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.
Lawn Hill National Park is in the remote Gulf region of northwestern Queensland. It is over 1800 kilometres north west of Brisbane, close to the border with the Northern Territory.
The emerald waters and lush vegetation of Lawn Hill Gorge form a beautiful oasis in the outback, attracting abundant wildlife and offering exceptional views, walks, canoeing and cultural sites.
Just along from here you need to lift the canoe out of the water and drag it over the rocks to access the upper gorge.
Purnululu National Park is the official name, but this area was previously known as The Bungle Bungles. Whatever you would like to call it, this area of the Kimberley is a remarkable place which you should make the effort to visit if you ever have the chance. Following are some photos from our time there…
Today, another gorgeous gorge. When we arrived in Fitzroy Crossing, we decided that we had to take the little boat cruise that goes up through Geike Gorge. We have done it before, but our friends had not, and we thought it was worth going again as this is another very special place.
There are lots of fresh water crocodiles in the water or sunning themselves on the waters edge.
Perhaps I was on the wrong angle, but that doesn’t seem very complimentary to Queen Victoria!
There is something about boab trees that I really love. They lose their leaves in the dry, and the shape of the trunk with the twisted branches look amazing. Often they will still have their hard brown furry nuts still clinging to the branches.
As a very special birthday present to herself, for a very special birthday, she is undertaking a solo bicycle trip from Katherine, to Kununurra, then right along almost the entire Gibb River Road, then down Leopold Downs Road to the Great Northern Highway. From there she will ride to Halls Creek, and turn into Duncan Road (also a dirt road) for its full length, and from there return to Katherine. What a marathon effort. She carries everything she needs on her bike or single-wheeled trailer.
We have been to some very remote places on this trip, and often the GPS doesn’t even know where we are.
There are so many gorgeous gorges on the Gibb River Road, and we are doing our best to visit most of them.
Still loving the Free camps. We stayed another night on the banks of the Gibb River when we reached the end of the Kalumbaru Road. The boys decided to check out a problem with the rear wheel on the car, and learned the hard way why you don’t jack up a car on the sand…
This was not as bad as it looks! With a bit of help, all was soon back together.
The next morning saw us back on the road, and our next stop was Mt. Barnett Station to stock up on food and fuel. We decided on the free camp option yet again, and travelled on to Barnett River Gorge where we found a lovely shady spot next to the creek.
Surveyors Pool is in a remote area of the Kimberley, W.A. From Mitchell Falls, you continue on Port Warrender Road, which is really more of a track than a road, until you come to Surveyors Pool.
Further along Port Warrender Road, there is a look out which has a view right out over Admiralty Gulf in the Indian Ocean.
It is a little out of the way to visit Surveyors Pool, but well worth the effort. From this lookout, we turned back and retraced our steps to Mitchell Falls to prepare for our return journey down Kalumbaru Road to the Gibb River Road.
In my last post, I talked about Little Mertens Falls, which is a short walk from the Mitchell Falls camping area. This is a great place for a cooling swim, but the main walk from the camp ground is the track to Mitchell Falls and it takes about an hour and a half each way. It is quite a long way, and also involves some steep rocky climbs, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Once you have passed Little Mertens Falls, you trek alongside Mertens Creek, which is lined with pandanus and a haven for waterlilies. You next come to Big Mertens Falls which is much higher and more spectacular than Little Mertens, however you cannot swim here, so it is best to take your photos and move on.
Big Mertens is a very deep gorge, and quite spectacular in it’s own right.
To take good photos, you need to be a bit of a mountain goat and get right out on the rocks lining the gorge.
A bit more hiking and exertion brings you to your first glimpse of Mitchell Falls itself and you don’t at first realise that there are four layers of waterfall.
As you climb down and around, more is revealed. You need to take off your shoes and socks and cross to the other side of the water to get the best views.
The Gibb River Road existed initally as a cattle route and even today is a 4-wheel-drive-only unmade road, stretching from near Wyndham in the east to Derby in the West Kimberley. The condition of the road varies greatly, depending mainly on when the grader last went through to smooth out some of the corrugations. The full length of the Gibb River Road is around 660 km, plus any side trips you might choose to take.
We began our journey from Kununurra, taking only tents and camping equipment with us, as we planned to travel even further off the track and visit the Mitchell Plateau on our trip.
The first river crossing, which is also probably the widest, is Pentecost River. The crossing was not too deep or daunting, but I am sure it would be a different story in the wet season.
One by one, the cars make the crossing. It is pretty straightforward at this time of the year.
Although some people need to check it out and consider their options before making the crossing.
We pitched our tent in a small clearing above the river bank.
The Cockburn Range looks amazing in the evening light across the Pentecost River.
This was a great first day to our Gibb River Road adventure.
Peter took along his trumpet and we enjoyed the sound of his horn echoing through and around the natural amphitheatres we discovered during our hike.
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.
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.
‘Kalbarri, you’ll love it!’ the sign promised as we approached town. And yes, that was pretty accurate, we did love it. We also loved the wild flowers that line both sides of the road for miles and miles in this part of Western Australia. This photo was taken from a moving vehicle so it’s a bit blurry.
The National Park is split between coastal sites and gorges within the park. The first day we visited the coastal areas, marvelling at the view from several lookouts and climbed down into Pot Alley, a place we had been to several years ago.
The surf is huge here, with great waves swamping the narrow gap between the rock walls.
A little further along the coastline, there is a natural rock arch as well as a rock known as castle rock that was formed from a natural arch when the top collapsed from the wave action, leaving the rocky island separate from the cliffs.
In this picture, Peter is at the lookout, which has a marvellous view over the ocean and back to the town of Kalbarri.
The following day we ventured into the National Park to visit the gorges. Z Bend is named for the shape of the gorge gouged out of the rock by the Murchison River. It was quite a challenging climb to get down to the river, but worth the effort.
Nature’s Window is probably the most recognisable landmark of Kalbarri National Park.
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.
Karijini National Park in the Pilbara is one of the most spectacular places we have visited. This was one of our first views of the Pilbara as we entered the area on our way to Karijini. On the winding road you can see a huge road train, which dwarfs the bus and car sharing the road. The sides of the roads were carpeted with purple and white wildflowers.
The many precipitous gorges of Karijini take your breath away when you peer into them for the first time, with their sheer rock walls, cascading waterfalls and clear rock pools. In this picture you can see a man standing at the bottom of the gorge and if you look carefully, near the top you will see a woman on a rock ledge that is half way up the sheer wall. She is on the track you use to descend to the gorge floor.
We camped in the National Park for a few days and explored many of the gorges. Dales Gorge was lovely, with a walk up to Fortescue Falls, where this serene pool lies at the top of the waterfall.
Further on into Dales Gorge you come across Fern Pool where we swam in the clear emerald water across to the twin waterfalls on the far side of the pool.
We enjoyed the many walks in the Park. The photo of us was taken near the waterfall that flows into Joffre Gorge. But I think our favourite gorge was Hancock Gorge where we climbed down rocks and ladders to reach the gorge floor, then made our way along narrow rock ledges and waded and swam through various pools until we could go no further, then made our way back again, the way we came. Unfortunately I couldn’t take the camera with me on this trek, so no photos to share, but we highly recommend the adventure if you get to Karijini National Park.
This last photo is a view of Joffre Gorge from part way down the climb. It gives you some idea of how steep the walls are, but if you are careful you can get all the way to the bottom.
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.
At Fitzroy Crossing we stayed at the old Crossing Inn camp ground. In the evening we took the Geikie Gorge sunset boat tour which took us along the gorge through the wonderful limestone cliffs. There were heaps of freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun on the banks of the river.
The white colour at the bottom of the cliffs shows the height of the water when the rains come. During the wet, there are no boat tours as the whole area becomes flooded with many metres of water and when the flood recedes there is around 8 tonnes of sandy soil to be moved again before the boat ramps and pathways can be found.
The limestone cliffs are eroded into artistic and wonderful shapes. There were lots of fairy martens nesting under the rocky overhangs.