The Coral Coast

Trip Start Jan 27, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Friday, April 30, 2010

It was so nice to be stopped somewhere for a full week, but the time finally came to say goodbye to turtles and whale sharks and continue our journey south…well, at least a little further south to start with. A one and a half hour drive away was our first overnight destination- Coral Bay. We had heard from other travelers that it was a sleepy little town with a beautiful bay. Plus, it offered the opportunity to snorkel the southern end of Ningaloo Reef, so we were sold.

Coral Bay is roughly a five shop, two caravan park town with a huge hotel and one local pub town nestled alongside what it is a stunning shoreline. A huge sweep of white sand offers the perfect beach spot for swimmers and sun worshippers before extending to mountainous sand dunes as far as the eye can see.

Underwater, the scenery wasn't as nice as our previous snorkels, but we did enjoy an afternoon of swimming and sunning ourselves before heading to the local pub, which was absolutely teeming with punters for happy hour. It was heaving with tourists, particularly families, and there wasn’t a spare seat in the house or at any of the outside tables. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re the only pub in a tourist town!!

As pretty as Coral Bay was though, we decided it was definitely only worth the one night stay, so after cooking up our dinner and watching the stars come out, we retired to the tent for an early start to Kalbarri.

It was a long drive through again quite non-descript terrain that took us the first day and another couple of hours the following day. We camped again at a free bush camp and woke fresh (well, fresh of mind at least!) and early to enter the national park area of Kalbarri.

Kalbarri is a coastal national park comprising a labyrinth of gorges that frame the Murchison River all the way to the ocean. The terrain is quite stark and for the hiker there’s plenty to explore, although I would suggest a mesh fly hat if you are going in the warmer months. On our one inland hike it was as if we were covered in a blanket of flies and it really made the whole exercise quite gross.

At the shoreline though, the little buggers have no chance! This is where the full force of the Pacific Ocean comes roaring onto the Australian coast, pounding the rocky shelf with huge waves and an endless wall of wind. Hiking around some of the points we saw amazing surf, crazy surfers and vistas of striking cliff faces molded over millions of years of wind and sea.

The second part of the circuitous drive through Kabarri National Park took us to The Pink Lake, which you will be surprised to hear is in fact a pink lake! The color is caused by a high concentration of Beta-Carotene and from different angles it can look anything from white to pink and purple. It was the middle of the day when we were there, so I can only imagine how beautiful it would look at sunset.

But we were pretty keen to get along to my family in Perth, so we pressed on and rejoined Highway 1 to continue on through Geraldton to the seaside town of Cervantes. This is the first place we started to feel "the cold". We knew the further south we traveled the cooler it would get, but this was our first encounter with it and it was quite a shock to the system! The sleeping bags came out and we were tucked up much earlier than usual to escape the frigid night.

The main reason for visiting Cervantes is to explore The Pinnacles, which are limestone pillars rising up like a city from the sand across the Nambung National Park. You can drive through the park (suitable for 2WD but not caravans or campers) or you can undertake the adventure on foot. It is a large area to cover so I suggest a combination of the two. The weather wasn’t great for our visit, but it being such a surreal landscape, the ominous sky added to the atmosphere of the place, if not the quality of the photos.

After a morning exploring The Pinnacles it was a short three-hour drive to my dad’s place in Rockingham, just south of Perth. Here we would spend about a week catching up with family (my dad, stepsister and stepmother), visiting Perth and Freemantle and making plans for the final leg of the lap!
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