Lucky Bay – Cape Le Grand National Park – Western Australia

Well one thing is for sure, you certainly feel lucky when you find yourself on this beach. It really is sublime. The colours are truly picture perfect; pure white sand and the ocean an array of blues and aqua. Several times I have had to take off my sunglasses just to check there isn’t some kind of trick or optical illusion. We have made two trips out to Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grand National Park which is around 64km east of Esperance. It is well worth the 45 minute drive and $15 entry fee into the park.

I think the thing that makes this place so attractive, is the ability to take your car right down onto the beach. This means everything is accessible, which is particularly attractive when you have children. There is no need to worry about lumping your Esky down steps or trudging through soft sand when someone leaves their hat in the car, everything is right there (providing you packed it in the first place!). You can even slide the gazebo out of the car and pop it up to provide shelter from the midday sun.

Lucky Bay (the photos do not do it justice)

There are several other things that make this beach different. The first is the sand. Not only is it the whitest, it is the finest I have ever come across and it does a few strange things………… it squeaks when you walk on it and it clumps when it gets wet. It actually resembles and behaves, quite like snow but without the chill factor! This provides hours of fun for the kids making videos of squeaky sand, building sand castles and burying oneself.

Sand or snow?

Lucky Bay is also famous for it’s visiting Kangaroos. They are very tame and more than happy to be around eager tourists. Local guide books and tourist information do tell you not to feed them but I am quite sure some people do. Although we weren’t ‘lucky’ enough to have any visit our day camp, we did see one and it’s joey sheltering under a Landcruiser as we wandered along the sand to the next unique thing about this beach….. the Lucky Bean – a coffee van!

Now this is pure perfection. Coffee, beach, chair, shade and happy kids …………… what a combination! I do just have to add, it is the most expensive coffee we have had for a long time (perhaps ever) but I guess you are paying for the remoteness and the experience. It was worth every cent. The water itself at Lucky Bay was lovely and we spent hours throwing the skim ball and frisbee around in the shallows. Recent shark sightings did mean deeper swims were only on the agenda for dare devils though!

Much nearer to Esperance itself, you can find the relatively new Lucky Bay Brewery. Whether you choose to do this on your way home from Cape Le Grand National park or on a different day as we did, we do recommend a visit to this place. To start with, the beers are very good. Apparently this is something to do with their use of locally farmed barley. They are the only brewery in Western Australia that are able to do this as most of the grain grown in WA is exported. Whatever the secret, it is a really nice brew.

We were lucky enough to visit on a day they had visiting caterers in the form of Kamal’s Paella. Our kids were introduced to this Spanish treat and immediately fell in love with it. This made for a happy family with full tummies. The usual menu does however also look good, as does the live music schedule. Overall, it is a very relaxing place to chill out after a day at the beach or after a 4WD adventure.

Seafood Paella

One thing is certain, Lucky Bay is definitely going to go down as one of The Travel Bee’s favourite spots for a chilled day out.

TTB

Esperance – Great Southern – Western Australia

We have so far had three epic days here enjoying Esperance and in particular the Southern Ocean. We started with the Great Ocean Drive early on Monday morning. This is a 40km loop that was perfect to introduce us to the area and help us gain our bearings. We cruised along the coast checking out each beach and analysing what it had to offer. Within the first five minutes, Master 13 had found his body boarding beach and sat agitated, longing to hit the waves. We persuaded him it would be worth checking the whole area out including a pie from the bakery before getting wet, which seemed to plicate him.

At each lookout we had to take a photo. The beaches here are absolutely stunning and each is different. The cliffs, reefs and rocky outcrops vary so much and make for some striking scenery. The colour of the water is out of this world ranging from a deep dark blue to the lightest of aqua and every hue in between. Apart from the beaches, the drive also takes you past the Esperance Docks, Wind Farm (which we are yet to visit) and Pink Lake which is no longer pink but still quite picturesque (just don’t park beside the rubbish bin like we did!).

Pink Lake

Our AirBnb Seascapes Beach House is perfectly situated just off Twilight Beach road at West Beach. This beach is unique in its reef formation which provides a protected pool, a small break of waves between the two sections of reef and some great snorkelling (yet to be done, but it is on the list). Blue Haven just around the corner is a deep dark blue bay and these are both within walking distance from the house. There is a beautiful dual access coast path which the kids have enjoyed riding their bikes along while we stroll.

West Beach
Blue Haven

Around the corner from Blue Haven is Fourth Beach now commonly known as the ‘Bee bodyboard beach’ (yes this is the beach Master 13 spotted). There are several carparks along this stretch but our favourite is the first carpark. Here there is a lookout perched high on the cliff, perfect for Nan to watch the action and a rather crumbly track down onto the beach. The swell here is relatively small when compared to Yallingup and Margaret River. However, this is perfect for the kids to learn. So far, there has been hours of fun here and I dare say there will be many more. Getting the kids out of the water is the tricky bit, in the end it is only hunger that pulls them out.

Fourth Beach

Another plus for me, is that further around this same bay is Twilight Beach. This is probably the most popular family beach as it is safe and sheltered, with some interesting rock formations for swimmers to jump off. There is a surf club, surf lifesavers (although as I found out today, they are only there on Saturday and Sundays), two shark beacons and a shark siren……………………. I chose here to have my first open water swim. Once the beach had filled I felt safe enough to get in and had a great 2km swim, one direction was tough against the current and the other I could switch on auto pilot and cruise through the clearest water ever.

So far it seems there is something for everyone here (at least in the Bee family!). The town itself has everything we need with several supermarkets which I have found are best visited before 4pm after which you compete with the hoards of tourists who have just come back from their daytrips or days at the beach! The main street is mostly 1960s brick buildings that house all one would need when they realise their wetsuits no longer fit or a beach cricket set is required or a different item of clothing is needed. There is ample selection of restaurants, takeaway food and the all important coffee!

It seems Esperance is definitely worth the 700km journey.

TTB

A life on our planet

#sustainabletravel#alifeonourplanet

For months (since the start of the Covid pandemic) I have been searching for new inspiration. I have asked questions of myself…………..How can I be travel writer when I can’t travel? Do I have anything else interesting to say? I tried a parenting blog about the challenges facing us and our children with Covid, but it fizzled…… mainly because I live in an area that for the last six months has been really quite unaffected by it all. Our children here in WA, have a normal life again.

Our government has virtually shut us off, not only from the rest of the world, but from the rest of the country. This has been great on one hand, we have all felt very safe and have had the luxury of carrying on our day to day activities in our new normal way. We haven’t had to worry about outbreaks or our friends getting sick and dying and for that I am truly grateful. However, on the other hand it has felt somewhat isolating. Families have been torn apart and as we approach Christmas there seems no end in sight to our separation. It is fortunate that we have such a vast state with so many areas we have yet to explore, but for me it is just NOT normal being this restricted.

I have been thinking about what it is to travel and what it means to me. I guess in a nutshell, I love to see something new, to see the way different people live their lives and to see the vastness and complexities of our planet. This has got me thinking about our planet because I guess that is really what I am in love with! We don’t treat her well and one does have to wonder if this virus is just one of mother nature’s ways of beginning to reset some of our wrongs. There is absolutely no question earth is in trouble.

Last week I watched David Attenborough’s ‘A life on our planet’. I started it alone but in hearing what I was watching, the family slowly gathered. Without me saying it, one by one, they all realised this was something they needed to see. At first it was like watching a horror movie. The statistics of what has happened to the world in one man’s lifetime is utterly staggering. The tears flowed (well for me anyway). The children’s jaws dropped. My husband shook his head. My son in particular looked very worried. But there is hope. David came to the rescue, telling us what needs to be done and that we DO still have time to fix things. But things must change.

What really hit home for me, is that age old mentality of ‘well I can’t fix it on my own so I might as well carry on as I am’ just isn’t going to cut it any more. We all need to be in on this. There are changes we can make that I had never dreamed of and that really are not that hard. For example, I hadn’t really thought too much about what we choose to eat or where our money is invested and how it impacts the natural world. In essence, the main thing that is required is space. Space to ‘re-wild the planet’ as David calls it. The amount of space taken in food production for example, is truly astounding.

So, how does this affect me and my travel writing? Well, it made me realise that to travel in this day and age may in fact be a very selfish act. There is my carbon footprint to consider, the impact I have moving around delicate parts of the planet, the food choices I make when I am away, just to name a few. With this in mind and no end to our current situation in sight, it is time to join the rest of the virtual world and embark on some virtual travel writing. To love my world and to explore from afar.

What is stopping me from doing some research and writing about the places that I want to travel to? To do it armed with new knowledge and from a slightly different slant? To explore how humans have affected my destinations and how we humans are now trying to mitigate our wrong doings. To find out how, when I finally do get to visit these places, I can do so in a sustainable fashion without making things worse for our planet. I could even take a step back into some of the places I have already visited and look for the things I missed when I was there.

Sustainable energy: wind and solar powered lights Busselton foreshore

In reality many of the places I dream of visiting don’t even exist in the way I imagine them. Places like the Great Barrier Reef isn’t what it was 20 years ago, the open plains of Africa have shrunk, rainforests are half the size they were. Yet in my imagination they are how it was…… in their ‘hay day’. As David Attenborough says himself, he has been incredibly lucky to see what he has in his 93 years but also not. Seeing the decline before his very eyes must have been terrifying.

If you have not already, please do yourself, your family and our world a favour and watch this film. It will invoke shock, sadness but above all hope. Let us ‘re-wild’ earth so that our future generations can enjoy what we have.

The Virtual (and hopefully sustainable) Travel Bee

The quirks of Augusta – Western Australia

The beauty of travel is the ability to change things up. Even in a place you think you know inside out, you can be surprised by what you might find if you choose to do things a bit differently.

We have visited Augusta at least twice a year for the last 8 years, yet something simple like renting an Air Bnb in the middle of town instead of our usual camping spot, makes the same place feel remarkably different.

This weekend our accomodation has been the ground floor of a stunning house perched high on the hills above the Blackwood River. Without a doubt, its most impressive feature is the deck and its view over the river. Ideally situated, it is 100m from the best coffee shop (The Deck Chair cafe), 100m from the river and 20m from the quirkiest shop in the south west (I still don’t know what it is actually called)! Master 13 wouldn’t want me to forget it is roughly 500m from Augusta Bakery.

View of the Blackwood river

Being winter, when we usually visit in summer or early Autumn, our activities were always going to be different to normal. This time, instead of spending most of our time in the water, we spent it wandering along the river and exploring shops. On our first afternoon we walked up to the bakery for the obligatory pie.

It was on the way back we met our first quirky character who happened to be a French bulldog wearing a pink coat. His owners had headed into the Thousand Suns cafe and left him to fend for himself in the Nissan Patrol (don’t worry it wasn’t a stinking hot day or anything). He had decided their time was up and was literally beeping the horn at them! It was so funny! At various intervals he would jump onto the drivers seat, stand on his hind feet and pump both front feet on the horn! Master 13 and I couldn’t believe our eyes or ears!

From here we strolled on down the road and into the shop opposite our holiday house. The outside gave only a glimpse of what treasures lay within. A few puzzles, towels and games were displayed but once you were in, you didn’t know where to look first!

There were books everywhere, all categorised and labelled, some new, some second hand. There were ornaments, nick nacks, mugs, lunch boxes, games, puzzles, records, audio books, crafts, jewellery, kids toys ……. it was very quirky! I was astounded by the shop itself, the shop owners who clearly have an astonishing eye for detail and a love for all things unusual and the behaviour of yet another dog! This time a Newfoundland whose owners led him slowly through the shop. He could barely fit in the isle but behaved like a saint. There was temptation all around and not once did he attempt to touch anything.

Throughout the whole weekend we met an array of interesting dogs. We walked along the path from the boat ramp at the bottom of our street around the river to the Colourpatch cafe. It was a lovely morning, we saw people fishing, black swans and frolicking dolphins. Unusually, there was not a single pelican. These quirky birds normally frequent this area and I always find their antics interesting, but no such luck on this visit. Instead we saw dog after dog, big small and everything in between.

River Ramble

We were disappointed to find the Colourpatch closed (Sunday morning on a long weekend?!) but knew exactly where to head for our coffee fix. At The Deck Chair cafe in the centre of town, Yahava coffee in hand we watched a French Bulldog puppy and a Dachshund socialising and a sleepy Chihuahua whose eyes kept closing while he sat bolt upright!

To finish our weekend away, this morning we headed to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse. This is where the Southern and Indian oceans meet in an aggressive and spectacular fashion, although today was surprisingly calm. We have been many times over the years but wanted to check out the new interpretive centre in one of the old light keeper’s cottages.

We enjoyed the centre and thought that the $20 fee per family was reasonable (some of these types of things are grossly over priced). The interactive element was great for the kids, who particularly enjoyed the quirky photos that came to life.

So another successful, yet different trip to Augusta! This has been the first real opportunity in months to get away and break the cycle of what has been quite a trying time for everyone around us. It is quite fitting it has fallen on the Western Australia Day long weekend. I am fairly certain we are all appreciative of what it means to live here in WA this year more than any other!

The dogs of WA are enjoying getting out and about too!

TTB

Australia is burning

Whilst I am super excited sitting here in Perth airport waiting to go on holiday, I can’t help but feel a little worried for the country I call home.

Normal people like me are suffering all around Australia this New Years Day. Some have lost everything they own, some their life and others precious family members.

As we travelled up here today, the countryside we passed looked parched. The site of a previous catastrophic bushfire still eerie and barren, evidence of a south west town that was completely wiped out 4 years ago.

I don’t have any answers and I don’t know how we prevent such terrible tragedies. There are endless theories and people researching what can be done to help the world and the situation in which we find ourselves. I think it is time we all stood up and listened because it is all getting very real.

Now more than ever before, I want to travel and see the world as much as I can before things change irreversibly (if they haven’t already). But will I just be contributing as I travel in planes, cars and trains……. what is my carbon footprint? It might be time to become more aware of my own impact.

Today, it feels completely mad to think I am leaving a scorched land and heading to the snow. How would I do that without a plane and I wonder how much effect the actions of humans has had on the wilderness of northern Japan?…….. I guess I will find out soon.

As I embark on a new decade, I feel very privileged. For me, 2020 is looking bright, but I am very aware that for many it has been a brutal start to the new year.

For all those in Australia battling against the inferno, stay safe, love the people around you and cherish every moment as we all should every day.

TTB

Coffee and food – Melbourne

Before coming to Melbourne, I honestly thought we had good coffee where I live, that we were spoilt for cafes. I still think for a rural town we are, but this place is something else! How can the humble coffee bean be transformed in so many different ways?!!

I am a strict flat white, one a day drinker. I mostly drink coffee from the same cafe at home or blends from a local coffee roasting company. I didn’t realise I was restricting my palate or that coffee could be so varied.

I have had 4 since I have been here (last one tomorrow), each so different, but all equally as good. One slightly richer, another more bitter, one with fluffier milk, one that it was obvious milk was not the focus! All outstanding.

Then there is the world of food. I am amazed at the number of restaurants, cafes and takeaway outfits that line the streets here. There is food of all cultures and nationalities side by side. The choice is abundant and varied with a price range to match. It makes me wonder if any city dwellers cook at home at all because there really is little need!

Queen Victoria Market blows that theory out of the water though. My goodness the array of fresh ingredients on offer is huge from the fruit and vegetables to fish, meat, cheese and chocolate. The foodie is in heaven in this city. For us, the freshly cooked corn on the cob and hand made chocolate truffles was enough for some wide, happy smiles and satisfied tummies.

Today, we caught the City Sightseeing bus out to St Kilda. Even as the bus meandered through the suburbs the cafe scene was alive and strong. My goodness were we happy with our hot chocolates upon reaching our destination. We happened to be visiting St Kilda just as storm fronts began battering Victoria! We certainly didn’t see it at its best but I am sure St Kilda is beautiful in summer. Today, it was rather reminiscent of some UK beaches I have visited!

We squeezed in a spot of shopping this morning but tomorrow we have three hours to explore the shopping on offer before heading to the airport. All in all a very successful girls mini break!

LLS

Culture to creatures – Melbourne

Day 2 of the mini break was amazing for so many reasons.

I am loving getting back into travel mode, of course being mum and the only one who has been to Melbourne before, I am in charge of planning. So yesterday morning I dutifully studied the map and planned a schedule which included City Sights Bus tour, Queen Victoria Markets, a big climbing wall the girls had heard of, then finishing in China Town for dinner. We set off for the circular tram which would take us to the start of the City Sights Tour.

We found the stop we needed fine. Unfortunately there was a long wait for the tram (unusual there had been a problem somewhere along the line). There were a number of the I’m hungry, I’m bored comment from Miss 9.

Finally we were onboard. I was enjoying the view and commentary while Miss 9, apparently now completely depleted of fuel was slumped beside me. My phone rang.

It was the tour guide for our trip to Phillip Island tomorrow. He asked if there was any chance we could do the Penguin tour today instead of tomorrow. He explained they had a half full tour today, only us booked tomorrow and he was sick (he did sound full of cold).

I implemented my ‘do not say yes immediately’ strategy and asked if I could call him back. I spoke to the girls and we all agreed that yes we should go a day earlier, the weather was good, we felt fresh after our big sleep and we couldn’t wait to see the little penguins.

My plan for the day was deleted and I didn’t care in the slightest!! No stressing or fretting, just straight to plan B.

We still had 3 hours until the tour left, so after filling up on a second breakfast (and purchasing a bag full of snacks for Miss 9) I suggested we checked out some street art before going to the meeting point.

Wow.

We were blown away. What a truely fantastic use of space. Back alleys and lanes, including bins, fire escapes, bollards and poles all canvas for the most amazing and skilful artists. Who would have imagined what could be achieved with a spray can and a bit of flare?!!

And these photos barely do it justice.

From there we headed to the meeting point for our Little Penguin Tour. We had a 2 hour drive out to Phillip Island. We drove through the city with the guide pointing out the sights, experienced a Melbourne freeway before leaving the city behind and crossing through the lush green fields of southern Victoria. We passed asparagus market gardens, animal sanctuaries and holiday towns before reaching Phillip Island and the Parade of the Penguins.

Once we reached the south western corner of the island, we jumped out of the minibus for a short walk and a look at the Nobbies (an unusual rock formation). The cold blast of air reminded me we were actually on the edge of Bass Strait and Tasmania wasn’t all that far away!

Then we headed towards the main event, the Penguin Centre. Along the way we saw an array of wildlife including wallabies, brush tail possums, sea eagles and Cape Barren Geese. There were Penguin burrows everywhere.

After spending some time in the centre we made our way down to the viewing platform at 5:25pm as per our bus drivers recommendation. The platform was packed. We stood at the back and waited. At 5:38pm there were ohhhs and ahhhs as the first group of penguins emerged from the water. Our view was blocked somewhat, but all three of us were overawed with the spectacle of at least 100 little penguins making their way up the beach in a huddle.

Our driver told us to hold tight. It was cold down on the platform but he had armed us with blankets and ponchos. The aim he told us, was to wait out the crowds because most would drift off not coping with the cold. Then we would get a good view.

We went from standing to sitting on the side to sitting dead centre, wrapped in our blanket. There are at least 10 groups in all that we witnessed waddle up the beach. There were the scared one, the bold ones, the slow, the fast. We watched as they drifted off into their pairs, literally arm in arm (flipper in flipper), they cuddled and coed. They squawked and squeaked. Then they sat outside their burrows, seemly drying off before retreating inside. Some danced, some mated, some sat alone.

It was an exhibition I will never forget and neither will the girls. On the way back up the path to the centre, I really wanted to lean over and pick one of them up to take home in my pocket. At 30cm high, it would almost have fit!!

A day of change, a day of contrast. A day to remember!

LLS

Hustle and bustle – Melbourne

Oh the excitement of exploring a new city……

Yesterday was a very long and exhausting day. I have to admit there were times I definitely thought to myself, I will never ever do that flight again. 12:30am scheduled time with a 90 minute delay, it was hideous, what was I thinking booking that when traveling with a child?! (I was thinking about my hip pocket of course!). But, in the light of day with 11 hours sleep under our belt, it doesn’t seem that bad.

When we arrived, we were met by an old friend of mine. On our walk to her car we realised it was 11 years since we last saw each other. There are some people you meet in life, that you know no matter how long between meetings, it will always be the same and she is one of them. She took us to a lovely suburban cafe where we enjoyed a strong Melbourne coffee, a big breakfast and a great catch up. For me, she managed to wash away the tired and grumpiness of the flight (maybe not for everyone!).

After a little rest at her lovely home, we were on the train and heading into the centre, ready to check into our accommodation. When we did, we were met by an amazing view over the city. The 46th floor!!!

I then had to force us out the door in a bid to keep in the right time zone. It started off feeling like I was torturing my daughter, dragging her through the streets in a rather cold breeze and the faintest of drizzle. There was all the usual kid questions and comments, how much further? Where are we going? I can’t walk anymore, I’m hungry.

We reached an area where there were more people about, the buzz was increasing, there were more lights and quirky signs. She started to perk up, ever so slightly. Then I found my target, Hardware Lane, we were in Italian Precinct.

The minute we turned the corner, I was transported back to my days traveling in Europe. The waiters jostled to draw us into their restaurant. They were all Italian and telling us about their pasta, pizza and kids menu. Again I felt my daughter relax just a tiny bit more.

We settled on a restaurant and chose to sit outside under the awning with an outdoor heater, on the edge of the cobbled lane. I was determined not to miss any action. The service was quick, efficient and friendly. With only a small delay, there was calamari in front of my daughter and suddenly all was well in the world again!

With my glass of red and risotto and my exchange daughter with her delicious meal the three of us relaxed into the vibe of the street around us. We watched the musician arrive with his little case and the waiters set up his seat. We listened as he played chilled out music. We watched other people arriving in the lane and choosing their restaurant. We sat and filled our tummies.

We even let the waitress convince my daughter she needed to try the chocolate brownie (not much arm twisting needed). We all commented on the way the Italian’s said the word brownie, so exotic and romantic the way they accentuate the o (my daughter informs me it is because their is no w in Italian).

I had one last thing up my sleeve to sell Melbourne to my daughter on night one. She had been cold and coming from the West we really have no need for big coats. We hit the shops!

In her new warm coat, she almost skipped up the hill and back to our apartment. She is hooked! With the big sleep under her belt there will be no stopping her today! I can’t wait to get out and enjoy the hustle and bustle of one of the most cosmopolitan and cultural cities I know. The girls are going to love it.

LLS