Exmouth and Cape Range National Park – gorgeous gorges and a beach paradise

Cape Range NP

Cape Range NP

We left Coral Bay really early and although we should have had enough fuel for the 150km, the meter went to E 90km before Exmouth. So, we started praying, that we would make it there and in the end, we luckily didn’t have any troubles. Just in case, we will fill a few liters into our jerrycan before we leave here.

Because of the sun and non-existence of shade, we decided to enter the national park in the evening, spend the night on Lakeside campground and just find a nice place to stay around Exmouth during the day. WikiCamps showed me that there was a drinking water space and toilets at Bundegi Beach (just drive all the way north to the turn off for the national park, drive past the turn off until you reach big poles that look like a huge circus tent will be put up and somewhere there on the right side, you will reach the beach).

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We had no idea what the beach would look like, but water and toilets (and showers) sounded good. After our lunch in the shade of the fish cleaning stand, we met a few Australians from Exmouth who told us that we could lie under the shade of the jetty and swim there without any danger. It was wonderful to have found shade right at the beach that must have come out of a vacation catalogue. Such a beautiful scenery and only about 6 people there.

After a few swims and snorkel adventures (there were many fish and apparently there even was a shark for a while but I didn’t see that one) we went to enjoy the showers and then drove into the National Park. Luckily, there were other campers there too but it still felt very remote and wild. Exactly, what I imagined camping in Australia to be like. We had kangaroos watching us while we cooked dinner on our gas stove (sausages, potatoes and eggplant was on the menu tonight), saw the stars through our tent windows (we usually don’t put the rain coat layer on it, except when it feels cold or too many people are around) and heard the sounds of the ocean all night.

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We got up with the sunrise shortly before six, packed up our things and then drove the remaining 40km to the southernmost point in the park that was accessible with 2wd, Yardie Creek. We wanted to start the hike into the gorge early, while it wasn’t so hot yet. The drive took a little longer than it would have on a hwy since we were only going 60 kmh because of the kangaroos that might jump on the road. And sure enough, a mother and her little one hopped across the road about 30m in front of us. I braked right away and as we slithered towards them, we just hoped they would be quick enough. They were and at least now we know that the breaks really work and our things in the car were properly in place too, since nothing came flying to the front 🙂 But even if we had driven even slower, there would have been no way of avoiding them if they jumped out any closer. Therefore, if there are bushes close to the road, the only thing you can do is to really drive careful. I couldn’t understand the tour buses in the national park that were overtaking us with more than 80 kmh (speed limit).

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We had breakfast at the entrance of the gorge trail and saw some funny looking pigeons and other pretty birds. There were toilets too. In the whole park there are long drops (Plumpsklos) (no water, just chemicals) but they were nicer than other public toilets we had seen on rest stops. Due to the chemicals, they didn’t even smell bad and there always was a normal toilet bowl and toilet paper.

Only one guy camped down here the night before and we met him on the walk. He had been travelling Australia for the last 2,5 years. I asked him, whether he ever had to work during that time. He said he didn’t have to but he just did sometimes to keep himself occupied. He had won the lottery! I had to travel to Australia to find someone who actually made a lot of money out of a lottery 🙂

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The walk at the beginning was very easy, on a straight path but it was already extremely beautiful having the blue ocean and white sand behind us and the red soil with a blue creek that flowed into orange, red, white rock walls. Then, the walk became a hike with loose rocks and ups and downs. Still ok for most people but we were glad there weren’t any flies yet and there was a nice breeze.

We saw some eagles and other birds that whistled nice songs (sounded like a human that was whistling). The view really was stunning and the drive down to Yardie Creek worthwile. On our way back, we met some people who camped close to us last night. Now it was already starting to get hotter and there were some flies, so I was glad, we already checked our walk off for today.

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On the way back, we stopped at Oyster Shacks but since there weren’t any other people and the tide didn’t look really high, we drove straight to Turquoise Bay. There really wasn’t any shade but the snorkeling was beautiful! It was pretty much the same as in Coral Bay though, except that I saw some miniature versions of butterfly fish and other little ones, perhaps they were babies?

When we needed shade, we drove on to the visitor center, where they have a great display of information about the park and the animals. I saw a few kangaroos in the shade of the center and there are toilets and picnic tables in the shade.

On our way out of the park, we stopped at Mangrove Bay. We wanted to see some birds at the bird watch, which overlooks a pretty pond. Instead we met a lady, who told us that at the beach around the corner she saw turtles, rays and sharks. So, we hurried to the beach and indeed we saw a few turtles coming up for air and disappearing again in the choppy water. Because of the waves, we only went into the water until above our knees and didn’t see any rays or sharks.

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We got gas at the lighthouse campsite, where it was 2 cents cheaper than in town and then spent the rest of the afternoon in the shade of the jetty at Bundegi Beach again.

In late afternoon, we left Exmouth because we wanted to stay on a farm at the turnoff to a road 86km south of Exmouth. Unfortunately, that station was still closed and so we drove on to the next one 30km down the road. There wasn’t any indication that it was closed at the main road and so we turned off on a 4km dirt track when we reached the sign that pointed Giralia Station. We reached a closed gate and weren’t sure whether we were allowed to drive in. But there was a horse behind it and so we thought that someone had to live here. Miriam thought that this place looked like a site of a horror movie, especially with the weird atmosphere in the sky. It was extremely hot (now 44 going down but apparently it was 46 during the day) and the whole drive here from Exmouth had been very windy and dusty. Whenever a car passed us, we couldn’t see anything for a few meters, even though it was a normal concrete road, but the dirt next to it just blew across it. I was a bit afraid that either a hurricane (it’s cyclone season here) would stir up or that there was a fire anywhere. Therefore, I preferred to stay with people even though this place looked a bit deserted. We walked through the gate and tried to find our way to the entrance of the house. The kind horse, Snowy, accompanied us all the way. Luckily, the woman saw us coming and told us that of course they had accommodation for us. They weren’t compleately ready for visitors yet, since a big storm had passed through 5 weeks ago and they had lost all the power and a few things got destroyed, so they were just trying to get everything ready again. Camping would have been 10$ a person but in the end they let us stay in an air-conditioned cabin for the same price. Just because they were really nice people. They even made us coffee and we could have a look at a chopped up shark in a cooling box which the husband had caught that day and they would have parts of it for dinner. Then, I was really glad that the other farm was closed and we had run into such a lovely couple who made us feel so welcome and went out of their way just to make two travelers feel well.

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It was really nice not to have to bother with the tent for once and to be able to sleep in a bed.

P.S. The caretakers told us that there actually was a fire down south and that’s why the sky looked so special. We should be fine for Karinjini though. And when we got up the next morning the sky looked normal again, so either the fire travelled on or they managed to put it out.

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