Lost in another world: Busselton Jetty with a snorkel

This weekend I have spent some time appreciating my home patch. Saturday morning started with my usual 1.8km swim in the shark net. Although I come down every weekend, I am constantly blown away with how beautiful this place is and this weekend really was extra special. Yet again I found myself snapping away with my camera behaving like a tourist in my home town but I wasn’t the only one….. A Busselton City council worker clearing rubbish was doing the same, seemly blown away by what is effectively her office day in and day out. She greeted us cheerfully as she went on with her work knowing she had the best workplace ever.

Although there is an autumnal chill in the early morning the days are still warm and most importantly the water is still hovering around 22 degrees! This combined with not a breath of wind or swell, made for a magnificent swim and the absolute best start to a weekend. After a swim, walk and coffee we spent the afternoon relaxing and planning for an early Sunday morning snorkel.

Sunrise in paradise

Sunday morning came and we gathered a few friends, a collection of snorkels and wetsuits then headed down our 1.8km jetty ready to immerse ourselves in another world. The sun was out, the sea was flat and conditions were perfect. We chatted as we strolled along, watching dolphins frolicking out to our east and seabirds soaring above. We said hello to fellow walkers and people fishing, all of which sported wide smiles as they enjoyed all that the morning had to offer. It felt like no time and we had reached the end of the jetty where there is a dive platform and underwater observatory for those who want to enjoy the spectacle without getting wet.

Dive platform at the end of Busselton Jetty

When we arrived on the platform there was a scramble of equipment as we squeezed into wetsuits, zipped each other up, adjusted mask straps and hit the water. Some of us waved for the camera (whoops that is me on the left, already off and into another world – my happy place!).

Snorkels on and ready to go – Mum has gone already!

The minute my head entered the water, the worries of the week left and I entered a world where I could be completely free. First up I visited a small friend from a few weeks ago. On the first pylon right near the platform there is a collection of corals that form holes……… and in the holes, live blenny fish. I have always been intrigued by these fish, I first came across them many years ago snorkelling with my Dad. They are so easy to overlook but so interesting to watch should you see one. At first all you can see is a tiny pair of eyes looking at you but as you dive down they often come out of their hole just a little way to greet you, seemingly just as curious about us as we are of them. I introduced my family and friends to Mr Blenny before we swam off in a group towards the spectacular pylons and the underwater observatory.

The colours down there are just breath taking and on a clear day like today we were able to appreciate them in all their glory. The sun shone through the water illuminating the corals allowing the blues, greens, oranges and pinks to stand out against the crystal clear waters. We all pointed things out to each other exclaiming over fish, sponges and corals. There was the unusual sounds of excited snorkel talk, warped and loud! I dove down, down, down to the depths. With each dive I felt better and better equalising my ears, eventually allowing me to dive all the way to the seafloor (about 8m).

The coral colours – photo taken from inside the underwater observatory on my last visit

I was leading the way and suddenly came across what looked (through the shadows) to be a large bed of seagrass or weeds. As I came closer I realised the whole thing was moving and I became momentarily confused before I realised I was on top of the largest school of fish I have ever seen. It seemed to go on forever like a rippling blanket beneath me. I beckoned the others and we all dove down and watched the fish move around us with perfect flow and cohesion. I think they were herring but I can’t be sure, I need to work on my species identification!

We carried on and discovered old ladders and pieces of jetty now covered in coral and home to fish of all kinds. There were little ones, big ones, stripy ones, yellow ones, orange ones, silver ones, black ones, ones with eye patches, blow fish, old wives, angel fish and leather jackets (like I said I really need to brush up on who is who!).

Reluctantly after we did a full circuit it was time to get out as some in the party were feeling cold (we must have been in the water around 45 minutes). The brave decided to swim the 1.8km home, one decided the equipment trolley was the best way back and the rest strolled along in much the same fashion we started the day chatting and discussing things we had seen.

A last minute jetty jump as we passed the jump platform (known to every child in Busselton) and the morning was completed with coffee and chips on the lawn.

The absolute perfect way to spend a weekend in Busselton and the perfect way to clear the mind ready to tackle a new week.

TTB

Woody Island – Recherche Archipelago – Western Australia

On Sunday we had the opportunity to head out on a boat and investigate some of the islands of the Recherche Archipelago. We chose a Woody Island Eco tour which would include looking out for some local wildlife and a guided bush walk. It was a dull morning as we left Taylor’s jetty in Esperance but the wind was low. With a couple of seasick types in our midst, we knew a low wind and swell was more important than sunshine. In the end we got both (and no sickness).

Esperance Harbour

First up, we headed towards Thomas Island in search of some sea lions. As we approached the island there seemed to be nothing but rocks, then the guide called out that he could see a sea lion dead ahead. As we got closer we saw a blob on the rocks and no movement whatsoever. Master 13 piped up ‘Is it dead?. Momentarily the guide himself did look a little worried but then we pulled up alongside and he gave a sharp clap. The sea lion lifted it’s head as much to say ‘What do you want? Don’t you know it is 9:30am on Sunday morning?’. It was indeed alive.

Sunday morning slumber

From here our attention turned to the sky where we had two White Bellied Sea Eagles circling above us. What amazing creatures these are riding the thermals with ease. One of the guides threw a fish and we watched as the eagle swooped down for his breakfast. Unfortunately my photography skills were not quite up to scratch and I was unable to capture the eagle in all of it’s glory. After a quick circle around Seal rock where we saw another five sea lions we headed into Shearwater Bay on Woody Island.

Shearwater Bay – Woody Island

Once we arrived in the bay and disembarked onto the jetty, I was amazed to see the staff onboard our boat jump into action in various different roles cooking lunches, preparing for guided walks and taking gear up to the huts and tents for those staying overnight. In the meantime, we headed up to the visitors centre for a gaze over the beautiful bay while enjoying a coffee and muffin before getting the call to assemble for our guided walk.

Over the next hour and a half we walked the tracks of the island and listened to stories of it’s history. The walk itself was a reasonably good work out and included what the guide referred to as ‘heart attack hill’, a steep incline up to the peak where we had lovely views over the surrounding islands. Miss 10 the ‘mountain goat’ had no trouble with this at all and beat the rest of the family up the hill. She enjoyed feeding the skinks and hearing about the story behind a rocky bank on the edge of the island called ‘Twiggy’s landing’.

Twiggy was a dog who was lost at sea one day while his owner (Mr Mackenzie who also happened to be the owner of Woody Island) was out fishing on his boat. After many weeks of searching for Twiggy on surrounding islands, all hope was lost. A few months passed and one day a visitor to the island told of a dog residing on the far side. It turns out Twiggy had survived his ordeal and was living on lizards and rainwater. Mr Mackenzie left out a few juicy steaks for Twiggy which disappeared but without sight of the dog. One day as the boat was packed up ready to head to the mainland, Twiggy arrived on the jetty and jumped aboard, his island adventure complete.

Lizard feeding

To conclude our day trip we had some lunch back in the visitors centre while other members of our tour had a swim. The bay looked to be a great sheltered place to snorkel with some interesting cave formations right on the waters edge. Our family chose to have a day out of the water but felt that this would be a great place to come back and spend a few nights in one of the glamping tents or huts.

Incidentally, we were very impressed with our deckhand’s cooking skills who at 1:20pm made their way back down onto the jetty for our return to Esperance. We were a well behaved mob and everyone was onboard ready to depart at 1:30pm much to the staff’s relief, I am sure they were due a break!

The view as we motored back to Esperance

Another thoroughly enjoyable day.

TTB

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

Great Aussie road trip – Busselton to Esperance WA

Finally……. here we are on holiday! It isn’t quite what we had planned for January 2021, but it is a getaway nonetheless and for that we are grateful. Sri Lanka and the Maldives will have to wait but will give us something to look forward to when this pandemic is all over. For my family and friends stuck in lockdowns or battling health problems, I hope that my blogs over the next few days will transport you out of your living room and into the beauty that is Western Australia so that you too can enjoy what WA has to offer.

Yesterday, we set out from Busselton at 7am ready to drive some 700km south east to Esperance in the Great Southern region of WA. The Travel Bee mobile was loaded to the brim with beach gear including chairs, umbrellas, body boards, snorkels, bathers, rashies, wetsuits and flippers. Inside the cab we had snacks, audiobooks, games and music. We were set for another great Aussie road trip.

Now, one might think that an eight hour journey across anywhere in Australia would be boring. You imagine long plains of brown grass, red dirt, sand and not much else……………….. perhaps a few kangaroos. Yes, there were kangaroos and yes there was brown grass but we did see a few things to capture our attention along the way.

The first, was the flocks of brown sheep (very unlike the shampooed version of sheep in New Zealand!) huddled together under the smallest patches of shade. They looked so funny all squished up and I imagined how hot it would be under all that wool with the harsh Australian sun beating down. Then one of the sheep spotted the farmer’s ute coming. He jumped up to head towards breakfast and in true sheep style the rest all followed. It was quite entertaining, watching these animals run like maniacs after their leader.

Next we saw the weird silhouettes of the Porongurups burst their way out of the ground and onto our horizon. This is one of the very few ‘mountain ranges’ of Western Australia. They are actually large granite domes that only rise 670m (again I compare something to New Zealand and conclude these are not really mountains but more like………. bumps). They are however, over one billions years old making them the oldest range in the world!!

Miss 10 and I were also entertained by the Giant (or Humongous) Jenga stacks of hay bails and the strange trees that looked like exotic mushrooms, with long naked trunks and branches and only a few leaves on top. All the way, we were reminded how scary it can be in outback Australia with evidence of many bushfires.

We took note of the town names and tried to work out their meaning. Most are named by the Noongar people who are the native Aboriginals in the south west of WA. In their language the suffix ‘up’ means ‘place of’ and a good portion of the towns included this term. Boyanup, Mumballup, Noggerup, Kojonup, Gnowangerup, Jerramungup. We were also counting the towns we passed but when Miss 10 took a nap we lost count! I think it was about 12.

We made one significant stop in Kojonup. ‘Kodja’ refers to the stone axe made by Aboriginal people from the stone in this area. We had been recommended the Black cockatoo cafe where we enjoyed a coffee and homemade sausage roll before checking out the native rose bush maze. This followed the story of three local women and would be very interesting if you had the time to read all the information.

After some 9 hours we made it to our destination of Esperance. Not one game was played, the audiobooks were not listened to and there was very little music heard or snacks eaten. As it turns out, there are plenty of things to keep your attention while travelling in Australia.

TTB

Goodbye 2020 from Geographe Bay – Western Australia

It has been a tough year for travel blogging (and just about everything else!). I started with some writing about Japan, a wonderful ski trip we were lucky enough to enjoy just before our world changed. Then I wrote of my experiences home schooling and a short trip to Pemberton before trying out my ‘virtual travel blog’.

‘Virtual’ writing just wasn’t the same. There was a lot of research and with research comes referencing. In the end it felt like I was writing an assignment for school or university and we all know, assignments are a chore. Blogging was never meant to be anything I felt I had to force myself to do. The whole reason I love to blog is because there is no right or wrong, it is just my thoughts and observations gathered together for myself and others to enjoy. It isn’t to regurgitate what others have already said.

Geographe Bay looking towards Dunsborough and Cape Leeuwin

This time last year I was excitedly putting the finishing touches to my new website and blog ‘The Travel Bee’. I shut down my old ‘Stressaholics’ blog and filed my previous entries (that could pass as travel writing) into categories, as I dreamed of the trips we had planned for 2020 and 2021. I couldn’t wait to write about the destinations we were travelling to and to share it with friends and family. Little did I realise that our January trip to Japan would be the last overseas holiday for a very long time and that travel writing was about to become very hard indeed. As it turns out ‘Stressaholics’ may have in fact been a more fitting blog for 2020, but I believed I was leaving my stress behind!

Within weeks of our return we were thrown into a world of lockdowns, masks, hand sanitiser, travel restrictions and social distancing. Terms we had never heard of suddenly became everyday talk. Some eleven months down the track and we seem no better off (on a world scale that is). Yes, we have a vaccine but we all know it will take time for this to be rolled out in our country let alone the world. In the meantime we battle on, listening to frightening statistics and news of outbreaks, hoping the next one isn’t in our own backyard.

Shark net swimming area Busselton foreshore

So as 2020 draws to a close, I am sharing with you a selection of photos I have taken here in my own backyard over the last few weeks. Every time I go down to the beach it blows me away how beautiful this place is and I often find myself clicking away as if I was a tourist. The beach, the ocean, the sky and the wildlife. Each day is new, fresh and exciting. This is a place to forget about Covid-19 and the dramas of 2020.

Cloud magic over Busselton jetty
West Australian emblem black swans cruising the bay

I don’t know what 2021 holds for me or my blogging nor for our world and the curse that is Covid-19. I do know that this year has taught us so many things, not the least of which, is that we have to enjoy every moment we are given. We don’t know what is around the corner. We can’t wait for things to change or get better, we have to find meaning and satisfaction in our daily life.

A cloudy day skiing on the bay

‘ We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some canoes and some are drowning. Just be kind and help whoever you can’ don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

We have all had so much taken away from us this year, but this experience has been different for everyone. Some have coped well and others have not. Some have felt they are in their canoe with no paddle, others completely paralysed with no direction whatsoever.

The only way forward is to be making constant readjustments in direction. There are many ways to get to the things we want in life and mostly it isn’t via a straight line. I for one, have always wanted to take the straight line approach and get annoyed when my straight line becomes bendy. I feel like someone is out to get me or that I have done something wrong. This year has been a good lesson in showing me that we are all subject to the bends. No one could get anywhere in a straight line in 2020!

Underwater observatory Busselton Jetty

2021 is our chance for some new hope. We know there will be bends in the road and some big mountains placed in our way, but 2020 has surely given us new skills in negotiating these obstacles. My wish for 2021 is that things ease up for my family and friends that are doing it tough, that we can all make wonderful memories, even in the bad times and that each day we grow stronger and more resilient.

Just like each new day in Geographe Bay, here’s to a new, fresh and exciting year. One filled with hope, kindness and a whole lot less pain.

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

Windy Harbour/ Salmon Beach – D’Entrecasteaux National Park WA

Our last full day in Pemberton called for a day trip. The weather was looking ok (well as best you can expect in the middle of winter down south). We set off and headed to Northcliffe where we planned on having morning tea but when we drove through, we saw no café!! We needed coffee and everywhere has a café – right??!!

Correct. We found it around the corner and were all immediately intrigued by it’s name; Hollowbutt Café. Obviously a reference to the trees in the region, I immediately felt I was in a slightly quirky Aussie town. After reading, it turns out it is named after an attraction, the ‘hollowbutt’ in Forest Park (must check that out next time). Anyway, the coffee was good and although the cake selection was limited, we were all very happy with what we had to eat. By all accounts it looked like a place that catered well to the many walkers that pass through on the Bibbulman track with good wholesome food. My carrot cake was delicious.

From here, with full tummies we set out on the road towards Windy Harbour. Mr Travel Bee and I had done this route once before and I distinctly remember wondering why anyone would bother! On that day, the weather was awful and at the end of the road there was a basic caravan park, a boat ramp and a beach. I don’t think we even got out of the car. But, others had told me what a lovely place it was, so I was determined to see it from a new perspective.

Along the way we stopped off at Mt Chudalup, a granite outcrop that protrudes out 185m over the surrounding Karri Forrest and offers fantastic views of D’Entrecasteaux National Park. The Summit Walk Trail to it’s top, is well worth the effort. Signage recommends a 60 minute round trip but with rain clouds on the horizon when we reached the top, we were able to complete it much quicker! The trail itself is a mixture of steps, gravel inclines and granite slopes so is not suitable for all (including it seems, Master 13 with his groin injury! Slipping on a granite face did nothing to shorten his recovery time).

Mt Chudalup
The rain is coming

After our quick descent, we all bundled into the car just as the rain started and I feared Windy Harbour would be a repeat of our last effort. However, by the time we arrived the rain had stopped. Yes it was still just a caravan park, boat ramp and beach. This time though I did notice a bait shop before getting out of the car and walking up over the sand dunes to a park bench. From here, we could see the beauty of the beach and it’s attraction……….. if it was summer!

The best new discovery though, was not the bait shop. It was the sign to Salmon Beach. A 5 minute drive around the coast revealed a lookout and a stunning coastline of dramatic cliffs and rocky outcrops that immediately reminded me of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I never even knew it was there!

Salmon Beach

So, I get it now…..

Windy Harbour is definitely worth a daytrip.

My recommendation…… make sure YOU GET OUT OF THE CAR (even if it is pouring down)!

TTB

Pemberton – Southern Forests WA (part 2)

We had friends coming to join us for the last two nights of our stay in Pemberton. For what was to be a relaxing few days in the forest, it had a rather dramatic start. On their way into town they were flagged down at the side of the road to assist in a freak accident. Termites had eaten away at a tree causing it to fall into the road just as a poor unsuspecting family were passing by. The tree clipped the bonnet of their car, which consequently rolled and was lying upside down at the side of the road.

The occupants of the car (grandparents and their two young grandsons) were all out, another passer-by having already helped and called emergency services. Understandably, all were in shock. Our friends tried as best they could to comfort them until the ambulance arrived. They were all astounded no one was seriously hurt. Needless to say, when they did arrive at the retreat, a strong cup of tea and debrief was in order before starting our adventures together.

Once everyone had begun to unwind, we headed out to Cascades for a walk. Having had a lot of rain over the last few days, the rapids were quite spectacular. There is something so soothing about the sound of running water and the sway of trees in a forest (and the laughs and shouts of happy kids as they explore). The adults chatted as we took our time wandering down the path.

What is not soothing however, is then watching your child scale a 65m tall tree! The Bicentennial tree is in fact the highest lookout tree in the world and my fearless 10 year old daughter conquered it with relative ease. Having climbed the Gloucester tree last year, this one was next on her list. She had talked about it for days, I had hoped and prayed she would back out when she got there. No chance.

I was a mess. I paced. I pretended to watch the pretty birds flitting around. I paced. I swore. I listened to peoples shocked comments about the little girl up the tree. I paced.

Fortunately Mr Travel Bee is ok with heights and was able to stay with her the whole way up. He too could scarcely believe she was doing it, but she was absolutely determined she would get to the top………….. and that they did. We are so proud of her mental strength but I must say, it does worry me going forward quite what else she may get up to. As the saying goes; ‘the sky is the limit’ and she is set on becoming an astronaut. Who are we to question?!!

After the big descent and as the adrenaline levels (and stress levels) plummeted we all realised we were starving and headed to the The Crossings Bakery for much needed sustenance. From here it was back to the retreat for another relaxing afternoon and evening.

Warmth, wine, friends and family. What could be better?

TTB

Pemberton – Southern Forests WA (Part 1)

With holidays close to home being the ‘thing of 2020’, we headed off to Pemberton for a relaxing start to the July school holidays. Just an hour and forty minutes from home, it is an easy stress free drive (unless a tree falls on your car – to be explained in part 2). We set out late on Saturday morning, stopping in Nannup for our obligatory coffee at the Blackwood café before arriving at our Airbnb at 3pm.

Over the years, we have visited the area several times and have been lucky enough to stumble upon Blue Wren Retreat. This tranquil house is found just east of Pemberton nestled away amongst hobby farms, trees and rolling green hills. The house itself sleeps up to twelve guests and caters to visitors of all ages. Inside, there is literally a full DVD library, board games of all descriptions, a fully equipped kitchen, wood fire and comfy beds. The garden is a bird lovers paradise with wrens and parrots flitting around all day and secret reading spots scattered under the trees. For the kids (ok…. and adults), there is the shed. Filled with bikes of all sizes, table tennis, table soccer, air hockey and more, there is much fun to be had………even when it is raining!

On night one, we headed to Treehouse Tapas and Wine bar for dinner, having had it recommended to us. Who would have thought Pemberton was the place to go for Tapas?! Our kids wondered what it was all about, taking a while to warm to the idea of sharing their food. However, once it was on the table, they were sold. The barman said he rarely saw kids get into it like they did. There was an array of Spanish inspired food with a few Pemberton specials thrown in. Mr 13’s favourite was the marron cooked in truffle infused butter! Miss 10’s the stuffed mushrooms. I loved it all!

The following day we did not leave the retreat other than to stroll down the road to visit the horses, sheep, alpacas, dogs, ducks and geese that lived around the neighbourhood. The remainder of the day was spent reading, doing a jigsaw and playing some family games of table tennis and air hockey. By the end of the day, the stresses of the last few months had melted away. Honestly my mind felt fully at rest. It is important to mention at this stage, there is one very important thing missing from this house………… phone reception.

After a complete lazy day, we headed out to the Big Brook Dam for a walk early Monday morning. Between rain showers we were able to wander down the path and check out the little beach that would be a beautiful swimming spot in summer. We were also able to show Nan the Kookaburras as they laughed at us from their vantage point high in the trees (likely spotting the incoming rain shower before we did!).

From here we headed into town where the kids enjoyed a visit to the Pemberton miniature railway club, a browse in a gallery and a pie at the bakery. Then it was back home to another relaxing afternoon in front of the fire with red wine and a slow cooked casserole.

On Wednesday we had friends joining us for the last couple of nights (part 2). After all, it is only fair that we share such a wonderful and relaxing place!

TTB