Monthly Archives: March 2015

Diving Busselton Jetty

Busselton Jetty is 1.8km long and has it’s own train service to deliver tourists to the end where they can visit the underwater observatory. I wanted to scuba dive the famous jetty and with the nearby Dive Shed having trolley and gear hire I was keen as mustard to get in the water.

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Unfortunately my camera strobe malfunctioned during set-up so I had to improvise by using a torch instead. This meant increasing my ISO settings and opening up the aperture, not what I like doing for underwater shots, but I was stuck with what I had. I put the trusty Canon 100mm macro lens on and started the long walk from the dive shop.

The Dive Shed rent out trolleys to transport your gear to the dive site, and whilst I don’t mind a bit of a walk with my gear I was glad I rented one. The entry pontoon lies 200m from the end of the Jetty, with two well designed ladders for exiting with fins on.

The underwater life lived up to expectation. Whilst many old jetty pylons lie on the floor providing cover for many different critters, corals, and sponges adorn a large proportion of the upright ones. Many of the fish were new to me, being Indian Ocean based but there were a few familiar ones and I was happy to find a number of very colourful nudibranchs(sea slugs). The water was shallow at 8m, allowing along dive but after 2 hours in 19 degree water I was ready to get back in the sunlight to warm up. Visibility was pretty good (over 10m), the only thing you need to be aware of is to keep over 10m away from the underwater observatory (for obvious reasons).

A big thumbs up to the Busselton Jetty dive and thanks to The Dive Shed for being so helpful with the gear and briefing of the dive site.

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Categories: Adventure, australia, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Margaret River

Using Conto campsite as our base we ventured into Margaret River to see what was on offer, and there was definitely something for everyone.

We started the morning with an educational trip to Australia’s first commercial Silk Farm, called Silk Road. The operation has been going for two years and is very much still in expansion mode. The lifecycle was explained to us, with displays that show the eggs, caterpillars at different stages, cocoons (in various different colours), and plenty of completed products for sale. Because they are not yet at full production they give all their cocoons to Asian countries, and they receive products back that include their silk. In addition to woven silk products, they have an array of mulberry products, chutneys, jams and teas, all of which can be tasted. To make the operation viable all year round the mulberry trees are grown in hothouses in the grounds.

Interesting fact : Did you know silkworms are fully domesticated by man, the moths cannot fly and do not live in the wild?

Next stop was the chocolate factory just a few hundred metres down the road. It was like opening the door to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with wall to wall displays of Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, nut clusters and more… Huge bowls of free tasting samples were a big drawcard for the kids, but we had to stay and sample the chocolate fondue. Having dipped crunchies, apricots, lolly snakes, marshmallows and glace cherries, Oscar paused when sampling the nougat, face suddenly changed and went green. Luckily quick thinking from Amanda got him out to the garden before he regurgitated the lot on the grass. What a waste, but the rapid change on his face from rapture to revulsion was hilarious to watch!!! A few more samples on the way out and we were on our way.

Time for some wine tasting. The “golden triangle” refers to the wine region that Margaret River sits in the middle of. Blessed with perfect climate assisted by ocean on two sides, some of the countries best Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon blends. Two of the best known vineyards were our first stops, Voyager and Leeuwin Estates. The former employ 7 gardeners and the result is an immaculate grounds, well worth a wander before you taste the wines. With a restaurant and private tasting room available there are plenty of options. Leeuwin Estate also has a restaurant, concerts in the grounds and an impressive art collection in the cellar, as well as the Art Series wines that incorporate the  artwork in the labels.

Final stop for the day was a quick cheese tasting and the family vote went with the smoked cheddar.

On another day we visited Woodlands and Cullen vineyards, the former being partially organically farmed, the latter taking a biodynamic approach. The quality wines resulting from both these vineyards is testament to the passion and commitment of both operations.

Categories: australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Travel, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Heading to Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park

Still in the forests a damp night was spent at Big Brook Arboretum campsite. Venturing into the Arboretum the following morning unveiled luxuriant colours in the bark patterns, vibrant orange bracket fungi, water droplets hanging patiently from the underside of the fungus, and abundant birdlife all around. Unfortunately for us the birds could be heard, but not seen, as most of them appeared to be high in the tree canopies.

Still in Warren National Park a trip to Beedelup Falls was required, but the relative lack of waterfall in the area meant it didn’t offer much to photograph. The kids had fun on the suspension bridge, then Xavier slipped into the river and we decided to press on again.

Turning west towards the coast again we had the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park in our sights, and Conto campground. One of the features of this region is the abundance of Grass Trees, with their fire-blackened stems and almost spherical arrays of leaves sprouting from the top.

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Conto was such a peaceful spot, one or two nights ended up being a five-night stopover. Despite the presence of many caves in the area, with nearby Lake, Mammoth, and Jewel caves being the tourist showpieces, we felt we had seen enough caves recently and saved this for next time. Instead we used Conto as a base to explore nearby Margaret River (next blog), do some more geocaching, and a bit of fishing. With our Camprite trailer next to a water tap we could sit and watch all the wildlife come for a drink, from swarms of bees, to western rosellas, splendid fairy wrens, and silver eyes. Golden Whistlers and scarlet robins danced around the branches overhead.

More importantly it was time to get some schoolwork done so the distance education packs were brought out to get ahead of the curriculum before Easter break.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Further adventures in the SW forests of WA

The next day we witnessed the devastation of recent fires in the region, particularly in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park. At first our road leaving camp was green on one side whilst the other side was charred and devastated. Amazingly, it was not barren though, and typical of much of the bush here, fire plays a huge part in the natural cycles. Though the fires had torn through huge areas of forests in recent weeks, and we even witnessed many trunks still smouldering and smoking, with the rains of recent days the grass trees were all flowering, and new growth was already appearing from the trunks of many eucalypt trees.

We took time to visit two local icons, the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree and the Gloucester Tree, two of three giants in the forests that you can climb in the Warren National Park. Not for the faint hearted, the Bicentennial Tree was “pegged” in 1988 and has 165 steel spikes hammered into the trunk in a spiral up the tree to a height of 75 metres. With no safety harness, climbing is not recommended in wet or windy conditions, or for those who fear heights. With combination of all three how could I refuse? Firstly though, we had to beckon the kids down, who were already fearlessly climbing up towards the first platform. Despite the rain the views above the canopy were fabulous, with the exception of the vertical one down. Descent was interesting as with each step backwards you get a good view to the ground between each spike! Happy to have survived the challenge I then watched as a man calmly ascended in bare feet. The Gloucester Tree was very similar, not quite as tall, but a single climb to the viewing platform, and an easier climb due to less of a spiral making it more ladder-like.

Halfway up the first tree, much to Xavier’s delight I found a stick insect that obligingly took the fall to the ground where Xavier pounced on it for close examination. Another great day in these majestic rainforests of the south western region of West Australia.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

West and back into forest

Just west from Cosy Corner lie the towns of Denmark and Walpole, surrounded by some large National Parks that protect the huge forests of Karri and Tingle trees. We stopped in Denmark to do a few geocaches, and marvelled at the ingenuity of some of the hides.

Very close to Denmark were the appealingly named Elephant Cove and Greens Pool, both lying a short walk from one another in William Bay National Park. The former, with a little imagination, looks like a herd of elephants wallowing in a waterhole, but with only rare glimpses of sunlight and lots of wind I failed to do it justice with my photos. Even the inviting Greens Pool couldn’t tempt the kids for long on a miserable day! We resorted to the natural setting of the Denmark maze with our friends Alex and Karin and their two kids to kill a bit more time.

The Walpole-Nornalup National Park has many attractions but perhaps the most popular is the Valley of the Giants, and with resident stars called “Grandma Tingle” how could we miss this. The red eucalypts, or Tingles are huge, soaring over 60m into the canopy, have girths up to 20m at the base, and can live for over 500 years, surviving repeated bushfires over that time. The walk through the forest took us around and even through a number of giant Tingle trees and the rain drizzled down through the tree canopy above us.

A little further up the road a short walk took us down to Circular Pool where all but ten of the fifty toes went for a swim in the refreshing and surprisingly warm waters. We had one more stop for the day at Tingle Tingle tree, where we had seen photos of VW combi vans parked inside the hollow, and people on horseback passing through. Time for one more geocache and onto Fernhill Falls to camp for a night.

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Albany and surrounds

After Skippy Rock we arrived late at Normans Beach in Two Peoples Bay (the other person being Betty) to grab the last spot in the campsite. Amanda came face to face with the biggest Dugite we have encountered yet. At almost 2m long we witnessed it hot in pursuit of a big black skink, chasing it up a tree. When the skink could go no further it leapt out from about 3-4m, belly-flopped onto the ground and scampered off. The snake exited the tree equally ungracefully and chased after it, as we all took a big step back to watch the action unfold before us.

With little camping close to Albany we drove to a cute little place, appropriately named Cosy Corner and ensconced ourselves for a few days to explore the area. We enjoyed Albany, visiting a few times, for library work with kids, shopping and a bit of geocaching and exploring. A nice sized town, big enough to have all we needed but not too big to get lost in. Xavier became the expert in finding nano-sized geocaches though we were beaten by one near the Opera house.

Fishing was pretty quiet along the beach despite the fact the salmon run is due any day. We checked out nearby West Cape Howe national park to see if the fishing was better there but despite the numbers of fishermen it was still a bit quiet at Shelley Beach. I noticed a 4WD track into the park that proved quite  challenging, but we were rewarded with magnificent vertical black granite cliffs at West Cape Howe. Being late in the day the family didn’t want to risk going further in the sand – they still don’t have faith in the trusty Pajero, even after 4 months.

As a cyclone bore down on the north west coast of WA we started getting a bit of rain. We drove around Torndirrup National Park near Albany, and some brief intermissions of sun allowed the kids to enjoy the azure waters of the beaches in Whaler Bay. Salmon Rocks, rather appropriately, had yielded two monster salmon for one fisherman, and we watched another battle a large eagle ray to the beach where it snapped his line. The old whaling station nestles into the end of the peninsula with a large whaling ship on display for exploration. In Frenchmans Bay, we drove to a bird hide to try and add a few new birds to my list (buff banded rail was the only one) and catch a geocache. Luckily for a guy down there we showed up and got his car started for him in a very quiet street. Another attraction there were the blowholes that, despite a small swell, roared periodically, giving everyone a bit of a scare the first time they went off. Throw big swell and water into the mix and they would be quite an impressive spectacle. The natural arch was closed unfortunately.

At night we got frequent visits from an oversize bandicoot and Cosy Corner was a popular venue for the kids with hideouts abounding in the bush.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell to Le Grand

After ten relaxing days at Le Grand campsite we felt the need to keep moving. We haven’t been in WA for long and there is so much to see. We had a big dinner in the camp kitchen on our last night with our new friend Jackie cooking up a delicious Thai green curry. It was a lovely evening with great company. We’d seen so many great people and the kids had had loads of playmates.

 

We had also found five species of snakes, most of them passing through our site, tiger snakes, dugite, python, ringed brown snakes, and another short plump brown snake that our neighbour Rob nearly trod on.

Having had ten days of poor fishing we had to go to Stokes Inlet where we had been told you can catch your bag limit of black bream in 15 minutes. Stokes National Park was a short drive west and we set up camp before heading to the infamous Young River. Hannah had caught 3 fish before I could even get a line in the water, though nowhere near the fabled 40cm length that inhabit the waters. Everyone managed to catch several before Oscar hooked a big one that snapped his rod that he bought with his own money only the previous week. He was so distraught but still managed to land his 28cm fish for dinner. Oscar’s challenge complete again, catching and eating a fish.

With Amanda keen to get to Albany to pick up the kids schoolwork we were up early to head for Albany. Unfortunately for Amanda my curiosity took us down a 4WD track to a place called Skippy Rock. The campsite, perched above the beach was deserted except for a very friendly camphost, and we decided to stay. Roy, the camphost, took us fishing, and I caught two lovely fish for the BBQ later, a 44cm flathead and a 39cm silver trevally. No photos but they tasted delicious.

Roy was full of stories and despite being a mad keen fisherman, he was a gold prospector from Kalgoorlie who had even starred in a recent movie, Goldtown. He even had some small pieces of gold to show the kids. Everyone wanted to stay longer but schoolwork was beckoning and we were two days into the new fortnight.

Categories: Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Elliston and Streaky Bay (flashback)

From Coffin Bay we drove north up the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula towards Streaky Bay. The kids really wanted to see the famous Great White Shark caught in 1990 that weighed 1500kg and was caught by rod and reel on 28kg line.

 

First stop was Elliston where the Tourist Information doubled as shop for local jams – raspberry was the pick of the day, and Op Shop with some cool shorts for the boys. Heading out of town we drove the scenic cliff drive lined with sculptures, giant thongs, surfer on a bike, Rapanui-style heads and a few other impressive ones too.

Just beyond Elliston we paid a quick visit to Talia caves, worthy of the 6km detour. The combination of limestone on top of sandstone has been eroded by the sea over the millennia resulting in long caves under the cliff. In the case of the Tub the thin roof has collapsed, leaving a tunnel to the sea.

Further north again beyond Sceale Bay a dirt road takes you out to Point Labatt where a sea lion colony can be observed from the cliff top.  Sea lions and Fur Seals were both present and the former were in quite a playful mood in the shallows of the protected reef.

 

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, South Australia, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Postcard from Oscar

A couple of days ago we were at Young River. We set up the camp and we decided to go fishing. I was excited to use my new fishing rod. We 4X4’d to the river and we saw kangaroos everywhere.

We threw our fishing rods out and you get bites in 5 seconds and then I felt a big bite and I pulled it in and it was a big black bream. It was 28cm long and it broke my rod. I was really sad.

 

 

Categories: @travelaustraliawithkids, australia, Australian Outback, Kids Travel, Travel, Travel Adventure | 5 Comments

Postcards from Hannah and Xavier

Postcard from Xavier

Recently we arrived at Four Mile beach. We set up camp and walked to the beach. We all thought it was the best beach because at the start they saw a snake and when they got on the beach Dad and Mum found dried seadragons. The cool bit was that it was Valentine’s Day. Then the next day my Dad came to the beach with me and found his favourite animal dried. It’s a leafy seadragon, but its head fell off.

I wish I could go back soon.

Postcard from Hannah

Recently I have been across the Nullarbor. The first stop was Cactus beach. It was really nice and it was really good because we met some kids from Perlubie Beach and they were coming to Cactus beach. We were very lucky to get some friends to play with that we already knew. After Cactus we went to see Fowler Bay. We didn’t stay there, though we stayed somewhere nearby that was called Fowler Bay National Park. It was full with rubbish but we made sand dune houses out of sand. We had a factory, a toy world, and a caravan park. We mainly spent all of our time up in the dunes.

In Eucla we met a girl called Amber. She owned a park. She let us feed the chickens, the sheep, the geese and the horses. She even let me ride the horse, let me look at the  sheep, geese, and the chickens and horses. Amber has two horses and they are called Dolly and Matilda. We rode Dolly because she was a 20 year old pony and Matilda is a lot wilder than Dolly. My favourite horse was Dolly because we got to ride Dolly and feed Dolly.

Amber does school of the air. I would think it would be awesome to do school of the air.

We fed Matilda an apple and some horse biscuits. We only fed Dolly horse biscuits when Dolly was good and did what we said.

Categories: australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, South Australia, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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