WA + Nullarbor: Pt1 – Pinnacles, Wildflowers

by Steven Chater from Trip Plan Australia. Check out Trip Plan’s free Itinerary Planner that will help you make the most of your next road trip through regional and outback Australia.

One of the great things about Australia is its size – it’s big!

For most of us in the eastern states, heading over to see Western Australia is special – time and money means that it’s not done on a regular basis.

Australian road trip planner - wa compared to europe

Seeing all that Western Australia has to offer is a challenge. The distances are enormous. Thanks http://mapfrappe.blogspot.ca/2011/02/australia.html

This and the next 3 or 4 posts will cover how we went about seeing the southern part of WA, ending with a crossing of the Nullarbor Plain, in what was a memorable trip.

We had 24 days available to us. Wildflowers, Pinnacles, Monkey Mia, the Margaret River region, the karri forests around Pemberton, Albany and Esperance were all on the agenda. How could we take it all in?

The good news was that Qantas and Virgin Australia were in a heated battle over domestic routes, so we made the decision to fly over and hire a vehicle.

Australian road trip planner - rented vehicle at Cervantes Caravan Park

Our vehicle on the first night at Cervantes – still nice and clean

We had heard so much about the WA wildflowers that we decided September was the time to go. The Trip Plan planner was used to work out driving times and what events were on during the wildflower season.

Using the planner, the major decisions made prior to commencement of the trip were that:
– we’d concentrate on southern WA
– we’d have 3 days in Perth, to take in the city, Rottnest Island, Freemantle and Kings Park
– as the Pinnacles were only a few hours north of Perth, we’d drive up via the Indian Ocean Drive, then go inland to take in the wildflowers in a loop back through the Avon Valley on the way south
– driving up and back to Monkey Mia would use up 2 days so we had to save this for the next trip (whenever!)
– by the time we got to Esperance we were going to be nearly a third of the way across Australia, so why not do something that was a long held dream – to cross the Nullarbor – and fly home from Adelaide

Australian road trip planner - Cape Vlamingh on the west end of Rottnest

Cape Vlamingh on the west end of Rottnest

We took advantage of the wildflower discovery guided walks in Kings Park to learn a little about what we might expect to see in the wild.

Australian road trip planner - September Wildflower Festival in Kings Park

September Wildflower Festival in Kings Park – high expectations set!

The Indian Ocean Drive was opened in 2010 to provide easier access to the towns on the coast from Perth to Geraldton. I use the word town loosely as many of the settlements have only a relatively small number of permanent residents. Great atmosphere if you like to get away from the madding crowd. Cervantes, the closest town to the Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park, is only just over 2 hours north of Perth.

You can walk or drive through the Pinnacles Desert Park. Coming up over the rise from the car park to first sight the limestone pillars is a breathtaking experience.

Australian road trip planner - first views of the Pinnacles Desert Park

First views of the Pinnacles Desert Park

The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre, worth a visit for background information, keeps quality hours – it doesn’t open until 9:30am. However you can access the park earlier and drive around the Pinnacles Drive loop, of course stopping regularly to take in the atmosphere.

Australian road trip planner - Pinnacles Drive

Pinnacles Drive

We were happy to be there early – it was special to see it with few distractions.

Australian road trip planner - Limestone pillars in the Pinnacles Desert Park

Limestone pillars in the Pinnacles Desert Par

We had seen a few wildflower displays on the drive north, but nothing like the concentrated display at Kings Park. Our research had brought Lesueur National Park to our attention – a 15 minute drive north east of Jurien Bay. There is a stretch of dirt road to get there, however the vehicle rental company told us that a bit of gravel driving was acceptable, so we didn’t hold back.

Australian road trip planner - Lesueur National Park

Lesueur National Park

It’s a beautiful place – take a picnic lunch out (there’s a couple of spots to stop near the end of the one-way loop road) and sit and take in the colour and sounds. An experience to be treasured.

Early Lessons Learnt

Lesson number one was that its not always blue skies in WA in September. We were later told by the butcher in Margaret River that September is that areas wettest and windiest month – something that the brochures didn’t readily point out.

The second lesson was a correction to my expectation that there would be a profusion of colourful flowers, easily visible as you drive along. We really didn’t see this until later in our trip (around Ravensthorpe, to be covered in a future post). We found out that the wildflower season can vary and that this year the Everlastings Trail north of Perth was at its best a few weeks prior to our arrival.

However the locals gave a few tips, including contacting the tourist bureau in Geraldton as they keep track of where the best displays are to be found. And ask at the visitor centres in the small towns – the centre at Mingenew directed us to the Depot Hill Firing Range just out of town, which gave us an an idea of how good things could be. With a bit of drizzle as we walked around, there was still beauty to be found …

Australian road trip planner - water droplets Depot Hill Firing Range

Depot Hill Firing Range

… but with a little bit more sunshine to get the flowers to open up this place would be spectacular

Australian road trip planner - Depot Hill Firing Range

A little bit more sunshine and the wildflowers would be spectacular at Depot Hill Firing Range

Next Post

The next post will take us down to New Norcia, through the Avon Valley and on into the wooded areas of Bridgetown and Nannup, then over to the coast to Busselton and the Margaret River region.

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Road trip planner Australia - Perth to Cervantes, Dongara, Moora

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