We departed Busselton early, heading out via a mall to stock up with staples, as well as find SIM cards for mum and Dad. Interestingly, the Telstra shop was shut, but Coles were selling $50 sims at a discount, so they got two $50 sims for $40! Bargain.
We drove south, heading towards Gracetown and Cowaramup Bay, hoping to have a swim if we could brave the ocean temperatures. We picked up fuel at Gracetown general store, along with lunch pies, then headed for the beach. It was glorious – turquoise water, white sand and very sheltered from the howling sou’wester. We swam, despite initial trepidation, and enjoyed our time on the beach. We ate our pies in the van to avoid flies, then booked a camp site for the evening, before hitting the road to look at Margaret River.
After this wonderful interlude, we decided to take a look at the actual river mouth of Margaret River, and the famed surf break, so we took the coast road from Gracetown. Arriving at an immaculate car park, overlooking the stunning blue of the ocean, topped liberally with white caps, we parked and walked around the path to view the breaks. The whole cliff site was beautifully manicured native bush, with tasteful stone and wood viewing areas and even barbecues and amenities. But the most awesome thing was the wild ocean, with incredible, powerful breaks coming in over rocky reefs. It was blowing a good 30 knots from the south west, despite this, there were a couple of surfers in and a number of kite surfers took off as we arrived. There was also a wind surfer in already, doing incredible things with a big sail and on well overhead waves – I dont think I have ever seen such skilful execution.
Watching the kite surfers take off, in the shallows of the reef, hit speed to get over the shallowest part and jump it, take a hard right along a deep a channel and then head left out into the break, all doing a good 20 knots, was simply amazing. As we strolled along, reading about the history of surfing in this area, watching the activity in the water and absorbing the amazing vibe of the place, we all agreed that we were pleased to have come to see this area in particular. Unless you have been here to see the power of the wind, ocean and reef, you simply cannot fathom the skill and power of the surfers of various crafts.
We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from this amazing place, and decided to head underground, just to round out our day of sightseeing!
This region of Margaret River is mainly limestone and so riddled with amazing caves. We wanted to see Lakes and Mammoth caves, so we booked a camp site near both, and aimed to cover both over the next day or so. Heading back to Caves Road, we soon started passing signs for caves, but hung on until we reached Lakes Cave. This was entered from a dolite, a huge hole, where the former limestone ceiling of the cave had collapsed, leaving a huge area of sunken forest, surrounded by very tall walls of stalagmites and stalactites that were now weathered.
To enter the cave itself, we needed to descend 351 steps into the dolite, to find the very small entranceway. Once inside the cave, the crystalline structures were amazing, with all sorts of fascinating shapes. Most incredible of all was the floating table, a flat surface suspended from two stalectites, which seemed to hover above the underground lake. The lighting was very well done, and we were able to not only look as we went, but to sit and view the whole of the cavern and it’s fabulous structures from a seating area at the very back.
We finished being awed by all this incredible scenery around 1630, so made for our nights camp at Margaret River Retreat. This was the most rustic of our camp grounds yet, but still lovely, with kangaroos and emus wandering in the next paddock and black cockatoos doing aerials above us! Nick the host, came and chatted as we BBQd our lamb chops and haloumi, and we spent a pleasant evening, at the camp kitchen, though no fire as it was sadly too windy. We did however manage a Port before bed! Though we had some cloud cover as the sun set, later it cleared and the sky was like a black velvet cushion, simply covered in stars. I don’t think we have seen so many stars even at sea. It was the final and most beautiful scene in a day filled with wonderful and diverse scenery.