Western Australia: from prison to paradise

On our previous trips we had visited the more popular east and south coasts, the Red Centre as well as the Top End of Oz, so this time we decided to sample the western side of this huge country.

After a couple of nights in a bunkbed in a converted prison cell in Fremantle (a funky Perth suburb), we flew two hours north to Exmouth (as the 1,250km drive through mostly red dirt sounded a bit too long and boring).

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Our ‘hostel’
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D Wing
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Brunch stop with amazing coffee as standard, Fremantle
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National Hotel, Fremantle

As we came into land, the scene out the window was an amazing combination of red earth flecked with green bushes edged by turquoise ocean.

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The dry heat hit us as we got off the plane – it was 35C (we were visiting when visitor numbers are lower as people are put off by the temperatures). But the temperature wasn’t the real killer, it was the flies. Nowhere else have we encountered insects that want to suck the moisture from your eyes and don’t react to being swatted.

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Fly in my right eye

After enjoying camping in the USA, we had booked a campervan here as well. We picked it up and stocked up with groceries and lots and lots of water (and some wine we’d nicked from the plane!) for four days in the outback.

However, this wasn’t without some trepidation regarding the wildlife and climate we would encounter, as:

  • of the world’s ten most poiosnous snakes, all are Australian
  • five of it’s creatures, are the most lethal of their type in the world (funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, stonefish)
  • it is the driest, hottest, most dessicated, infertile and climatically aggressive continent, bar Antarctica

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Our first stop, 155km south, was Coral Bay. A small tourist village behind a stunning beach. The sand was white and soft. The water turquoise and calm. But below the surface was the incredible World Heritage Ningaloo Reef, a massive coral reef that is also incredibly close to shore and therefore easy to access. A walk down the beach also took us to a reef shark breeding area where we glimpsed them from the safety of the sand.

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We sunbathed (finding a nice shady spot, until a German couple came and laid uncomfortably close to us), snorkelled and then ate steak on the BBQ for dinner. It was a perfect day.

Next we had a four hour drive to Cape Range National Park which covers 48,000 hectares of land alongside the reef. As well as more crazy outback scenery, we passed huge termite mounds and emus strolling the streets:

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We found a really nice coastal campsite in the national park, cooked some sausages and watched the sunset while kangaroos jumped around us. It was stunning.

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The next say we went for a hot walk along the top of a red rock gorge and saw more kangaroos before heading to the beach.

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We’d been blown away by Coral Bay, but Turquoise Bay was just as stunning and even more amazing for being completely desolate and undeveloped.

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Dangerous looking jellyfish

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We spent the day swimming, snorkelling with turtles and sunbathing on one of the best beaches we have ever seen with just a handful of other people around. Before this trip, I did not realise that Aussie beaches were this good.

As the sun started setting we set off to find a campsite. We found a nice shady one behind some dunes but managed to get the campervan stuck in some soft sand. Luckily an Aussie mother (traveling for a year with her seven year old daughter who she was homeschooling) in the next pitch knew what to do and after some digging, jamming of sticks and pushing we managed to get out. After the drama, we spent our last night in the outback drinking red wine, playing cards and listening to the galahs.

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Bogged
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“You flaming galah”

After driving back to Exmouth, returning the camper, catching the airport shuttle, flying to Perth and picking-up a car rental; we were on our way to Bunbury, two hours south of Perth. We had come here to visit the Dolphin Discovery Centre, where wild bottlenose dolphins come to shore most days.

We were luckily that when we arrived, three of the mammals were swimming around and we were able to see them pretty close up ducking and diving.

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But the real highlight was that we got to see an octopus being fed and we learnt some crazy facts about them:

  • they have nine brains, one in each leg and a central one
  • they have three hearts
  • their blood turns blue on contact with water
  • they can detach a leg or quirt ink to distract predators
  • being boneless, they can squeeze into very tight spaces
  • they die soon after sex (male) and soon after giving birth (female)
  • they are quite intelligent and have been known to escape their tanks, eat fish from another tank and then get back in their tank undetected

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From Bunbury, we headed further south into the Margaret River region, one of Australia’s best known wine growing areas. A beautiful drive through kalbarri forests, sweeping hills, small towns and vineyards brought us to a cottage we had booked so we could cook a traditional Christmas dinner (as we probably won’t have one in Thailand).

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Vineyard restaurant
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Vineyard restaurant

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The rack of lamb went down a treat:

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Despite the region being most famous for wine, it also had stunning beaches, both calm and surfy, all with white sand and turquoise water. We spent our final day exploring these and having a delicious meal in a cool restaurant just behind the sand.

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Amazing pork belly with sweet and sour aubergines

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Amazing crispy pork belly with sweet and sour aubergines

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After having fairly low expectations, this was my favourite area of Australia we have visited and I wish we’d had more time to explore. Hopefully we’ll be back.

Next stop: Stu and Morgan’s wedding in Sydney

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Zoe says:

    Hi Both – I am so enjoying reading about your travels/adventures. The photography is fabulous & seeing all of those amazing beaches is a real tonic right now…. ( as i gaze out on the view from my window – grey & blustery here today, no change there then ??!!)
    Merry Christmas to you both ! Lots of love from Zoe &Harry.xx

    1. Becki Leeds says:

      Thanks Zoe, did you and Harry have a good Xmas? Xx

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