We left New Zealand on March 31st, but wouldn’t arrive to Perth until April 1st. In order save money, we chose to have a 9 hour layover in Melbourne. A 9 hour layover might not seem so bad during the day time since you might be able to get out and see a little of the city. Our layover was at night, however, which meant sleeping (or at least trying to) in the extremely busy Melbourne Airport. With flights coming and going all night and pop music blaring from the main terminal 24/7 sleep was fleeting, but as the alarm went off at 5am, we were pumped to get to our final destination.
Once in Perth, we rented a car and started north on a 1,000 kilometer journey up the coast of Western Australia. Being that we were sleep-deprived, we decided to drive only 200 kilometers to the small town of Cervantes the first day. We walked down to the beach to view the brilliant green hues of the Indian Ocean. In Cervantes and all along the western coast, the sand is pure white which makes for impressive dunes popping out of the green Australian bush.
Cervantes is next to Lake Thetis, a saline lake hosting living stromatolites. Stromatolites are layered bio-chemical accretionary structures formed by microbes (cyanobacteria). The oldest fossils on earth (also in Australia) are stromatolites and are 3.5 billion years old. The ones in the lake are about 3,500 years old.
In the late afternoon, we drove to the Pinnacles area in nearby Nambung National Park. The Pinnacles are weathered limestone spires that poke out of the surrounding desert.
The next morning we continued 400 kilometers north to the town of Kalbarri. When we booked tickets to Australia, we never thought to look at major holidays. When we got to Kalbarri, we learned that checking a calendar is always a good idea since we landed in a popular Australian holiday town on Easter Weekend. Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays in Australia and the weekend is the busiest travel time of the year (kind of like the US Thanksgiving holiday). We headed to the only hostel in town where we got two of the last beds available. We stayed there 2 nights. Thursday night we were the only people there and when we came back on Friday evening from sightseeing the place was packed!
We highly recommend this family-run hostel. They gave us so many tips and we shared many a laugh over beers in the evening. They even had a Coopalike! A Coopalike, for those who don’t know, is a dog that looks like our dog back home. This Coopalike, Preston, even acted and barked like Cooper. Made us a little homesick for our pup…
Kalbarri is right next to Kalbarri National Park. As our hosts had recommended, we headed into the park to see views of the Murchison River, Nature’s Window, and Z-bend. Nature’s Window is a natural arch with surrounding views of the river. From the arch we headed to Z-bend, where the Murchison River is controlled by joints causing the river to almost bend like a ‘z.’
We awoke super early on Good Friday and headed 400 kilometers to Shark Bay, a World Heritage Site. At Shark Bay, we first headed to Monkey Mia, a Marine Park home to bottlenose dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins have been swimming up to the shores here to interact with people since the 1960’s. Three times in the morning, the Park volunteers host information sessions on the dolphins and feed a set of specific dolphins. All of the dolphins used to be fed in the past, but this led to many young dolphins in the area being unable to feed themselves in the wild and often perishing. Since then, only certain dolphins are allowed a set number of fish per day.
From Monkey Mia, we headed to Eagle Bluff where we spotted sharks, massive stingrays, and turtles in the shallow waters below. We probably could have spent all day here just waiting for sea creatures to swim by.
From Eagle Bluff we headed to Shell Beach, one of only two beaches in the world made entirely from shells. The shells on the beach are mostly cockle shells, which provides for rough walking in bare feet but strangely beautiful scenery. The water here was warm and shallow and we floated in the water to escape the Australian heat.
Our last stop in Shark Bay was to the stromatolites at Hamlin Pool. Like the ones in Lake Thetis, the stromatolites in Hamlin Pool are living and are around 3,500 years old. Hamilin Pool not only contains several different types of living stromaolites, it hosts the most abundant collection of them in the world.
After an 800 kilometer day of driving the day prior, we awoke in Kalbarri happy to only have a two hour drive south. We started our morning at Rainbow Jungle, a parrot and native bird breeding center and habitat. Our favorite part was a huge aviary that housed mosty native birds that you could walk through.
As we left Kalbarri, we drove through the coastal section of Kalbarri National Park, stopping at several viewpoints to see the red sandstone cliffs and turquiose water below. Driving further south, we stopped at Hutt Lagoon, which is a pink salt lake that gets its odd coloring from algae.
In the afternoon, we made it to our destination for the night, the magical Waminda Wildlife Sanctuary near Geraldton. The sanctuary provides food, water, and shelter to injured animals including kangaroos, emus, and birds. Here we rented a campervan placed in the middle of the sanctuary, surrounded by emus and kangaroos.
We walked the land surrounding our campervan and followed two emus through the brush and spotted lots of curious kangaroos. Most of the kangaroos were skiddish and quickly hopped away if we approached to close, however, one kangaroo didn’t seem to mind us as he ate from the brush beside the campervan. After watching this kangaroo for 30 or so minutes, he suddenly hopped right over to us and started sniffing us and giving us kisses. Dan at first was a little terrified it was going to to claw our eyes out, but he soon relaxed as the roo hopped away. We learned the next day, that that particular kangaroo was raised in a home previously, so he is quite friendly 🙂
The next morning, the volunteers at the sanctuary let us take part in feeding all of the animals. They also cooked us breakfast which included cuddle time with a baby kangaroo. The baby kangaroo’s mother was hit and killed by a car earlier this year.
If we could have, we would have stayed longer at the sanctuary. It was an incredible experience and the staff is doing wonderful work there. Alas, we headed back to Perth and wandered down to the river at sunset to catch a view of downtown. What we learned in our week in Australia, is that a week is not long enough in this enormous country (obviously). Three months (maybe more!) would been more like it. There is so much to see, but we are so grateful that we at least got to see a piece of the West Coast. The next day, we hopped a flight to Bali, Indonesia as we started our 4+ month tour of SE Asia….