Wildflower time in West Australia attracts visitors from all over the world. This area is known as a unique area of biodiversity. We find the best way to enjoy these wonders is by campervan and thanks to Apollo Campervan rentals we managed to accomplish a lot in a short period of time! September is the time to visit!
Here follows words about various places on our itinerary. It is in sequence so you might find this helpful when planning your own journey. And to help you Apollo has a wide range of vehicle types.
Indian Ocean Drive
The name itself paints a picture of some exotic cruise line meandering along and visiting enchanting ports. In reality you can meander along this new sealed road, stop at small coastal settlements and national parks – enchanting ports they are.
The recent road improvements are superb and one can maintain the speed limit of 110kph in safety. The coastal vegetation was different in that there were many petite flowers highlighting the deserved fame of this region for its wildflowers. The road rises occasionally with tempting ocean views.
A small fishing town that provides an accommodation base for the Pinnacles National Park. The camp ground is well sighted bordering the beach. There are a range of ‘establishments’ to dine at if this was a late arrival first night as it was for us. We were warned off the only takeaway, so had the choice of a tavern, motel complex with restaurant and the local bowls club which, we were told, offered a seafood plater that people nationwide zeroed in on. We decided that the $65 for two, serving crayfish, assorted fish fillets, shrimp, oysters and chips, was worth ‘a punt’. Indeed it was exceptional value, in a seafood type of way, and was provided in an iconic small country seaside bowls club environment. Forget the salad bar!
One can meet the world in such a small place. Whilst setting out to find a bucket of hot water for some cleaning tasks I soon found the camp ground laundry room. Upon entry I found ten people huddled inside looking at a laptop. The weather was cold and blustery and this was the best venue for them all to view the days photographs in some warmth. I immediately recognised the Dutch language being spoken and created sudden surprise when I greeting them in Dutch. My pronunciation indicated to those assembled that I was not a ‘native’ of the Netherlands and things moved on in English. My bucket was soon full and I departed with farewells in colloquial Amsterdam Dutch.
Lesuer National Park
This park is well known to those visiting W.A. for wild flower season and lives up to this recommendation. The wild flower drive is an 18km sealed road circuit based on a one-way route. It can take some time to complete the 18kms if one is with a gardening fanatic! Writing form a non-gardening perspective the park and its flora is stunning. Every kilometre, it seems there is some unique plant, according to the ‘stop now’ commands issued from passenger command seat.
Besides random stops along the side of the road there are two main stopping areas. The first is a car park that allows access to several walking trails. The next official stopping area has to be one of the nicest picnic spots one could imagine.
Drummonds Rest Area – Nambung National Park.
A delightful place to park and wander off into the bush to explore yet more wild flowers. Simply pull off the road, perhaps breakfast, or dinner and enjoy.
Waddi Farm Campsite
This place has seen better days. The idea that the name ‘Resort’ could be incorporated into the name is overstating things to a high degree. Location and ambiance it has, however the lack of attention to maintenance, cleanliness and overall tidiness lets it down.
No this is not a distillery town, but one has to conclude what a quaint country town with lovely public amenities in the shape of public park, open air performance stage and an assortment of historical buildings. One can get wifi access on the old dongle so it was an ideal place to check information for the next stage of a journey.
This town is a contradiction in many ways, architecture being the most prominent. In 1834 The Benedictine order decided, in their wisdom, they should establish a missionary outpost in order to ‘convert’ the local ‘native’ population. You are immediately struck by the enormity of the buildings and their complete difference in architectural style. In Australia we are used to the dominance of British styles representing our colonial period. To find classical Spanish is fascinating. There are still Monks within the Monastery, we saw one! However, I deduce that the economic power of the Catholic Church has had to brake away from the offerings of the poor and embrace modern commerce. The official ‘Licensee Notice’ above the entrance to the bar of the Noria Hotel has the Benedictine order registered. Then there is the cooperative Beer brewing with Chuck Hahn and the resultant ‘Abby Ale’. Whilst actually brewed in New South Wales, its ‘soul’ is here. One had to have a glass from the tap. Draft Abby is a harder entity to find in the Eastern States and a hotel such at Hotel Norica even more rare!
The town deserves time for the walk around and is a worthwhile historical reference to a time we hope has passed.
The Norica Hotel, to this writer, is a gem! If you can’t contemplate the idea of shared bathrooms this is not for you. Built in the 1920’s as a Monastery Hostel it was changed to a hotel in 1955. However, ensuites have not been introduced. To compensate one has a classical European ‘Tropical’ designed building in solid stone (think cool) with a wide grand staircase! Each room opens to the expansive upper balcony, very ‘Rustic Raj’ one could say.
New Norcia and its Spanish Colonial architecture
Old Plain Road
The ‘old road’ to Perth, described in research literature as one of the most beautiful rural drives in W.A. is an apt statement. This is not a sealed route so this can put some people off, consequently we encountered only two cars on our travels and one big snake!
There are pleasing rural agrarian scenes of wheat fields and rolling hills, interspersed with native tree lined nature strips and many ‘nature reserves’ exhibiting native wild flowers and other vegetation.
W.A. certainly boasts a good selection of well restored and maintained townscapes from yesteryear. Tooganyak is no exception and is certainly a magnet for classic car and motorbike car club outings over a weekend.
This charming town could be your accommodation hub with many areas of wildflowers in the area. The local tourism information centre is a good place to seek a ‘local update’ as to where the flowers are ‘out’. This can change yearly so local knowledge will save you time. You can also stock up on a jar of ‘Wildflower Honey’, a distinct taste!
Wild Flower Honey from ‘Busy Bees’.
This writer is a honey lover and where others may collect a cat figure, or thimble, for their collection I like to take home a bit of honey. As you can imagine my collection is every diminishing and needs regular replacement. The wildflower season provides an ideal time to collect something a bit different so if you are ‘in season’ keep an eye out for this tasty food and remember you can take honey ‘out’ of Western Australia, but not ‘into’.
Avon Gorge National Park
We chose to explore the nearby Avon Gorge National Park and camp in one of the simple bush camps within the park. The park is pleasant, with many wildflowers if you are ‘in season’. The park cannot, in my opinion, be considered stunning, or ‘very different’, but if one is camping it is a nice venue. There are self composting loos and tank water, otherwise you must be self contained.
This old collection contains some significant vehicles. Of immediate note is the oldest known drivable Volkswagen Beetle, 1946 was its birth date and still going strong. 1946, being just after WW2 was the model where the original and distinctive curved top body was reinstated after the open toped light officer transport manufactured for war use. If you look at the floor and gear stick in both the WW2 Kübelwagen and the post war VW family car you will see no difference. Despite the incessant bombing campaign inflicted upon Germany they were able to keep a substantial part of their industry working. Therefore the quick ability to switch to domestic production, with export as well, was fast considering the damage done. In addition, despite horrific human losses they still had an engineering workforce to call upon.
There is also an example of the first Subaru produced for public use, a small car by today’s standards and with a two cylinder engine quite slow. However, again born form war ruins, this time Japan, we see today the levels to which Subaru has risen.
The 1920’ Bentley which completed the 2004 Beijing to Paris rally is a testimony to, ‘Well Built’, ‘Well Maintained’, ‘Quality Materials’ and superb design.
If you can allocate time for this little gem there are models, children’s peddle cars, racing cars and the compulsory Model T Ford or two.
The good folk of York have recognised that their building facades are attractive and have done something about preserving them for the future. That preservation is most attractive and draws visitors from afar. We did note a large percentage of motorbike riders in town. The object of their desire soon became evident, the Triumph Motorbike Café – as one would expect this was suitably attired with motorbike themes, capped off with a full size Triumph as a central display feature. Yes, the coffee is good as well.
Road to Wave Rock
A continuous ribbon of roads cut through endless wheat fields. The roads are bordered by continuous runs of wild flowers along with stunning stands of local gum trees. As we creep ever closer to Wave Rock the sun sinks, with the evening light highlighting more of the beauty of the trees and their unique bark.
We were racing the clock to reach wave rock n order to climb and witness the sunset. On entering Hayton I dutifully slowed to the requisite 50km per hour. And there standing behind a tree in the centre of the town was the local policeman with a hand held speed gun. This was the first time I had seen a policeman in W.A. My wife said, ‘aha to catch the tourist rushing for the sunset’. Hmm said I. We eventually reached the approach road to the rock and were immediately struck by the number of cars parked along the verge of the approach road. Good grief, that many people are here for the sunset! Car after car greeted us, where to park we thought and then a long walk to the rock! However, as we got closer (no reduction in car numbers), we heard pounding rock music and saw that the campsite had been transformed to a ‘festival’! Entry to the ‘tourist’ car park was without hassle and we were soon scrambling up the sides of the rock with throngs of festival patrons The crest of the rock brought a scene of ‘fire swingers’, the waft of ‘reefers’ and aptly dressed ‘trendy’ types.
The sunset was ‘nice’, but nothing out of the ordinary. I think the physical location has more to do with the magic of these sunsets. We drove well out of town to find a quite camp ground, which had a local history museum incorporated into the office area. Who would have thought?
The topography driving south from Wave Rock to Albany takes you through a series of salt lakes, Lake Grace being the main name in the area. Whilst salt lakes are not a rare sight in Australia the fact that you drive so easily past many is what makes this special. No corrugated dusty roads in a four wheel drive, not one massive lake the size of Belgium, but a quite country drive on a sealed road.
Botanists from all over the world come to this specific location quoted the chief navigator. Our arrival at the Bluff Lookout coincided with a group from the University of West Australia hiking clubs concluding their three day hike. This was a great opportunity to gather information about hiking in this stunning environment. Each person carried ten litres of water for the journey, just in case no water was available from one natural source on route. Just as well they did as that source was a ‘trickle’. It was wonderful to see that University hiking clubs are still alive and well in this day of social media laced activities. No doubt individuals stories and pictures would soon be ‘up’ on various social media sites, hopefully enthusing others to get out and be active.
Upon entering this compact national park I was immediately struck by a similarity with the profile of Table Mountain at Cape Town. We had seen the silhouette of the range of hills (65km in length) loom up on the horizon as we drove south. This was certainly a distinctive feature on an otherwise flat horizon. It is also interesting to note that this is the only place in Western Australia that snow has been known to fall!
One of the gemstones of Australia! Perth may carry the crown of being the most remote Capital in Australia, Albany can claim most remote idyllic small city in the world!
Mt Clarence ANZAC Memorial
Mt Clarence was the gathering point in 1914 for the local population and visiting family members to witness the departure of the 1st and 2nd ANZAC troop convoys. More significantly the 1st convoy conveyed troops, some of whom were ultimately destined for the debacle known as Gallipoli. From this magnificent vantage point they could see the armada of troop ships setting off from their anchorages. Many on board, native to Australia would have seen her shores for the last time. New Zealand troop ships had set sail from Wellington and met up with their Australian compatriots in the sheltered harbour of Albany. Ships from all main cities of Australia also gathered, as this was the port with the large coal supplies required for the long passage ahead.
Desert Corps Statue
The dramatic statue at the top of Mt Clarence, which forms the ANZAC memorial, originated form the ruined memorial to the ANZAC Desert Corps. Erected at Port Said in Egypt in 1916 it suffered major damage during the Suez Crisis of 1955. The remains were rescued by Australian authorities and transported to Albany.
Memorial Avenue of Trees
Lining the initial segment of the road ascending Mr Clarence is a spectacular avenue of memorial trees, sentinels of recognition for those from the area that paid the supreme sacrifice in service of their country. WW1 and WW2 are thus remembered. Reading the small, well kept, plaques you see familiar locations, Gallipoli, Belgium, PNG, Western Desert and bleak inscriptions such as, Presumed Dead POW.
1st Anzac dawn Service
At the top of this hill, in 1916, at the current location of the ANZAC memorial, the first ANZAC dawn service was held. There would have been immediate family of some lost the year before. For Australian modern history this is indeed a place of significance. Quiet rightly a significant part of the 100th year commemorations were held in Albany and this piece of land will once again enter the history books.
Albany Coastal Defence Museum
I have not visited every old coastal defence station, but Albany rates as one of the best preserved you would hope to find. Restored, maintained and manned by a very dedicated group of volunteers their passion and attention to detail is evident at every part of this national treasure. In 2014 this museum will form part of the 100th year ANZAC commemorations. Federal funds are being invested into this facility in 2012 and I am sure the group behind this museum will extract great value for the nation, based on their current track record.
Barracks and Married quarters buildings
This building shines out most amongst all the well restored buildings within this museum compound. Its stone walls are beautiful and one can imagine sitting on the verandas at the end of a days work. It would fit well into many of Australia’s historical suburbs. The interior rooms provide exhibition space for the extensive collection held by the museum.
Main coastal gun emplacement
The reason for this military fort was coastal defence following the ‘Russian Threat’ of the late 1890’s. Unfounded, but we still have the remains of many forts built around Australia. The Albany fort remained a working defence station until 1956. Naturally it was very active during both WW1 and WW2. The two gun emplacements are well restored and you can wander through the underground access tunnel with its connections to the magazine. Displays enlighten the visitor to the surroundings and how things worked. You can climb up onto one of the guns and admire the view the gun barrel encompasses. Working order late 19th century horse drawn artillery units. Of great interest are the two, working order, Boer War era artillery pieces.
Bofors collection. The Bofor would have had to have been the most popular anti aircraft gun throughout British and Commonwealth forces. It is interesting to note that it is a Swedish design and of course Sweden maintained a ‘Neutral’ position during WW2. Whilst supplying Bofor guns to the Allies it was sending iron ore to Germany.
ANZAC memorial Park
Synchronising with the ANZAC history of Mt Clarence the city of Albany has established an ANZAC Peace Park complex at the site where the original wharf of Albany first stood. Naturally this was where the many soldiers who had shore leave would have transited during their time in Albany before sailing for the war zones of WW1. The park is well laid out with a feeling of expansiveness, despite a modest physical area. The landscape gardening incorporates many local species of flora and of course a cluster of Anzac Pines, are also part of the park.
White Star Brewery Pub.
The White Star Hotel facing the harbour on the road where assembled troops from all corners of Australia marched and socialised during shore leave. Today it houses Albany’s only brew pub and for those interested in the cult of hops and grain a place too most certainly visit.
Torringap National Park
A short drive out of Albany can find you at a wonderful picnic spot within Torringap National Park. Frenchman’s Beach is a place to head for and one can get your vehicle ‘seaside’ depending on the time of year and how many have got there before you.
Green Pool Beach.
On certain days the water of this delightful beach area is an emerald clear green. Due to a natural barrier of rocks just off shore the swimming area is protected form the normal surging ocean as is the norm at a majority of beaches on this coast. Therefore, the swimming area is calm. Couple this with the white sand and the emerald colours you have a beautiful place to consume some time. Naturally for the ‘green’ to be evident the sun has to be shining and high in the sky. Sunsets are also spectacular
The approach by track to this small bay immediately highlights the reason for the name. From the highpoint on the track leading down one can easily recognise the shape of large Elephants. The track then descends further to a narrow chasm through one can walk to the beach front itself. You would not be able to make this entry if it were high tide.
Parry Beach Camp site
A camp site with a slight difference in that, although the land is owned by the local shire the cam is run by volunteers who’s desire is to offer a campsite with adequate facilities for those that desired the more simple bush seaside camps. Amenities
Valley of the giants. Tingle Trees. Canopy Walk
There are many worthwhile forest and bush walks in Australia. This walk rates as one of the best due to the unique trees present in this corner of the world. You can take the, Tree Top Walkway and the ground based circular walk. If you have a dislike of heights then the ground based walk is more than rewarding. Yes there is the chance to pose and have your picture taken inside the walk through tunnel in the base of a giant Tingle Tree.
Tingle Trees get their unique name from their unique root system. Their roots are close r to the surface than many tree types of similar size and are also sensitive to continuous surface pressure from the likes of humans walking around the base of their trunks. This can cause the tree to eventually perish. Therefore this walk is on raised walkways avoiding the root systems extending out form the trees.
One way road. Giant Tingle Tree and lookout.
The ‘Mother of all Tingles’ is further along the highway and accessed by a dirt road which operates in a one way driving route, a good safety measure on such narrow forest tracks.
Bicentennial Tree Climb
This ‘attraction’ is reserved for those more brave than this writer! It is only when you see this climbing tree in ‘the flesh’ that the impact of its height is truly felt. Photographs can’t give it full justice! The ‘open’ nature of the steel shaft steps, no safety cage enveloping the said space, is the first step of faith for those intent on climbing. Then there is the thought that the initial system whereby the steps are a form of circular stair working its way around the tree trunk, becomes vertical after the midpoint rest platform!!! My intrepid wife headed up, as I squirmed with concern. She thought a 30 foot climb was enough!! I have since found out that my neighbour and his daughter had climbed to the top some years ago, no hesitation. Some people do have the internal programming allowing this!
A well known small town considered to be the historical centre of the local forestry industry. The number of restored wooden cottage houses in the town show that good restoration controls are in place as all are in the same style without major changes to their basic design. Sadly there is a lack of good outlets for wooden souvenir products, a bit of a contradiction it being the centre of the timber industry.
Yellingup surf beach
Do you want a classic West Australian surf beach? Go no further, Yellingup is good enough to use in a guide book and probably is. The campsite is well situated and an easy stroll to the beach itself. One can enjoy a classic sunset from the camps communal BBQ area. An early morning walk to the beach will ensure the classic scene of beach, waves and many wet suited bodies astride surfboards waiting for ‘the wave’.
The names fame precedes my words! One of Australia’s premier wine regions there are others attributes. Foremost would be the ever expanding boutique beer arena. There are ….? Breweries in the region with …being the oldest establishment. Then there is a ‘venison farm’, using venison for everything from pate through Chorizo to marinated kebabs. This author hails from the South Island of New Zealand and before the onset of farmed venison had only ever tasted wild venison – believe me there is a radical difference! I was discussing this topic with the consummate sales lady, who happened to be the daughter of the farms owner. She was interested in my comments and said that, although being raised on a venison farm she had never tasted true wild venison. Another visitor piped up, with a Kiwi accent. She was originally from the ‘West Coast’ on New Zealand and concurred with my comments about the radical taste difference. Enough has and will continue to be written about the wine of this region. I suggest one looks at the beer, produce and coastal scenery in concert with wine.
Why does the name itself conjure up an image of England? The pier is the longest pier in Australia and has a small, but very informative museum attached to the souvenir shop and ticket office. The pier has an entrance fee plus the opportunity to travel to the end of the pier by a small train operating on the original rail lines used to load ships.
Much has been written about Freemantle, superlatives have been used far and wide. They must be all true, I could live here. Compact, with fine restored building facades, history at every turn and the Little Creatures brewery, strategically positioned for necessary refuelling!
This well known museum is deserved of its accolades. Divided into two buildings one has to be careful in allocating enough time for both, plus the walk between the two. The first ‘wing’ is the ‘Shipwrecks Display’ and is located right next to……….park. Here you will see the oldest shipwrecks found in Australia. The famous ‘Batavia’ is exhibited here in all its tortuous glory. The expansive displays pertaining to this Dutch East Indiaman and others is remarkable. So extensive that the Amsterdam Maritime Museum has seen fit to allow a selection of its own collection to be displayed here.
Indian Ocean Sunset