On our way down to Geraldton we pass through the lovely town of Northampton which contains some very attractive examples of historic buildings dating back to the late 1800’s when it was settled by miners looking for the local tin and lead deposits.
Just south of Kalbarri, we visit Port Gregory, a tiny coastal village and its famous Pink Lake. The Pink Lake (official name Hutt Lagoon) is a salt lake with a pink hue caused by the presence of a carotenoid producing algae which is a source of beta-carotene, a food colouring agent and source of Vitamin A. The lagoon contains the world’s largest microalgae production plant.
Still making slow progress south towards Perth, our next highlight is Kalbarri National Park. We stay in the nearby coastal town of Kalbarri itself which is yet another seaside oasis with a small town feeling. The National Park is really something special with the highlight being ‘Nature’s Window’. This is a rock formation which beautifully frames the rugged upstream view of the Murchison River – outstanding.
Spot the unique artist who creates artifacts using the sun’s rays.
We visited Denham from our base at Hamelin Station. Denham is on the western coast of the Peron Peninsula 831 Kms (516 mi) north of Perth. It is the westernmost town in Australia, and is named in honour of Captain Henry Mangles Denham of the Royal Navy, who charted Shark Bay in 1858. Today Denham survives as the gateway for the tourists who come to see the dolphins at Monkey Mia – which is a complete rip off and well worth missing, which we did.
Denham is a lovely quiet seaside town with a relaxed atmosphere. A stroll along the short jetty found us observing 2 or 3 people trying to catch the very visible squid close by. They didn’t seem at all interested in the squid jigs on offer so Bob tried plan B. Off to the car for the cast net and Bingo – 2 of the slippery devils into the freezer for later !
Hamelin Station is a working sheep and goat station close to Shark Bay on the west coast of WA. This was bush camping at its best with by far the most well looked after facilities we have encountered so far. A small bit of trivia we learnt from the owners – the USA is the world’s largest importer of goat meat.
On the way to Hamelin Station we came across an unusual sight – a memorial to a small girl who must have died in an accident close by. The memorial consisted of a mound of rocks with a garden gnome on top. Since the original memorial lots more gnomes have been added in remembrance of other loved ones who have passed away.
We visited the famous shell beach which is a 140 Km long beach made of the smallest and whitest shells we have ever seen. Over the years these shells formed hardened rock-like material which was quarried in the form of large blocks which was used to erect large buildings in the area.
Close to Hamelin Station we find one of only a few remaining areas of Stromatolites or stromatoliths. Apparently these provide important clues to the origins of life on earth. The structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains by biofilms (microbial mats) of microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria. They provide ancient records of life on Earth by fossil remains which might date from more than 3.5 billion years ago. In the future given the option of viewing stromatolites or watching paint dry, the latter would be the most attractive.
At long last, Perth is less than 1,000 Kms away (but only just!). Carnarvon lies at the mouth of the Gascoyne River which only flows for an average of 6 weeks per year. It is positioned between Shark Bay to the south and Ningaloo Reef to the north. The area is one of the largest market gardening areas in WA. Unfortunately we were a little early in the year for most of the locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. But we did sample some of the local tiger prawns which were delicious.
Point Quobba is 75 Kms north of Carnarvon on the west coast of WA. It is well known for the impressive blow holes which seem to be active all the time as the wind and waves are constantly battering the coast. No longer is the Ningaloo Reef in the way to temper the effect of the waves. Red Bluff is another sight to see after a bone-shaking unsealed drive of approx 65 Kms. This is the area where the wreck of the HMAS Sydney was found. The ship was sunk by a German raider in 1941 with the total loss of its complete crew of 645.
Waroora Station (pronounced Warra) is a family run sheep and cattle station which offers wilderness camping sites literally on the beach. Its position means exposure to quite a lot of wind so the fishing was a little difficult (Bob’s excuse anyway). Yet another beautiful campsite.
Coral Bay is positioned towards the southern end of Ningaloo Reef. It is famous for its pristine beaches, sparkling blue waters and fish feeding at the beach. The main industries are tourism and fishing. The electricity for the town is provided by a wind-diesel hybrid system. Coral Bay was formally settled in 1968 and was named after a hotel that had been established in the area.