The coastal cliff gorges of Kalbarri National Park are totally different to the inland ones along the Murchison River. We rated these as better than the inland gorges; cannot exactly say why except for the wow factor they provided. We travelled south from the Kalbarri township with each place accessible via bitumen road (roadmap).
Shellhouse and Grandstand – originally seen by sailors out at sea and thought to be a house on the cliffs
Island Rock – you almost could think that one of Victoria’s 12 Apostles has decided to move to a warmer climate in WA. We had our picnic lunch in one of the wonderful shelters above the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Natural Bridge – huge waves crashing up against the coast with this rock formation providing ample photo opportunites
Eagle Gorge – we saw a large pod of dolphins herding a school of bait-fish from the cliff tops. This spectacle was pretty amazing seeing how they worked as a team to feast upon their prey.
Pot Alley – very dramatic looking rock formations as you walk down a very old creek-bed to the beach – probably the best spot we visited.
All of the above are easily accessed with fantastic board walks and shelters along the way made possible by the royalties from the WA mining boom.
We attempted to eat our picnic lunch at Hawks Head but the flies were so intense we ended up in the car.
Named after the first school teacher in Kalbarri (not the bloke who I worked with in the old Board of Works), Ross Graham was a devoted conservationist who aided in the exploration of the Murchison River. We took the walk down to the Murchison River from Ross Graham Lookout which gave a better perspective of the enormousness of these gorges; it was wonderful.
On our way back into town we stopped off at Meanarra Hill which provides a view over the coast and Kalbarri township. We were amazed at the eating shelter and layout of this beautiful spot; created by funding from the “Royalties for Regions” from the WA mining boom.
We last visited Kalbarri in December 1979 and spent about a week here. The temperature hovered around 45 degrees celsius every day so the trip into the Murchison River Gorges section of the Kalbarri National Park was undertaken at about 6:00am. It was a dirt track back then and we had to drive around the kangaroos as they lazed away on the track.
Move forward 39 years and all of the tracks are now fully bitumised but the vistas at each location are just as incredible. One thing we did notice was the flys are just as horrific as they were back then; but this time we came prepared with our fly nets over our heads (not a good look but very effective).
It is a 50km trip (maplink) into the area from Kalbarri township with heaps of wildflowers now on display to make the trip even more enjoyable. The first area to visit was Natures Window and Z Bend.
Natures Window is probably the most visited and photographed piece of rock in Australia, coming in a close 2nd & 3rd to Uluru and Kings Canyon.
We arrived in Kalbarri yesterday afternoon and today we had a look at the coastline to the south of town. The wind is still howling but it was practically offshore at Jakes Point so took some surf snaps.
Hamelin Pool is home to the most diverse and abundant examples of Stromatolites in the world. Also referred to as ‘living fossils’, stromatolites are living representatives of life over 3500 million years ago when there was no other complex life on Earth. Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve is one of only two places in the world with living marine stromatolites.
A 200m boardwalk at Hamelin Pool provides excellent views of the stromatolites, microbialites and microbial mats. The microbial mats and stromatolites of Hamelin Pool are among the most diverse in the world and show what marine ecosystems would have looked like three billion years ago. Life in Hamelin Pool is therefore among the reasons for Shark Bay’s World Heritage status.
For a long time scientists knew that microbial mats influenced the evolution of life on Earth, but they have learnt much more in recent years. They have found that microbial mats are diverse and complex ecosystems where different species work together in communities that depend on each other.
If you own a 4WD you must travel up the Peron Peninsula in the Francois Peron National Park. We took two separate trips over 2 days. You begin by letting your tyres down to 15 PSI then proceed up the red sand tracks which are a single car wide.
The 1st day was a trip was to Skip Jack Point and Cape Peron. The tracks were pretty hairy in parts with deep, soft sand trying very hard to bog the vehicle but we struggled through the 130km of sand tracks to the top and back (it was a hoot!). At Skip Jack Point we witnessed a feeding frenzy of birds and a single dolphin gouging themselves on bait-fish.
The Shark Bay area is quite spectacular with turquoise waters and pristine white beaches. If you are ever in this part of WA put Denham on your list of places to visit.
We tripped to several places along the coast…
This beautiful snow-white beach is made up of millions of tiny shells up to 10 metres deep and stretching for over 70 kilometres. There is no sand, only shells! Shell Beach is one of only a handful of places on earth where shells replace beach sand in such a dramatic and picturesque way. A walk on Shell Beach is like no other. Incredibly, the beach is made up of shells from the Shark Bay cockle, making it truly unique.
Merrisa left a cute message in the beach (that’s what you do) and I took a stroll in the crystal clear water where a shovell nose shark swam right past me; awesome!
A beautiful view of the coastline which really shows off the beauty of the area (web link)
This location has a boardwalk along the cliff face where we saw sting rays, manta rays and a couple of sharks below us in the crystal clear water. The only downside was the wind; it nearly blew us back to Denham it was so strong. (web link)
After leaving Carnarvon we travelled 325km down the coast to a beautiful little town called Denham (maplink) which we used as a base to explore the area, including Monkey Mia and Francois Peron National Park.
Stayed in the Denham Seaside Caravan Park and had a beautiful site overlooking Shark Bay. Only problem was the wind had followed us and was extremely gusty with the Bureau of Meteorology issuing wind warnings for 2 of the 4 nights we were there.
Got up early and travelled the 27km from Denham to Monkey Mia (maplink) to do the dolphin experience. This pretty cool as you turn-up at 7:45am, have a briefing with the Monkey Mia rangers about the history of the place and the feeding of the dolphins.
There is no timetable as you wait for the dolphins turn-up. Sometimes it may not be until mid-day but in our case it was about 8:30am. The 1st dolphin was called “Surprise” and she had some awful scaring on her back, being attacked by what they think is a Tiger Shark last year. She was very fortunate as she was just millimeters from not surviving; the cut being right next to her blowhole.
Here is a promotional YouTube video on the Monkey Mia dolphins…
The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum is actually the former NASA base which was built for the NASA manned space program of the 1960’s – 1970’s and the role of OTC Carnarvon satellite earth station.
Today it is a museum about the moon landing and space exploration. Totally run by volunteers; it is a great place to visit when you are in Carnarvon.
We took a trip in the Apollo Command module (bit corny but fun) and landed the space shuttle in a simulator (after crashing about 5 times as a novice LOL)
The most grievous loss suffered by the Royal Australian Navy occurred on 19 November 1941, when the cruiser HMAS Sydney was lost in action with the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoranoff the Western Australian coast. None of the Sydney‘s complement of 645 men survived. The Kormoran was also sunk in the action.
On 17 March 2008 the Australian Government announced that the wreckage of both HMAS Sydney and the German raider Kormoran had been found, approximately 112 nautical miles off Steep Point, Western Australia. Kormoran is lying at a depth of 2,560 metres; Sydney, approximately 12 nautical miles away, is at 2,470 metres.
There are several memorials to the disaster along the Coral Coast. We visited 2 in Carnarvon; one in the town and another on the coast near to the location of the Carnarvon Blowholes (see earlier post)
We traveled out to have a look at the “Quobba Blow Holes” which are situated on a really rugged piece of coastline 75km north of Carnarvon. The seas were pretty big and the wind was howling so it was a bit difficult to get too close but they were really impressive even from where we were standing. The blowholes squirt seawater about 20 metres into the air from sea caves below the rocks.
We also drove up a dirt track to the Quobba lighthouse to gain a bigger view of the coastline and spotted a baby Peregrine Falcon nesting there (pretty cool). From here we drove up to the original HMAS Sydney memorial cairn (see next post)
We took a trip with Off Road Rush Tours doing a 2 hour sunset tour in the dune buggies. It was a hoot blast through well defined tracks in the sand dunes to the south of Coral Bay. The tracks were really bumpy and we were continually knocked about but laughed through the whole trip. It was a really fun thing to do ending up with a sunset upon the cliff face over the ocean.
Merrisa took over the driving half way through and had a ball too.
3 times a week the tour companies combine to feed the fish on the main beach of Coral Bay (Bills Bay – check the satellite map).
The public just stand in the water whilst about 50 or more Spangled Emperor fish swim around your ankles whilst they are fed pellets by the tour guides. It’s pretty amazing to see these fish showing no fear of the humans. I suppose everyone is going to say “why not fish there” – well you cannot as it’s a sanctuary.
Coral Bay (maplink) is a snorkeling wonderland. We just walked across the road from the Bayview Caravan Park and strolled into the water from the beach and drift along over beautiful corals teaming with fish.
The corals of Ningaloo Reef are apparently not as colourful as those on the great barrier reef and this is due to natural causes (non environmental like bleaching).
Coral Bay is an interesting town (maplink). First thing you must know is to bring your own fresh water as there is no “town water” which is drinkable. We had 240 litres of water in the caravan so that was a good start but we still had to ration it. The toilet blocks in the Bayview Coral Bay CP used bore water which was practically salt water.
The town’s power supply is created by several wind powered generators.
We stayed for 4 nights and loved it. The only downside was the wind which made it difficult to snorkel as it was really windy. We’ll definitely return again.
We booked in with an excellent tour company called Ningaloo Discovery to do a Whale Shark snorkel on the Ningaloo Reef. These guys are awesome and so helpful in organising everyone to get the best experience. They take a maximum of 20 people on this trip.
We started the journey at Tantabiddi Boat Ramp and motored out in the beautiful catamaran through the reef barrier (to outside) and immediately came across some hump back whales. Everyone geared up and were split into 3 groups and the 1st group entered the water and the whales took off (bummer). We saw some more whales with calves but you are not allowed to dive with them so we moved onto find some whale sharks.
They use a spotter plane to locate the whale sharks. These are solitary animals and travel along very slowly so it wasn’t long before one was spotted. We were then split into 2 groups and entered the water in front of the path the whale shark was heading. The team operate as one and it was not long before our group was directed into position. The whale shark just glides past and then you can swim along with it. This was so surreal and and an experience which will stay with us forever. We swam with 3 different whale sharks during the trip.
Back inside the reef in what is called the “lagoon” where we saw dugongs, sting rays, turtles and dolphins and then went for a snorkel over some “bommies” of coral which were teaming with fish of all colours and sizes. The coral is not as colorful as the Great Barrier Reef and this is due to it’s type and is natural.
This tour was brilliant. The crew aboard the Ningaloo Discovery were all so friendly and helpful. We were served morning and afternoon tea, a fantastic lunch and finished up with a glass of champers on the way back to harbour.
Exmouth is located on a peninsula called North West Cape (maplink) and there was so much we missed here that we will definitely return; such as Cape Range National Park.
We took a day trip along the west side of the Cape and checked out the beaches and some great camp grounds (for the next trip) and also took a look at Ningaloo Lighthouse Holiday Park which is the northern end of the Cape and Yardie Homestead.
Booked into a tour along Yardie Creek, which is in the Cape Range National Park. This was a delightful trip along the creek viewing the gorges and native wildlife.
Have a look at the photos, where we spotted black-footed rock wallabies, ospreys in their nest and were thoroughly entertained by Ash, the boat captain. If you are ever in Exmouth then we recommend you do this trip.
Our tour boat
Free entertainment - bogged 4WD crossing the creek
We hit Exmouth today and booked into the RAC Big 4 Caravan Park. It was a great piece of timing as we managed to catch up with a couple of travel buddies, Bob & Michelle for dinner that night. Merrisa even bumped into Keith Urban & I bumped into Willie Nelson out the front of the pub (and got photos too).
The next day was spent having a look around what is known as “North West Cape”. It’s got a lot of history.
We then had a coffee and cake at a quaint little beach shack called Bundegi Shack situated on the nearby beach.
We then checked out the views from Vlaming Head Lighthouse and watched as kite surfers absolutely flew out across the waves with the gusty winds we were experiencing and finished up at the wreck of the SS Mildura, (a cattle steamer, wrecked in 1907 during a cyclone) which was the reason the lighthouse was eventually constructed (after it bumped into the coastline.
Onslow was a really nice spot to visit. The Ocean View Caravan park is right of the water and close to town – totally recommend it.
There is a wonderful ANZAC Memorial constructed on the foreshore (next to the caravan park) which was built to capture the sunrise in a certain spot on ANZAC Day. It is at the beginning of a coastal boardwalk which we strolled along (about 2.5km return).
Brendan and I went for a fish in Beadon Creek with very little success but as they say “it’s all about the serenity” and bonding with your son.
We visited the ANZAC Memorial for sunrise on the morning Brendan was schedule to fly home then took him out to the Onslow Airport for a teary farewell (off to cold old Melbourne). It was fantastic having Brendan with us for 9 days.
We did the “staircase to the moon” in Broome (view the post) and were left wondering what all of the hype was about. We also had the same occurrence scheduled to happen whilst we were in Onslow.
The big difference was we did not have to battle the crowds. We just set-up on the seawall behind our caravan site and enjoyed a quiet beer with the neighbours whilst this (so called) phenomenon occurred.
We were told at the visitors centre that the “Old Onslow Township” was worth a visit. The original town was originally established in 1885 during the gold rush, the old town later acted as a port town for pearling luggers following the discovery of pearls nearby. By 1925 the Ashburton River mouth had silted up causing access problems for the ships. As a result the town was moved to where it is located today.
So we trundled down the dirt road expecting to see a ghost town and all we found were some signs with “this was where the general store was” and “this was the site of the livery stables” with no buildings in sight.
We then found the ruins of what was the police station, jail, post office and hospital. It was pretty cool but we were a bit disappointed.
Brendan and I went down to “sunset point” in Onslow to take some photos of the sunset using the Salt Works jetty as a feature. We even had a dog come down and voice his protest at the sacking of Malcolm Turnbull.
The weather conditions in the Onslow area make it a perfect location to carry out what is known as Solar Salt Mining which involves flooding special made ponds with salt water and then allowing the water to slowly gravitate from one pond to another until it dehydrates to raw salt. They then farm it with special machines, process it and ship it offshore to their customers.
The operation is run by Shark Bay Salt Pty Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsui & Co. Ltd, which is one of the world’s most diversified trading, investment and services enterprises. It owns and operates two salt-fields in Western Australia — Shark Bay Resources and Onslow Salt.
Wheatstone Liquefied Natural Gas Plant
Onslow was becoming a bit of a dying town until the development of a major Liquefied Natural Gas Plant was established by a company called Wheatstone (owned by Chevron) just west of the town. It is now a growing community with it’s own airport, built to facilitate the “fly-in fly-out” of workers.
The Wheatstone Project’s offshore processing platform is located in 70 metres of water, about 225km from the coast. The offshore facilities gather and partially process gas and associated condensate from the Wheatstone, Iago, Julimar and Brunello gas fields, and deliver it onshore via trunkline for further processing.
Once onshore at Ashburton North, the majority of Wheatstone’s gas is processed by the two LNG trains, where impurities and inert gases are removed and the natural gas is chilled to minus 130 degrees Celsius, at which point it flashes over to a liquid 600 times the density of the natural gas. It is further cooled to minus 162 degrees Celsius and sent to insulated storage tanks to await export overseas via LNG tankers. Excess gas has to be continually “burnt off” to keep the plant working. The flame can be seen for kilometers.
Click here to find out more about the Wheatstone project.
We packed our lunch and headed off on a bit of a road trip to Dales Gorge & Recreation Area (218km return from Tom Price CP – maplink). This is one of the most popular of the gorges within Karijini NP and has 3 separate pools/falls to view; Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls & Fern Pool.
There is also a campground there for those who want to spend more time exploring the area.
Brendan took me out to a quiet and dark location to teach me about doing night photography (stars etc). It was great learning something like this as he is really good at this type of photography. Our biggest issue was a 3/4 full moon so it wasn’t totally dark. These are my attempts…
Booked into the tour of Rio Tinto’s Tom Price Iron Ore Mine (maplink) and headed off with Lestok Tours. This is a good tour but we were left a bit disappointed to not see as much as expected. The tour guide, driving our bus, really made it enjoyable (full of heaps of funny quips).
The Mount Tom Price open cut operation is situated within the mineral rich Hamersley Range that has been reported to contain up to 80 percent of all known reserves of iron ore in Australia, making it one of the worlds major iron ore deposits. Mount Tom Price was the first Rio Tinto mining operation to take place in the Pilbara Region where it now has 14 other mines, three shipping terminals and the largest private railway network in Australia.
Off to Tom Price Mine (WA) with Brendan
They look sooo small
Some more about Tom Price Mine…
In 1962 geologists identified the large, high-grade deposits of iron ore in the Hamersley Ranges in what later became known as Mt Tom Price. In 1966 Hamersley Iron (HI) was formed. The first official iron ore tram departed Tom Price on the 16th July 1966. HI undertook development of the Mt Tom Price mine as the first mine m the Hamersley area. The first shipment of ore left for Japan in August 1966.
Originally Tom Price ore was railed only to Dampier Port. Ore from Tom Price is now railed to ports at Dampier and Cape Lambert. This rail system was the first standard gauge, heavy haul railways in Australia, and the first extensive privately owned and operated railways. Rio Tinto has since expanded too many more mines and now comprises mainline systems of approximately 1600kms.
With trains approximately 2.5km in length and consisting of 236 ore cars each carrying approximately 120t of ore per car, averaging out at approximately 28,000t per train load. The early railways were built under demanding physical and technical conditions and provided the basis for further developments over the past 50 years.
It involved 50km of dirt road driving; the first 47km wasn’t too bad as the road is used by road-trains and is pretty well maintained and the last 3kms was horrific with sharp rocks and pot holes and a max speed of about 20km/hour. We got our 1st flat of our trip (12,000km to date) and it was a doozie with the tyre being totally destroyed (check out the photos).
The gorge is stunning and only a very short walk from the car park. Brendan and I went swimming while Merrisa watched from the shore. The water was very “refreshing” and we really could not stay in for very long, but it was a box ticked off.
A bad flat tyre
A bad flat tyre
A bad flat tyre
PS – got the tyre replaced in Tom Price and was really lucky to score a match to our tyre set; otherwise the guy said it would be 5-10 days to wait for one.
Tom Price, situated in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, is a mining town. The town is located inland, at the edge of the Hamersley Range. Tom Price is the highest town above sea level (747 metres (2,451 ft)) in Western Australia, and is consequently dubbed “Top Town in WA”.
It was a 417 km trip from Port Hedland to Tom Price (maplink). We decided to use this location as a base to travel into Karijini National Park.
On the way we encountered some massive mining equipment which took up the entire road, it was massive. We were also warned about being caught at rail crossings waiting for 250 carriage ore trains to pass but we were lucky and missed them all.
The Port of Port Hedland is Australia’s largest export port by annual throughput and the largest bulk minerals port in the world. Iron ore is primarily the main material which arrives at the port in massively long ore trains from the various Pilbara mines. More information can be found at the Pilbara Ports Authority website.
We figured the best way to check out the port was take the Seafarers Mission Port Tour and it was really fantastic. We gained an insight into the many services they provide to seamen who visit Port Hedland after their ship docks. Majority of it is run by volunteers and the money derived from these tours goes a long way in providing that support.
The best part of the tour is when you board the tender boat which goes around the port picking up sailors who have shore leave. The trip is fully narrated as we travelled around.
These ships are huge and you get an idea of the amount of iron ore they carry when you see and empty one coming into port and one which is about to disembark.
More about the Port of Port Hedland
Port Hedland is one of the largest iron ore loading ports in the world and the largest in Australia. In 2011 it had the largest bulk cargo throughput in Australia. With the neighbouring ports of Port Walcott and Dampier, Port Hedland is one of three major iron ore exporting ports in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
There are 19 operational berths within Port Hedland harbour:
8 are owned and operated by BHP Iron Ore
5 are owned and operated by Fortescue Metal Group (Twiggy Forrest)
2 are owned and operated by Roy Hill Infrastructure Pty Ltd (Gina Rinehart)
The remaining 4 are public berths
Iron ore makes up approximately 97 percent of the port’s total trade throughput; the majority of which goes to China.
These are the Port of Port Hedland export stats for the first 6 months of 2018:
For several weeks our son Brendan and myself had been planning a surprise visit from him. Trying to keep it from his mother was a bit of a nightmare at times; but we did it.
Brendan flew into Port Hedland today and I picked him up at the airport. The video below really spells out the surprise Merrisa got when we turned up back at the caravan park. Brendan will spend 9 days with us travelling trough Port Hedland, Tom Price, Karijini National Park and Onlso (where he flys out from).
We turned off the Great Northern Highway and travelled 13km down a very corrugated, bumpy and dusty red dirt road to find Pardoo Station Stay (maplink).
This place was recommended to us by many people on our travels but we really could not see what all of the fuss was about. Maybe it was because we stayed at Barnhill Station and 80 Mile Beach beforehand which were really great.
They do have a massive communal fire each night which is great for meeting new people.
The beach is about 10km drive from the station and there is a creek about 3.5km away (maplink) which both are supposed to have good fishing but we have had no luck yet.
These drives take you through the working part of the station with cattle in large groups in several spots. Each morning they have a half dozen “poddy calves” which are hand fed. This is pretty cute.
80 Mile Beach is a mecca for shell collectors. So while the blokes fished the girls went shell hunting or all of us went together. Plenty of beach means plenty of shells and some really cool shells were found by all. We even came across a sea snake which had died then was petrified by the sun.
80 Mile Beach is a magnificent long white sand beach which is safe to drive your 4WD on. Let your tyres down to 25PSI and scoot along to do some fishing or just a tour of the beach.
This day the 6 of us headed off to try out a spot of fishing. First spot was the “creek” which we were told was about 10km from the caravan park BUT we discovered it was actually 23km. Had a fish there with no success then trundled back down the beach a bit and had a cast there. I caught a shark (about 4 foot) which gave me a fantastic fight with the drag screaming and me worrying whether I would run out of line or not. Eventually got him into the shallows but he bit through my line and was off; with one of my lures still in his mouth – bugger! Rest of the fishing was then done with a wire tracer and lure which rewarded me with a nice Blue Threadfin Salmon.
Merrisa bought me a very trendy cool fishing shirt which must have brought me some luck as I was the only one to catch anything; but as I always say “It’s all about the serenity”
A collection of the regulars have their own special fishing buggies constructed using a quad bike with purpose built trailer – rod holders, sun shade, esky, bait box, comfortable seating and even mounted stubby holders. One of these outfits even had a skeleton inside with a sign saying “the fish are a bit slow on the bite today” (check the photos).
This beach would have to be the unofficial sea shell capital of Australia! There’s heaps to do here, fish, relax on the beach or happy hours galore! There is definitely no swimming here as the ocean is full of sea snakes and sharks.
Nice big site
Tide goes WAY OUT
Tide goes WAY OUT
Here is a nice YouTube video we found about 80 Mile Beach…
One of the Barnhill Station regulars runs a free Tai Chi session every morning which Merrisa and Michelle attended. What a beautiful setting to practice your Tai Chi.
While at Barnhill we discovered this really hilarious dice game called Left, Right, Centre. You have 4 dice (all the same) with the faces marked with L R C K (Left Right Centre Keep) and when they are thrown you have to pass your money in the direction shown on top of each dice. So the money flows backwards and forwards until it all ends up in the Centre (the pot) and the last person left with any money wins the pot. When there are a large number of people playing the game you can hear the screams and laughs ring throughout the campsite.
The girls played one night while the blokes all sat around the fire. Very laid back environment at Barnhill Station – totally recommend a visit. Check out the rules for playing this fun game below.
A large group of people from the Barnhill Station Caravan Park travelled south to watch an AFL footy game at the Bidyadanga Community.
The local team, called the Emus were playing Derby (who had to drive for 5 hours to get there). There was a girls game on first followed by a boys game. It was fantastic to see so much talent on the field from all teams.
So many people told us how good this spot was so we thought “why not” and it hasn’t failed us. It’s about 10km along a (red) sand road to the park going through 3 farm gates along the way to the coast. We hoped to get a site with a view of the beach (spectacular) but we ended up with a view of the dunnies (bugger!).
It is so nice to be in a non-regimented park like we were in at Broome. Plenty of space and trees, but we still have that bloody red sand (washing the feet every-night before bed). This park also has a lot of regulars who stay for 2-3 months at a time. One guy was telling me it’s his 19th year!
They run games each night, have a bowling green and also have special park run meal events like Pizza night on Fridays & Tuesdays and a Roast on Sunday nights. Pretty cool.
The beach is pretty spectacular with all sorts of different colourful rock formations and the fishing is good (so I’m told).
One of the big Four Wheel Drive attractions in Broome is to drive down onto Cable Beach to watch the sunset and camel tours.
So off we ventured and parked up on the beach to take in the sights. It was pretty cool; the only mistake we made was to leave the camera, drinks and nibbles behind. The sunset was yet another brilliant event and we captured the moment on our phones.
You can smell the camels coming and there are about four sets of them. Heaps of 4WDs as well along the way too.
On only a few times of the year does the phenomenon known as “The Staircase to the Moon” occur when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay in Broome. The Staircase to the Moon happens 2 – 3 days a month between March and October.
We were fortunate enough to time our stay in Broome with this event and went along, with thousands of other people, to partake in the experience. But I must say – there’s a lot of hullabaloo about this event and it wasn’t really all that fantastic AND I must learn how to photograph a full moon too!
They came in their thousands and set-up anywhere they could
The Horizontal Falls trip was one of our “Bucket List” items and should be on anyone’s who visit the Kimberley in Western Australia. We booked the 24 hour trip and it was totally worth every cent! It looked so good that Gwyn & Bill (Merrisa’s folks) flew to Broome to join us on it. The tour only takes 10 participants so the smaller group really works well.
We stayed in Derby overnight the day before the trip began so that we’d be ready for the 9:30 pick-up. Flew by seaplane from Derby to Talbot Bay and then transferred to our own accommodation (away from the crowds) in Cyclone Creek.
Some of our experiences were…
Trip starts with a fascinating flight out from Derby passing over the falls before landing at Talbot Bay
Swam with the Tawny Sharks (we were in the cage); which are blind sharks and are similar to Wobbegong sharks in that they suck their food in before chewing it up
Took multiple trips through the falls – both sets
Went fishing on the luxury fishing vessel “Category 5” for a few hours and caught all sorts of fish. Gwyn caught a small shark!
Took a helicopter flight over the area, taking in the falls in full flow, which was amazing (no doors on the chopper!)
Sunrise cruise at 6:00am to check out the changing colours of the cliffs
One more trip out to the falls with several passes through them before we left to go back to Derby
Magnificent Baramundi lunch and Scotch Fillet steak dinner
Our main guy Louie and the staff onboard were fantastic. Nothing was a bother for them and they really know their stuff
Made new friends. A small group of ten was just perfect and everyone got on with each other.
I took 368 photos on this trip and have “culled” them down to our favourites (now 50), please enjoy…
1st view of falls
1st boat trip
Gwyn chills out
Mum & daughter
My monster fish
Hook up time
Mum & daughter
Chopper flight to falls
Chopper flight to falls
Chopper flight to falls
Chopper flight over falls
Chopper flight over accom
Touring Wombats team
A bit more about the falls…
The Horizontal Falls or Horizontal Waterfalls are located in the Talbot Bay in the Kimberley region of western Australia. Although called waterfalls, this natural phenomenon actually consist of a pair of openings or gorges in the McLarty Range through which massive amount of water are pushed by tidal waves, creating temporary waterfalls up to 5 meters high. When the tide changes, so does the direction of the flow.
The twin gaps are located on two ridges running parallel approximately 300 meters apart. The first and most seaward gap is about 20 meters wide and the second, most spectacular, gap is about 10 meters wide. When the rising or falling tide occurs, the water builds up in front of the gaps faster than it can flow through them. This in turn creates an amazing waterfall effect as the water rushes through and then down to the lower levels on the other side of the ridgelines. The process is reversed and it is repeated again in the opposite direction.
The tides in this area have a 10 meter variation which occurs over six and a half hours from low tide to high tide and vice versa. On a slack tide it is possible to drive boats through the two gaps to the bay behind.
The waterfall phenomena has been described by David Attenborough as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”.
Traveled to Derby from Broome (maplink), with Gwyn & Bill, so we would be ready to do the “Horizontal Falls” the next day. We had already booked accommodation but one look at the place and it was a unanimous vote to find somewhere else – should have realised it when it was half the cost of anywhere else! So we ended up at the Spinifex Hotel which was real nice.
Must admit though there is not much to do in Derby so it was good that it was just an overnighter. The main street looks great with a line of Boab Trees down the centre.
We took a short drive to the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Culture Centre which was pretty interesting. The art gallery consists mainly of paintings of Wandjina; who in the Kimberly Aboriginal culture is the supreme Creator and a symbol of fertility and rain. Tip – see the video before the artwork, then it all makes sense. Worth the short trip.
The other main attraction in Derby is the Wharfwhich should be visited at sunset. It (apparently) has the largest tide difference in Australia of about 11 metres. We had lunch at the Wharf Cafe which was pretty nice.
Booked into our 1st Whale Watching tour with Broome Whale Watching and it was an absolutely magnificent day. These guys have been running their tours for 20 years and guarantee that you will see whales or you get your money back and they did not disappoint.
There were about 30 people onboard the catamaran Ballena (Spanish for whale). The day started with a heavy sea-fog which was a bit scary but it cleared as we left the coast-line. It made me think of the theme words to Gilligan’s Island TV show – “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…”
Plenty of whales and a brilliant sunset to close out the trip. We absolutely loved it. Cut 236 photos back to 20 so please enjoy.
Drove out to Willie Creek Oyster Farm with Merrisa’s mum and Bill to do a tour of the oyster farm. Got to drive on the Cape Leveque Road, which is pretty rough (maplink).
The tour is really great. Our tour guide Sophie took us through the process for culturing the rare and beautiful Australian South Sea Cultured Pearl produced at the Willie Creek Pearl Farm.We learnt that there are 5 important aspects of determining a pearl’s worth…
We then ventured out to the racks where the oysters spend their days lazing away in the beautiful blue waters of Willie Creek.
The tour naturally ends in the shop where Sophie drapes this beautiful drop pearl around Merrisa’s neck. There was no going back; as I knew that it looked so well on her and that she deserved it – so the words were “wrap it up”. Merrisa’s Pearl ticked all 5 of the important aspects for selecting a pearl – check out the photos.
5 months prior to setting out on our adventure we thought we would pre-book a caravan park in Broome. We tried Cable Beach Caravan Park – fully booked; then Palm Grove Caravan Park (maplink) and were so lucky that the day we called there was a cancellation so we grabbed it for 3 weeks, otherwise we would not have gotten in there either.
The park is in a great location but everyone is crammed in and the daily sport is to watch new-commers attempting to park their vans in the skinny little roads they have. Just over the road is Divers Tavern pub and then a short stroll to the beach.
Merrisa’s mum and dad also came along flying in for 2 weeks so they could do the Horizontal Falls with us.
Our 1st day saw a totally awesome sunset on Cable Beach.
One of the nicest cruises we have done was in the Geikie Gorge (27km from Fitzroy Crossing). We took the 4:00pm cruise which really shows off the amazing colours of the gorge in the late afternoon sun. Put this one on your bucket list folks and it’s really cheap too; run by WA National Parks. It is a 1 hour trip upstream from the National Park entrance.
When the Fitzroy is in full flood during the wet season it covers the whole national park. Those floods rise over 16 metres up the gorge walls and the continuous rise and fall of the water has left the bottom of the walls bleached white. The parks visitors centre has flood records nailed to the walls and roof with the highest level recorded as 2 metres above the roof; which is about 6 metres off the ground. The building is also about 20 metres above the current river level.
Geikie Gorge will shortly be renamed to it’s original indigenous name of Danggu.
Wonderful caravan site, which is probably one of the most spacious we have been in. Took a wander around the park and agreed this was a really good choice. It sits on the banks of the Fitzroy River (pretty dry at the moment) and all of the permanent buildings are built high off the ground to cater for the average 6 metre rise in the river each year.
Had a look at the Crossing Inn, which is the oldest Pub in WA, originally built in 1897. Also drove down to the original Fitzroy River Crossing (closed due to poor condition at entry point).