• Nathan Belcher

A Road Trip in Western Australia: Perth to Broome + Rottnest Island


Nature’s Window at Kalbarri National Park, WA — I took the photo on 26 December 2018.

During the three-week Winter Break between semesters at the Singapore American School, my wife Jess and I traveled throughout Western Australia. This was our first trip to Australia; we chose Western Australia because of its ruggedness and natural beauty. We had a wonderful trip, which we highly recommend if you enjoy outdoor activities!


Perth to Shark Bay


Our trip began with a flight from Singapore to Perth. This is an easy five-hour direct flight, with beautiful views of the Australian continent on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other side.


After spending an evening exploring Perth, we left for Kalbarri. There are many outdoor activities in Kalbarri; our favorite was a hike to see the Nature’s Window in Kalbarri National Park.


The drive from Kalbarri to the town of Denham in Shark Bay took about six hours, with beautiful scenery along the way. One surprising aspect were the thousands of termite mounds; although they look small in the distance, we stopped to take a picture and see the size of the mound. Our “normal-looking” mound was about 8 feet tall and 10 feet in diameter, dwarfing Jess and me!


For more scenes from this part of the trip, check out the video below.


Exmouth


After driving further north from Denham, we reached Exmouth. While there, we went on a sport fishing charter with Innkeeper. Jess caught two fish; both were red emperor. I caught a bout of seasickness, putting me out of commission for most of the trip. One interesting fact that we learned from the mate: When fishing in this area, you have to reel your catch in very quickly. If you do not reel quickly enough, the sharks (!!!) will steal your catch off the line! The captain and mate were very friendly, each with a great sense of humor — we highly recommend these guys if you are in Exmouth!


The mate filleted the caught by Jess and others on the charter, which we grilled at our hostel. Jess added butter, garlic, and onions to the fish; she also made a vegetable medley as a side. The dinner was incredible — fresh food makes a huge difference in the taste! We were not able to finish the fish, so we shared it with a family; they were appreciative and happy about the taste.


For another adventure, we went for a swim at Turquoise Bay in the Ningaloo Marine Park; this was a gorgeous bay on the Indian Ocean! The bay was appropriately named because the water was a beautiful turquoise color, with patches of coral and fish. We walked to the end of the bay, where there was an interesting rock formation; sitting on the rocks and enjoying the scenery was lovely.


For more scenes from this part of the trip, check out the video below.


Karijini National Park to Broome


Karijini National Park was one of the highlights of our trip!

  • We went to hike in Hamersley Gorge, which was incredibly beautiful. The gorge has several pools of water, all of which are accessible for good hikers. We went to the upper pools; one was larger with slowly-flowing water and the other had a small waterfall. The smaller (spa pool) was very cold, with the waterfall providing a constant flow of cold water. It was nice to be under the waterfall for a few minutes, out of the 40-degree-Celsius-plus air temperatures.

  • On our second day, we went to Dales Gorge — the entire gorge was beautiful! We started at the Fortescue Falls, which was an excellent swimming hole plus beautiful falls. The national park built a set of stairs leading to the falls, which made the hike down and up much easier than before the stairs. It took about 15 minutes to hike each way, plus we spent about an hour frolicking in the pool and falls.

  • After this adventure, we went to the other side of Dales Gorge; this end is known as the Circular Pool. The pool is at the bottom of the gorge, but there are no stairs for this hike; the way down and up was much more treacherous than the other side. We made it down the gorge successfully, hiking the rest of the way to the falls. The Circular Pool was beautiful, with calm water and beautiful scenery.After a short lunch break, We wanted to hike one more time in the gorge, so we took the trail back towards Fortescue Falls. I noticed a sign before the turnoff to the falls, pointing to another falls. The new trail went to Fern Falls, a beautiful pool and large falls. This is a holy place to Aboriginals, so it was lovely to feel the spirituality of the place. We swam in the pool and sat under the falls for a while, enjoying each other’s presence and feeling the Spirit.

After leaving Karijini, we drove to Broome via Port Hedland. Broome is an interesting coastal town because it began as a place for pearling; however, it is transitioning into a more tourist-centered town. There is beautiful natural scenery, especially at Gantheaume Point and beach. We drove the car on the beach, then walked on the sand and rocks near the water. Jess walked in the water — it is nice to see and feel a beautiful beach. We then drove to the point, which has a house, lighthouse, and lovely rock formations. The tide was coming in, smashing the rocks and splashing everywhere. It was beautiful to see the interaction between the rocks and ocean at the point, so we sat in silent contemplation and observed the scenery.


For more scenes from this part of the trip, check out the video below.


Rottnest Island


We did not know what to expect with Rottnest Island, but Rottnest Island is incredible! There are no cars allowed on the island — except for public buses and essential personnel — so everyone rides a bike. It gives the island a homey feel, where life moves at a slower pace. There are many families who seem to vacation here, which also contributes to the small-town feel.


The main star of Rottnest Island are the quokkas. These are small creatures that move like wallabies and kangaroos; they are adorable — and everywhere! They are clearly used to humans on the island, so they will get close to you; Jess got a great set of selfies with one of the quokkas.


We rented and rode bicycles around a bit of the island, intending to go snorkeling. However, after entering the water, we decided against fully submerging ourselves. The water is a bit on the cold side, the sun was behind clouds, and there was a strong breeze; these factors would have made us cold as we continued riding around the island. Our ride took us around the eastern part of the island, with a little stop on the southern part of the island. All parts of the island are beautiful; it reminded us of Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms in the Charleston, South Carolina area, but with more hills.


The scenery on the island is spectacular, with beautiful shades of blue and green water. Most of the island is rocky coastline, dropping from heights of at least 25 feet. There are places that are beaches, but these are fewer than the cliffs.


While playing golf at Rottnest Island Country Club, I met two gentlemen. One was from Perth but the other was from Atlanta; near the end of the round a comment was made about ‘southeastern Virginia.’ I asked about the connection to this area; the man replied that he went to the College of William and Mary, graduating in 1974. I became giddy with joy because I too graduated from the College, so making a connection with a fellow alumni on the other side of the world was a beautiful way to end the trip.


For more scenes from this part of the trip, check out the video below.


Recommendations

  1. A sedan or other two-wheel drive vehicle is sufficient for the trip; however, if you want to explore deep into the national parks, you must have a four-wheel drive vehicle.

  2. Driving is easy because the roads are empty during late December and early January. However, the roads will be more crowded during high season in these areas.

  3. If you plan to be in the water and are not used to cold water, bring or buy a wetsuit — either an insulated top or full-body suit. We did less snorkeling than we thought we would because of the cold water; it would have been useful to have a wetsuit.

  4. Download your road trip playlist to your device because there are many areas without cell service. Many times — especially into and out of Karijini National Park — we saw “SOS Only” on our device, though it is comforting to know that it is possible to connect if needed.Keep at least 10 liters of water in your car at all times, either for you or your vehicle.

  5. Buy gas every time you see a gas station; try to never let the gas tank get below half-full. In certain parts of the drive, the gas stations (“roadhouses”) are few and far between. So, stop if you have the chance instead of risking an empty tank.

  6. Do not expect anything fancy; every aspect is for practicality, not looks. Fashion is ignored because people are focused on survival, especially in the rural areas.

  7. If you enjoy golf, bring your clubs! Although the courses are different from many places, the game is the same. Please see my other piece for more information.

  8. Enjoy the journey — you will see interesting places and meeting good people!

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© 2020 by NATHAN BELCHER

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