Heading from Coral Bay south to Carnarvon was the another fairly lengthy drive, but we arrived at lunch and managed to catch the visitors centre just before it closed. It turns out that Carnarvon also has a season and, unsurprisingly, we had missed it, so you’ll find that it was a bit of a mixed bag of experiences but definitely worth it… you’ll see why.
Our first stop was the town’s old jetty and heritage precinct. The jetty is probably Carnarvon’s biggest tourist attraction, it’s on all of the posters and recommended in all of the guidebooks, and we were keen to walk the kilometre out over the sea. It was closed.Unfortunately, the jetty is currently unsafe to walk on and the town is reliant on donations to carry out the repairs. The precinct also hosts a museum which is either fantastic or fantastically crap depending on your point of view, either way, stick your head around the door.Yes, the museum has a Shearing Hall of Fame. Can you imagine which of us thought it was a fantastic way to spend a day? It also houses the small train which ferries passengers up and down the jetty, when operational, and an eclectic mix of ‘artefacts’ that appear to have been collected from scrap yards and dubious auction houses.The entire effect is complemented nicely by large piles of wool.Wool was one of the major products of the area and James spent a good 20 minutes browsing the Hall of Fame and reading details of the many characters who worked the shearing sheds of WA’s stations until Caro decided that was enough on shearing for one day.
Carnarvon is one of the biggest fruit and veg producing areas in Western Australia and a trail runs around the farms on the outskirts of town with the opportunity to buy wares straight from the farm gates. During the season that is, which it wasn’t, it had just finished. Undeterred, we decided to give it a whirl for James’s interest and drove past a lot of closed farm gates before pulling in to Bumbak’s. We treated ourselves to some homemade ice cream and picked up a couple of bunches local asparagus for dinner.
We had planned to explore the area, pitch camp and then head back to the waterfront, known as The Fascine, to enjoy fish and chips and a bottle of fizz. The champagne was supposed to be wedding present number 3 and we had intended to get a great photo of us enjoying it on the beach with fish and chips but, having scoped out the area we weren’t that sold by the waterfront and shelved the plan for later. At the time of writing the bottle of bubbles is still sitting undrunk in Heidi but we are sure that we will manage to find a worthy spot soon.
We spent the afternoon walking to and from the washing line to re-hang our laundry which was continuously and unhelpfully being blown off by the wind. This has happened to us on a number of occasions and we have observed each time that we really should invest in some more pegs, which we are still yet to do.
On our way out of town the next day we stopped at the Space and Technology Museum, mainly to look at the large communication dishes up close, but decided to visit the museum itself on a bit of a whim.We spent a simply marvellous hour and a half there, and it was worth every cent of the AUD10 donation per person. Carnarvon was one of the pivotal communication stations established by NASA for the Apollo missions and the museum had loads of information on the missions and its role in them. Buzz Aldrin actually came and opened one of the sections of the museum.It wasn’t a really dry museum either, there’s plenty to read but also loads to see and play with, including some of the original equipment.We couldn’t resist taking our turn in the replica capsule from Apollo 11 where you experience the launch as it happened, complete with communications to and from mission control.The team of volunteers there are absolutely wonderful and can tell you anything you might want to know with enthusiasm and joy. Most importantly, they have an excellent resident cat called Buzz.Once we’d spent sufficient time fussing Buzz we left Carnarvon and carried on south with our evening target of Denham in the Shark Bay marine reserve. The drive took us past the stromatolites which are… well they are certainly more interesting to read about than look at so we’d recommend doing that instead. Just in case you don’t believe us, here’s a fascinating picture.As the coast line of the peninsular is mainly made up of shell, it was essential that we stop at Shell Beach. It certainly is an odd experience to be on a beach made up entirely of fine shells but that’s pretty much all that is exciting about it and our visit was a short one. We crossed an enormous fence line and later learned that it was built across the peninsular to try and keep out feral species with the aim to re-establish the native populations. We are not sure whether it is working or not but our drive was certainly enlivened by kamikaze feral goats threatening to end it all in front of Heidi.
All of the coastline down through Shark Bay is dramatic and there are plenty of viewpoints just off the main highway where you can appreciate this. We chose to pull in at Eagle Bluff where a walkway has been built along the cliff edge and, apparently, you can scan the water for wildlife. It may have been the windy weather chopping up the water, but we are not sure how you are meant to spot something in the water. Caro may be forgiven for not being able to see two feet in front of her as the wind / skirt / hair combination was not working at all and this took up most of her attention.We stopped in Denham for the night, went for a run the next morning and that was pretty much the extent of our Denham experience. One of the more popular tourist attractions in the area is to watch the dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia. Neither of us particularly like the concept of wild animals being hand fed for the benefit of tourists and gave this a wide berth. Instead we went to look at a wind farm because James was irritated at not being able to identify the turbine manufacturers from a distance.
As we had already driven all this way, we also went to Francis Peron National Park. Normally we are fans of a 4WD track but this particular park is remote and you have to drive a very long way on tough routes to get anywhere at all. So, we stuck to the paved roads and toured the old Homestead instead. The homestead had been operational until the 1980s and we thought it was a bit bizarre to have something not that old as an attraction, it took us a while to realise that the 1980s are in fact 30 years ago, which is terrifying, and a lot has changed in agriculture since then.
It was actually quite interesting to explore the shearing sheds, see how the station was run and understand the hard lives these men lived. The whole homestead is very well maintained and it is a good way to pass half an hour if you fancy a stroll. The particularly incongruous added extra is an artesian hot tub which was open to the public free of charge. It was a little at odds with the surroundings but a nice use of a continually running bore sunk on the station which produces water at a constant 40 degrees.
Thinking we had done all that appealed to us in the area, we retraced our drive off the peninsular and back to the main highway for a very long straight drive to Kalbarri with a brief stop for a mascot photo on the way out.