaves on you while you sit on the loo!
The beaches face west in Western Australia (strangely enough) so you do get lots of amazing sunsets over the ocean, such as this one…
While I was off photographing the sunset on the beach, Peter was entertaining the crowd with his trumpet. In the camp, there is a bush poet who sometimes recites here in the evening, and he invited Peter to join him and play a bit of music. The bush poet is very good, and knows heaps of the old classic bush poetry, as well as quite a few good ones of his own. He was very entertaining and quite funny, and everybody had a good time and didn’t want the evening to end.
As I have been updating this, there is lots of laughing and yelling going on outside so I went out to investigate, and there is a very lively bowls match going on.
We love our beaches, and Cable Beach certainly is a very beautiful beach with fine white sand, gorgeous turquoise water and glorious sunshine every day. Lots of people take their drinks and snacks to have on the beach while they wait for the famous Cable Beach sunset but I was more interested in photographing the iconic camel ride that wends it’s way along the beach in the evening.
I turned around as the sun was going down, just in time to see the full moon seemingly perched on top of the sand dune. It looked surreal.
Since I have always been a sucker for a nice sunset, I just couldn’t resist this shot where everything just came together at the right time.