Mr Tilly Free Mondays

Last week we took a picnic lunch to Castle Bay in the Meelup Regional Park, wetting our appetites for more. More of the park that is, not the picnic lunch…..We did still take a simple little picnic with us again today though. In fact we’ve decided to make Monday a picnic day for Paul and I to have somewhere in the great outdoors. We’ll use the days to visit some of the  places in the South West where dogs aren’t allowed to go. Mr Tilly gets out and about quite a lot, so a trip out for us once a week without him isn’t going to do him any harm, and I’m sure it’ll do us a lot of good.

We had a bit of a sample walk along the track from Castle Bay towards Meelup last week, however, my ankle at that time felt a little to fragile to go very far, so it was just a taster. A week later and I’m itching to get hiking. What better place to start getting serious about walking again than to pick up from where we were last week.

Wildlife safe from prohibited dogs

We again headed to the Meelup Regional Park. The park is classified as an A class reserve that stretches along the coast from Dunsborough to Bunker Bay. Approximately 600 hectares in size it’s similar in size to Kings Park in Perth. To protect the wild life, dogs are prohibited, so a good place for us to be on our Mr Tilly free Mondays. There’s plenty of walking tracks between the different Bays, so you’re sure to be reading a bit about a few of them as we get ourselves out and about.

We started at Meelup Beach today with the intentions of walking the full return distance to Castle Bay (2.4 kms in total – not far I agree, but I am still being cautious as my ankle returns to normal mobility and strength).

Meelup Beach is definitely one of the most popular family beaches in the south west. It’s a small bay with a white sandy bottom, and the water is usually gentle for toddlers that want to play in the shallows. For the older visitors there’s canoes, paddle boards, and beach games available for hire.

Meelup Beach

The shore is dotted with plenty of old trees providing shade for picnicking under, and picnic tables are abundant.

Shady picnic tables

Civilised toilet blocks

The toilet block is in keeping with the rustic surroundings, and have cold water showers, and flush toilets. Compared to the drop toilets at some of the other bays in the regional park, Meelup is quite civilised.

We arrived in time to see a pod of dolphins frolicking just out from shore. The pod were heading towards Castle Bay, as were we. They kept a similar pace to us all the way and whenever there was a gap in the trees we could see them just off shore.

Dolphins accompanying us all the way

With my ankle well supported in hiking boots and my bush stick for added stability, the 1.2 kms was easy enough, so we went the 700metres extra that took us past Castle Bay and right up to the actual Rock. Up close it’s massive.

Castle Rock up close

The track was an easy walk, but not shaded all the way. Be sure to cover up suitably against the sun, and take some water.

Only parts of the track are shaded

Then from the rock it was 1.9kms back to Meelup where we enjoyed our cheese and salad rolls with a refreshing sparkling mineral water as a Kookaburra watched on from a neighbouring tree.

Kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree

I love our South West. What a pleasure it is to live here!


Castle Rock/Castle Bay

Not to be confused with Castle Rock in the Porongurups, there’s also a Castle Rock just north of Dunsborough in the Meelup Regional Park.

Castle Rock framing the bay to the East

With it’s turquoise waters, white sand and several picnic tables and barbecues overlooking the beach, it makes an ideal place to enjoy a bite of lunch.

A lovely spot to sit and eat lunch

The locals stopped by for a chat and to see if we had anything on offer for them

There’s walk tracks near by, including a short 1.2 km track that will take you to one of the most popular beaches in the South West, Meelup Beach. With plenty of photo opportunities on offer as you walk it could take you a while.

An inviting track leading towards Meelup Beach

An interesting rock along the path

If you’re feeling particularly energetic and agile, I believe you can also climb Castle Rock, although I’ve never attempted it myself. One day I might give it a go, I’m sure the views from the top would be amazing.

If the weather’s warm the bay provides a lovely spot for a swim and a cool off, and I’m certain there’d be lots to see if you fancied a bit of snorkelling too. There’s plenty here to keep you occupied for a few hours, so a place worthy of putting on your list should you be visiting the South West of WA. I’m lucky enough to live near by, so this place is somewhere that even the locals like me take the opportunity to visit several times a season.  What a pleasure!

Sugarloaf Rock

Sugarloaf Rock is one of the south west region’s most spectacular coastal land formations. It’s not hard to see why it’s one the hallmark images of renowned Australian Landscape photographer, Christian Fletcher, or why it’s graced the cover of Australian Geographic magazine. If it’s not at the top of the list of any landscape, or would be landscape photographers who visit the area, it should be.

I’m told the sea-sculptured rock is spectacular to see when the weather is stormy with the seas crashing all around. I’m also told that one of the greatest sights is to see the sun sinking over the horizon, changing the colour of the rock continuously as it sets into the Indian Ocean. Or you can see it as we did this week, on a calm, sunny day, surrounded by crystal clear waters. (Reminder to myself – visit again in stormy weather).

Situated within the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, the gigantic towering granite rock emerges from the ocean, very close to shore, but completely surrounded by water. The best place to view it is from the purpose built viewing platform. Although it would be easy to wade or swim over to the rock and attempt to clamber onto it – Please don’t. The rock is a haven for nesting sea birds, including the red-tailed tropic bird from September to February.

To get to the Rock by car, leaving from Dunsborough drive along Cape Naturaliste Road for approximately 10km. Then turn left onto Sugarloaf Road. The narrow, winding road ends after three kilometres at the car parking area for the rock.

Or you could walk. Three kilometres to the north is Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse where the 140 kilometre Cape to Cape walk track commences. The first few kilometres of the track offers great views of Sugarloaf Rock, and is wheelchair and pram accessible. There’s  stunning surf and beautiful bays to look down on to one side of you, and native Australian coastal bush full of birds and wildlife on the other. I’m told there’s benches conveniently place along the way to allow walkers to sit for a while to drink in the stunning vista’s or to just listen to the peace  – Only a few more weeks and my ankle should be sufficiently healed to allow me to see for myself……. Still small steps though at the moment, in fact only about twenty of them to take me from the car park to the viewing platform.

What a pleasure it is to be getting out and about again.

Dog friendly Bunker Bay Cafe

The moon boots off, and I’m starting to get out and about again. Still a way from walking marathons, or even kilometres for that matter, but walking from a car park to a cafe is definitely welcome and do-able now.

Last week we packed what we needed for a few hours out and about with Mr Tilly. When heading out with Tills, the days of donning a hat and tucking a credit card in our back pocket are long gone. Now it’s check first if a place is dog friendly. Once that’s sorted, then make sure the dog blanket is secured in the back of the car, fill our pockets with dog treats, top up the doggie water bottle, check we have enough poo bags (sometimes up to three may be needed), and of course, our own hats, and a credit card.

This time we chose Bunker Bay Cafe. The cafe is situated overlooking the stunningly beautiful Bunker Bay, and is in-between several national parks. Dogs aren’t allowed in the neighbouring national parks, most of which are absolutely gorgeous. We’ll save those for days when we leave Tills at home on ‘guard duty’. The Bunker Bay area where dogs are allowed, whilst not of any great distance, is never-the-less a welcome little stretch of beach adjoining the forest. For anyone visiting the area with their four legged friend, this place is definitely worth putting on your list.

The fully licensed cafe is approximately 35 mins from Busselton, 10 minutes from Dunsborough or about 50 minutes from Margaret River.

The dog, off lead exercise area

A shady spot on the deck

Open to the public for breakfast from 8.30am, through lunch until mid afternoon, the cafe has rightfully earned itself a good reputation of serving pretty good food. They also have a good reputation as a function centre in the evenings, and there would be more than one or two couples who have tied the knot overlooking the stunning bay.

We were there on this occasion to enjoy a late morning coffee, and one of their famous muffins. Thursday’s home baked muffins were blueberry and dark chocolate – oh dear, we usually share, but these sounded too good for sharing. We indulged in one each with a cup of flat white coffee (for my overseas readers – a flat white coffee in Australia is a cappuccino without any chocolate or cinnamon sprinkles). The muffins were as good as they sounded, I’m pleased I didn’t have to share. The coffee was perfect too. And that view…….

Calm today, but when the surfs up watching the surfers from the cafe provides great entertainment

I’m still not able to walk on shifting beach sands, but after our coffee Paul and Tills enjoyed their wander along a different beach.

New rocks to clamber over

And new seaweed to eat

Then home again. What a pleasure it is to be getting out and about again.

Cape Leveque

The Dampier peninsula stretches approximately 220 kilometres north from Broome. At the northern most tip lies Cape Leveque, and the Kooljiman Resort/camp ground. At this stage you’ll need a four wheel drive with good clearance to get there, but there has been on-going rumours that the road is soon to be sealed. (Those rumours have abounded since we first went in 2010 – the road remains the same).

We had the good fortune to include a trip to Cape Leveque in 2010.  There’s various places to stay on the peninsula, but as the Kooljiman Resort is right at the tip, it offers easy access to both the rising sun from the east, and the setting sun from the west. It’s an ideal location to see just how good the sun can be at different times of day.

Looking out to the right from our beach shelter

For our stay we rented a three sided beach shelter on the eastern side. We had our camper trailer at the time, and parked that beside the shelter, whilst Dianne and Bob set up a small tent inside. There was a cool water shower in the corner of the shelter, and a picnic table outside overlooking the water. The loos, and hot water showers were a bit of a trek away, but we often just made do with the cool shower in our own shelter.

And to the left

From the time the sun came up in the morning, to when it set in the evening the days were filled with so much to see and do. Being on the eastern side of the peninsula we had the joy of seeing the sun rise over the ocean, something rare for those of us who live in the west of the country.

The sun beginning to light up the sky

Sometimes we’d wake to an empty ocean view, and sometimes we’d wake, green with envy, when some lucky person or two had anchored their yacht just offshore.

Yacht anchored overnight

There was always plenty to do throughout the day. The water was only a few steps from our shelter, and absolutely perfect for a dip. In case you’re wondering, crocodiles and stingers are prevalent around the Dampier peninsula, everywhere that is except at the Cape. Apparently the tides there keep them away, or so I’m told. So we swam in safety, the guys managed to throw a line in a few times, and we went for plenty of beach walks.

Cruise ship anchored offshore

When we were at the shelter there was always something happening on the water to look at. Sometimes it would be a fellow camper doing some kayak fishing, or sometimes it would be one of the small luxury cruise liners anchored up ferrying passengers in for some shore time.

And then when the sun started it’s decent it was time to head around to the western side of the peninsula. Cape Leveque is famous for it’s sunsets, but it’s not as you’d imagine. It’s not the sky that brings artists and photographers from near and far to capture the glorious spectacle as the sun drops towards the horizon. As the sun sinks towards the horizon the rays hit the orange cliffs lining the shore. They shine bright, almost as if they’re lit from inside.

Cliffs lit up by the setting sun

Yes – these colours are for real

Just another place that adds to the ‘colours of the Kimberley’, and no trip to this glorious region would be complete without a trip to the Cape.

There’s various forms of accommodation at Kooljaman ranging from camping options, either in the campground, or at one of the beach shelters. There’s also different levels of houses to rent. Check them all out long before you arrive though to make your selection, and book early. They book out early in the season.

Just another wonderful Kimberley destination to add to your bucket list…..


The Horizontal Falls

Continuing on from The Buccaneer Archipelago…….

Swimming off the pontoon wasn’t an option

After witnessing the most amazing scenery to get to Talbot Bay, we boarded the pontoon to await our pre-lunch scenic cruise. As I remember it, it was a warm and humid day. A swim would have been most welcome, but on second thoughts – nah!! At the time we visited in 2010 the staff on board the pontoon used to feed these sharks. I think that today you can swim with them, (I guess from within the safety of a shark cage). I think the swimming is done near the pontoon, so quite likely, these same fish.

No diving off the boat either

After a bit of relaxation we boarded a small motor boat for our scenic tour. A gentle cruise around some of the Islands and waterways provided a bit of background to the flora and fauna in the area.

A Rock wallaby peering out from behind some rocks

Boat seats, or should I say saddles

Then back to our base for a barramundi fish barbecue lunch before boarding our jet boat for the excursion to, and over the Horizontal Falls.There were some bench seats on the boat, but most people chose the safety of straddling a seat with a bar to hold onto. Once we entered the falls, I’m sure those of us riding bronco style appreciated the security of that hand hold. I’m pretty sure I, for one, would have been white knuckled as I hung on.

Looking back at the photos it all looks much more innocuous than it felt. In reality it was more exhilarating than any fair ground ride.

The jet boat was almost as long as the gap was wide that we were to go through. Fortunately, our skipper knew what he was doing. He lined us up, and then with all engines screaming and all of us hanging on for grim death, we shot full throttle upwards towards the horizontally, tumbling waters.

Entering the falls

about mid way

and then the final ascent

The falls receding behind us

Looking back the tranquility defies the reality of what we’d just experienced

We went back for another go, and a third, and maybe even a fourth. One things for sure, we couldn’t get enough of it.

Then back to the pontoon to board our seaplane for the return trip to Broome. Looking down on the falls on our departure it was hard to imagine the sheer force of the water. It looked so tame…

The falls again from the air on our departure

And that was our trip to the Horizontal Falls, now almost eight years ago. It was then, and remains so today the absolutely best travel experience we’ve ever had. Would we do it again? – I don’t know. I’m always a little weary of repeating something that’s provided an amazing memory. What if it isn’t as good as I remembered it, then the memory would be spoilt for ever more. So, much as I’d love to, and want to, I don’t know if I should.

We did the full day tour. The cost today for that tour is around $1000 (give or take a little bit). The half day tour (approximately 6 hours in total) is a little bit cheaper, and there’s an overnight option for a little bit more. For the overnight option, as I remember it, the pontoon has ensuite cabins on board. The overnighters usually get to experience going over the falls in both directions, using both the incoming, and outgoing tides.

Then there’s also a 4 night trip at the cost of around $4000. This option incorporates  some fishing and some pristine swimming holes away from the dangers of the crocs. I’m sure, there would be some spectacular scenery on offer cruising round the archipelago. If I was tempted into doing it again – I think this is the option I’d have to chose, just so as it incorporated a little more than before.But, as I’ve already seen both the archipelago from the air, and experienced the amazing Horizontal Falls, perhaps I’ll save the money for a completely new experience, a completely new pleasure!

If you haven’t already done the falls, the half day excursion is all you need to put something absolutely amazing into your own book of life. If you include anything extra, whilst enjoyable no doubt, in reality I’m sure it’ll only be providing background to the shining star – The Horizontal Falls.

This is an absolute Bucket List destination. For both Paul and I, it surpassed swimming with the whale sharks off Ningaloo Reef, and it surpassed our amazing glamping sojourn last year to the Mitchell Plateau and falls. Those two things, whilst both being absolutely stand out experiences, pale in comparison to The Horizontal Falls. Photos, nor relating the experience can come close to letting you live the experience vicariously. It’s something you have to do for yourself to appreciate it. So, if you haven’t already done this, and if it’s at all possible, please put this excursion high up on your bucket list, and make sure you tick it off. You won’t regret it.



The Buccaneer Archipelago

It’s almost eight years now since we visited Horizontal Falls. The falls are located near Talbot Bay in the Buccaneer Archipelago. To date, The Buccaneer Archipelago is a county mile in front of anything I’ve ever seen, and going over the Horizontal Falls in a jet boat is a country mile in front of any experiences I’ve ever had. More on the Horizontal Falls though in a later post – I suspect this one is going to be a lengthy chapter covering just the trip to get there.

In July 2010, whilst we were still working we took a rushed trip up to the Kimberley area, along with our good friends, Dianne and Bob. There were so many highlights on that trip, but the stand out highlight was Horizontal Falls, and that includes the trip to get there.

Firstly, from Broome,  we boarded a small (very small) plane to begin our journey. I think it was either a five, or six seater including the pilot. For this trip anyway it certainly held only us four, plus the pilot.

Smallest plane I’ve ever been on

First stop was Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm located toward the top of the Dampier Peninsula.  We were treated to a land-based tour which gave us an insight into the fascinating history of pearling, and how some of the pearls from the farm are chosen to be recognised as being amongst the most sought after and beautiful South Sea Pearls in the world. We were even allowed to try on one of their beautiful strands apparently valued at the time at around $20,000. (As I remember it, we were watched very closely).

Pearls fit for a queen, or at least a celebrity

After morning tea we boarded a small sea plane and headed out over the Buccaneer Archipelago.

1st ever seaplane ride

The take off on the bumpy, red-dirt runway was a bit hair-raising to say the least, but when we saw what was  awaiting us below, it was worth every bone shaking bump. The  most breathtakingly, beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, with colours so vivid they didn’t look real. To this day it’s hard to believe what we were seeing hadn’t been photo-shopped way beyond reality. The 50 or so square kilometres of brightly coloured azure seas, with over 800 rocky islands, each fringed with mangroves and the vividest of moss green vegetation looked surreal to say the least.

The most amazing scenery

Surreal colours

So many Islands

Finally, the little gap in Talbot Bay came into view – Horizontal Falls.

1st view of the falls below

Down we went, landing on the calm blue waters before gently gliding in to the pontoon that was to be our base for lunch and an afternoon of exploring the islands – and of course, our Horizontal Falls adventure.

Landed, although that doesn’t seem like the right term for a sea plane on the water

To be cont…..