Category Archives: Caravanning

Wildflowers & Scenery East of Geraldton

Leaving Wooramel Station on our trek home, we stopped at Northampton, a small but lovely historic town 50 kms north of Geraldton. Returned for another meal [bangers and mash for me and pepper steak for Ginny] at the ‘bottom’ pub. Yes, there are 3 pubs, and although they all have proper names they are locally known as the Top, Middle and Bottom Pub – who are we to argue, they all sell cold beer and good tucker!

Our aim was to get photographs of the very rare Wreath Flower (Leschenaultia Macrantha) which seems to favour disturbed ground such as the roadside where graders have been turning up the soil. Not sure they don’t occur in the bush as well and it seems they are prolific in some areas and very scarce in others…

We also wanted to explore the very beautiful rolling hills and countryside in the Chapman Valley – one of the most agriculturally productive areas of Western Australia. At this time of the year it is spectacular – huge acreages of wheat and canola as well as well-fed sheep and beef (yum)… The green and yellow is beautiful. We travelled through this region for an hour without seeing another vehicle of any kind!

The weather for our stay was fairly overcast, but we managed to get some sunshine and the cloud formations were pretty amazing.

A Chapman v 2

A Chapman v 4

A Chapman v 6 A Chapman v 1

On the Pindar Road out of Mullewa we found biggest mobs of the very elusive Wreath Flower plants – neither of us had seen so many in one place. Outstanding stuff.

Wildflowers4 Wildflowers5

From the Chapman Valley we moved south to Mingenew – via Dongara for the famous pepper steak pies from the bakery! The Mingenew pub is for sale if anyone is interested. Nice place, but would need cleaning up and money spent on it to bring it up to somewhere special… Maybe if we win Lotto… [Note from Ginny – not in my lifetime!]

Using Mingenew as our base we drove 35 odd kilometres to the North East to the famous Coalseam Valley where we were told that some early wildflowers were in evidence… The rumour proved correct and there were carpets of everlastings of every description.

Wildflowers3 Wildflowers2 Wildflowers

Some really nice ‘free camping’ spots at the Coalseam Conservation Park as well and we intend coming back for a longer stay. The ‘break-away country’ round this area is very scenic. The flora seems to thrive on these formations and it is very pleasant. And it is quiet!

A Coalseam 1 A Coalseam 2 A Coalseam 3 A Coalseam cliff

A Miners Camp layout

We were a bit early for the real wildflower season and we think that in about 2 weeks this area will be awash with flowers! Some areas have received early rains, but most are having a late season so it would be good to revisit then… maybe next year?

WA is lucky to have this amazing and beautiful season each year. We have flown over miles (kilometres in new money) of seemingly unending carpets of these flowers, I can vouch for that…

People come from all over the globe to experience this time of year here… Why don’t you give it some thought?!

Dog-gone!

We recently came across this small but special cemetery near the town of Corrigin in the WA Wheatbelt….
A Doggone 1
You guessed right – it celebrates the special bond between dogs and their human families.
A Doggone 5 A Doggone 4 A Doggone 3
Lots of love and quite a bit of quirkiness has gone into these final resting places, and a local resident has voluntarily maintained the cemetery since 1974.
A Doggone 2 A Doggone 6
Corrigin is also famous for holding the world record for the Most Dogs in Utes they can parade through the town – 1527 currently. For our American readers, a ute is short for utility, and is the Aussie lingo for a pick-up truck.
Funds raised are donated to the fabulous Royal Flying Doctor Service and other local charities.
So a fabulous doggie town… we’ll let you know when the next parade is on!
A Wave Rock 3

Back on the road…briefly

After 6 months of city dwelling, it was definitely time to get out bush for a few days – but where to go? We opened our West Australian atlas (old-fashioned but the geography doesn’t change much around here!) with the challenge of finding a place that:

• neither of us had visited before – quite hard as Ian was born and bred in WA

• within 4-5 hours travel time from Perth

Within 3 minutes we found the perfect spot in the Wheatbelt region – Wave Rock, only 326 kms away, with a caravan park 2 km away from Hyden.

A Hyden 6 A Hyden 7

And what an amazing landform it is.  An enormous granite rock 15 metres high (same as a 3 story apartment) and 110 metres long. It has been beautifully sculpted over many millenia into the wave shape that makes you want to get your surfboard out!

A Wave Rock 3 A Wave Rock 2 A Wave Rock 1

The rock walls are stained in bright orange and black from the chemical reactions caused when water drips slowly over the tiny mosses, lichens and algae on the rockface.

A Hyden 5

Just loved Hippo’s Yawn – perfect name!

A Hyden Hippo yawn

Many trips and walks have been designed to explore the area, and most of these are included in the ‘Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail‘, a useful resource booklet for visitors.

A Hyden 8 A Hyden 10

We drove out to Mulka’s Cave and The Humps…. the name Mulka’s Cave comes from an Aboriginal Legend believe to be associated with the cave. Mulka was the illegal son of a woman who fell in love with a man with whom marriage was forbidden. The legend is complicated and violent, but is there to try to stop ‘wrong-way marriages’ and also to prevent children wandering away from the group. Note the rock art on the walls below:

A Hyden 14 A Cave 2

Hyden is a terrific town to visit

• a good pub with mallee roots on the fire, and local wines (that doesn’t happen everywhere) including a nice bottle of Shiraz from nearby Lake Grace

• excellent meat from Hyden Quality Butchers – lots of envious people were sniffing the air when we cooked our favourite lamb shank recipe for dinner on Saturday evening out at the caravan park!

• the Living Art Sculptures were inspirational. This is a clever ‘walk through history’ created by local people, using old machinery and metal junk to tell the story of Hyden.

A Hyden 17 A Hyden 16 A Hyden 15 A Hyden 14a A Hyden 13

As in most country towns, shops are not open on Saturday afternoon or Sunday so that local people can ‘get a life’.

All in all it was a very refreshing break and great to get back on the road again! Happy to answer any questions people may have about this region, or hear your own stories.

Tyre Choice..

Back in 2011, we were in Singapore when Mr Joyce, that marvellous Qantas gentleman, decided to ground all of the airline’s aircraft… not that an extra few days in that great city was any hardship! So our arrival back in Perth was delayed somewhat and we had to ring the Toyota dealer to advise that we would not make our arranged delivery date… As a result after arrival home, we got a taxi from the airport to City Toyota and took delivery of our new Toyota FJ Cruiser on the 1st of November 2011. Very cool! Several important changes were made to the vehicle before delivery including an extra spare wheel and we wanted all 6 fitted with our tyre choice, Cooper S/T Maxx tyres which we had spent some time researching on the net and by word of mouth.

We have covered 102,176 km on these tyres.

Most of the ‘mileage’ has been on sealed roads, but a good proportion was off-road, mainly on gravel roads of varying conditions, sand and quite a lot of rough, rocky tracks. Not to mention towing a small caravan for a total of about 20,000km over eight and a half months (on one trip).

On the road 1 Ginny & I 2

A Fraser Island 5 Grunty Southern Shores 2

We are members of the fantastic 4WD Club of WA and have been on quite a few day trips with them, including sand and bush work-outs that they run to give drivers some experience and fun in handling the different conditions each location entails.

_Grunty in the Wandoo Woodland 4 _Grunty in the Wandoo Woodland Wandoo Woodland 5

As a result we have become pretty well acquainted with our tyres – definitely on a first name basis now – and have learnt a lot. Three key things include:

  1. Correct tyre pressures are vital to successfully handling the prevailing conditions. The mantra is “ Tyre pressure, tyre pressure and tyre pressure!” It can’t be emphasised enough.
  2. Do get a good 12 volt air compressor to bring your pressures back up for sealed road operations.
  3. A good quality, quick tyre deflator and pressure gauge are essentials.

So over the 102,176km our tyres have been down as far as 10PSI for some interesting sand work (in old money – but easier to remember!), at 27PSI on the rocky roads, around 32PSI on the gravel and at 40PSI towing our caravan on the black top. In that time we had 3 slow leaks which we had fixed while on the road. No problem.

We tackled the Skytrek track on Willow Springs station in the Flinders Ranges and had a real off-road, all day experience that was hard to beat… The track had just about every off-road challenge except for mud – and I think at the right time of year they could throw that in as well…

WA 4wd mag WA 4wd mag 1 WA 4wd mag 2 WA 4wd mag 3 WA 4wd mag 5 WA 4wd mag 6

So to say we were impressed with our tyres’ performance would be an understatement.

As you can see from the ‘before & after’ photos, there still remained a legal amount of tread and we had decided to run them over summer before fitting new ones when winter arrived.

Before 1 Before 2

But Cooper were offering a ‘special’ so our decision to fit new tyres was brought forward – pretty flash, ay?

After 1 After 2

Morley Tyrepower are club supporters so it was easy to pick a dealer for the purchase.  Steve Vella looked after us and it was all done with no fuss including a wheel alignment. Can’t thank them enough.

So if you’re looking for hard wearing tyres capable of handling the conditions you’ll find in your travels, we definitely recommend Cooper Tyres.

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!

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…

Great Ocean Road: Part 2

The Great Ocean Road along this rocky coast is described as the world’s biggest war memorial.

A Grt Ocean Rd 1

A Seascape 1

Why? It was literally built by hand (with a lot of pickaxes and shovels!) by 3000 returned World War 1 servicemen from the early 1920s on.

This neatly solved two problems; how to meaningfully employ these men during the Depression and how to honour those who died during the war. It seemed fitting to be here in 2014 during the centenary of the outbreak of war, and both ‘The Diggers’ statue and the Memorial Arch commemorate this feat beautifully.

A Grt Ocean Rd memorial 2 A Grt Ocean Rd Memorial 3

Stop 3: Port Campbell.

The Holiday Park in this picturesque village was the ideal base to explore the famous wave-sculpted rock formations called the 12 Apostles. Well, there used to be 12, but they are eroding at a rapid rate – no surprise when you see the forces of the Southern Ocean at work!

A 12 Apostles 1 A 12 Apostles 2 A 12 Apostles 5 A 12 Apostles 6 A 12 Apostles 7 A 12 Apostles 8

London Bridge and the Loch Ard Gorge are also magnificent. The Loch Ard was a ship wrecked here, and of the 54 aboard only 2 survivors were swept into the gorge. Very sad. The photos show the scene along this limestone coast…

A Lock Ard story A Lock Ard Gorge

All the millions of tourists who visit this national park each year love the wild and rugged features of the coastline, and many of them take to the sky for a different perspective in either helicopters or planes. It can therefore be rather a bustling and noisy experience but we were well and truly impressed.

A Limestone coast 2 (1) A Limestone coast 2 A Limestone coast 3 A Limestone coast 5 A Port Campbell 2 A Port Campbell

Staying with the theme, we decided to drive the ’12 Apostles Gourmet Trail’ to Timboon where we just had to buy a bottle of Limoncello and an Apple Liqueur at the interesting Railway Shed Distillery. Next we picked a big box of fat warm strawberries at Berry World, and proceeded to Apostle Whey Cheese to drool over their array and bought far too much to fit in our tiny caravan fridge!  Then to Newtons Ridge Winery because of course we had to have a local Pinot Grigio to complete our culinary feast that evening… and it was such a pretty vineyard with lovely roses.

Ginny smelling roses

Stop 4: Port Fairy
Officially the Great Ocean Road starts in Torquay and ends in Allansford, but we extended it slightly to enjoy the seaside town of Port Fairy and stay at the very attractive Big 4 caravan park. Walking along the historic 19th century shipping wharf and seeing the lovely old homes and buildings all along Gipps Street was a treat but the cold wind had us looking for a refuge! Fortunately the Merry Jig Inn, Victoria’s oldest inn, happily provides late afternoon passers-by like us with a glass of wine – so civilized!

We drove an hour west to Portland, noting the many wind farms on the way (no prizes for guessing the prevailing!) This is one of Australia’s major forest regions with huge plantations so the port is busy with wood chip exports and there are a lot of BIG logging trucks on the road. The botanic gardens were lovely – never seen so many dahlias in one place! – as was the original curator’s cottage full of local memorabilia.

And so for us, the end of a wonderful 9 days exploring this remarkable section of Australia. We can’t wait to do it all again another year!

Great Ocean Road

One of the experiences we have most been looking forward to on this trip was the famous Great Ocean Road… and it really lived up to our expectations!

First though we caught the ferry across Port Phillip Bay from Sorrento to Queenscliff to catch up with old friends in Geelong for a few days. Kathy and Geoff Strachan took us for a magnificent dinner at Man Bo,  and it was great to see the Fitzpatrick’s new home and catch up with Tim as well. Ginny enjoyed walking along the waterfront esplanade down to Eastern Beach – a beautifully restored Art Deco swimming enclosure, fountain and kiosk which is very popular with both residents and tourists. Ian was also impressed with his visit to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook.

A Be2 A Bristol Boxkite A DH Tigermoth & Be2 A Vampire 1 A Vampire 2 A Walrus

Thanks to the many people who gave us good advice on the best way to enjoy the Great Ocean Road. Towing a caravan along a busy, winding and fairly narrow road is not much fun, especially for the driver! So as suggested, we chose several spots to stay along the way. We then retraced our steps or moved further along, returning to our base camp each night. An unexpected bonus was the beauty and diversity of the regions just inland from the coast.

A Grt Ocean Rd 1 A Seascape 1 A Shipwreck coast A Wye R camp

Stop 1: Wye River, staying in the lovely caravan park and ambling up the hill to the pub or out to the beach. Koala-spotting became our newest hobby but we didn’t expect to see our first one racing towards us on all fours along the river bank! The wildlife in this caravan park is marvellous to experience. All manner of birds are attracted to the trees and shrubbery in the park and are a constant presence here… Very pleasant.

A Koala 2 A Koala 1 A King parrot 2 A Gang-gang 2 A Duck 1

Stop 2: Bimbi Park. We were surrounded by the beautiful manna gums which are the preferred food source for koalas, so we felt privileged to see so many in their natural habitat doing what koalas do best – eating and sleeping! Once again a wildlife wonderland.

A Bimbipark Koala 1 A Bimbipark koala 2 Sulphur Crested cockatoo Wild Koala

They also make the loudest noises. Apparently they have a unique voice box that allows them to make a ‘belching’ call that only large animals like elephants are capable of usually – read about it here. Very weird the first few times you hear them – listen here and see what you think!

The nearby Cape Otway Lightstation has been operating since 1848 – the fact this area is known as the Shipwreck Coast probably gives you the rationale for that! The views from 80m up were spectacular.

A Cape Otway lighthouse 1 A Cape Otway lighthouse 4 A Cape Otway A shipwreck coast 2

Two day trips stand out in our memory:

1.  Tanybryn, Forrest and Deans Marsh and back to Wye River via Lorne

A Rainforest 1 A Rainforest 2 A Seaview 2 A Superb Fairywren 2

2. Lavers Hill, Beech Forest, Skenes Creek and back to Cape Otway. A narrow road wends through beautiful forest, tall stands of plantation timber and huge tree ferns between Beech Forest and Haines Junction – very beautiful, but put your headlights on!

Next blog – further west on the Great Ocean Road…

Back to the coast…

From Canberra we headed back to the east coast to Batemans Bay in the Eurobodalla region. We stayed in the Big 4 park on the northern edge of the Clyde River where it opens to the Tasman Sea – delightful. The town is on the other side of the river and boasts great seafood. There are several lovely beaches as you drive around the coast – lots of swimming, surfing and fishing – and many national parks to explore.

A Batemans Bay 1

Visiting the nearby botanic gardens reminded us of the power of volunteers yet again! The original gardens were destroyed by a massive fire in 1994 so the past 20 years has been spent completely rebuilding the beautiful gardens. Such a peaceful place with a sensory garden and a bird hide. We still managed to upset two masked lapwings protecting their nest and got ‘swooped’ – just like magpies! Although we didn’t indulge ourselves the Chef’s Cap Café looked like a great spot for lunch or afternoon tea.

On our way south we bought ‘just out of the oven’ date scones from the delightful village of Mogo to share with friends in Rosedale. There are just so many great coastal places to live in this region and they all seem to have good facilities for their residents.

Meandered slowly south through Moruya and Narooma to the historic town of Central Tilba to wander through galleries and beautiful art and jewellery shops such as Reva at Tilba – yes, we succumbed a little!  Then we chose some 3 year old vintage cheddar from the ABC cheese factory and fresh bread from the bakery for a  picnic lunch en route to Merimbula on the Sapphire Coast. This was a fun place to stay, even though the weather was windy and wet for most of our 3 days there. We lucked in by having terrific caravan neighbours – thanks Dave & Margaret and Keith & Ann!

We got bad cabin fever one day so went exploring in the rain and found the nearby Wheelers shop and restaurant. Ginny’s dish combined her favourite 3 ingredients (smoked salmon, avocado, macadamias) and Ian’s local oysters were a big hit also as he could order 3 different styles – very civilised. It’s amazing how good food at a reasonable price can drive away the wet day blues!

Left Merimbula heading due south in wet and cold weather still, then crossed the border from NSW into Victoria and turned right so now we are officially “heading west” – we plan to be home in Perth for  Christmas – just! Our destination was Lakes Entrance in East Gippsland, a popular spot for Melbournites seeking a cooler climate in summer and water sports galore.

A Lakes Entrance wharf 1 A Lakes Entrance wharf 2

Now, have you ever seen chainsaw sculptures? These came about as a good solution to a BIG problem! An avenue of Monterey Cypress trees was planted along the Esplanade as a tribute to local men who lost their lives in World War 1, but no-one realised just how huge these trees would grow and the damage they would cause. Oops. The hard decision was made to remove them down to stumps. Ugly. Then a bright spark suggested that perhaps chainsaw artist John Brady could transform them into sculptures of WW1 scenes. Brilliant!

A Carved stump 1 A Carved stump 2 A Carved stump 3

We enjoyed exploring the nearby town of Metung and lunch at the local hotel – it has an interesting history from hosting the rich and famous to almost dereliction and back again! There are interesting shops and cafés, and a wide range of accommodation although interestingly there is no caravan park.

A Metung 1 A Metung 2 A Metung 3

Gallery House in Nungurner is set in a beautiful native garden (lovely to see great clumps of kangaroo paws as we grow them in WA). This fine art gallery features local works from jewellery to oil paintings and much in between. A small painting of 3 men and a dog by Arthur Hamlyn intrigued us and reminded us of lovely Broome artist Helen Norton’s style.

Next stop will see us edging closer to Melbourne…