Day Two of my Western Australian road trip (see Day One here) was one of numerous (happy) distractions. I was way behind in schedule – the intent was to reach Kalbarri by 2pm; we reached around 6pm instead. But there were so many good things to stop for, and we really only scratched the surface.
Stop 1: Port Denison, Julien Bay
It was a pity to skip the Lobster Shack at Cervantes, but I really wanted to make good time. The Shack opened at 9.30am, and tours were only at 12.30pm and 1.30pm. So we checked out and were on our way at 9am. Lobsters would have to wait another day. Coincidentally, we bumped into a group of photographers who went out to the Pinnacles at sunrise (about 6.20am) and while slightly bummed at sleeping through a perfect sunrise, very much needed the rest for the drive.
First stop was Port Denison in Julien Bay, about two hours and 145km in. Our Dutch hostess in Cervantes had highly recommended stopping here, and it was about time for a rest (read, toilet) break. So we did, and boy did we not regret it.
The water was pristine, and there was a really nice jetty extending from the rest stop. Apparently Julien Bay is nestled in some sanctuary areas, where the Indian Ocean current brings marine life along the coast (I’m gonna have to check on the exact details). While we didn’t see any Dolphins, the serenity and crystal clear waters were good enough. Port Denison itself was also a lot livelier than Lancelin.
Stop 2: Geraldton
The next part of the drive took us to Geraldton. I was planning to go to Gone Fishing after reading positive Tripadvisor reviews, but neglected to check the opening hours. Alas, it was closed. But in its place (and thanks also to Foursquare) we went to Salt Dish. And then I realised it was a blessing in disguise – Salt Dish was easily the most standout meal for our entire road trip. The cafe in question is nestled unobstrusively next to a Police Station, and situated directly opposite a fenced, free carpark. Budget was about AUD22-28 per person just for the main course, but we were happy to pay and the portions were sizeable. I had the Scotch Sandwich, and my companion had a Calamari salad (can’t remember the name).
The Scotch came sandwiched between two huge char-grilled slices of bread, while the beef itself was medium-rare and juicy, pared with caramelised onions and their sauce. I lapped it up. Garlic aioli wedges that came on the side were crisp with just the right amount of salt and a hint of the seasoning. Beautiful.
Calamari was pretty to look at, although I wasn’t too hot on the dressing. Ingredients were not at fault though. The Calamari had just a hint of curry flavour and was just perfectly cooked. Not like the rubbery stuff you sometimes get with less delicate cooking. Chorizo sausage was awesome too.
Geraldton is one of the more built up cities along the coast too, so it’s a great place to stock up. We stopped by the Coles (supermarket) to get some of them coffees – which the companion swears by.
Stop 3: Pink Lake
Another hour or so of driving and we reached one of WA’s Pink Lake – and it was pink! (or as our Dutch hostess would say, “sick!”) It didn’t seem like something worthwhile for the Australians though – no signs, no stops with a good view. We couldn’t get close to the lake too, there were barriers from a chemical company (which makes me wonder… But apparently some of these lakes are natural, the pink hue is from Beta-carotene released by microorganisms). Still pretty cool though.
Stop 4: Kalbarri, finally
The next stop, an hour too, was Kalbarri’s Coastal Cliffs. This was a highlight of the trip, and what drew me to make this packed trip in the first place. Pictures say a thousand words…
…but really, you don’t quite get it till you’re standing there, the wind is threatening to blow you off the side (it was hilarious watching some of the birds get tossed around) and your fear of heights kicks in, hard. In short: awesome. We didn’t check out all the pit stops along the way, but definitely got our fair share of views.
Next stop was Kalbarri Backpackers YHA. To be honest, not the best hostel I’ve stayed in (far from it), but the hosts were very hospitable, and it was cheap after all (S$35 per pax, from Hostelworld). There were two plugs in an 8-person dorm, and a decent ensuite bathroom with hot water. Tip: Contact the hostel directly – they may be able to give you special rates, and also help you check if the parks are open. We were very blessed – there was a fire in the park, so the access route (and adjacent highway) was closed for the day. We came by the coast and so were unaffected, and thankfully the Rangers gave the all clear the next morning to at least visit two of the highlights: Nature’s Window and the Z Bend.
Thanks to Tripadvisor reviewers we found something yummy: Pizza. Foursquare had the wrong geolocation so we got a little lost in the dark, dark, windy streets, but eventually we made our way to a small, family-run corner shop: Kalbarri Pizza and Pasta. When I say family I mean it – the 12-year old kid was making the pizza! As a testament to their popularity, they had only been open for an hour, but had run out of large pizza bases.
We had seafood, and it was a revelation. Fresh calamari, lovely salami and salty dried mussels on a crisp but fluffy base. Pizza Hut, eat your heart out.
That was more or less our second day. Check out Day One and Day Three too! Mighty rushed, mighty packed (mighty long post). If you have any questions on this trip, please feel free to ask in the comments below, or tweet @wasabigeek!