Day 14 - Portland & Surrounds
Trip Start Apr 17, 2012
37Trip End May 27, 2012
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After a cereal breakfast we went to one of the cafes overlooking the beach and had bacon & egg rolls and coffee (I think Julie had avocado on toast) before we jumped back into the van and headed to the Portland Botanical Gardens for a quick look. The gardens and trees were immaculately kept and the amount of effort the workers put into the place is evident
The next stop for us was a small nature reserve at Point Danger which is a protected breeding area (rookery) for Gannets. This is the only Gannet colony on the Australian mainland. The reserve appeared to be a bit of wasteland at the rear of the Portland Aluminium smelter with evidence of hoons & bogans frequenting the area and vandalising things but it looked like it was beginning to receive some visitors due to tourism so they have now put together some care groups to manage and improve things. Upon arrival at the Gannet colony we were somewhat shocked to see that the observation platform was the rear of a target wall for a rifle range. Hopefully it is no longer in use because any ammunition that misses the targets goes directly towards the gannets!
Access to the actual point itself is not possible as it's fenced off so as to protect the colony. In order to ensure that no predatory foxes get in or no-one jumps the fence, they have enlisted the services of two Maremma Sheepdogs which this time (unlike in Warrnambool) we could see
After stopping at the Gannet colony we were off to Cape Nelson to check out the lighthouse and also to inspect the restaurant there as it was lunchtime. It was only a few km from Point Danger to Cape Nelson and most of it was along a coastal scenic drive with cliffs on one side and coastal heath on the other. This made it a haven for small birds with honeyeaters and wrens who were darting way too close to the front of car as we tried to travel at the 80 km/h which was signposted. We ended up doing 50 km/h through the 80 zone as we were commited to having a zero roadkill trip and killing a bird would be devastating to us.
We parked the car at the lighthouse carpark and walked in to the cafe (http://www.capenelsonlighthouse.com.au/IsabellasCafe.php), upon first sight of the menu we agreed that this place was a goer. We sat down, ordered coffee (for alertness), ginger beer (for thirst) and read the menu (for hunger). The old building was beautiful, the outlook was gorgeous, the atmosphere was perfect and when the food arrived we were in heaven. The guy that ran the place came over and chatted with us and he was also a really nice person
After lunch we walked around the place, unfortunately the lighthouse was being repainted so it wasn't open to visitors that day but we had a good look around the exterior and the associated houses and buildings. There is also accommodation at this lighthouse which we thought looked quite good. Just as we were looking around the accommodation we spotted the robin! I managed to get a photo or two but he was quite fast and somewhat shy.
After the lighthouse it was a 25 minute drive to Cape Bridgewater past some wind farms which had us captivated for a while. Cape Bridgewater is a very pretty but quiet and small town on the beach which is naturally sheltered from the seas by the headland. We drove an extra few kms though the township to arrive at the carpark for the Blowholes and Petrified Forest. This area was SW facing which sucked a bit as a cold front had just moved in bringing icy wind, rain and general discomfort. The day was now starting to end and we still hadn't decided where to stay for the 2nd night in Portland. We really enjoyed the last place we stayed at last night but we were ready for a bush camp so we looked around Cape Bridgewater for something a bit mroe wild
The Petrified Forest & Blowholes carpark looked like it would suffice as a campsite but it was quite sloped and there were no toilets there - not a comfortable or relaxing place to stay. Whilst we were in the Cape Bridgewater area we also had to see the Bridgewater Lakes which were quite spectacular with the sunset as a backdrop. This would have been an ideal place to camp but there were signs specifically saying no camping so we didn't want to push our luck. It was now nearly dark so we made the decision to go back to the same waterfront campsite as last night so we drove the 25 mins back into Portland as set up camp at the Henty Bay Van park again.
Once we were set up, Julie made a phone call and organised to see her friends the next day. I set up our van-top antennas for our evening's internet and TV reception. We then cooked dinner and had our showers before the night got too cold. Back at the van we kept warm & cosy while unwinding for the night.