Southwest Australia Road Trip
After I saved up enough money I wanted to do one last exploration of this side of Australia before heading over to Melbourne. I had heard that the Southwestern corner of Australia was spectacular so I decided to do a small road trip to see what all it had to offer. It is a combination of beaches, forests and wine valley. The Southwest Australia Road Trip would include 24 hours of driving to do the full circuit which felt like nothing compared to the 50 hour journey from Darwin to Perth.
As I mentioned in my last post, I met a special guy in Perth and I suggested we do the trip together. He said he would love to join! He returned from visiting Bali with friends for a couple of weeks, and we spent Christmas and New Years in Perth. I worked for one more week and then we left for our first road trip together.
Originally, we had planned to head South first rather than going East straight into the bush; However, there was a very bad bush fire just one hour South of us that closed the main roads. We decided it would be wise to change routes and start the circular trip in the opposite way, East, rather than heading into a fire. So off we drove into the bush of Australia!
Our first stop was to Hyden to see Wave Rock. It was a peculiar site with aboriginal history and significance. We walked around the rock and explored a little, but that was basically all that was there. It didn’t take long to see. We camped for the two weeks we were on this trip. We used WikiCamps to find a free campsite nearby and stayed at a site in the middle-of-nowhere. Welcome back to the Australian camping life.
The next day we drove to Kambalda. The first few days was a lot of driving as we didn’t want to spend a lot of our time in the bush. We wanted to use most of our time at the beautiful beach towns and wine country. In Kambalda there were supposedly some lakes nearby that we tried to find as a swim sounded good! We kept trying to find these lakes but they were nonexistent. We even stopped at a small town pub to ask, but they only knew of dams nearby. We never found the lakes.
We camped at an RV lot in the small town. It was so windy that evening we couldn’t put up the tent. It kept blowing away! It rained off and on all evening too. I ended up sleeping outside on the ground with a pillow and a blanket (the rain had turned into an occasional drizzle) and Paul slept in the car. I was awoken by two people walking in the night. They walked toward me and I heard them say, “What’s that?! OH, that’s a person!” I thought it was hilarious in my half-sleep so then I couldn’t go back to sleep from laughing. The rain never bothered me though!
The following day we finally made it to the ocean in Esperance! After arriving at the ocean after two days in the bush, we went straight to the beach that afternoon and stayed all evening. We hopped around to look at a couple of other beaches and then stayed at Twilight Beach. We watched the sunset over the beach and then utilized the free beach showers to freshen up. We cooked dinner with our camp stove at one of the picnic tables by candlelight. It was a wonderful evening until I got eaten alive by mosquitoes.
We decided to break the rules and sleep on the beach that night. It’s technically illegal to do this, but, come on! We weren’t hurting anything! We took the mattress, pillows and blankets down to the beach and slept under the stars. The stars were spectacular and the sound of the waves was like a lullaby. However, as the sun was beginning to rise, we woke up to being absolutely covered in mosquitoes! I have never seen so many in my life! We gave it up pretty quick and trudged back up to the car with all of our stuff. It was too late though. I was covered in mosquito bites. Karma for disobeying the law I suppose. It was worth it though.
In the afternoon we went to Cape Le Grand National Park to Lucky Bay Beach– the famous beach with kangaroos on it. We brought our lunch to the beach with us and used a carrot to bribe a couple of kangaroos to come visit us. It worked and we got to stroke and feed the roos for a while. We didn’t swim or stay too long though because it was chilly. We went to another area of the park with a short walk to a rock formation and another beach.
Since the weather wasn’t cooperating with us we decided to be done for the day and begin searching for a place to camp that night. Everything ended up being booked, but eventually we found a free “overflow” site in town on WikiCamps. It ended up being perfect and there were a few other campers there as well. Upon arriving we asked a man and a little girl with an RV there if we were allowed primitive camping. He said ‘yes’ and showed us where the public toilets were and told us that we could even get a free shower in the morning at the public pool across the street. We had officially reached nomadic hippie-status. We set up camp before the sun went down, ate dinner and listened to Paul’s French music.
The next morning after breakfast we packed up and went across the street to utilize the public pool for a quick swim and shower. It was another cool, windy day but we were determined to go to the beach. We had lunch at the beautiful Blue Haven Beach and ended up staying there most of the afternoon until it was time to find another camp site again. We had to do this early so we had time to find a camp, drive there and set up the tent and begin cooking before it got too dark. Otherwise, it made things very difficult to do all of this blinded. We camped at another free camp site back far off the highway between Esperance and Albany. It was just some random piece of land and there was no one else there. We left for Albany the next day.
Unlike my road trip down the West coast with the girls, Paul and I had a habit of waking up late and leisurely eating breakfast as opposed to waking up at 5am to go hiking with the girls. Generally we wouldn’t leave camp until about 10am. It was a four-hour drive to Albany. We stopped at a beach, but to our displeasure, it was cool and very windy again. We walked around the beach and stuck our toes in the icy cold water. Just because it is Australia don’t be fooled into thinking it is always hot! We took pictures and strolled around until we were ready to head to the next beach.
We went to Two Peoples Bay National Park and visited Little Beach and Two Peoples Bay Beach. Paul snatched my camera to walk around and take photos, but I stayed bundled up on the beach because I was so cold. Once again, we needed to figure out where to camp again that night so I started searching on WikiCamps.
Physically, the camp was very close by, but on the road it took longer to get there. We were racing the sun and we got stuck behind a slow Volkswagen van. Pulling over the hill and to the camp site was beautiful. The view of the ocean was perfection!
We stayed at East Bay Campground which was probably our favorite camp site from the Southwest Australia Road Trip. It was crowded because it was by far the best in the area. We barely got there in time to get a spot and we ended up squeezing in between two parties under a tree. Good thing we didn’t take up a lot of space with only a station wagon and a tent! The site was right on the beach and we watched the sun set as soon as we arrived. There were mostly families, but there were some other backpackers there as well.
The next morning we took a swim in the sea to “shower” and wake up. It was cold but it felt good. We washed our dishes in the ocean as well. We left camp but left our tent there to keep our spot. We wanted to return for another night. We hopped from beach to beach but it was still too cold to really enjoy. We drove to the blowhole and natural bridge, but the holes weren’t blowing like we had hoped.
The next day we made one more beach stop on our way out of Albany. We were determined to enjoy the beach despite the bad weather! It was windy and cool again, but it was better than the last few times. Later we drove to our next camp site between Albany and Denmark. It was another ocean-side free camp. There were no spots left, but one family was nice enough to share their spot with us. They were an Australian family of four with two small children. They were very friendly and we talked with them most of the night until it was time to sleep. The next morning we were ready to head out. The couple had given us some suggestions for the next part of the trip. We began our drive to the small beach town of Denmark.
We were fed up with the weather by this point so we only spent one day in Denmark. We thought the weather was only bad on the Southern Coast, but little did we know it was going to get worse. We went to William Bay National Park where Elephant Rocks, Elephant Cove and Greens Pool was located. I laid on the beach while Paul went swimming and snorkeling. He said he didn’t see much. We ate lunch on the beach, read, and watched a man go spear fishing. Later I took a walk down the beach to see the other cove. The area was very nice and beautiful, but it was a little crowded. After lunch we went to another beach, but it wasn’t as nice. The sky began to look like another storm was coming so we left to find a camp site.
We headed North seeing as we were getting sick of the weather and was going to go to Margaret River the next day. Denmark was a nice little beach town and the “town” portion was very cute though. We found a free camp site off the highway in the forest leading to Margaret River. We heard a lot of strange animal noises that night. There was one bird that, I swear, sounded like a monkey! I looked up the bird and it’s called a Kookaburra. I included a link to the sound of the bird because it is so weird!
The next day we were SO looking forward to Margaret River. Unfortunately, the weather got even worse. We had plans to stop at a few places between Denmark and Margaret River (including a massive tree to climb for a lookout), but it rained the entire day. It was a beautiful drive though through the large trees in the forest. This area was like the “Napa Valley” of Australia. We stopped along the way in a small town, family owned cafe for a coffee then we drove straight to Margaret River to find a place to stay.
There were no free camps and not a lot of options in general as many places didn’t have space. We ended up booking into a caravan park. It was a nice place with plenty of facilities, and we saw several people who had stayed at Banjo’s Backpackers in Perth that Paul and I knew. That night it just kept raining and it was making our moods a little sour.
The next day we tried to make the most of our time, but it kept raining non-stop. We went into town to a used bookstore and a music store to pick up a couple of cheap books and an old Beatles cassette tape. We were sick of my music on my phone, and my car didn’t have a CD player or good radio reception. Later that afternoon we went to a couple of caves. It was a little expensive to enter them so we saw the outside of one and paid only one entry into another. It was a good activity for a rainy day. That late afternoon we went to the beach to check out what is supposed to be some of the most beautiful oceans/beaches in Western Australia. We walked along the rocky edge and watched some surfers. That evening we didn’t do anything other than make dinner and talk to other campers as it was a torrential downpour the whole night.
We decided to leave the next day. The bad weather was going to continue and I was ready to get back to Perth soon. We didn’t finish getting ready and packed up until that afternoon so that day was a bit wasted. We stopped to camp somewhere between Busselton and Mandurah. The next day was a waste as well. It kept raining hard every time we were going to start packing up. We stayed inside the tent and read most of the day. It was a lazy day. Later that evening we drove a bit more to get closer to Rockingham and camped at a small spot along the highway.
On our last day we drove to Rockingham. We visited Penguin Island, but it ended up being a bust. The island was small and we walked around the whole thing in less than one hour, and we saw zero penguins. We were both annoyed we had wasted our money on this. We went to the beach for lunch and stayed there the rest of the afternoon and evening. We were both annoyed the trip hadn’t gone as we had hoped. The weather was horrible the entire time, but we knew that was out of our control. We tried to not let it get to us. We watched the sunset on the beach in Rockingham and then drove back to Perth that evening. We were annoyed we didn’t get to do and see as much as we wanted because of the cold and rainy weather, but we knew we had more upcoming travels ahead of us.