Monthly Archives: December 2014

Esperance and the South Coast

Rather than heading directly west to Perth and to continue our coastal trek, we turned south at Norseman as we were keen to explore the southern coast of WA. First stop was Esperance where we stayed at the Pink Lake Caravan Park. The lake is not even vaguely pink – don’t ask!

This is a lovely seaside town of 14,000 although you need to be prepared for cool weather. While enjoying a delicious lunch at Taylors Beach Bar overlooking the sea, we were thrilled when our waitress lit the fire – in December. The beach foreshore area is well laid out, with further development under way to extend this recreation area.

Next day was warmer and we headed 50 kms out to the national park at Cape Le Grand. We were pleasantly surprised by to find a bitumen road all the way as this makes this wonderful region so accessible to visitors. There are so many beautiful bays and landforms. Lucky Bay was stunning due to the contrast between the ice blue and deep blue water along with the super-white sand. Even a magical caravan on the beach serving hot chocolate and damper with quandong jam – yum! Such a magic place and now high on our list of camping spots for another day.

A Lucky Bay 1 Cape Le Grande 7 Cape Le Grande 4 Cape Le Grande 2 Cape Le Grande 1 A Lucky Bay 3 A Lucky Bay 2

Mt Le Grand and Frenchman Peak are two examples of huge granite outcrops, exposed after being submerged under the sea for a long, long time (OK, 600 million odd years). There is a beautiful variety of wild shrubs and flowers, especially banksias all along the way.

We then headed southwest to explore the Fitzgerald Coast, with first stop at Hopetoun. We felt as if we were staying in a nature reserve at the Hopetoun Caravan Park  – wonderful gardens and the dawn chorus of birds was a beautiful wake-up call.

A Hopetoun park

The Fitzgerald River National Park covers a huge strip of the coastline extending inland between Hopetoun and Bremer Bay. We found this an amazing place to visit as the scenery is so varied – rugged cliffs and gorges, pebbly beaches, rivers, mountains, plains…. plus lots of birds and wildlife. The area has gas barbecues and toilets provided at various locations and are in first class condition. A lot of thought has obviously been applied in the layout and design of these picnic and camping areas.

A Hamersley inlet 1 A Rock 1 A Rock 2 Hopetoun scenery 1

Hopetoun scenery 6 Hopetoun scenery 5

A bungarra

There were still some beautiful wildflowers and bushes to see although it is close to the end of their season.

A Bottlebrush 2 A Bottlebrush 1 A Bottlebrush & Ginny A plant 1 A Flora

Again, first class roads and a range of camping options – that list is just getting longer!

From Hopetoun we circled around the mighty Fitzgerald National Park to end up in Bremer Bay, another delightful coastal town.

A Map

A visit to the Wellstead Museum revealed lots and lots of early pioneer memorabilia and agricultural equipment – tractors, bikes, coaches, antique vehicles and even a horse drawn hearse. We then enjoyed dinner at the Bremer Bay Resort prior to making an early morning start to Albany.

This lovely town was the last Australian port for ANZAC forces leaving for World War I, 100 years ago. This was commemorated recently and we watched the ceremonies live on TV, so it was great to see the new infrastructure built specially to mark the occasion. A visit to the National ANZAC Centre at the Fortress at Mt Adelaide is recommended. We took in the conducted tour of the old guns and other installations which have been updated and are very interesting and attractive for tourists.

National ANZAC Centre Albany Memorial 1 ANZAC memorial

The Mt Clarence Memorial to the Light Horsemen was also a highlight of our visit.

ANZAC memorial 2 ANZAC Memorial 1 Convoy lookout 1 Lone pine 2 Lone Pine 1

A couple of whinges:

1. It is sad that many WA restaurants do NOT serve evening drinks… ‘no sorry, dinner begins at 6.30 pm’. Don’t they realise that while we are there with our drink that we will check out the menu, maybe come tomorrow night or at the least, pass on the lovely experience to our neighbours? Hybla on Middleton Beach was a notable exception, welcoming us for a great glass of Shiraz at their beautiful location overlooking the sea.

2. We were disappointed that the former Middleton Beach Hotel, built by Paul Terry some years ago and since demolished (?) has not been replaced and the site remains overgrown and very unattractive… Ian had stayed at this hotel and it was the best and newest in Albany at the time. Why did it need to be demolished, who now owns it and what is going to happen to the area?

Albany maintained its reputation as a cold, windy and wet destination at any time of the year… We were back into wet/cold weather gear for most of our stay. Next morning we packed up the caravan in windy and wet conditions and it was a real relief to get into the car and head off for home… We stopped for breakfast at Williams and changed into shorts and T-shirts again! Then we managed to roll into the backyard at Greenmount at 12.30pm.

The caravan has covered almost 10,000km and the car a little over 25,000km in 8 and a half months. Phew! This trip is over – BUT we are already researching our next one, and plan to showcase some beautiful places to visit in the Hills region of Perth in future blogs – so stay tuned!

Back in the West

As we all know ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’! Our plan was to head west from Clare to catch the Wallaroo to Cowell ferry… Only to find that it is suspended due to a downturn in traffic and the SA economy generally. So sad as it’s a great way to save time and money getting to the Eyre peninsula.

So Plan B saw us driving north from Clare past Port Pirie and Port Augusta to camp in Wudinna. All was forgiven during our evening walk when we found this magnificent 8 metre high granite statue built in 2009 to commemorate the ‘Australian farmer‘.

Australian farmer 1 Australian farmer 2Lambs The sculptor’s ability to carve all the animals was superb – the stance of the two tiny lambs was just how they look in a paddock!

Sadly the dogs of the town had kindly scheduled a special “bark and howl” concert for the night, so none of us in the caravan park got much sleep. GRRR. So on to Ceduna to pick up oysters (you need some luxury on the Nullabor).

Ceduna foreshore 4 Ceduna foreshore 2 Ceduna foreshore 1

Fowlers Bay Eco Park was our next stop.

Fowlers Bay 1 Fowlers Bay 2 Fowlers Bay 3 Fowlers Bay 5 Fowlers Bay 7

This little coastal town was once the main South Australian port for ferrying wool and wheat (although a mouse plague in the warehouse one year proved disastrous!) Explorer Edward Eyre also set off west from here in 1840. He was lucky to survive many trials and tribulations to get to Albany and put any silly ideas of creating an overland stock route between eastern and western Australia to bed forever. Sadly the town is gradually being consumed by a huge sand dune! Some of the old parts are now lost forever under tonnes of white sand…

We managed to experience pleasant sunny weather, gale force winds, an early morning thunderstorm and heavy rain in the space of 18 hours. Phew! We can now truly say ‘been there, done that’. It’s worth noting that reducing your car and van tyre pressures on the unsealed sections of the road gives you a much more comfortable ride.

From Fowlers Bay we headed of to our last border crossing home into Western Australia. This time we had read the very useful Domestic Quarantine website and passed with flying colours.

GA Bight Back in WA

It’s eight months since we left Perth, so it was exciting to be back – ‘only’ 2118 kilometres to go!

An overnight stop at Madura, then more straight roads and fuel stops…

Nullabor road 1 Nullabor road 2

But there are always interesting places and stories along the way, e.g. Samantha the wedge-tailed eagle at Cocklebiddy. These huge birds struggle to get airborne quickly, which is disastrous when they are feasting on roadkill. Sam was rescued after being hit by a truck, flown thousands of kms to Karratha for rehab and is now back at the roadhouse building up her strength – hopefully ready for release in March 2015. We are passionate about these magnificent creatures, so much so that we chose them for our blog logo on our vehicles. A timely reminder that tooting your car horn is a good way to warn them to move off the road.

Logo on van

Time stands still in this area – we drove 65 kms from Cocklebiddy to Caiguna and arrived at the same time! There are time changes not only between SA and WA but Central Standard Time (SA time without daylight saving) and WA… OK, it was a perfect summer’s morning so no need to worry about time. Ian hasn’t worn a watch since 1992 and Ginny joined him on 15 February this year.

Another ‘wish list’ item was ticked off with our two nights at Fraser Range Station.  Glad to have experienced this, although sadly they don’t run station or sunset tours with less than 4 people. We had been keen to get a sense of the size and history of the property.

Next stop – due south to Esperance!

Adelaide Hills

Our previous visit to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia was brief so we were keen to settle in and enjoy this town, famous as Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. We stayed at the Hahndorf Resort Tourist Park, a spectacular location just out of town. This has a convention centre, cabins and Restaurant 5245 in addition to the caravan park. Once the current renovations are completed it really will be a ‘super-park’ and a credit to the local Schirripa family.

Hahndorf park 4

Hahndorf park 1 Hahndorf park 2

There is still a strong German flavour in the town, with bakeries and smallgoods and butcher shops on the busy Main Street (parking is often hard to find!) As well there are lots of pubs and cafes serving local produce. We chose the Hahndorf Inn which has been cooking delicious food since 1853, and still operates from the same heritage premises.  We shared the Bavarian Shweinshaxe – crispy pork hock with sauerkraut and creamed potatoes with a dark ale. Yum! The servings are VERY generous and we heard one couple literally groan as their ‘Taste of Germany’ platter arrived (all meat and pretzels!) Check out the range of platters here.

We enjoyed visiting the Hahndorf Academy. This is a regional centre for the arts and heritage based in a 150-year-old building co-located with the local information centre. There are several galleries with changing exhibitions, a migration museum, artist’s studios, art classes and a shop with LOTS of beautiful art and craft pieces!

A highlight for us was visiting The Cedars, the home and studio of painter Hans Heysen, famous for his drawings and paintings of the Australian bush. Back in 2012 we retraced many of his outback painting trips in the Flinders Ranges after reading a biography of his life, so this showed another part of this amazing man’s creativity and perseverance. The Heysen home and gardens including his studio have been preserved by his family and local volunteers provide guided tours.

Heysen house 1 Heysen house 2 Heysen studio

Many of his original works are on display, but seeing his working studio was amazing. All of his painting materials and tools, sketches and notes have been preserved, and we stood on the piece of worn carpet exactly where he stood at his easel! Lovely to see the car and camping trailer he used for his expeditions – possibly the first version of a pop top!

It was also inspiring to learn more about his daughter Nora who was also a trailblazer – the first woman to win the Archibald Prize (and still the youngest person ever to win it) and the first female war artist.

It was fun reacquainting ourselves with Mt Barker, another busy town in the Adelaide Hills. While our FJ Cruiser was being serviced in preparation for our upcoming LONG trip home to Perth, locals suggested we visit Auchendarroch. This is a magnificent 30 room mansion which now houses the local cinema, a very busy tavern and function rooms. Beautiful grounds and gardens also. After lunch we headed for the nearby local library to get our free latest magazine ‘fix’. A perfect day!Auchendarroch 2 Auchendarroch 3 Auchendarroch 1

Then it was time to head north to the Clare Valley, one of our favourite places in the whole wide world. Regular blog readers may remember our last visit to Clare was so very cold and wet that we changed our travel plans to head further east and north as quickly as possible!  However this visit was warm (the first time we’ve used the cool function on our air conditioner for a long time) and lived up to our high expectations. We revisited Mr Mick’s fab cellar and restaurant for cold bubbles and wonderful tapas – this time the pork belly and the soft shell crab were the standout dishes. Mmmm. We also stocked up on delicious salt bush lamb cutlets and sausages from the local butcher to keep us supplied as we start to HEAD HOME TO WA!

The Fleurieu Peninsula – back to South Australia!

Our 2nd to last border crossing – back into South Australia. Sadly we forgot about interstate quarantine until the morning we were travelling so we had to give up our tiny herb garden. We also passed over our honey, veges and fruit that we couldn’t quickly cook to some happy campers!

A SA Border sign

The lovely part about being back in SA is being surrounded by their beautiful stonework – lovely homes, walls, fences and civic buildings.

A SA stone building 2 A SA stone building 1 A SA stone building 3

First stop was Mt Gambier where our home was the Blue Lake Big 4 Holiday Park. It was a very relaxed and fun stay there – of course their location overlooking the famous ‘blue lake’ helps!

A Blue lake

We arrived at the perfect time in November when it changed from boring grey to a beautiful deep blue, so the drive around the top perimeter was very scenic. The lucky locals are very proud of their permanent water supply and even provide tours of their historic pumping station.

A pumping stn

There are lots of sinkholes and caves in this region also, with the Cave Garden located right in the middle of the city.

A Rose Mt Gambier A sinkhole 1 A sinkhole 2 Another lake

Next door is the public library. Wow, we want one! Top technology, amazing displays, children’s section, study and training rooms – and of course a cafe just in case you need a coffee hit. Ginny LOVED their techie chairs, designed to fit more than one person – complete with 240volts outlet to keep your Macbook Pro charged! And check out the community jigsaw below.

Mt Gambier library 3 Mt Gambier library 2 Mt Gambier library 1

Also enjoyed visiting Yoeys Fine Foods for gourmet foods and coffee, and the helpful crew at Fitzgerald’s Fish Sales – their smoked salmon was excellent.

Next stop was Robe, a town full of seafaring history and beautifully restored buildings where we stayed at Lakeside Tourist Park.

One fascinating story we heard here was that back in the 1850s the population of Robe increased dramatically with the arrival of 17 000 Chinese gold prospectors. Why? They paid local guides to show them where to cross at unguarded sections of the SA/Victoria border so they could avoid paying the Victorian poll tax. Don’t you love a good tax dodge story?!

We enjoyed The Whistling Bookshop with both new and old books to enjoy browsing while sipping on a wine, beer or coffee… with dogs also welcome. Our sort of bookshop!

McLaren Vale 1

On to explore the Fleurieu Peninsula, we based ourselves in the wine town of McLaren Vale. One afternoon we toured four vineyards with Peter from Friends at McLaren Vale with another couple from Sydney. Peter gave us some choices where to visit based on our wine preferences and interests – good idea as there are ‘only’ 90 vineyards in this region!

We revisited Chapel Hill – such a beautiful place.

A sculpture 1 A Chapel Hill

And then on to Lloyds for a wonderful savoury platter (best ever eggplant chutney) and delicious wines (their White Shiraz won our hearts).

A Lloyds A Lloyd

Next was D’Arenburg, makers of Dadd (as opposed to Mumm) sparkles so that was mandatory!

A Dadd sparkle Us Dadd champagne

And finally to Dennis of McLaren Vale to talk aviation and red wine. What a fun time! Peter collected and delivered us home right to our van door, even being thoughtful enough to put a wine carton in the back of his car for our purchases. Highly recommend designing your own tour with their company if you have the chance…

It was raining at the Willunga farmers’ market, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm and the range of mostly organic produce was terrific. The highlight for us was being persuaded to buy a huge organic sourdough loaf of bread with macadamias.  The baker promised it would keep for a week – and sure enough we had the final two pieces as toast the following Saturday!

Two special day trips around the Fleurieu Peninsula started from McLaren Vale.

The first saw us head south along the coast to Normanville, looking out through thunderstorm clouds to Rapid Bay and then vice versa – very scenic.

A Rapid Bay 1 A Rapid Bay 2 A Rapid Bay 3

Then off the beaten track along Range Road to Torrens Vale, a very pretty valley historically the dairying centre for this region. On through Inman Valley with its magnificent gums and Alma Road’s hills back to McLaren Vale.

A Winding road A tree scape 3 A tree scape 2 A tree scape 1

Our second trip took us to Victor Harbour via Goolwa. Historically the town of Goolwa was a busy port on the Murray River, just before it meets the Southern Ocean. We could still picture all the farm produce arriving on paddle-steamers, which was then loaded on to steam trains to travel inland for shipping overseas. That heritage is definitely alive, with many heritage buildings, working paddle steamers and steam trains in action.  Another drawcard for Ian was wooden boats so we checked on the date for the next biennial Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Sadly it is on soon in February 2015 – maybe we need to start planning for 2017…

Drove across to Hindmarsh Island to see the huge freshwater marina, and then onto Sugars Beach to see the mighty Murray River finally meet the sea. Such a magic river – we feel privileged to have travelled along it through two states several months ago!

A mighty Murray mouth 1 A mighty Murray mouth 2

Then on through several little coastal towns – our favourite was Port Elliot – to Victor Harbour. We didn’t linger too long as it was the venue for SA Schoolies Week so there were thousands of 17-18 year olds partying! Wish we still had half that energy. However it is easy to see why it is such a popular place with that magic combination of sun, sand and surf.

A Port Elliot 1 A Port Elliot 2

Next stop? We move a whole 50 kms to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills…