Less than a week in and we were already loving our trip up the West Coast. I know the phrase ‘West Coast, Best Coast’ is often applied to the US and Canada and (though I love Melbourne dearly) I was starting to think the same of Australia.
As we drove from Cervantes to Kalbarri along Indian Ocean Drive, the ocean was in view most of the time. On the other side? Totally barren, with interesting bush and once in awhile a sand dune. We made a pit stop in Geraldton to have some lunch and even the back beach we stumbled upon to lay down a towel and have our sandwiches was like something out of a movie. White sand, clear blue water and a couple of surfers riding the waves made for a great view.
Just before reaching Kalbarri, we decided to stop at the Hutt Lagoon – a pink lake! We didn’t read anything about this, but after Geraldton I decided to hop on Instagram to see what people were posting in and around Kalbarri and saw this lake. It was really cool, and James took the opportunity to get some great drone shots.
We checked into our hotel and still had an hour of daylight, so decided to head to the national park. We entered it into Google Maps and were on our way, but it didn’t take long to figure out that the directions weren’t exactly right. Yes, it took us to the National Park but not to any of the entrances! We were hoping to get to Nature’s Window but as the sun was starting to set it became obvious that wasn’t in the cards that night. Instead, we headed to some of the cliff lookouts and watched the rocks change colour as the sun set on the West.
The next morning we were up early as we had booked in a tour. When we were researching the trip, James came across an abseiling tour and, though none of us had tried it before, we were all pretty keen! As we headed into the National Park, our guides for the day (Matt and Col) informed us that the park was actually closed and had been since last November so they could seal the roads! Turns out we were lucky to have booked a tour since it’s the only way in and our small group basically had the park to ourselves (apart from a few Tradies). We hiked out to the Z-bend lookout to grab some pictures and then clambered down some pretty big rocks to the base of our abseiling adventure. After a quick demo where we watched Matt jump off the rock face and slide his way down a 25m drop in a matter of seconds we were kitted up and on our way to the top.
Once up there, Col asked who wanted to go first and I (stupidly) offered Katie and I to be the brave ones of the group. What can I say? The adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I was feeling a false sense of confidence. Our ropes were secured and before we knew it we were walking backwards to a 25m drop. Luckily Matt and Col are hilarious and kept us occupied so we didn’t even look down. We were officially given the names Catie 1 and Katie 2 (not for the last time this trip!). Once we were over the rock face and on our way down we gave some girlish ‘Woo!’s and made baby jumps down the wall. It was AWESOME! The boys came down as we guided their ropes and we were all back up on our way for drop two.
In total, we each did 5 abseils – 3 down a 25m wall and 2 down a 35m wall. The 25m wall was fun as you could jump your way down the cliff face (if you were brave enough, my jumps were more like bunny hops) but I personally loved the 35m wall as 30ms of it was was letting yourself down the rope and generally hanging out and enjoying the views.
We were lucky no one else was in the park, as the guides let James take up his drone and grab some epic shots of Katie and Jeff on their last abseil.
After everyone in the group had finished, we headed further into the gorge and grabbed lunch along the river. Soon, we were clumsily making our way back up the rocks and into the tour bus to head to Nature’s Window. As I mentioned, we were lucky to get into the park with our small tour as they were sealing the roads, and as we drove from the parking lot it was clear they had just sealed the portion we needed to drive down to get to our second and last stop. No matter – Col called some of the workers on his radio and a truck came down to “guide” us (which basically just meant driving as much on the shoulder of the dirt road as possible to avoid the wet asphalt). I don’t want to give Col too much credit, but I reckon he could have figured that one out 😉
We arrived at the carpark for Nature’s Window and made our way down. It was quite a surreal experience being at what is arguably the largest tourist attraction in Kalbarri with a group of 10 people. Matt told us that sometimes people wait over an hour just to get a picture with/in Nature’s Window, but we were able to take our sweet time. And James had a bit more fun flying the drone through the rock cut-out.
Col even showed us a great place to get a “hanging” shot. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t even reach the cliff to hang from but luckily Katie had my back 🙂
The tour was awesome and well worth the $90 price tag. We got back to our place around 4 and shortly after made our way to The Seafood Jetty Shack where we were meeting our friend Catherine and her boyfriend [aside: Catherine is actually the one who introduced Katie and I via Facebook before I moved to Melbourne!]. After some fish & chips while watching the sun go down, we were on our way back home.
The next morning we made our way for Denham, a town near Monkey Mia. We had to laugh at how easy the nearly four hour drive was; I think there were 4 turns the whole way! That’s not to say it was boring, the stark contrast of red dirt to blue sky kept our attention the whole way.
Denham is a pretty sleepy town. We arrived early in the afternoon and headed out to two of the nearby attractions: Little Lagoon (where we were able to get some 4 wheel driving in) and Eagle Bluff – a cliff where you can sometimes spot marine life. Soon after, we were eating dinner and settling into a few intense Euchre games before calling it a night.
The next morning we were up before the sun to pack the car and head to Monkey Mia for a dolphin encounter. Every morning, the marine centre there holds a dolphin encounter and feeding just before 8am where you can get up close to several dolphins and, if you’re selected from the volunteers, feed one. It was pretty cool and everyone there got a really good view of at least a few dolphins (I think there were 7 or 8 that morning; each day it can vary). That being said, Denham is 1.5 hours off the main highway up North, so it is a 3 hour detour. We enjoyed it, but it’s not something I would recommend to anyone pressed for time.
On our way back out to the main road, we made a pit stop at shell beach. As the name suggests, the beach beach is covered with shells for a 60 km stretch and is one of only two beaches in the world made entirely from shells – pretty neat.
We listened to a few podcasts and enjoyed the view on the nearly 6 hour drive up to Coral Bay, making sure to stop at the last big grocery store before Broome (a Wooly’s in Carnarvon) to stock up on food for the next few days in Coral Bay and Exmouth.
Our next big adventure was meeting up with our friend Robin in Coral Bay for dinner that night! Oh, and to go swimming with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays; the part of the trip I am most excited about! But more on that in the next post.