Mid West road trip one to remember

Adam PoulsenMidwest Times
Spectacular views await atop the cliffs at Red Bluff.
Camera IconSpectacular views await atop the cliffs at Red Bluff. Credit: Adam Poulsen

Despite having lived in Geraldton for two years now, I had until recently never travelled north of Kalbarri.

I decided enough was enough, so my partner and I resolved to embark on a week-long road trip.

Though I knew the Mid West-Gascoyne coastline was renowned for its beauty, what I encountered truly exceeded my expectations.

CARNARVON

Leaving Geraldton about 9am, we set forth into a full-blown rain storm. For almost the entire five hour drive it rained, obscuring any views of the landscape.

The downpour did, however, provide a source of excitement when I got to drive through a floodplain for the first time in my life.

I’m sure the farmers whose countless fields passed us by weren’t complaining either.

Our first afternoon in Carnarvon was spent exploring the town on foot.

The highlight was a stroll along the length of the fascine wall and across the old tramway to Whitlock Island.

The old tram station had a ghostly atmosphere.

I could picture people in old-fashioned clothes sitting on the still in-tact seats, waiting for the next ride to roll up.

A stash of oyster shells that lay in a charred pile in front of the platform reminded me the landmark must still serve a practical function for some.

The next morning we drove to Babbage Island to explore the historical precinct.

Sadly, the One Mile Jetty remains closed to the public since a 2017 report into its structural integreity revealed safety issues.

If the Carnarvon Heritage Group has its way, the iconic landmark will some day be restored to its former glory.

Despite the decay, it remains an impressive sight.

The rest of the precinct is well worth a visit. The rusty old tram carriages, cars and agricultural equipment that pepper the area give it a timeless quality.

The shearers’ museum — the only attraction we were able to see so early in the morning — is also highly recommended.

The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum is another must-see.

EXMOUTH

The road beckoned. Next destination: Exmouth via Coral Bay.

It goes without saying that Coral Bay is stunning. Unfortunately, we seemed to have arrived in the peak tourist season.

After a quick meal we kept moving.

Arriving in Exmouth early in the afternoon, all that was left to do was relax. What better place than the tranquil Town Beach?

With crowds non-existent, we found a perfect spot on the sand under the shade of a palm tree.

With an eskie beside us and a BBQ behind, there was no want or need to be elsewhere.

The next three nights were spent in similar fashion, with trips to nearby attractions such as Vlaming Head Lighthouse, which overlooks the rugged North West Cape.

During World War II, Australian troops were stationed at the Cape in the event of a Japanese invasion.

Incredibly, many of their original sandbags remain intact — though they have long since turned to stone.

For a long walk along a deserted beach, the Ningaloo Conservation Reserve is hard to beat.

We walked for miles exploring rock formations and didn’t see another soul.

While in the area, be sure to visit the Mildura shipwreck, which can be clearly seen from the shore at low tide.

The Mildura was transporting Kimberley cattle south when it came to grief on the reef during a cyclone in 1907.

During World War II, allied planes used the rusty old hull as a target for bombing practice.

For nightlife or a spot of lunch, Exmouth’s breweries are well worth checking out. Froth Craft and Whalebone Brewing Co both served up quality locally brewed beers and top-notch food.

RED BLUFF

North of the Quobba Blowholes — a must-see destination in its own right — and about 70km up a bumpy dirt track is the incredible Red Bluff Station.

Aside from a small general store and reception, Red Bluff is splendidly isolated.

Most of the people we encountered were hardcore surfers, taking advantage of the epic conditions afforded by a 6m swell.

After three nights of camping, we decided to shell out for a “luxury retreat” — a hard deck safari tent with all the comforts.

The view from our deck was unforgettable.

A stone’s throw from the beach, our eyes and ears were bombarded day and night by huge waves crashing relentlessly on the shore.

In the morning we walked out to the point and watched the surfers tackle double overhead barrels.

Seeing them negotiate the treacherous rocky shelf necessary to make the paddle out was impressive in itself.

I shuddered to think of the torturous drive back to civilisation that awaited anyone unlucky enough to be seriously injured.

Continuing our hike around the point, we climbed a section of cliff and explored the plateau for a while.

As well as magnificent views, we were treated to close encounters with kangaroos and wild pink-and-grey galahs.

After two nights, neither of us wanted to leave.

SHARK BAY

Driving down Denham’s main strip, immediately reminded me I was on holiday.

A sleepy little town, it has a relaxed atmosphere and a slow pace about it. No one seemed in a rush.

A walk along the foreshore is a must, and for the little ones, there’s a playground like a medieval castle.

Expecting to do more exploring the next day, we had an early night.

Then, about 1am, I awoke with a severely distended stomach. Something wasn’t right.

Twenty minutes later I made a mad dash for the bathroom as the contents of my dinner rose from the dead and came back to haunt me.

Unfortunately, the next day I had little choice but to lie in bed feeling about as useful as a blow up dartboard.

The next morning we decided to bypass Kalbarri and motor on straight back to Geraldton.

The trip was memorable to say the least. For all the hype surrounding WA’s South West, the unsung gems of the Mid West are just as worthy of exploring. There are less crowds, too.

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