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