Western Australia: Indian Ocean Drive

I have found out that I can write as we drive! Its revolutionised my life- as long as I ignore the children demanding to know why they can’t have their ipads, it’s all good!


Mike is driving as we thunder along the Highway, scorched red earth, gnarly trees and crows picking at roadkill kangaroos. Occasionally we spot an eagle, emu, tumble weed or sandstorm. There is nothing much else to spot as there really is NOTHING between stops. Open road and parched outback- it is just as everyone says but now I UNDERSTAND what they mean by ‘vast’.



We drove off from our friends houses in Joondalup and Mandurah, packed to the hilt with kit we have been leant and gallons and gallons of water (better safe than sorry). Our first stop on the road trip; Yanchep National Park. Not far from Perth but a taste of the Outback nevertheless. We pulled up to find Koalas up the trees- parrots- Gallahs, yellow ringed parrots, cockatoos and a myriad of walking trails. We had heard that kangaroos might come onto the campsite at dusk, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up. Can you imagine that?! No way.


We arrived, popped open our roof and stoked up the Barbie. The boys were at fever pitch of excitement at being in the Outback and refusing to get out of the van. Mike and I sat down outside with a beer, steeling ourselves against the wind and leaving them to it- until it got too much.


“Boys with all that screaming you’ll scare away the kangaroos! Pipe down! Please!”


“Look!” says my eldest, pointing at a kangaroo stood behind me. Ah- BLOODY HELL! A Kangaroo! We ran over to take a closer look and it literally never got tired, watching them hop about and nibble the grass on the field.

Kangaroos at Yanchep.

Kangaroos at Yanchep.

Mike came over to tell us that dinner was ready, and lost our lamb chops to a duck. Rooky error, the wildlife was strong in number and we were clearly amateurs. It felt like we had stepped into a wildlife documentary; we were the incompetent interns on set, who kept dropping stuff.


Our walk the next day was slightly hampered by the fact that we were convinced a snake was around every corner… stamping, shouting and singing our way and physically jumping every time we heard a rustle in a bush. Hilarious, dramatic responses to what was probably nesting birds, but we had been told so many horror stories.


We got to the ‘crystal caves’ at Yanchep, to learn about how these rocks were made. Our guide was like a pixie, excited and asking about Wookey Hole… it paled into comparison but we were happy to reminisce. It also ticked off our learning for the day. Geology= Done.


Loving the Koalas and the Kangaroos so much, we decided to stay another night, the boys pretended to be David Attenborough and made some friends around the communal camp fire, grubby and in their element, stoking the fire and running around barefoot. It got really cold and windy at night- the fire also meant we could roast jacket potatoes, which was a welcome variation on our usual hot dogs.


Us with the the van at the Pinnacles desert.

Us with the the van at the Pinnacles desert.

We left the following morning to go to visit the Pinnacles desert and then to go on to a site we had heard so much about! It sounded like heaven, a campsite by the sea with a playground and a café…. It reminded me of when I first turned up to Severn Beach expecting a beach.


There had been so many storms recently, the beach was grey and knee deep in stinky seaweed. The campsite was having building work. We got battered by the wind whilst we watched the boys play on the climbing frames, relieved we hadn’t booked 2 nights stay. Then we took solace in our little van and listened to ‘Danny the Champion of the World’- which has become our evening staple since the weather was always so harsh after sundown.


The days are bright and sunny, as a rule but every afternoon brings a 30mph wind which knock over our tables and chairs and make mealtimes a challenge… not that we’re complaining, but, you know.


We happily moved on to Geraldton the following day where we picked a campsite on a peninsula with a lighthouse. It had a pool too and a playground- that the kids hardly used (note taken for the future, not to bother) but the beach was spectacular. 


The free splash park in Geraldton.

The free splash park in Geraldton.

White sand, the softest I have ever known and empty of people. The boys didn’t even notice that they walked miles, as they were so happy splashing about in the perfect water. The sea was turquoise and stretched all around us- kite surfing and occasional group of friends, fishing and messing about on their jet skis. This really would be the life, to live here.


We wandered into town and found yet MORE playgrounds- this time with electronic games and public barbecues (which are gas powered, free and found at every kids play area so far) This park also had free electric sockets for charging devices whilst at the park. Australia have nailed this outdoor living malarkey- sail shades and seats everywhere, not to mention a childrens splashpark further up the promenade- and a man made family beach which was perfect for children learning to surf. The attention to detail in this place was immense and it clearly paid off- there were lots of families all taking advantage of it all. 


Leaving Geraldton, it was time to head further north to Kalbarri. Our penultimate stop before Monkey Mia, which we were all looking forward to.


Kalabarri National Park is known for Whale watching, ‘Nature’s Window’ and various walks along red sandstone gorges… we asked at the Tourist info office- none of which we could access as we only have a 2 Wheel drive vehicle. Bugger. Still, we can watch the humpback whales migrating! Oh wait, we missed that by 2 weeks. Bugger. There is Pelican feeding in the morning tomorrow- but for now there is the beach.


We hadn’t realised until we set our stuff down, that the strong winds meant that the sand whipped against our legs. Our youngest had a meltdown and ran off up the beach screaming. Mike and I couldn’t shout to him because of the wind, sarongs and buckets blowing up the beach, eldest son trying to run after the youngest… Beach fail. Get back in the van! Bloody wind.


Regroup. Let’s just got to a lookout point, tick it off the list and just get back to the campsite. Today’s wind has been ridiculous.


We picked ‘Mushroom Rock” on the map as it was 2 minutes away. We scrabbled down the pathway and found the most incredible red standstone gorge that opened out to turquoise sea. The layers of rock were spotty, stripey and all the colours of the rainbow. Who said rock formations aren’t fun!? Not us. This gorge was breathtaking, and we had the whole place to ourselves. Grand Canyon eat your heart out. This one’s got WAVES!


We managed to find some blue crabs in the rockpools and climbed onto Mushroom rock to find the most spectacular view of the gorge and waves crashing against the rock. We felt like we were the first people to discover this gem and were very pleased with ourselves.


We got to feed the local Pelicans the next day bright and early, happy we had got the most that we could out of the place. We set off to go to Monkey Mia. A mere 4 hour drive away- but we could handle it. Seasoned road trippers that we are now.

Where we stayed:

Yanchep National Park camp ground. 14.50 GBP per night with almost guarantees sightings of kangaroos in the camp ground. Many parrots and a campfire set up by the ranger each night. We loved it. 

Cervantes RAC Holiday Park was under construction at the time- but upgrades are now complete. At the time it cost around 25 GBP per night to camp. Walking distance to the beach which was piled up with seaweed and not very inviting! Im sure that wasn't permanent though. 

Geraldton Belair Gardens caravan site. It had a pool, laundry and was across the road from the most devastatingly beautiful beach. 25 GBP per night.

Murchison River Caravan Park, Kalbarri 25 GBP per night, just over the road from the Pelican feeding place. A beautiful spectacle, each morning. 

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