We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of Country throughout Australia. We recognise the continuing connection to land, water, language and community. We pay our respect to the cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
We are committed to walking lightly on the land of your ancestors, only taking knowledge and understanding, only leaving footprints and the whisper of our spirits, breathing in the awe of this great land we are privileged to call home.
We come from the land of the Yugara and Yumambeh peoples and have stopped to rest and learn in the lands of the traditional owners of Fitzgerald River National Park, the Goreng, Menang and Wudjari Noongar people recently.
Following the Wind
We left Kalgoorlie heading for the southern WA coast but not sure where exactly. Part of us didn’t care. We hadn’t realised how much we’d missed the coast until we knew we’d soon be reunited. We had four days to spend somewhere before getting to Albany because of the time we’d gained on the Great Central. These four days also included ANZAC Day and the weekend prior, so we didn’t want to try our luck at a ‘first in first served’ free camp. A search on WikiCamps and checking out the National park booking sites, we decided to head to Hopetoun and stay at Hamersley Inlet. We know nothing of this place other than that it’s likely nice because of its location.
We saw lots of salt lakes on the drive from Kalgoorlie which were interesting. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a salt lake. We considered visiting Esperance on the way because I had pinned it as a destination in the very early days of planning our trip, but in the end our planned route didn’t include it. After much deliberation we decided it would add too much ground to an already long day, and turned off the Highway at Grass Patch to bypass Esperance and head to Hopetoun. Grass Patch Road quickly became dirt. In comparison to the other dirt roads we’ve travelled, this one was a dream. However, it was one dirt road after another, and with no phone reception we began to wonder where we were headed. The landscape slowly became more familiar before giving us a real taste of home when pine trees, just like those from Nanna and Pop’s forest at the homestead, lined Mills Road.
We eventually made it to Hopetoun, and its beauty was evident very early on. Seeing the ocean was spectacular and we arrived just on sunset. There are controlled burns occurring nearby so the bushfire sun setting over the mountains was glorious, made all the more enjoyable by the knowledge it was caused by controlled burns and not genuine bush fire putting people and their homes at risk.
They say country folk are friendly. To be honest, we haven’t necessarily found that. I have more found that people out in the middle of no where seem somewhat dissatisfied with their life choices and difficult to get a smile out of. We have found that travellers are friendly, but I can’t generalise in the same way for the people we meet ‘in the country’. Even our interactions with people in Cloncurry, ‘the friendly heart of the out back’ were anything but. The people from the sleepy coastal town of Hopetoun however, were beautifully welcoming and proud of their town and its surrounds. Leon had a great experience while at the pub looking for the bottle shop and was really well looked after. I stopped into the local grocer and felt the same hospitality.
The advice was to check out the huge array of wild flowers, climb East Mt Baron, look out for the pigmy possum eating nectar from the flowers, fish for salmon, and don’t bother going to Esperance. Why would you? Hopetoun has it all.
After the boys had a quick play in the park, we stocked the fridge with beer and other essentials, and headed for Hamersley Inlet, Fitzgerald River National Park. It was getting pretty dark, the wallabies were out, the windscreen was filthy, and I was towing a two tonne camper through the windy roads of the mountainous coast with some steep descents. To top it off, the fuse on the spotties blew a couple of minutes after I decided I needed them. But we made it. I was disappointed to have to concentrate so much on driving as the scenery, despite being dusk, was amazing. The inlets full of pelicans, the wild flowers, the silhouettes of the mountains in the very pink sunset… incredible. I couldn’t wait for the next few days and was so happy with the decision to stay in this part of the world.
We had a delicious fried rice for dinner followed by a desert of vanilla slice hand made by the friendly grocer. And it was good! Crispy pastry and delicious custard perfectly balanced by tartness of the passionfruit that glazed the top. After dinner we watched the skies in search of more shooting stars, and after the kids were in bed Leon and I lay on the picnic blanket for an hour or so and probably saw three or four shooting stars. Unfortunately, no epic fireballs like Teddy’s comet over Kalgoorlie.
Crystal Clear and Turquiose
We woke on Sunday and decided to go for a walk after breakfast. We took a (very indirect) track through the coastal bush to Hamersley Inlet before going further out to Hamersley beach. It was super fine, very white sand, scattered with tiny shells. The water was the bluest of blues. Crystal clear and turquoise… but oh so icy! There was a family of dolphins playing and flipping and surfing the waves. I don’t think I’ve ever seen dolphins so active. The kids had the absolute best time. Teddy exclaimed multiple times that ‘this day just can’t get any better!’ We hadn’t brought any supplies at all on our walk, so we headed home after a short frolic on the beach to have some lunch and a bit of a laze around, before deciding to drive to the beach for the afternoon.
On the way to Miley’s Beach we saw an echidna crossing the road, our first live echidna sighting for this trip. Miley’s beach was amazing. Perfect waves, white sand, kangaroos nibbling the greenery on the fringes. The sky was incredible, the smoke from the controlled burns only detracting slightly. Leon threw a line in, but despite hearing the salmon are running he didn’t have any luck this afternoon. The kids played in the waves and dug some holes and built sandcastles. A perfect afternoon.
I have to keep pinching myself. I think this trip is possibly the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. Regularly I just can’t believe I’m this lucky and our country is this amazing. After this afternoon I’m thinking I could buy a holiday house in Hopetoun. Pity it’s so far from home… and cold. It’s too cold.
There are warnings at all of the beaches informing us that the southern coast is treacherous with strong currents and rips and dangerous rocks and sudden depth changes. Without phone reception I can’t research to see just how dangerous and unpredictable these beaches are, but I have read stories of the southern WA coast before where dogs have suddenly been swept out to sea without warning, never to be seen again. Needless to say I was pretty vigilant with not letting the kids go very deep at all. They didn’t mind too much – the water is freezing!
The sun setting over the mountains is pretty great, which we saw again on our drive back to camp from the beach. The moon is but the thinnest fingernail at the moment, barely casting any light, allowing the stars to be spectacular. If only the evenings weren’t so cold, we could then enjoy the star gazing more comfortably. There were a few shooting stars again, but the highlight of the night was seeing Starlink. A train of about 10-15 lights making their way across the sky. Teddy in particular has been desperate to see Starlink, so this was a real highlight for him.
East Mount Barron
Monday morning the plan was to climb East Mount Barron. The kids were in foul moods and did not want to do the walk, but we persevered. It’s a cool looking mountain from the ground, a big grassy mountain with interesting jagged rock jutting out the top like a saw. They say it’s a 3-4hr round trip. The path doesn’t muck around, once you hit the foot of the mountain you go up. It was a skinny little rocky path lined with thick trees and bushes that at times were much taller than I am. The kids powered up and there were times I struggled to keep up the pace. It was incredibly windy and there were parts that were super exposed, so that was a little nerve wracking, especially as Malachi and Joey had a tendency to go so far ahead that they couldn’t hear when we called out because of the howling wind. Teddy was literally being blown around. It was mostly a rocky walk, parts were just a dirt path, and towards the top there was also some rock scrambling. There was one section of the walk that was alive with the sounds of birds, but we couldn’t see any of them. They must have lived in the thick shrubbery.
Right on top, the exposed rock was spectacular, and gave even more impressive views of the coast line and hinterland. While at the top a glance out the west had us worried about incoming rain. The trek down would be horribly slippery if it were wet, so we didn’t stay long at the top. Once again, the kids just got the job done. We were up and back in an hour and twenty minutes!
The wild flowers in this area are amazing- so many and varied. The National Park is one of Australia’s most botanically significant. There are over 1800 species of wild flowers here, 75 of which are not found anywhere else in the world. I see some while we are driving that I haven’t seen on any of our walks so haven’t been able to photograph. We were treated to a beautiful bird at the end of the walk also.
Once we’d finished the walk, and the foul attitudes of the children were left behind as soon as we began the climb, we treated ourselves to coffees and hot chocolates at a cafe in town, and afterwards a skate at the skatepark. For a tiny town this place has everything. Beaches, basketball courts, a skatepark, tennis courts, a pub. It also has a bunch of shops, but it’s like there’s no speciality. The friendly grocer has fresh food and general groceries. He also bakes deserts like vanilla slice and profiteroles. And on top of that he sells fish and chips? The cafe we had coffee at also sold take away fish and chips, and was a florist, also sold plush toys, and appeared to have a timber furniture store out the back. There’s another shop we’re not sure what it was, but they did sell fuel… and groceries and magazines and bait and was sort of a hardware store too. It was an interesting time. We got some hot chips from the friendly grocer and ate them in the park after the skate.
While in town I read that there is a cave and blow hole at East Miley’s Beach, so we stopped in there on our way home. It was even colder than the day before. Malachi and Joey played on the beach in the sand while Leon, Theodore and I explored the rocks at the eastern end of the beach. We could have explored further, but didn’t find any caves or blow holes. It was a cool beach though with lots of interesting rock formations and a private little cove. Before we left, all the kids went in for a swim. When they got out they were so cold their skin was red. Joey in particular. His thighs were all blotchy like he had some gnarly virus. We rugged them up, loaded them into the car and headed back to camp to chill out (or warm up).
Back at camp there was a cute little family of kangaroos that let us get surprisingly close. The other wildlife of the afternoon however consisted of mice and a lot of bugs. We decided to eat inside tonight and spend some time reading before bed.
We had a lazy ANZAC day Tuesday morning before heading to town to fish from the jetty. It was a bit of a miserable blustery day, and while there were bites it wasn’t worth the effort. I think it’s our first day of dreary weather since Kings Canyon. Before too long we decided to head back to East Miley’s where we were sure we’d have the little cove to ourselves.
Once again I find myself staring out to sea, lost in the natural beauty. Marvelling at the turquoise water, the perfect waves rolling into the shore, the incredible rock formations. It’s mesmerising. While I appreciate and am in awe of the big red rocks and pristine gorges of the red centre, the ocean is where I feel free and most at home. A little slice of country not too far from the coast, with great food and drink, and reasonably easy access to my friends, would be ideal. And maybe somewhere so cheap to live I don’t need a job. I don’t ask for much.
I went exploring the rocks while Leon and Malachi fished and Joey and Theodore played in the sand and the waves. I very much enjoyed my alone time. I don’t need much alone time, a 20 minute solo expedition across the rocks was the perfect amount. I am missing socialising more than expected. Leon and I are a classic introvert/extrovert pair. While he is missing his mates and socialising with them, adjusting to being limited to superficial sporadic interaction with anyone outside my immediate family when I’m used to communicating and interacting meaningfully with hundreds of people on a daily basis, is an adjustment I didn’t predict.
Rocks, Caves and Blowholes.
While exploring the rocks, continuing to be in awe, I happened across the East Mileys cave and blow hole. I ventured back to the beach and gathered the troops so they could all experience some rock scrambling and check out the cave. The tide was high enough to be lapping close to the entrance, but not too high that I felt it too risky to let the kids crawl in. Both Joey and Malachi managed to crawl to the very back of the cave and climb out the blow hole. While Teddy was a bit too short to be able to climb out, he loved the cave… until he smacked his head on the ceiling. And he had a cap on. You know how much it hurts when you bump your head a with a cap on and it gets right on the button? Yep. He was hurting.
It was an awesome afternoon, and I continue to be blown away by just how picturesque everything is. I can’t get over it.
A few things I’ve learnt while in Hopetoun:
- To me me, North means left down the beach as you gaze out to the horizon over the ocean, and has nothing to do with genuine direction. This is really going to wreak havoc with my communication until I’m back on the east coast. Currently… North = East.
- Kangaroos in this part of the country are different. Very brown, like a chocolate brown even, and quite small,and a bit woolly. They are not the usual grey or red, at least the ones we’ve seen.
- Hopetoun would be a great setting for a TV or children’s book series. It has a very ‘Round the Twist’ type feel to it… despite not having a lighthouse that I’m aware of.
- Ravensthorpe Shire do an astonishing job of maintaining this area and its National Park. Everything is so accessible, and clean and tidy. All of this was surprising considering just how few people we encountered.
When we arrived back at camp after our day at the beach, the rain was looming. We packed up as best we could keeping everything dry so we could leave as planned in the morning without too much delay. An easy noodle dinner was had in the camper, followed by a few games of Uno, before a very, very early night as the heavy rain set in and didn’t rest.
Pack up was interesting, waiting for a window of sunshine, or at least the rain to ease. After a few false alarms, we got some sunshine, used the blower to blow the excess water off the camper for good measure as we really didn’t want wet beds on arrival in Albany, and packed her up. A refuel in Hopetoun and we were off, grateful for our time in this little treasure of a town.
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