Leaving Perth we headed south east towards Albany and had a couple of night’s stopover again at the Pinjarra free camp where we had stayed on the way between Busselton and Perth. Pinjarra is a delightful RV-friendly town, very pretty and peaceful. Our next two stops we re similar at Kojonup and Mt Barker. Kojonup has a brilliant Rose Garden Maze that we spent several hours relaxing as we walked through and read the three stories of different women from the area.
As we travelled further south to Albany the landscape had changed and was now green mountainous national parks between the wheat and sheep farms. Also, the cooler day time temperatures that we hadn’t felt for almost a year began made us very aware that we had left the tropical heat behind for the time being.
Albany is a pretty bay side port city in the Greater Southern Region of WA. We camped at the Cosy Corner East free camp on the beach 25 kms west of Albany, and ended up spending a very pleasant week there. The camp was a good base to explore the Albany region from and get fresh water and replenish the pantry from this large south coast town. There were free hot showers near the information centre when we visited too – just wonderful.
Walking along the beach we were entertained by the sweeping and swooping of large black back gulls and the graceful osprey. Our plans to take the kayaks into the sea was reversed when a local fisherman told us that a white pointer shark had bitten a small canoe in half with a man and his son in it about a year earlier. Happily they were rescued by others at the time. But our keen sense of self preservation, that we had developed whilst in salt crocodile waters, told us to stay out of these waters.
As it was getting closer to the busy school holidays, we booked ahead at Cheyne’s Beach holiday park for 4 nights later in December, but as we still had a couple of weeks before then, we decided to try Betty’s Beach, another free camp spot, but with no length of stay restriction. We arrived late morning and were surprised to see there was only one other van there, so picked the best spot and set up camp until the 23rd of December.
Betty’s Beach is well known with Albany locals as a good fishing spot and we weren’t disappointed. One evening there were sardines being chased up onto the beach by herrings in their thousands that in turn were being hunted by salmon! There was a pod of dolphins one day chasing the salmon too. We didn’t manage to hook a salmon unlike a couple of women who put their husbands to shame, but did catch 8 or 10 good sized herring which was great fun. Andy filleted them and we had them dusted in flour and pan fried – delicious!
Betty’s Beach boulders are huge and some are like flat pavement. The clear turquoise water sends up waves like blue liquid glass. The beach is closed to the public during February and March for the professional wild salmon fishers to come in and attach their nets on the permanent hooks implanted into the large rocks on either side of the bay. One evening we watched dolphins chasing their dinner and a sting ray chasing the herrings. Close by is Easts Bay which is so beautiful it could be out on an island paradise with the brilliant white sand and clear waters.
Another day we drove around a 4WD track (with a challenging very steep sandy part) to a recommended spot with a deep offshore channel off the rocks where we caught a couple of good sized rock cod which tasted even better than herring. Our experiences included getting bogged in very powdery soft beach sand close to the campsite, but helpful locals helped us get out. In the recovery process we learnt how to make a sand winch anchor by burying a large rock deep in the sand and looping the winch hook around it to help pull ourselves out!
On the 23rd December, we moved to Cheyne Beach so that we could stay in the caravan park over the Christmas period. The friendly park wasn’t too busy prior to Christmas and it was a great place to spend a few days eating and drinking too much as you always do over the silly season (Malibu rum and pineapple juice for Carolyne, beer and rum and cokes for Andy). Carolyne made a brilliant spread for Xmas Day with roast pork rack, veges and even a Xmas pudding albeit more of a symbolic one from the shop! We put up our holiday decorations which consisted of a small Christmas tree (with battery lights) and solar powered multi coloured lights, stars and fairy stars on the ground.
Internet access wasn’t very good down this part of the coast but we Skyped the grandkids and had some good phone chats with the relatives as well.
Wonderful days were spent driving along the beach and relaxing in the sun looking at the stunning turquoise water. We put the fishing rods on the kayaks on Boxing Day but this didn’t go as well as hoped as we got dumped by the waves but it gave us a good laugh as we struggled ashore! During the evenings we played a tournament of cards, Scrabble and Battleships.
On leaving Cheyne’s Beach we camped a night in the Fitzgerald River National Park on the way to Esperance. We had intended to stay in this lovely spot awhile but heard the temperature was to reach 40c with strong winds. As this area had suffered from shocking fires a few weeks earlier we went into Ravensthorpe for those heatwave days.
Our next camp was on the Fitzgerald coastline at Quagi Beach in the Fitzgerald National Park about 50ks west of Esperance. We were lucky to get there early and grab the last good spot as a camper was leaving. Here we set up camp amongst the native tree cover, awoke to loud bird songs (including the “squeaky wheel” bird!) and explored the coastline and spent a quietly relaxed New Years beginning for 2016.
We had been keeping a listen out for the progress of the bushfire near Pink Lake which was heading westwards in our direction, so we decided to pack up a day early and head into Esperance. On the way, the fires had obviously spread and the plumes of smoke rose miles into the sky. As we drove we heard on the radio that the rangers were closing the beach camps, so we had left at the right time.
Esperance is a lovely town, the waterfront fringed with huge pines and we made it our base to explore the region including Twilight Beach near the town and Cape Le Grand, where we went to Lucky Bay where the local kangaroos, unbothered by humans, come right to the waters edge and beautiful beaches including Hellfire Bay.
Our last stop on the southern stretch of coastline was four nights at Duke of Orleans Bay where we spent every day driving on the white sand beaches to discover all the beaches and bays around. We will be sad to leave this part of WA, but South Australia is calling and we will be heading across the Nullabor in a weeks time.
We have taken hundreds of photos and videos down this way, so a larger gallery in this post!