Geraldton is the second largest city in Western Australia and a pleasant place to stay for a few days to rest up from the constant travelling. On the way 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.
We still haven’t hit the ‘Wildflower Way’ yet but there are plenty of them around !
Undoubtedly, this has to be one of the top 10 must see’s in natural Australia. This iconic attraction is a wind-eroded opening in the layered sandstone which perfectly frames the rugged upstream view of the Murchison River.
Close by is the Z Bend Lookout, suitably named after the tight bends the Murchison River has carved into the local Tumblagooda Sandstone. Can you spot the rock climbers ?
Next highlight – 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’ (see separate blog entry). This is a rock formation which beautifully frames the rugged upstream view of the Murchison River – outstanding.
Kalbarri is a part of the traditional lands of the Nanda people. The story of the Beemarra serpent is the central dreaming story of Nanda people. The Beemarra is, according to Nanda culture, an ancestral being responsible for the creation of the land and waters in the region. Kalbarri was named after an Aboriginal man from the Nanda tribe and is also the name of an edible seed. The first European people to visit the area were the crew of the trading ship Batavia, who put two mutinous crew members ashore near Bluff Point just south of the town.
There’s something about dolphins in the wild ….. Monkey Mia is a 25 km northeast of the town of Denham in the Shark Bay Marine Park and World Heritage Site. The main attraction are the bottlenose dolphins that have been coming close to shore for more than fifty years. Rangers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia) carefully supervise the Monkey Mia Dolphin Experience.
Eagle Bluff features a spectacularly high cliff that overlooks the Denham Sound and is located 18-20 km south from Denham. The boardwalk provides breathtaking views out across the water. Take a look at the amazingly lifelike Elephant Rock.
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. The Denham region was the second area of the Australian mainland discovered by European sailors, after the western coast of Cape York Peninsula.
Shell Beach is just 45 Kms south east of Denham. The beach is covered with shells for a 60 km (37 mi) stretch to a depth of 7–10 m (23–33 ft). It is one of only two beaches in the world made entirely from shells (the other is Sanibel Island in Florida). The shells have formed a limestone that is known as coquina. Before Shark Bay became a World Heritage Site, the coquina was mined and used for the construction of a number of buildings in Denham.
Next stop – Wooramel Station, a working cattle property 120 Kms south of Carnarvon. It is on the banks of the Wooramel River which only flows twice a year for a couple of weeks or so. We relax in the naturally heated therapeutic artesian bore baths from the Birdrong aquifer. A really quirky place.
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 seafood which was very fresh.
We visit the Carnarvon Space Tracking Station which was built to support NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. It was commissioned in 1964 and operated for 11 years. It was the last station to communicate with the space capsules leaving the earth orbit, and the first to make contact before splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. At the height of the operation it had a staff of 220 people.
One of our objectives this trip is to see as many of the famous Western Australia wildflowers as we can. Even though the season has not really got under way yet, Point Quobba gave us a taste of what is hopefully to come.