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Published: September 27th 2019
D’Entrecasteaux National Park, WA
I left Norseman early on Friday morning for the long drive to Denmark. First stop was just over two hours drive away, in Esperance. I’ve been to Esperance before and would be stopping there on the way back, so I had no desire to look around. I picked up some breakfast at a bakery, and found a nice spot overlooking the beach to eat it. The weather wasn’t into that though, and the rain forced me to finish it off in my car. With that done, I proceeded on to Albany.
Again, I’ve done the drive between Esperance and Albany before so there was not much for me to see. On the way back, I plan to go via Fitzgerald River National Park, but on this trip my plan was just to get to Albany while the shops were open so I could buy a couple of things. I made it there at about 3pm, filled up on diesel and bought what I needed. With the rain continuing, on and off, I headed for Denmark.
I arrived at my brother’s house right on 5 and he had just got home from work. His wife Bec and their three kids
Me at Survers Cove
D’Entrecasteaux National Park, WA
arrived home shortly after and we had a pleasant evening catching up over a bottle of wine or two, and the now traditional first night’s dinner of home-cooked nachos. I had pitched my tent in their backyard and despite the intermittent rain, had a pleasant sleep.
On Saturday, we started with a big cook-up breakfast before my brother and the kids joined me for a spot of 4-wheel driving at nearby Boat Harbour. The Hilux had no problem with the sandy tracks, and we continued on to both Little Quarram and Big Quarram for some lovely, if windy, views. The bumpy track made one of the kids a bit nauseous on the way back, but thankfully we made it to the sealed road without any incident.
We headed to the nearby Toffee factory for some delicious burgers and fries, and I shouted everyone a round of ice cream for dessert. We then headed back to their place where Bec had been able to get some studying done with the house to herself.
On Sunday, we all headed out on foot for a walk to Monkey Rock nearby. They had been there a few times before but had
Margaret River, WA
failed on a couple of previous attempts to find the track near to their house. We headed into the bush and the tracks headed up the nearby hill. At times we had to scramble over rocks, and the track seemed to nearly spiral around the hill on the way up. But eventually we did reach Monkey Rock, which gave us stunning views of Ocean Beach from up high.
Nobody felt like taking the same track back, so we headed down the shorter track and Steven ran back home to get the car to pick up the rest of the family. We wouldn’t all fit in the car, so I opted to walk back. After more than a week of doing little but driving, it felt good to get some exercise. I also hoped to get some more photos, but it’s not the most exciting road and other than a failed attempt to photograph a pretty bird, there was not much to shoot.
With the weekend over, it was time for me to head off again. I had 3 nights booked at a hotel in Margaret River and originally, I had planned to camp at Lake Jasper. However, it
seemed like it would be easier to skip that and return to Denmark a night earlier, so I left the tent set up in the backyard and hit the road.
I went a slightly different way than the direct route and saw some roads I had not seen before. But I still made it to Margaret River by 2pm. My first stop was the Margaret River Dairy Company to pick up some cheese, and then the supermarket for some other bits and pieces. I then checked into my hotel and spent the afternoon relaxing and eating delicious cheeses. Again, feeling the lack of recent exercise, I opted to walk the couple of kilometres into town to eat dinner. Although the shared bike and walking path was unlit and very dark near the hotel, it was a pleasant walk.
I’d been to Margaret River a few times before and tried quite a few of the wineries. I have to be honest, I had no great desire to spend the next few days driving from winery to winery finding more. This trip, as I had my own car, my plan was to explore the area more than I had in
the past. But first, I did want to visit a couple of my favourite wineries and get some wine shipped home. First was Windows Estate, which produces my favourite wines of the region, particularly their Cabernet Sauvignon. I was fortunate this time that they still had some of their limited release Malbec left, and after tasting and liking it, I made sure to include some in my case. Next stop was Windance Estate, and after making the difficult decision of which 12 bottles to purchase, I continued on.
I have a book with some 4-wheel driving tracks in the area, and to the north of the peninsula was a track called “Three Bears”. It was near the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse which I drove to but decided not to stop at as I have previously visited the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse and expect it is much the same. The track started near the Sugarloaf Rock lookout, so I stopped there for a look around and some photos first. Then it was time to hit the trail. It was a very easy track, mostly it is used to access a surfing spot. As I came up to the only challenging part of
the track, I encountered a young guy reversing his Ford Ranger back. He said he had broken his CV joint “again” but didn’t need help as he would be able to get out in 2-wheel drive. I didn’t say anything, but I suspect he was going too fast. As was the only other car I passed, which contained a couple of young surfers.
After completing the track, I decided to head into Cowaramup (locally known as “Cowtown” due to the local dairy industry) for some lunch. Unfortunately, the little bakery there that I had visited previously was now closed down. I managed to get some lunch at a nearby café but was disappointed that my favourite place was no more. It was now well past 3pm and I was a bit concerned about my next destination. I wanted to check out some of the tracks down in the Boranup Forest, but my book said it required a full day, ideally two. In the end, I figured that I have good lights on my car and it’s not exactly remote so I should be fine. I headed south.
It was about 30km or so to the entrance near Lake
Cave and I aired down my tires at about 4pm. Another car turned up behind me and we had a quick chat, and both agreed that it sounded like an interesting track and were going to check it out. I was on my way first and didn’t see them again. I don’t think they would have had any trouble though, because the track was pretty easy, just quite narrow in some sections. The written directions in my book didn’t match with the map, but it turned out there were quite a few different tracks through the forest that criss-crossed each other, so when I reached the end at Boranup lookout with plenty of light left, I headed back in to explore. I ended up having my lights on before I left because the large Karri trees blocked the failing light. But I left the forest right on dusk and headed back to my hotel, having had a very enjoyable adventure.
On Wednesday I again wanted to see some of the area I hadn’t seen before, but this time on foot. Between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin runs a walking trail called the Cape to Cape track. It’s over 100km,
so clearly I wasn’t going to do the whole thing. However, I chose a section that visited places I hadn’t been to before. Unfortunately, that meant having to walk back over the same track to return to my car, but there was not much I could do about that.
I drove up to Yallingup and parked my car in the carpark near Torpedo Rocks and set out. Immediately, I came across a sign that said there was a loop track you could walk. While it was shorter than I wanted, one half of the loop was the Cape to Cape track so I figured I would take the other half on my way back, just so I didn’t completely retrace my steps. The walk descended to the beach and I had to walk the length of Smiths Beach. This was on soft sand, so I was glad that I would be taking the other route on the way back.
The next section, near Canal Rocks was the highlight of the walk. With the wildflowers in full bloom, and some stunning rock formations, it was a real treat. The walking wasn’t easy though, and one section was nearly a
scramble over the rocks to climb a hill. But it was worth it, for the spectacular views and the smell of the wildflowers. After climbing the hill above Canal Rocks, the track soon started to descend towards Injidup Beach, and it was here that I decided to turn back. The return walk was quicker as I did not stop to take as many photos, but as I walked across Smiths Beach, I was glad that I would not be walking the whole beach – I was quite tired and didn’t feel like walking on the soft sand the whole way. How little did I know!
As I headed off on the other track back to the carpark, I soon realised the error of my ways. While I was no longer walking on the beach, there was still plenty of soft sand and it was on a very steep hill. I reached the top, hoping that the walk would then be across the side of the hill but that was not to be. The walk was up and down some very steep hills and nearly 2km long. However, it was a nice, quiet walk and I eventually made it back
to my car. I was out of water, hungry and very sweaty. I had originally been thinking of visiting a winery to pick up a couple of bottles for my last weekend in Denmark but was in no condition to do it that day. Instead, I headed back to the hotel and had a nap before dinner.
Thursday morning, I checked out of the hotel and had a couple of places to visit to pick up some things to take back to Denmark. First stop was the chocolate factory to pick up some chocolates for the kids (and some for the adults while I was there!) and then to Fermoy Estate. On my first visit to Margaret River, it was Fermoy’s that made me fall in love with Margaret River wines, especially the Cabernets. So, I decided to visit again and pick up some more. It was still early morning and I was the only one there, so I had a great chat with the ladies in the cellar door and even scored a couple of wine paraphernalia freebies. Then, after a quick stop at the Cheese factory for some supplies for grand final day, I hit the road.
Margaret River, WA
I headed south towards Augusta but turned east at Karridale to head towards Denmark. As I made the turn, I realised that this really was the beginning of my journey back east that will eventually take me all the way to Sydney. It wasn’t emotional, but it did feel a bit momentous. I was heading home.
But first, I had a bit more exploring to do. My 4-wheel driving book had a good track that headed from Scott River, near Karridale to Lake Jasper and exiting not far from Pemberton. At first, the drive was just a gravel road, but as it neared Black Point, the road became soft sand dunes and a lot of fun. It was slow going, however, as previous drivers had clearly not let down their tire pressures enough and had dug a lot of holes in the dunes as they struggled up the hills. I did not have any trouble but going too fast would be a great way to break something on the car.
The first stop was at Black Point. There were a few lookouts to view the amazing coastline, the highlight being Surfers Cove. It was fantastic to be
Margaret River, WA
the only one there because the views were absolutely stunning. Not for the first time on this trip was I feeling thankful for having a 4-wheel drive that could take me to spectacular places without crowds. I hope these spots stay this way, because if the roads were upgraded, I could see them inundated with busloads of tourists.
After a bite to eat, I continued on my way. I was starting to run short of time, so I decided to skip visiting Jasper Beach and Lake Jasper and just continue on to Pemberton, and back to Denmark. There was a picturesque bridge to cross over the Donnelly River, and I wanted to make sure there was enough light to get some photos and video there. However, it was not to be. It turned out the bridge, and therefore the road, was closed and I had to take another road out. The road was a plane gravel road and reached the highway quite a distance further from Pemberton than I expected. So, I arrived in Denmark at 8:30pm after a rainy drive.
And with that, my time in Western Australia is nearly over. I have a long weekend left
in Denmark, before I once again cross the vast country back to my home on the east coast. I’ll see how I feel when I get home, but so far, the long distances have not turned me off from doing it again some time in the future. The freedom of having your own, well-setup, 4-wheel drive vehicle makes for a wonderful holiday. But we’ll see how I feel when I get home a week from Monday!
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