The Coral Coast

Preston beachPreston Beach was perfect for what we needed it for. The surf through the night was so incredibly loud I kept thinking it was traffic. Tuesday morning was warm and I loved it. There was a lovely man, maybe 10-15 years older than us, who came to ask if we had any coffee to spare. Naturally we shared. He has chased fish all over the country and was full of fishing tips for the WA coast, and also gifted us a couple fresh herring. He knew all about the best fishing rigs, baits and various migration patterns. Leon’s excitement is mounting we head closer and closer to Exmouth and encounter more and more fishing enthusiasts.

Random Thoughts

There are some unexpected things to note about this trip.

  1. It’s an interesting time not having any scales, or a full length mirror. I haven’t worn any form of make up or used a blow drier. I haven’t missed the makeup or the blow drier. I’m curious about the scales, but haven’t necessarily missed them. The absence of a full length mirror however, or even a decent mirror to regularly look at my face is a little disconcerting. I packed the straightener as a ‘just in case’. I’ve used it once. It wasn’t worth it. All these things I can easily accept, but I didn’t expect.
  1. Again, the kids are amazing. They are amazing at travelling, they are resilient and adaptable and 95% of the time look on the bright side of life. I couldn’t be more proud and grateful. I expected them to be all of these things, but not to the degree that they’ve demonstrated. I have high yet reasonable expectations, and they have exceeded them by a country mile. To the point that I get a little perplexed when they complain or argue. Even when they’ve hurt themselves, they just deal with it. Joey absolutely axed his shin jumping from one timber bollard to the next at Conto Campground. This had potential for epic meltdown. But he genuinely breathed through it and rested for a while, before getting straight back into it. The 12cm purple bruise is impressive.
  1. I miss those times where there’s nothing that needs doing and I become productive with my hobbies. In the normality of life at home, of an evening when dinner is done, lunches made, kids in bed and work is tied up for the day, often Leon will be watching various skateboarding documentaries or shows on musicians I’m not particularly interested in. This is when I get my creativity on with one of my projects: Usually writing one of the books I have on the go, researching potential career changes, or trying to plan the soft furnishings of our house that should be finished a few months after we get home. I do miss this time, and it’s unexpected that I have less of it, significantly. While we’re travelling, time is an interesting concept. There is always more to see, and it does feel that not utilising all the time we have in a place is a waste. These posts I write in tiny bursts when I have a thought or feeling in response to an experience, and then tie all the notes together before sharing with you guys. Really, while driving is the only ‘alone’ time. As in time to just do me things. But driving can be lonely for the driver if the passenger is consumed in something else. And writing requires me to fully immerse myself in the world I’m creating and the regular interruptions make that difficult. Keeping the kids fed and watered, engaging with the beautiful scenery we’re driving through, planning where to stay next etc. I am looking forward with hope, that it becomes nicer to stay outside of an evening after the kids go to bed, and I can write and Leon can play his guitar. 

Sandy Cape

We stopped at a servo on the road from Preston Beach to Sandy Cape. Leon is becoming more sociable the further north we head – the more people we meet who want to talk about fishing. He chatted for ages to the guy on the other side of the diesel pump! There was another super cheap stop over to stock up on transfer case oil (just in case), and then we were off.   

We arrived at Sandy Cape it was was absolutely packed. I hate this and it was an instant turn off. However… after we left the 2WD section and ventured further up the coast, we happened across Sandy Cove with a couple of spare spots. We were told by passers by that it’s the pick of the spots in the whole park.

Unfortunately there was a lot of seaweed on the shore and in the shallows. This is such a frustrating distraction. Without this, the beaches would be flawless. The water colour is phenomenal, and it would have been spectacular to see it lined with clean white sand rather than weed but it wasn’t to be. The weed not only looks unappealing, it smells funky and makes it difficult to both swim and fish. 

After a quick set up (we’re getting very good at this) we went for a walk along the cliff top and saw a number of big rays. Malachi and Leon both had a bit of a fish from the rocks but without any luck. Joey and I watched the sunset from up on a dune, and Teddy flaffed around as Teddy does, doing unidentifiable things, lost in his own world.
Sitting with the sunset is where I opened my Domaine Naturaliste Red. Oh my. The Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon is quite possibly the most delicious red wine I’ve ever had, and it cost me less than $40! James Halliday gave it 97/100 and added it to his top 100. 

“The bouqet is a fragrant mix of cassis and cedar/ cigar box, the intense palate with a tapestry of flavours and savoury bay leaf”. Mmmm, bottle done by the time the stars revealed themselves.

The weed had cleared slightly by the morning so after a swift and seamless pack down Leon and I had a quick dip in the very fresh water before we got on our way to Kalbarri.  


After reading that Kalbarri is a resort town, I have a distinct aversion to staying in town after my experience at Yulara. So I contacted Murchison House Station (A 150 year old working station) to see if we could stay at their homestead campground for the night and luckily they had a spare spot. It’s a cute and rustic welcome area with a communal fire and a bunch of old farm equipment. Even an old tank. There were some big very healthy looking geese as well as goats and alpacas.

We were allocated a nice spot on the bank of the Murchison River under some shady gums. We had a bit of a fish in the afternoon and then headed to the fire to listen to some stories, mainly about raising kids on a farm and the accidents that can happen when you muster with light planes. Our kids had a great time exploring the old tank and patting the little farm dog who really made them miss Raph. 

We had a pretty decent drive to Shark Bay and I really wanted to see Natures Window and the Skywalk before leaving Kalbarri. That meant an early start. Natures Window was our first stop. It was warm. It was deliciously warm. While the warm weather makes it significantly easier to get up in the morning, unfortunately it seems to also bring the flies. Oh so many flies! I’ve had flies in my eyelashes. I’ve managed to not allow any up my nose, but a fly in the ear is not a fun time.

Natures Window; however, is cool. It’s not mind blowingly awesome. And it surprises me that this spot tops the list of awesome places in Australia for some people, but it was cool. The window itself, but also just the gnarly rock walls and the fact that you can walk along on the top of the cliffs with nothing but a few warning signs is awesome. We snapped some photos in this iconic spot, and piled back into the car. We had the windows down for the very short drive to the sky walk as there was about 17 000 flies that had to be shooed out of the car. The Skywalk was also cool. Interesting engineering. I was happy that all three kids were willing to walk out on both platforms. I wouldn’t have been disappointed had they not, and after Joey and Teddy both declared that they wouldn’t, both Leon and I made sure they knew they could stay on the firm ground and watch while we walked out, and still catch the views. Teddy and Joey chose the close-weave walkway which obstructed the view below, but I was impressed that they calmed their nerves enough to step out at all in the absence of pressure or even encouragement.

Initially we had planned to spend some more time in Kalbarri National Park, and while I’m sure it’s beautiful, it is similar to the big red rocks and gorges of other places we’ve visited. We are super excited to be heading further north and getting closer to Exmouth, so with the World Heritage Listed Shark Bay and Francois Peron National Park our destination for today, followed by four days in Exmouth… we were okay to leave after ticking these two spots off the list.

Shark Bay

Oh, Shark Bay! It’s easy to see why you’re World Heritage listed. Margaret River and the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park was going to be very hard to beat, but you gave it a red hot crack. As we drove in I couldn’t believe my eyes when it was virtually impossible to differentiate between the blue of the ocean and that of the sky. With nothing obstructing the view, the horizon was still unidentifiable. We had decided to visit Shell Beach on our way in to Denham to avoid the back tracking during our two night stay. I’m glad we picked today! Shark Bay turned on the weather for our stop at this very cool beach.

On the way from Kalbarri Leon questioned why I’d chosen Shark Bay as a destination to include on our lap. The planning of the itinerary for this trip was so long ago that I couldn’t remember the ins and out, but basically I told him that many people who’ve toured the country have this place at the top of their list. We decided to stay in a caravan park in Denham rather than in the National Park as you can’t book the National Park camp grounds and apparently they fill quickly. With the long drive from Kalbarri today we were unlikely to arrive before lunch and based on reviews the spots would have been exhausted before then. We didn’t want to be left stranded and therefore were relaxed on our way in knowing we’d secured a spot at the caravan park last minute via a phone call from Kalbarri.

With the decision to stop at Shell Beach made on the road, we weren’t prepared for a swim. So we all went in in our underwear!

The beach, which is comprised primarily of tiny shells rather than sand, was blindingly white. The water was spectacularly blue. A refreshing aquamarine that seemed too beautiful to be real. Oh so salty, so perfect for floating. The kids could not believe it. So buoyant! It was a beautiful beach, on a warm afternoon with clear skies above. Magnificent. The flies however were out of control. So many flies! Thankfully, once in the water, the flies left you alone.I loved this beach. Sand is kinder to your feet, but the shells were so interesting. Millions of tiny white shells. But the water – its colour, its temperature, how calm it was, how incredibly clear it was. I felt like I was swimming in a post card.

We made it to the caravan park, and while we didn’t have ocean views we had a nice site, good size and flat. The kids enjoyed the jumping pillow while Leon and I completed the well orchestrated and seamless dance that is our set up routine. We collected the kids and walked down to the sunset viewing deck and continued along the beach towards town late in the afternoon. The water, the sun, the cruisy small coastal town atmosphere, was all great. The kids enjoyed a walk out on the jetty, a play in the play ground, and admired the union sculpture. The itinerary for day two included visiting the dolphins of Monkey Mia, the Ocean Aquarium, the Homestead Heritage Precinct, and various spots in the National Park. Again, we were limited by time, so chose not to go all the way to the cape. Shark Bay is another place on the list that we have to visit again. So far I have the West MacDonnell Ranges, the Margaret River Region, and Shark Bay, pinned as places to return to for a holiday and more exploration.

We headed to Monkey Mia early in the morning to be part of the Dolphins experience. For lots of reasons Shark Bay and Monkey Mia in particular are a preferable spot for dolphins to hang out. Theodore was the most interested and he made sure he had front row seats. He was stoked to see the dolphins swim, so calmly, only a couple of meters from his feet in the water. We were also lucky enough to have a number of turtles to come and say hi too, green turtles and loggerheads. 

The dolphin experience was fun, but not exceptional. The weather was a bit drizzly, but we briefly checked out Monkey Mia and saw a few Emu’s wandering the beach, before heading to the Ocean Aquarium. I didn’t know what to expect from this place. Like all paid experiences for our family, this one also cost over $100. As we approached the aquarium and I saw the set up of the tanks etc, I began to lose confidence.However, as per usual you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Our guide, ‘G’, was awesome. The kids thought she was cool and knowledgeable. I was impressed with both her knowledge and her ability to hold the attention of a crowd that ranged from 3 year olds to the elderly. We saw and learnt about sea snakes, eels, sting rays, sharks, anemone, stone fish, and a bunch of other super cool marine life. It was great.

The next stop was meant to be the Big Lagoon. We thought it would give us a good taste of Francois Peron National Park without going too deep, and apparently there’s good fishing. On the way we stopped at the Homestead Heritage Precinct. I didn’t know much about this place other than that it had a ‘hot tub’ and I didn’t know what to make of that. But this place was great, and free!

There was an art instalment that walked you through the history of Shark Bay from pre-settlement to now. After learning about the history of the area we walked through the cool taxidermy exhibit with a fox, bilby, thorny devil, pigeon, bat, snake… heaps of things. The kids loved it, and we then ventured out the back to the hot tub.

It is serviced by a natural bore from the artesian plane, that delivers 70 000L (or something similar that was a lot and impressive) of naturally 40 degree water each day. It was hot! The kids loved it despite being all red and blotchy when they got out, this time because of heat rather than the icy southern ocean. One of the people who worked at the caravan park told me it’s open 24/7 and spoke of just how spectacular it is to go out their in the middle of the night, with just you and whoever you take, and sit in the hot tub admiring the stars.After some time in the hot tub we explored a very well preserved sheering shed which I found really interesting as you could follow the entire process from mustering to bailing up the wool. Then we were off to Big Lagoon that required tyre pressures down and 4WD.

It was a nice spot, but not spectacular and I was glad to be camped in Denham instead of here which is where we probably would have ended up as Herald Bite (which was our pick of the camp grounds) would fill up earlier than we could arrive. We did some fishing here and watched the cutest baby emu walk the beach, before we headed to Little Lagoon. The weather was average today. Very cloudy and a bit cooler. Some rain sprinklings. The weather impacts my experience and therefore opinion of a place incredibly. Little Lagoon was beautiful and I wished we had spent more time here earlier in the day rather than Big Lagoon. We had a quick stop in at the estuary that feeds the lagoon and it was pretty spectacular. I wished I had a kayak or a SUP to explore.

We got back to camp and the weather deteriorated further. Luckily it allowed us to do some checks on the car and to get some washing done. We ended up getting take away fish and chips for dinner and watching the Broncos on the iPad, another great win, this time over Manly. We had gold band snapper. This is the best fish I have ever had. Incredible.

We are headed for 14 Mile campground near Warroora Station next. Just south of Coral Bay. On our way out, stopping at the bottle shop and the supermarket as the rain of last night continued to fall, the locals were perplexed – It never rains in Denham! They suspect it’s the remnants of Isla.

We stopped at Eagles Bluff just south of town before really committing to the drive. We saw sharks and rays in the beautiful water below, and a big eagle flew over as we were leaving. An eagle over Eagles Bluff had the kids pretty impressed.

It was also very clear that Theodore needs a lot more sleep than he’s getting. He sat in the front with me for the next leg and pretty much slept the whole way.

Sandy Cape, Kalbarri and Shark Bay… This country of ours continues to deliver the goods!

One thought on “The Coral Coast

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  1. Thank you again for a wonderful rendition of your lap. We too stayed at Denham. It was the place where 2 little yapping dogs scared you and Amy.


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