This year to start our Christmas Holiday break we decide to head west to Perth and do a road trip through the South West forests of the state. Originally we had planned to head North to Coral Bay, however after further research we realised that the distance was huge and we would end up spending our whole holiday driving, rather than relaxing.
We rented a Britz Hi Top Camper Van for 6 days, and then booked a few powered campsites for the week to ensure we could water and charge up during the busy holiday period. The other nights we figured we'd just wing it depending on how far we wanted to drive or where we wanted to stay!
We booked in for night 2 at Hamelin Bay, on the strip of coastline just below Margaret River, and then on the 3rd night in Walpole, a town of 250 people just west of Denmark on the southern coastline of WA. THe rest was all going to happen between these stops and Perth, so this is what we came up with.
Day 1: Perth to Bussleton.
We had decided that we wanted to make it to Bussleton for our first night. Bussleton sits about 250kms South of Perth. By the time we had landed at Perth airport and got to Britz, we hit the road at about 9am, and after a quick pit stop to pick up some supplies, it was just us, the highway and the lonely planet to guide us to fun en route to Bussleton. On the drive down we stopped by Safety Bay Marine Park. Here we got our first view of the most amazing clear blue water that I have ever seen! I was totally blown away and immediately relised that we were in for a week of sun, sand and beautiful salt water! Here we also scoped our first marine life with some dolphins that were hunting fish a few meters from the shore.
After this stop we drove along Tuart Drive as an alternate route to Bussleton, This drive took us through Tuart Forest National Park. This National Park is the only remaining forest of the Tuart Tree. The Tuart tree (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) is a very specific Eucalypt that only grown on coastal limestone so this was a very unique forest to see and was noticeably different to everything else that we had seen.
This drive then took us past historical Wonnerup House and then onto Bussleton via some beautiful wetlands and coastal dunes.
Upon arriving in Bussleton we promptly parked the Van and went for a walk along the Bussleton Jetty. The longest Timber post jetty in the southern hemisphere. I was absolutely blown away to see that the water here was even clearer and bluer! I couldn't stop gawking at it. I also noticed that there was a very large area of ocean enclosed by shark nets. Game on! Obviously an ocean swim was now on the cards....although I didn't bring my wetsuit.
Anyways, this jetty is almost 2km long, so we wandered out to the end and back, by which point we had decided we wanted to spend the night in Bussleton and headed to Kangaroo Campground and booked a powered site. This campground is about a 2min walk to the jetty and is run by the most classic husband and wife team. They were rad to chat to. The wife inspired me to camp there for Bussleton Iron Man next year!
The rest of the day involved wandering around Bussleton, going for a refreshing swim, catching some squid with a cheap ass suid jig, then losing said squid jig due to my shithouse know tying skills. Now as Perth is 3hrs behind Adelaide we were ready to zonk at about 8pm. Tomorrow off to Hamelin Bay!
Day 2: Bussleton to Hamelin Bay
Funny! I woke up on holiday probably just before 4am...due to the time difference and then wondered why no one was around the campground (it was already light and I had turned my phone off for the whole week so I had no way to tell the time). I then realised how early it was after making a bit of noise and talking at normal volume..whoops! Anyways, I figured I may as well go for an epic swim seeming I was up so early, and that way by the time I got back Kate would be up and ready for brekky!
After smashing an epic bowl of museli and a coffee, we filled up the vn with water and then hit the road. First stop Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse! We wandered a few kms of trails, seeing some beautiful coastline. We decided to not go into this lighthouse and save the $$ for Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in a few days! Funniest thing about this walk was when Kate saw an Iguana, momentatliy after I had seen it. I was in the process of saying "Oh look at that!", when Kate saw it she got the absolute beejezus scared out of herself, scaring the Iguana into the bush, and sending her heartrate skyhigh for a few minutes :D Next we headed to Ngilgi Caves. Our first cave experience for the trip!
After this we continued down the coast, checking out Vasse Felix Winery, some local breweries and the town of Margatet River to get some supplies and fresh fish! We then headed back to Old Coast Road to head to Hamelin Bay Caravan Park, slipping in minutes for our 5pm check in. The drive to Hamelin Bay was amazing. The forest was so varying and without a a doubt what looked like the most diverse forest species wise that I have ever seen! The Xanthorrhoea were amazing!
Once we set up in the campground we cooked up a nice fresh meal with the fish we had just bought then headed to the beach for sunset and a swim. Once again, amazing blue water, but as we had been blessed with cool conditions, it was chilly as and the double layered hoodies were making an appearance and thus the swim was short lived!
Another early night and I was stoked because with morning would come our first trail run for the trip!
Day 3: Hamelin Bay to Walpole
Up early for a run this morning! Kate and I headed South along the Cape To Cape Trail. We wanted to run for about 2 hrs so we just headed a hour out, and a hour back....along the most amazing coastline I've ever seen. The run really went by super quickly. It was amazing with different coastling and vegetation around every corner, and we didn't see another soul. We finished this run with a refreshing dip in the ocean :-)
After a quick brekky and pack up of the campground, we set out for what was to be the longest driving day. First stop was the huge lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin - the highest lighthouse on mainland Australia and also positioned at the south-western most tip! The light can be seen 48kms out to sea! Kate was feeling a bit queezy at the top as it is pretty high and very windy! The lighthouse guide was really informative and a true character. After the tour Kate had to smash some Devonshire tea, fresh out of the oven scones and jam!
Following this we set off on the road trip to Walpole, however midway we planned a stop in Pemberton! Pemberton is a cool little town. We resupplied the van here and checked out some little shops, made a quick lunch and decided that we would stop here properly on the way back up the coast...low and behold, when we drove back up to Perth we totally didn't stop here :-) So on we went to Walpole, and as we hadn't stopped as much as we thought we would we made good time, and hit Walpole with plenty of time to do the "Valley of the Giants" treetop walk in the afternoon before checking into our campground. The treetop walk takes you 60 or so metres into the canopy of the giant Tingle trees. It's pretty spectacular and such a good way to view these beautiful trees. Once again Kate surprised me with feeling a bit queezy up on the walkway!
Next we finally got to our campground, and priority number 1 was going for a swim.Quick side note I managed an ocean swim every day, so yes, I didn't shower once until the last day of our trip once we were back in a hotel. It was rad! So the campground sat right on the "ocean", or atleast I thought it did when I booked it. What it actually is is a massive tidal area where a river meets the ocean, but it is almost like a lake with a tiny mouth into the main Pacific Ocean making it a very unique area. The water was super warm, brownish in color from the leaf matter and river water and apparently really good for fishing. It was also really nice to swim in because copmpared to the ocean, it was like taking a warm bath. The other unique part of this area was the vegetation, once again WA dished up another kind of vegetation to explore, ranging from stunted coastal shrubs and small trees to the giant Tingle tree forests. One of the most notable species being the greenish Kangaroo Paw that was flowering everywhere.
Day 4: Walpole to Conto Campground
The day prior I had spoken with the caretaker of the campground regarding walking trails and had been advised of a nice trail that was about 7km one way and would take me to see some more giant Tingle trees. I obviously had to run this! I set out early. The trail took me along a beautiful coastal trail and then up into the coastal forests. The trail probably only rose a few hundred metres but offered some amazing views of the Walpole area. Running this trail was amazing, being amongst such wise and ancient trees, I was truly inspired and had one of the best runs that I have ever had. I finished the run with a few kms through some beautiful marshland to make up almost 20km.
Our driving journeys today would take us back up to the Caves Highway near Margaret River, where we would stay at Conto Campground. A first-come-first-serve campground that was just near the Lake Cave. We decided to head back to here as we really wanted to see the Lake Cave, and figured that this part of coastline was probably our favourite that we would love to explore a bit more! The weather this day was crazy, starting with misty rain and thunder in Walpole, and taking us into hot, windy fire conditions by the time we got to Pemberton area.
En route to conto we stopped in at some places well worth noting!
1)The bicentennial tree. We had been warned about the "ladder" to the top of this tree! We couldn't believe it when we saw it.
2)An amazing Marron farm off the Vasse Highway where we met an awesome old couple who owned a largeish property and farmed marron. We met their dogs, one of which always was required to be chained up, as when both set free they would always end up roaming around on the highway! Their garden was beautiful and they had an amazing fruit orchard from which we were given some of the most amazing lemons that I have ever tasted. We purchased two huge Marron to cook up for dinner. Needless to say after battling the marron into the boiling water and feeling like a massive a**hole, the meal was well worthwhile!
3)We stopped through Nannup. A quaint little town with some beautiful historic buildings.
Arriving at Conto was a relief after some hectic winds throwing the camper van all over the road! To help Kate de-stress I cooked up our marron and served it up with a delicious Vasse Felix Chardonnay.
Although being super tired, we dragged our half asleep ases out for a walk to the beach (which ended up being waaaay further than we anticipated...and way steeper); and we were lucky we did. A dark raincloud passed while we were walking, and then was followed by intense white sunlight creating the most dynamic lighting conditions for sunset and some of the most amazing coastline I have ever seen. It was a long walk but well worthwhile, and topped off with a whale sighting as we were leaving! We spent the whole of sunset sitting on some large granite boulders looking out over the Indian Ocean as the swell rolled in and the rain clouds passed. It was pretty amazing as the colors and light conditions constantly changed. By the time we had walke back to camp it was pretty much time to set up the beds and zonk out. While on the beds, the back of the Britz van was super easy to set up and surprisingly comfortable! Despite the hot day, we were once again blessed with another cool night! So far we had had to double blanket it each night to keep warm enough, which given we were sleeping in the back of a van was totally cool, as it would have been difficult to cool down on a stagnant hot night otherwise!
The campground was beautiful and quite remote. There were a lot of "resident" kangaroos so I had to snap some pics especially for our Canadian buddies!
Day 5: Conto Campground to Bussleton
I woke early again, peeked out the window and scoped a whole lot of the resident Kangaroos just near the van. One had a joey so I had to get some pics to send to the Canadian crew.
Following my 'roo photo mission a trail run with Kate occured. We ran the Cape to Cape trail again, but obviously a different section that overlooked an amazing part of the coast again. I can't get over how amazing this trail is! Anyways, after a very near run ending ankle rolling by Kate and a root trip and face plant by me (thankfully it was a sandy section), we decided to finish the run on some less hazardous 4x4 trails which took us through some amazing coastal "Grass Tree" forest out to the Lake Cave, which we were going to visit later today!
So, first roatrip stop after clearing camp was the Lake Cave, only about 5 mins drive from Conto! Wow! THis cave was amazing to say the least. It has the only "floating" pillar in the world that is open to the public to view. Weighing in at about 5 tonne, it hangs suspended above a lake making for amazing photos!
Day 6: Bussleton to Perth
Day 7: Perth!