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.
Stunning coastal scenery along the Great Ocean Road.
London Bridge. Originally there were two arches but one has since collapsed due to the erosion of the waves.
Loch Ard gorge close to where the clipper ship Loch Ard ran aground in 1878.
The sandy cove at Loch Ard gorge where the two survivors of the shipwreck managed to get ashore.
Rugged cliffs and rough seas.
The Razorback on the Great Ocean Road is a thin wedge of rock, steadily being eroded away by the action of the sea.
Stormy afternoon over the Southern Ocean.
We visited Mount Gambier, South Australia, which is famous for it’s Blue Lake that changes colour to a brilliant blue colour in November and remains that colour over the summer each year. Since we visited in winter, the colour was not the same vibrant blue, but it was still interesting to visit the lake which is formed in a crater, and you could definitely see the difference in colour between the blue lake and the lake in the adjoining valley.
The Blue Lake in Mt Gambier
Umpherston Sinkhole in Mt Gambier is well worth a visit.
The sinkhole was originally on a private property, where the Umpherston family developed the gardens in the 1880’s. Umpherston Sinkhole was once a cave formed through dissolution of limestone and the sinkhole was created when the top of the chamber collapsed downwards. Now the topsoil down on the floor of the cave forms the perfect environment for the sunken garden.
Umpherston sinkhole, looking up you can see the shape of the original cave.
Mt. Gambier is built on the slopes of an inactive volcano and features several other sunken cave gardens as well as nearby attractions such as Tantanoola Caves with it’s pink dolomite caverns. The area is known as the limestone coast and many buildings are constructed from blocks of local limestone, which makes it a most attractive town.
We are just having a quick winter getaway and camped at Tailem Bend on the Murray River for a few nights. After a stunning sunset it was a bit chilly at night and we were pleased to have a campfire.
Ducks and cloud reflections on the Murray.
Last rays of light.
Sparklers after dark.
It is easy to make photos like this with a tripod, and around a 5 sec exposure at ISO200. I found I needed to focus manually on the spot where the sparkler-holding-person would stand.
Campfire on the banks of the Murray River at Tailem Bend, South Australia. A cosy way to end the day.
We finally made our way across to the east coast and to Maryborough which is a lovely town in which to spend a night. It has been quite a while since we stayed in a town! Being boaties, we opted to put our van next to the Marina on the Mary River for the night so that Peter could look at the boats; he has been missing his boat and the sea. Once we were set up, we went for a walk through the beautifully kept Queens Park, which is one of the oldest botanical parks in Australia. Nearby is the historic court house, and beside it …
…is the Sausage Tree (Kigelia Pinnata), a native of South Africa, which was propagated in about 1850 by botanist John Bidwill. It is a very rare specimen and is on the Heritage Register.
The band stand in Queens Park is quite lovely and ornate and it is easy to imagine a brass band playing in the rotunda to an appreciative audience.
The miniature railway line runs in and out between the hanging roots of the ancient Banyan Fig tree in Queens Park. The Banyan Fig is well over 100 years old and quite spectacular with its huge system of roots.
Maryborough has lots of nicely restored historic buildings, but also some modern art such as this water wall near the art gallery.
Egret taking flight on the Mary River. Kind of blurry, but I like it!
Looking up the Mary River, our caravan is the little white blob on the right, next to the marina jetty.
And the sun sets after another busy day.
The longer we have been on the road (over two months now) the more we have come to realise the benefits of finding a decent free camp to set up for a day or two. We use WikiCamps to help us discover what places are suitable then choose according to location and comments from other users.
This was the view from our ‘front door’ at one of the waterholes where we camped.
At a free-camp, you are also free to collect firewood for a campfire, and then cook yourself a meal in your camp oven. It doesn’t get much better than this!
While you are spending time relaxing at the free camp, you are also often surrounded by birds and other wildlife. These Brolgas were feeding at the waterhole mentioned above.
These honeyeaters often flocked around water sources, whether it was a waterhole or just a dish of water collected beneath a tap.
Black-winged Stilts in flight over the waterhole. I love their trailing pink legs.
This little Black Fronted Plover was feeding in the shallows.
I have learned to recognise quite a few new birds on this trip, but nothing in comparison to one of our travelling companions who has photographed and identified over 80 species he hadn’t previously seen. It definitely helps to have a bird identification book along on the trip.
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.
There are many walks around the park, some of them quite easy and some more difficult and adventurous.
The steep rock walls rise above you on either side as you approach the start of the lower gorge.
The best way by far to see the gorge is to hire a canoe and paddle upstream.
It is quite spectacular paddling beneath the rock walls. You can see the relative size of the canoe below the pandanus.
Waterfall at the top end of the lower gorge.
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.
I loved the roots of this tree exposed by the rushing water. This is a permanent waterway and runs all year round.
Emerald waters of the gorge.
Darter resting on a tree branch over the water.
Some parts of the gorge look quite tropical with palm trees and pandanus hanging over the emerald water.
Water lilies in the upper gorge.
Evening reflections as we make our way back to camp.
On our way to Lawn Hill National Park (Boodjamulla National Park) in the gulf region of north Queensland, we camped for the night on the banks of the Gregory River. This is a very remote area, but there were lots of people camping here. It is a beautiful river with crystal clear water which was flowing quite fast; it is spring fed and flows all year.
The old bridge is no longer in use but you can walk across to explore the other side of the river and visit the tiny town of Gregory which pretty much consists of a pub and a couple of houses.
Male Crimson Finch, only found in the most northerly parts of Australia.
Female Crimson Finch
Early morning reflections on the Gregory River.
It is very easy to understand why this is such a popular place to camp. The only downside is that you need to be totally self sufficient to stay here, but if you are organised it is an awesome place to stay especially if you can set up right on the river bank.
Tablelands Highway stretches on for hundreds of kilometres through the Mitchell grass plains which was all very dry in this time of drought. These are some of the birds we spotted along the way:
Bustard, which is quite a big bird. Bigger than I had imagined.
Bustard in flight.
Wedgetail Eagle perched on roadkill. (From a long way away!)
Which also took off on our approach.
Brolgas in front of termite mounds. The young one doesn’t yet have the red on it’s head.
Windmill at a roadside rest area, to provide water from the artesian basin for travellers.
The water at the rest areas attracts lots of little birds, such as these honey eaters, in this arid area.
Following are just some photos I took in a few different free camps that I thought I would share. When you think of free camping, you tend to think of dusty roadside stops, but if you choose carefully, there are some wonderful places you are able to camp absolutely free of charge.
Free camping spot off the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory.
The beautiful sunset colours were also free of charge.
As was the trumpet serenade.
I don’t know if you have heard of Geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now, all around the world. Apparently there are 2,468,534 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide. We have found one cache….accidentally. It was tucked away in a hole in a rock beyond the edge of the camp area.
Following are a few photos of some of the birds we spotted fluttering around our camp.
Mataranka, in the Northern Territory, is famous for it’s hot springs. Bitter Springs is just down the road at the north east end of Mataranka township, and much less commercial and therefore more appealing to people like us. The headwaters of the Roper River inside Elsey National Park (where crocodiles are managed) are popular for bushwalking, birdwatching, canoeing, swimming and fishing. These pools flow at a constant 32 degrees C. and are still very much in their natural state. Swimmers can glide with the current downstream to view the beautiful riparian vegetation and birdlife along the way. With a mask and snorkel, small fish and turtles can be seen as the water is fantastically clear. I don’t have too many photos from Bitter Springs, as we were too busy swimming and enjoying the warm waters while we were there.
The first glimpse of the stream as you approach Bitter Springs doesn’t give away the secrets awaiting when you arrive at the swimming area of the springs.
The warm, crystal clear blue tinted waters are ideal for a relaxing swim…or just float down the stream and enjoy the weightless sensation of floating in warm gently flowing water.
Native growing tall palm trees add a tropical touch.
It is easy to spend hours relaxing in the warm, clear water.
Mataranka thermal springs are definitely not to be missed if you are travelling in the Northern Territory. In fact, we visited twice on this trip, both on our way up to Katherine and when we began our trip back down south. It is a very special place and not a crocodile in sight!
Kununurra is a town in far northern Western Australia located at the eastern extremity of the Kimberley region, approximately 37 kilometres (23 miles) from the border with the Northern Territory. The town of Kununurra was initiated to service the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.
Lake Argyle was formed by damming the Ord River and other smaller creeks and rivers, and is Australia’s largest artificial lake by volume.
The construction of the Ord River Dam was completed in 1971. The dam was officially opened the following year. The dam is 335 metres long, and 98 metres high. The earth-fill only dam wall at Lake Argyle is the most efficient dam in Australia in terms of the ratio of the size of the dam wall to the amount of water stored. The lake was named after the property it partly submerged, Argyle Downs
Rainbow Bee Eater
Rainbow Bee Eater, on branch at Dead Horse Springs, Lake Kununurra.
Brilliant yellow Kapok flowers. Lake Argyle lookout.
The Ord River as it leaves Lake Argyle. The dam wall can be seen in the top third of the photograph.
The Ord irrigation scheme has allowed crops such as these sunflowers to be grown in the formerly arid area.
Ivanhoe Crossing was once the way to get across the Ord River
But these days, the crossing is closed to traffic due to the constantly flowing water, and has become a popular fishing and picnic spot.
Lake Argyle and Kununurra are like an oasis in this dry and isolated land. Lake Argyle normally has a surface area of about 1,000 square kilometres and there are currently around 150 square kilometres of farmland under irrigation in the East Kimberly region.
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…
The Bungle Bungles…the approach to Echidna Chasm
Palm trees, a rocky river bed and really, really tall rock walls
Did I mention the really, really tall rock walls and narrow passage into Echidna Chasm?
Looking up from the depths
Further over in the park, as you approach the Bungle Bungle domes, you start to see the characteristic stripes of the Purnululu ranges.
The sandstone domes are striped grey and orange, and according to Widipedia, the orange bands consist of oxidised iron compounds in layers that dry out too quickly for cyanobacteria to multiply; the grey bands are composed of cyanobacteria growing on the surface of layers of sandstone where moisture accumulates.
Whatever the reason, the effect is stunning and it is impossible to describe how it feels to be amongst them.
Walking amongst the domes
Detail of the rock wall within Cathedral Gorge
Rock pool at the Bungle Bungles
Not all the ‘domes’ are dome shaped…
Ancient river bed within Purnululu
View into Picaninny Creek
Evening colours on the range, from the campground lookout.
Night falls at Purnululu National Park. This place is a definite ‘must do’ if you are ever in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
It would be east to drive straight through Halls Creek and keep going. That would be a pity, because there are lots of things to do and see in the area. Plus a couple of delightful free camps tucked away just down the road.
China Wall is only 6km from Halls Creek. It is a naturally formed 6 metre high quartz ‘wall’ that is believed to be part of the longest formation of its type in the world.
Old Halls Creek (yes, the town was moved at some stage) has vestiges of some of the original buildings, and the original cemetery which has some sad stories to tell.
There are a couple of nice free camps down Duncan Road, such as Palm Spring and Sawpit Gorge.
We chose to camp at Palm Springs, which was like a little oasis in the desert and yes, it did have palm trees!
Unfortunately for us, it rained most of the day we were there which meant sitting around the fire under umbrellas. Although it was wet, it wasn’t really cold and luckily we had enough wood to keep the fire going.
This old truck at an abandoned house would have an interesting story to tell.
I think these are Black Kites. There were many of them circling above the street in Halls Creek.
This egret and cormorants were at Sawpit Gorge, which was another popular free camping spot down Duncan Road.
Grass at Sawpit Gorge
Kites over Halls Creek.
There is definitely more to Halls Creek than meets the eye!
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.
The limestone cliffs are white below the flood water line and stained red brown above by oxidation.
There are lots of fresh water crocodiles in the water or sunning themselves on the waters edge.
The cruise only takes an hour and doesn’t cost very much, but it is well worth it. The guides are knowledgeable and friendly and the open boat gives everyone a good view.
After traveling more than a thousand kilometres along the dirt road that is the Gibb River Road, today we turned off into Leopold Downs Road and headed towards the famous Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek.
We arrived late in the afternoon, just as the light was getting interesting. It was too late in the day to go into the gorge itself, so we walked along the outside which is very interesting as well.
The moon was rising over the gorge, and peeped through the branches of this tree.
Shortly the colours of the rocks changed to a deep rich orange. It is a privilege to be able to visit such a lovely spot.
Early the following morning, we began our walk into the gorge. I quite liked the sun shining through the dust stirred up by the walkers’ shoes.
Once you enter the gorge through a narrow rock opening, it opens up into a wide sandy area with the river running between the rocks walls. There are abundant fresh water crocodiles living in and around the river, and they are quite easy to spot as you walk along the gorge.
This big white rock is a sacred aboriginal place, so visitors are not permitted on it.
I loved the reflection of the gorge walls in the still waters of the river.
This magnificent boab is set against the gorge wall. It is huge and must be very old.
My final photo for the day is another bower bird who was busily building his bower within about six feet of our tent. He didn’t seem at all perturbed that we were so close.
Windjana Gorge is a very special place, and is well deserving of its reputation. Tomorrow we will visit Tunnel Creek and explore that area. It is amazing that all the gorges we have visited are unique and have their own special features.
Lennard River Gorge is yet another nice place to visit from the Gibb River Road.
It was quite warm the day we visited, and unfortunately you can’t swim there as you don’t get right down to the water. It would be spectacular in the wet with water cascading over the rock walls.
This remarkable rock formation is at the Napier Range. I thought it looked like a dragon with folded wings, but found out later it is meant to look like Queen Victoria!
Perhaps I was on the wrong angle, but that doesn’t seem very complimentary to Queen Victoria!
The Napier Range, where the Gibb River Road crosses it, is quite rocky and spectacular with lots of wonderful boab trees.
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.
Bells Gorge is another gorgeous gorge.
You need to cross the water if you want to climb down to swim below the falls.
The people sitting along the rocks at the top of the waterfall show the scale of this gorge.
It is a steep and rocky climb down, but the bottom pool is great for a swim.
Unfortunately by the time you climb back up the cliff and trek back to the car, you are hot again!
From Bells Gorge we moved on to yet another free camp, March Fly Glen. Happily there were no march flies, and it was quite a lovely spot with water lilies, pandanus and a crystal clear creek.
Nev cooking his toast on the morning camp fire, waiting for the billy to boil.
Kay departing March Fly Glen free camp. Kay is a very interesting person we met several times at various places along the Gibb River road.
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.
This is what the middle of nowhere looks like on the GPS.
And this is what it looks like through the windscreen.
One particularly beautiful place we visited was Galvans Gorge, which is not far from the Mt. Barnett Roadhouse.
It is lovely to swim in, and quite easy to climb up and sit below the waterfall.
We all enjoyed a cooling swim in the clean waters.
The walk in to Galvans Gorge runs alongside this water lily filled creek.
This water monitor was unperturbed by people passing his rock perch.
Later in the afternoon, we also visited Adcock gorge, but didn’t swim there as the water was in shadow and quite cold.
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.
While all that was going on, I was waiting for this Bower bird to come back to his bower. He has been very busy making it all pretty for the girls.
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.
Barnett River camp. Not much water in the creek here, but it was still very clean and clear.
There is a rocky walk in to view the gorge. You need to follow the stone cairns to find your way.
Once we climbed down the steep rocks to the river, there were lots of shallow places to cool off in the clear water.
We spied this euro kangaroo on our way back to camp.
Later in the afternoon we discovered this lovely pool quite close to where we were camping. Not as spectacular as the gorge, but much easier to get to!
Well, that isn’t really the name of this free camp, but when we first discovered it there were brolgas around the creek. It is near the King Edward River crossing on the Kalumbaru Road, and we set up camp there on our way back down from Mitchell Falls to re-join the Gibb River Road. We found that on the rougher dirt roads we averaged around 100km per day, which meant we could pitch our tents and relax under a tree or go for a walk in the afternoon.
It is quite easy to find really pretty spots to camp when you are up in the Kimberley.
As long as you are relatively self sufficient (i.e. you need to take everything you need with you) there are lots of great places to stay. The water in the creeks and rivers is clean and clear. We didn’t generally use it for drinking, unless we boiled it first, but it was great for everything else.
Creek water was great for washing dishes, and people!
You may notice Helva is wearing a down jacket in this photo. That is because it can get very cold overnight and in the early morning in the Kimberley. We weren’t aware of this, and found ourselves a little on the cool side in the nights, so we ended up using the picnic rugs to cosy up our bed.
In the early morning, the creek water was steaming and felt quite warm compared to the air temperature.
Grasses swaying in the creek currents.
Another lovely aquatic plant.
More nice little plants from the creek bank.
I am now even more of a fan of free camping when travelling in remote areas. You get to stay in some amazingly lovely places, you can have a camp fire if the weather is suitable, you can choose who you camp with, and it costs nothing at all. What is not to like about that!
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.
The track to Surveyors Pool is pretty rough and rocky in some places, but also beautiful in others.
There is a bit of a walk to get to the main pool below the waterfall.
The main pool is lovely, with another waterfall entering from the far side, but as it is a sacred place for the Aboriginals, swimming is not permitted in the main pool.
However there are several pools and cascades above the falls.
And these make a very nice place to cool off after your walk.
Further along Port Warrender Road, there is a look out which has a view right out over Admiralty Gulf in the Indian Ocean.
Lookout on Port Warrender Road with promontories and islands stretching into the distance.
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.
Waterlilies along the way.
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 Falls
Big Mertens is a very deep gorge, and quite spectacular in it’s own right.
Big Mertens gorge
To take good photos, you need to be a bit of a mountain goat and get right out on the rocks lining the gorge.
Holly framing the perfect waterfall shot. You can’t actually tell from this how high she is standing on the rock wall.
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.
We ended up spending several hours at the falls, exploring and swimming.
From the top of the falls you can see right down the river below the falls.
Mitchell Falls is definitely worth the effort to visit. It is a truly beautiful part of Australia.
We arrived at Mitchell Falls camping area about lunchtime, so in the afternoon went for a short walk to Mertens Falls where we planned to have a swim.
Little Mertens Falls is the closest falls and pool to the Mitchell Falls camp ground.
The falls look very inviting as you approach the top pool.
When you climb down the steep rocky slope, you come across a lovely still pool, which was absolutely freezing to swim in. Nobody stayed in for too long.
Especially when Peter spied a fresh water crocodile sunning himself near these rocks. Unfortunately I couldn’t capture him in the photo because he was behind the rocks on the far side of the pool.
After our swim we climbed in behind the waterfall.
It was magical being behind the curtain of water.
I liked the spotty bark on this tree next to our tent, and almost missed the spider hiding in full view.
In the evening, Holly inspired us with another fantastic camp oven meal of savoury scrolls, cooked in the coals of the camp fire.
Life is good! A beautiful swim and a good meal. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The morning saw us packing up the tents and heading off once again, towards the Mitchell Plateau. We had a couple more nights camping along the way before we got to Mitchell Falls, and it was time for a shower so we stopped for the night at Drysdale River Station.
Drysdale River Station is huge, about a million acres in size.
Close by is Miner’s Pool, which is a great place for a swim.
In the morning we set off again, and found a great camping spot at King Edward River. After setting up our tents, we went exploring. There is a lovely walk along the rocks beside the river.
A small waterfall is a nice surprise a little way further along.
Close to the waterfall were deep holes where round stones had gradually worn away the rock over the years.
This was a serene and beautiful place to stay. It would be difficult to say which is the nicest camping spot we have found so far.