Western Australia was actually the first time I felt that renting a car was essential to see all the hot spots in a region. This is where things get really spread out, and a tour would cost about the same, and limit my time in each place to only minutes.
As I would find out while driving to each destination, some are deserving of more time than others and the person who decides that should be myself, not a bus full of backpackers or blue hairs.
From Geraldton we headed north to Kalbarri, then followed the road south past our starting point to Cervantes and Nambung National Park. From there we headed back up to Geraldton. It totalled almost 1100 Kms, and was worth the extra expense. Here's what we saw.
In Kalbarri National Park is the small village of Kalbarri. This is an easily accessible town with great accommodations. You can walk to most places in town, but to view many of the lookout points nearby, you need a car, a tour bus or a website with photos of them all. Luckily, you have at least one of those in front of you right now.
Red Bluff Beach in Kalbarri. is just south of Chinamans point, and offers a great view of the red bluff beach, thusly named Red Bluff Beach. Clever name, isn't it? There are about a dozen places to stop and appreciate the view along the Batavia Coast, most of which are listed in the tourist maps found throughout Geraldton.
The Wildflowers in Western Australia are the big news come October and November. You can see them as you drive down the roads. This really is the biggest attraction in WA, and events are held in honour of the Wildflowers around the South West all month long.
Pink Lake is not a toxic waste dump nor a Photoshop job, rather it's one of Australia's weird natural phenomenons, like Vegemite. Near Port Gregory, another seaside village, is the Pink Lake, which gets its color from Beta Carotene. That's right, the same thing that makes carrots orange is what makes this lake pink. I still won't swim in it though.
To get a better photograph of the pink color of this lake, you need clouds over head. Notice that the pink is not noticeable as soon as the reflection of the clouds turns to blue sky. The blue sky doesn't allow the Pink the show in the lake at all.
Nearby to the Pink Lake is the convict ruins known as the Convict Hiring Depot. When Port Gregory was a bustling port, it was also where convicts were sent to be used as labourers in the nearby lead mines. Mind you this was in 1853 and the place only operated until a better mining option came up a few years later. That coupled with the horrendous living and working conditions, this place was shut down. How do I know all this, you ask? I was there... and I read it on the sign before walking into the site.
Oakabella Homestead has coined itself as the Most Haunted House in Western Australia. While I didn't know there was a competition for that title, I was intrigued enough to pay a lady $10 to tell me about it. Alledgedly the Oakabella Homestead has been home to families for years. While it does have more history than I have time to type for you here, I would suggest the 3Km detour to see some old buildings.
When Life gives you lemons, pretend a funny shaped tree is an attraction. That's what they do in Greenough. Locally known as the Leaning Tree, this River Gum has dealt with constant wind for its whole life and has dealt with it this way. Actually several trees are leaning in a similar fashion, it just happens that this tree is closest to the road. So there it sits as tourists take photos of it. for kicks.
The biggest Undersell of this whole trip is the Snack Shack in Leeman. Homemade Fish n Chips that were incredible as we enjoyed them with a dozen seagulls by the beach. This wasn't in Lonely Planet, but I will certainly send the suggestion. The Snack Shack in Leeman deserves a mention.
Geraldton also has its history as a seaport, which is still very active in the mining industry. They also have close ties with the SMAS Sydney, which served time in the Mediterranean Sea during the second world war. While there it saw several battles at sea and became famous as a solid fighting ship. It returned home a hero as did the people onboard. From then it escorted several ships, until it eventually came across a German Raider. Fighting broke out and both ships sank on November 19, 1941. This memorial of the HMAS Sydney sits atop Geraldton looking out over the Indian Ocean, as it remembers the 645 men who lost their lives on that fateful day.
As a town, Geraldton is a decent size and perfect as a home base to explore the Batavia Coast. From here you can get to the Albrohos Islands, the site of the famous Batavia shipwreck. From Geraldton, you are only a couple hours from Kalbarri to the north and a couple hours from Cervantes to the south. Our tour of the Batavia Coast ended with an overnight in a lovely fishing town called Cervantes, which is next to the real reason people go to Cervantes; to see the most incredible park Australia has, Nambung National Park.
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