Fremantle is the port city for Perth. Perth’s downtown district is about 10 miles up the Swan River from Fremantle. It seemed appropriate that our trip end here since it started here with our ferry ride over to Rottnest Island five weeks before.

Fremantle is a bustling place with shipping businesses, colleges, restaurants, museums and no place to park. We got there later in the day, so we luckily found a parking place near our B&B just as the hourly parking ended for the day and folks were heading home.

We walked down to the waterfront and had a nice dinner at a brewery overlooking the harbor as the sun set.

Our departure the next day was 11PM so we had all day to explore before heading to the airport. Our first stop was the Western Australia Maritime Museum. Their temporary exhibit was all on sharks, which seemed appropriate for Australia.

They had a lot of interesting shark exhibits and it seems sharks are going extinct because of the huge Chinese market for a male aphrodisiac, shark fin soup. A lot of exotic animals are going extinct due to this market. It was horrifying to see how many sharks were killed each year just for a fin.

One of the more interesting items was the shark’s cage from the movie “Jaws”. It was constructed smaller than the normal cage next to it to make the shark appear much larger. It worked. I still won’t go into the ocean at night after watching that movie when it first came out.

The rest of the Maritime Museum had a lot of the sea-faring history of the region.

They also had the Australia II and the America’s Cup, where in 1983 the Royal Perth Yacht Club became the first non-American winner of the cup since its inception in 1870. In part the win was attributed to the unique keel design that began the racing ship technology development frenzy.

We also visited the Western Australia Shipwreck Museum, which was fascinating. He is a picture of a recovered shipwreck with the “ballast” it had stowed, an entire stone entryway.

The museum had many items that have been recovered from the shipwreck along the Western Australia coastline. Many of the wrecks were Dutch East India Company ships that sailed these shores from 1602 until 1800.

The museum had coins, pottery, tools and stories of the ships that met their fate along the coastline.

After our museum exploring, Pam and I drove on the wrong side of the road one last time to the Perth Airport, completing the third and final leg of our Western Australia adventure. What a great trip.

Wave Rock

Now it was nearly time to get back to Perth and catch our flight home. We decided to take a more direct inland route back to Perth with one more stop on the way back. Leaving Esperance, we traveled the same route until a little town of Ravensthorpe, where we turned inland. We had stopped at Ravensthorpe on the way to Esperance for gas and a bite to eat at a good restaurant in the town of 500 folks. We decided to eat there again on our way back.

If you have ever ordered a hamburger in Australia it comes with a pickled beet and sometimes a fried egg. I’m not a beet fan. I had a great fried chicken sandwich there on the way to Esperance but this time I felt like a burger. I ordered a burger, no beet with melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise and our waitress looked at me stunned. She wasn’t sure her husband, the cook, would do such a strange order – lol. He did and it tasted great. I think he agreed to do it because Pam likes the pickled beets and ordered a burger with a beet so he must have concluded that only half of the foreigners are weird.

We stopped for the night at Wave Rock, which like its name indicates is a rock that looks like a wave – a really, really big wave.

If you add a few people into the shot, you get a better appreciation of the size of the 45-foot tall wave.

There are other interesting rock formations there too, like Hippo Yawn rock.

From on top of the wave rock formation you can look out and see for quite a distance given the relatively flat terrain in the area.

As is true everywhere, water is critical and small redirection dams were built at the top of the wave to capture rainwater in a reservoir next to the rock formation. The reservoir used to supply the nearby town of Hyden with all its water.

We drove a little bit north of Wave Rock to Mulka’s Cave the next day.

Mulka’s cave is part of the local aboriginal lore. Mulka was the illegal son of two aboriginals that were from the same skin color, or clan, and therefore should not have married and had kids. Mulka grew huge, but cross-eyed and therefore could not hunt. The legend then says he then turned to catching and eating local kids while living in the cave.

His handprints can be seen in the cave. They are much larger and higher up that a typical aboriginal person could reach. Personally, when I hear stories like these, I think that the village men or women wanted a place to hang out and not be bothered by kids. I doubt any aboriginal kids went near the place. It probably also had the effect of eliminating questionable marriages.

There are a few wetlands in the region that can be seen from on top of the hill behind the cave rock.

We continued west to a nice B&B in Fremantle for our last night in Australia.


After a couple of days in Albany we took off east towards Esperance. As discussed before, the coast road doesn’t really run along the coast. Rather it runs a few miles inland through farming fields that have been carved out of the brush. One area we crossed had huge fields of yellow that were rapeseed, the plant used to make canola oil.

Esperance is a little shore town of 12,000 folks. The ocean water around the place is crystal clear and many shades of blue. The town was named after a French explorer ship, The Esperance, that took refuge in its harbor in 1792. Parts of town have cliffs with beautiful staircases down to the water below.

While we had planned out our trip with stops and things to see, you never really know what a place is going to be like until you arrive. The biggest surprise of this trip was Cape Le Grand National Park just outside of Esperance. The place was just stunningly beautiful. Pam and I had nearly the whole park to ourselves as we explored beach after beach, each more beautiful than the last one.

We climbed a granite rock mountain named Frenchman Peak because the rock looked like a beret. This photo of our ascent up the granite face is not tilted for effect. It was that steep and had those little white tags showing the way to the top. I imagine it would be impossible to climb if the rock is wet.

The 360-degree view from the top was incredible. You could see all the 80,000 acres that makes up Cape Le Grand National Park and the dirt roads that took you to all the beautiful beaches.

The sand there is pure white and squeaks when you walk on it. It is crushed quartz and is said to be the whitest beach sand in the world. Couple that with the crystal-clear blue water and the place is just drop dead beautiful.

There were several beaches within the park and so we visited them all. For such a beautiful place it was just handful of folks sharing this huge park. I’m sure it is crowded in the summer with campers and beach lovers, but it was awesome in the winter too.

Offshore there were a lot of small rock outcroppings that were home to many different kinds of marine life.

We hiked along the rock outcropping and noticed steel studs driven into the rocks with rings where fishermen could clip in and not worry about being carried away by an unseen large wave. As we turned the corner, we noticed a pod of about 30 dolphins playing in a secluded bay. While only about a quarter mile by sea to get there, we hiked around the rock about 2 miles to get to the bay.

Once there, Pam and I sat on the rock and watched the dolphins for over an hour playing in the bay. There was a lot of jumping, tail slapping and chasing going on – like our own private dolphin show. Eventually they headed back out to deeper water, probably to get some food after all that playtime.

The colors there were just amazing. I always thought some of those spectacular beach pictures you see from time to time had to be photoshopped. Now I know they were shot at Cape Le Grand unmodified.

As the sun was setting, we stumbled onto the last beach of the day. This one lead 20 miles or more back to Esperance along the beach. Some younger kids had a loaded truck with camping gear and were heading out to spend the night. It’s times like these we really, really missed the Roamer.

While the park is known for kangaroos on the beach, we didn’t see any until we pulled out of the last beach parking lot and this guy was heading towards the water.

What a gorgeous place. Cape Le Grand National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list.


One of the things we found out about Western Australia is that there are no “coastal” roads. There are roads that look close to the coast but are several miles from the ocean. There is no Pacific Coast Highway equivalent where you are provided gorgeous views of the ocean as you drive along the coast. I guess it’s because there are not enough people to warrant such a road, given that an inland road is more practical.

Therefore, we looked for other things to see and do as we traveled along the “coast”. One such stop was the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. Who wouldn’t stop there? The walk was on a series of suspension bridges that pass through a Red Tingle forest. The red tingles are the largest of the eucalyptus family and can grow up to 180 feet tall.

The walkway was about halfway up the trees. Looking down you realize how tall these trees really are, dwarfing the other normal sized trees.

They have truck bases like redwoods that are 80 feet in circumference and prohibit growth near them to better survive fires. They live to about 400 years old and have a lot of character.

We made it to our next Airbnb in the town of Albany. Albany is the oldest city in Western Australia, being settled in 1826. It’s the second largest city in WA with a population of only 29,000, behind Perth with its population of 2.1 million. After some time in Western Australia you realize that once you get outside of Perth you effectively have the country to yourself, which is kind of nice.

The city has a beautiful natural harbor, which is why it was settled first. It was the commercial shipping harbor between Europe and Western Australia for many years, causing some friction with Perth, which was the capital. It remained the primary sea hub for WA until the mouth of the Swan River was dredged in 1897 to create a commercial harbor at Fremantle, the port city of Perth.
We had a nice dinner at a fish and chips place near the beach, a short walk from our place. Most of the coastal cities have Cook Pine trees growing along the ocean. I imagine many of these were planted years ago with the expectation of having readily available ship’s masts to supply the many tall sailing ships that used to travel the seas.

Albany has a walking path along the ocean crest that Pam and I enjoyed. We stopped at one lookout but there was a guy with a sign that said, “ongoing research – do not disturb”. He turned and saw us and said don’t worry about the sign he was just finishing up. He was gathering observational data on a pod of Southern Right whales that were frolicking in the bay below us. He even let us use his scope to get a better look. He was from the University of Western Australia. When we told him about our travels and the dolphin that escorted us with her calf up in Monkey Mia, approximately 1000 miles away he knew the name of the dolphin and her calf.

It was encouraging to hear that humpback whales have come back from very low numbers to now over 40,000 in the area. Right whales don’t have offspring as often as humpbacks so while they too are rebounding in numbers it’s taking longer. He was taking data on the impact of the shipping traffic on the Right whale breeding habits. From what we saw through the scope it appears ship traffic was not affecting them – lol.

A historical plaque on the boardwalk talked about Darwin’s stay in Albany after his famous trip to the Galapagos Islands on the HMS Beagle. He was quoted as saying, “I leave your shores without sorrow or regret. We staid there eight days and I do not remember since leaving England having passed a more dull, uninterested time”. I guess Darwin was evolving socially during this period – lol.

On the hill overlooking Albany and King George Sound sits the Desert Mounted Corps memorial, a replica of the statue erected in the Suez to commemorate the Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI and their battles in the Middle East.

There are more WWI and WWII memorials on the hill that were quite interesting. Albany was chosen for the site because the convoy of ships that deployed to the wars assembled and departed from King George Sound.

Below is a memorial of the letters written home from soldiers. The “My Dearest Love” was cut through the plate so that the sun would shine through.

It was a nice stay in Albany, a place rich in history, but we had one more destination to the east before we would turn back to Perth.


We began the third leg of our Western Australia adventure back in Perth. As a recap of our trip to date, we initially flew into Perth, rented a 4-wheel drive truck and travelled north up the west coast of Australia as far up as Shark’s Bay before turning around and exploring new places on our way back to Perth for the first leg. Then we flew to Broome, met up with Pam’s Aunt and cousins and headed into the outback on a commercial tour for the second leg.

For the third leg we rented a car because the roads are mostly paved and headed south along the western coast to see some more of this beautiful country. Just over 100 miles south from Perth is the Margaret River area, which is known worldwide for its surfing and wine. Pam and I booked into a nice Airbnb in the beach town of Gnarabup as a base to explore this region.

There are two lighthouses separated by roughly 50 miles that warn ships of the Margaret River peninsula that juts out into the Indian Ocean. To the north is the Cape Naturalist Lighthouse which we visited and hiked around to stretch our legs on our way to Gnarabup.

The Indian Ocean beaches are beautiful along the coast. World class surfing events are held in Gnarabup every year and given the size of the waves we saw I can see why surfers like this area.

We had a nice walk on the beach at sunset with the sun trying to break through the clouds to throw some last rays of sunlight on the ocean.

We had a chuckle at the warning signs posted there. I’m not sure there were enough reasons given to not go in the water. At least there are no saltwater crocs this far south – lol.

Our place had a nice little garden with a couple bird bath fountains and a feeder; Pam’s kind of place. We grabbed a couple of bottles of the local wine and enjoyed the avian visitors that arrived while we rested on the porch.

This is an Australian Ringneck. He couldn’t fit into the bird feeder but tried digging a meal out the side. It’s kind of like he looked at us asking if we could give him a hand.

This little guy, a Red-eared Firetail, did fit inside the feeder and sat there content while munching away. The phrase “eating like a bird” is somewhat of a misnomer since most birds eat nearly their weight in food every day.

This colorful guy, a Common Bronzewing, was happy picking up whatever fell out of the feeder.

A New Holland Honeyeater enjoyed a nice bath in the fountain next to the feeder.

The next day we headed down the coast. Talking with some folks in the outback about our plans they recommended that we drive down Caves Road, which we did. The small road winds down the coast, offering up some spectacular views when the vegetation opened on the ocean side of the road.

The geology of the area is limestone with a lot of caves to explore down the coast. We stopped at Jewel Cave for a tour. The path through the cave was about a mile long, a few hundred feet below the ground and contained some amazing cave structures.

The staircase down was impressive how it snaked through the rock formations. Each piece of the stairway is cut to fit above ground and carried down to install to keep debris to a minimum.

We stopped at the Burton vineyard, which was also the home of the Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co. The name gave us high hopes, but the flight of beers we tried were unfortunately marginal. We did purchase some tasty Shiraz liqueur (brandy) that ended up being the only bottle of alcohol that survived the duration of the trip unopened and made it back home. All the other lesser wines we purchased while in the region were happy hour sacrifices – lol.

The southern tip of the region’s limestone outcropping was the home of the majestic Leeuwin Lighthouse.

This marks the split between the Indian and Southern Oceans. It’s been awhile since I had a geography class and thought, “there’s a Southern Ocean”?

As part of a local competition, artists were asked to create something with a cow. This was the resulting “pirate cow” that was at the lighthouse keeping an eye on the oceans. I waited to hear it say “Arrrgh”, but it never udder-ed a sound. I guess it wasn’t moo-tivated to talk. I think it was upset at the tourists, but I’m not sure what its beef was. Okay, I’ll stop there.

The coastline around the place was rugged while the winter waves rolled in.

On the way back to our place we stopped at an old growth eucalyptus forest, where the trees were well over 100 feet tall. It was so peaceful. It had started to rain, and we picked up a young kid with a backpack on the deserted road just prior to this stop. He was a Polish kid in Australia on a work visa and just traveling around. He was heading north to catch a flight back to Poland to study engineering. He probably thought we were a little strange to stop and take pictures of the trees.

We headed back to the beach at the end of the day to enjoy the beauty of the place.

The next day we rounded the southwestern tip of Australia and headed east along the coastline.


The next day we traveled back to Broome, our starting point for this adventure nine days before. While the area is arid it does provide a constantly changing view in vegetation and in the color of the dirt.

Some sections of the road are better with respect to wash-boarding, or corrugation as it’s known to Aussies.

Eucalyptus trees and grasslands are typical for this cattle-dominated area.

On the way back we stopped at the Mowanjum Cultural Centre and learned much about the Aboriginal people that live in the region today, and have been there for 1,000s of years.

Broome was a nice change from the Gibb River Road with the ocean that was visible from nearly anywhere from the peninsula of a town.

That night we went to the local movie theater, and just happened to catch the first showing of the new Lion King movie.

The movie theater has been open for over a century and is an outdoor theater. We watched the movie under the stars, and along the approach path for the late evening flights into Broome from around Australia.

The next day we found the local farmer’s market and shopped for some souvenirs to take home.

We said goodbye to Pam’s Aunt Melinda and cousins Riley and Tasman later that day at the airport. They were heading back to Canberra while Pam and I took off back to Perth to begin the third part of our Western Australia trip.

Bell Gorge

The next day we headed to Bell Gorge. Bell Creek runs through the gorge and it was a nice hike down to the water.

The gorge had a nice stair-step waterfall that dropped down to a big pool below.

We hiked on down into the gorge and jumped in for swim.

Riley and I swam downstream to check out the cascading pools that headed down further into the gorge. Several folks followed us down. I noticed on our return a few crocs were sunning themselves and the rocks along the water’s edge. Luckily, the water was a little too cold for them to be active, so they stayed where they were sucking up the heat of the sun.

We hiked out of the gorge area while spotting more birds and admiring the geology of the area.

Back at the Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge, the communal seating area was a great place to relax and have a drink before another great meal that included a lamb filet that was the best I’ve ever tasted.

The tents for the guests were spread out into the grassland.

Across the lawn we spotted another kangaroo grazing on the grass and watching us.

The last night of our stay in the outback, we had a birthday celebration for one of our fellow travelers. Riley was nice enough to finish off all the cake and ice cream so it didn’t go to waste – lol.

Home Valley Station

While El Questro Station is big at 700,000 acres, Home Valley Station is huge, covering 3.5 million acres, or 5 times the size of El Questro. Home Valley Station’s first pastoral lease was in 1957, and similar to El Questro, they added tourism to the station in 2006 to augment the always struggling ranching business.

This huge station’s pastoral lease is currently owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation, a holding company for the local Aboriginal people. The dining area was the old maintenance shed that was converted to its new use with a kitchen, bar and seating.

I thought the use of one of the old windmills as a wall was very interesting.

The building’s low perimeter walls were built from stone with 55-gallon drums as structural support bases marking the entrances. Cowboy saddles were thrown on top of one of the walls.

In areas with regular water, like sprinklers for the grass, the boab trees had leaves. This boab tree was split open in the back but was still thriving with just the outer ring of the tree alive.

We left Home Valley Station and stopped at Ellenbrae Station for a mid-morning scone with whipped cream and jam. While the station is also over 1 million acres of ranch land, it’s known for their delicious scones along the Gibb River Road. The family serves up about 20,000 scones during the tourist season. We all made short work of eating them up, including Riley and Tasman in the picture below.

Our next stop was the Manning Gorge for a nice swim. The parking lot had a few other folks that were travelling in the outback along the Gibb River Road. This vehicle was typical of those on the road, a vehicle fully loaded with a roof rack, towing a trailer with a boat and bikes. Australians know how to pack for the outback.

Riley and I took a dip in the Yallamia Pool in the gorge. It had a boat with a tow rope if you wanted to get to the other side dry, a rope swing, plenty of rocks to climb on and a few fresh water crocs to keep you alert.

Our next stop was a short hike into Galvans Gorge.

The boab trees around the top of the gorge were interesting, and due to the lack of water up there, leafless.

The gorge was protected by a Wandjina, who were the ones in Aboriginal stories that created humans. Their likeness is painted onto many special places in the outback.

On our hike out from the gorge we spotted these two kangaroos making their way up the other side of the gorge.

We arrived at our next camping spot, the Bell Gorge Wilderness Lodge. This was the view looking out from our tent.

The inside of the tent was nice and cozy with two beds and a full bathroom.

We headed down for happy hour and another fantastic dinner in the wilderness.

El Questro

El Questro Station, where station is the Australian name for a ranch, is roughly 700,000 acres in size. The station is approximately 48 miles north-to-south, by 36 miles east-to-west. The stations in the Kimberley region are on leased “Crown Land”, which used to be held by the English Monarchy, but it’s now public land held by Western Australia. The initial lease for El Questro was in 1958. Before that date it was just outback wilderness. The lease changed hands many times over the years because you must meet lease payments and land improvement criteria to maintain the lease, which is tough to do in this remote area. However, in 1991 the lease holders expanded from just cattle to tourism due to the natural beauty of the area. El Questro still maintains nearly 6,000 head of cattle, but the tourism business model has rippled across many of the Kimberley region stations to generate additional revenue and to show land improvements in order to maintain the leases.

El Questro offers a range of camping options, from a basic campsite, to our tent wilderness camp and even a resort up on a mountain top.

The wilderness camp at Emma Gorge was very nice and the common areas for meals and just hanging out were open-air and very comfortable. The meals we had there were buffet-style with a lot of really good food. A couple of tour groups like ours were there, but the dining hall was also filled with folks who were traveling alone, or as a family, and made their own reservations.

We hiked up Emma Gorge over large boulders and crossed the small stream several times. It was slow going for most of the folks and it was good we left near dawn, so we had the trail to ourselves.

The gorge ends at a nice swimming hole at the base of a 65-foot waterfall.

The water was refreshing, and Riley and I found the one warm spot near the outlet of the thermal spring under the rock overhang.

When we got back to camp, we jumped into our tour bus and were off again. This time I jumped in the front with Ray, our tour guide / driver. The bus had air ride seats in the front making the ride over any road condition noticeably smoother than the ride in the back.

Even though it was the dry season there were still some rivers and creeks that had water and needed to be crossed. It was amazing that every Toyota land cruiser there had the engine snorkel kit installed. It must be for additional air inlet filtration of dust because the water in the region is either like this in the dry season, which doesn’t require a snorkel, or its 20 feet deep in the wet season, in which case a snorkel won’t matter.

Our next stop was at a water reservoir while we waited for our appointed lunch time.

While the water looks harmless enough, nearly all water in this region is home to crocs.

At lunch this blue-winged kookaburra came in looking for some free food.

After lunch we headed to Zebedee Springs, a thermal stream that pools among the rocks and palms for a great place to relax.

The palm-treed oasis was a striking change to the surrounding vegetation.

We watched the sunset glow its last light onto the Cockburn mountain range in the east.

To the west, the sunset was beautiful.

That night we stayed at Home Valley Station.