Augusta, the small town where two big oceans meet

Augusta, a small town with a permanent population of just over1000 people, packs a hefty punch when it comes to scenery. In the hot summer months the population expands dramatically with tourists flocking to the town for everything it has on offer, including cooling winds off the two oceans that meet close by at the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.

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Camping at Alexandra Bridge

Alexandra Bridge campground is on Clarke Drive approximately 26kms north east of Augusta, at the southern end of the Margaret River region.

You can choose from 21 campsites, all only a couple of minutes walk to the tranquil Blackwood river.

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The sun sets on another holiday

We had a fabulous few days away with our good friends, Kaye and Brian.

Great company

The first three days in Albany served as a great reminder of how much Albany has going for it. We’ve all promised ourselves a return visit.

So much to do in Albany, gorgeous walks, stunning beaches, and much, much more

For our final night we moved on to a farm stay, Ayr Sailean, approximately half way between Denmark and Walpole. At $23 for a powered site it was considerably cheaper than the nearby caravan parks, and is well located for sightseeing around the Denmark/Walpole area.

Farm stay camp ground

There were plenty of friendly farm animals. My Tilly enjoyed touching noses with the small pony, but then he wanted to do the ‘rear end sniff thing’.

The pony was happy to have Mr Tilly check him out, they almost rubbed noses

I was a bit worried the pony may have given him a bit of kick for his effort.

Why do dogs insist on the rear end sniff!

The sun-set for our final night was gorgeous.

The sun sets on another holiday

And after the sun set came the fire pit.

A red wine or two around the campfire to finish off

Don’t you just love a camp fire!

Damn, we forgot the marshmallows

A fabulous mini break, and time spent with a fabulous couple – a great reminder of just what a pleasure life can be.

Cruise ship shore guide, tour guide – that’s me

Meet Busselton’s newest tour guide

The last cruise ship for the season sailed into Geographe Bay on 22 March this year. I have a friend who meets the ships, and acts as tour guide on the buses for a variety of the tours. Two days prior to the 22nd I received the call – the situation was desperate, there weren’t enough tour guides for the the shore excursions from the last ship of the season, would I do one? It’s easy he says. Just take their tickets, advise them of the times the bus will be leaving after each stop, and count heads when they’re all back on the bus. Yep, I think I can do that. So I agree.

He came around that night to give me a few more details including suggestions for the spiel. Three hours later I knew I’d been suckered. Of course, a spiel is required! Silly me.

I’m a bit of a chatterer that’s for sure, but a public speaker I’m definitely not. I was nervous (understatement). I spent a good few hours learning some additional facts to relate, and Paul drove the route my bus would be taking whilst I practiced a bit of a commentary.

My tour was a four hour trip around the top half of the Margaret River region. Only two stops were scheduled, one at Canal Rocks, and a long one of almost two hours in the Margaret River township. The time spent in Margaret River was free time for the tourists to explore at their own leisure.With such a big chunk of free time it made it all relatively easy compared to some of the other, more involved, tours that were leaving that day.

Wanna take the tour with me, ok buckle up, here’s how it went –

Facts provided:

Population of Busselton approximately 36,000

Geographe Bay is approximately 70 Kms wide stretching from Bunbury to Dunsborough. It’s approximately 30 metres deep at the deepest section, but only around 9 metres at the end of the jetty. That’s why the ships anchor way off shore and tenders are needed to ferry the passengers into shore.

The jetty is the longest wooden pylon jetty in the southern hemisphere. It was saved from complete demolition by the people of Busselton after it was all but destroyed in 1978 by Cyclone Alby. It’s now Busselton’s most iconic structure.

Busselton Jetty, the longest wooden pylon jetty in the southern hemisphere

The Margeret River region stretches for approximately 100kms in length, and is approximately 30kms wide.

The area includes five large towns, Busselton, Dunsborough, Augusta, Margaret River, and Cowaramup, as well as many more little villages.

Landmarks pointed out and discussed:

Canal Rocks

Canal Rocks

The Chick on a Stick at Laurence Winery

Laurence Winery’s ‘chick on a stick’

Vasse Felix Winery

The first winery to be established in the Margaret River region

The rump on the stump at Cowaramup (Cowtown)

Cowaramup’s version – ‘rump on a stump’, or ‘roast on a post’

The cows in Cowtown

There are 42 of these life size sculptures in the small town of Cowaramup (Cowtown)

and I couldn’t help but point out our own little place on our return into town.

I pointed out the most important house in Busselton – our house

Apart from that I prattled on commenting on the obvious – we’re now passing Millionaires row where the house prices range between $2,000,000 and $14,000,000. Look to your left you’ll see our deer farm with its venison farm shop. This side there’s a skate park, and over there a maze. I even pointed out two cows napping under a tree. And of course I apologised profusely for the clouds in the sky….

Thinking of previous guided tours that I’ve taken, I know I’ve heard better, and I think I’ve heard similar. I’ve certainly heard worse. I started out very nervous, with a stilted commentary trying to follow a bit of a script. About half way through my script was folded away, and that’s when the prattle started I think it went better with a bit of relaxed prattle. In fact once I relaxed it was much the same as chatting to Paul on any road trip, just commenting on the obvious, but with a few facts thrown in for good measure.

Will I do it again? You know what, I enjoyed showing tourists the places I love, so yes, I think I would. It’s a pleasure to show off our little corner of WA to the world. Next season when the cruiseliners anchor in Geographe Bay, count me in!

The Queen Elizabeth comes to our home-town

The Margaret River region is world renowned as a tourist destination. Our home-town of Busselton, located at the top of the Margaret River region has become a stop off destination for cruise ships allowing their passengers to dis-embark and get to see some of this famous region. Yesterday, Cunard’s ship, the Queen Elizabeth paid us a visit.

The previous day the ship was in the port of Fremantle, approximately 2 hours north of Busselton by road. Whilst in Fremantle people drove many kilometres from all over Perth to catch a glimpse of the visiting ship.

We live approximately 3 minutes walk to Geographe Bay. Yesterday when we went for our daily morning walk along the beach the Queen Elizabeth, a beautiful site on a glorious sunny day,  was anchored just off shore. How lucky are we, no driving needed to see this majestic, luxury liner.

In the late afternoon we again wandered down to the beach for a cooling swim. The tenders were returning their passengers to the ship ready for departure which was scheduled for 6pm. It was 5.30pm and we were wet and salty after our swim, so walked home to shower, and grab a bottle of bubbles. A quick text message to a couple of friends and within 15 minutes the four of us had walked back to the beach for a relaxing drink.  How lucky we were, sipping our champagne as we watched the big ocean liner ready herself for departure, knowing we are fortunate to have this all within just a few minutes walk from our front door.

6pm and the ship is readying for departure

The  passengers are now all back on board, and the last of the tenders is being loaded

The ship slowly does an about turn

Dusk falls as we sip the last of our champagne

and watch the Queen Elizabeth sail off into the sunset

Just another one of the pleasures of living in Busselton!

Sid’s campground

A lot of thought went into planning the inaugural trip in our new caravan. Our requirements were firstly fine weather. Then somewhere that welcomed dogs, somewhere that had fire pits, and somewhere with space so as we wouldn’t be camped on top of someone else. Using Wiki Camps, Paul thought Sid’s campground, near Northcliffe looked like it would fit the bill perfectly,  and the week-end looked like it was going to be clear of wind and rain. We hitched up and headed off.

Paul had done his research well. The place was perfect.

A lovely bush setting with plenty of space

At $5 per person a night, this place is fantastic. Or for $10 extra per site there was even power. We chose to have power for our first trip so as we could try everything out. We were directly opposite the fire pit and camp kitchen, and our site faced the north sun – perfect!

A big fire was lit every night for campers to sit around and swap stories. Unfortunately Paul forgot to take his camera when the fire was burning bright

Sid has put a lot of work into welcoming campers to his 100+ acres of natural bush. There’s several little rustic camp kitchens throughout the camping area, each equiped with the basics for cooking and washing up,  including wood heaters with plenty of wood for burning. Also dotted around are several toilets, or toilet/shower rooms, including a loo with a low window providing a great view of the forest. The water’s hot, the loo paper plentiful, and there’s even liquid soap at all the basins. It’s better equiped than most caravan parks where we would be paying the better part of $40 for a night.

There’s a lot of thought and work gone into creating walk tracks around the property for campers to enjoy.

Perfect tracks for dogs to walk

“come on you two”, he waits patiently for us to catch up

Lots for dogs (and people) to look at

Flowers planted around the camping area

with interesting pots for the colourful plants

Tall trees to walk under

One of several dams to walk around

Such a peaceful setting – note the table and seat in the distance, one of several dotted around for campers to find a quiet place and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the bush

Our first two night trip to christen the new van couldn’t have been in a better place. There’s clearly lots of wild flowers and orchids just waiting for spring to bloom and we’ll certainly be back to see them. Sid’s campground – what a pleasure!

 

Goanna Cafe and Gallery

On the last Wednesday of the month my walking group celebrate any birthdays from the month over lunch. The choice of venue is made by the birthday girls. It was my choice in May, so I chose the Goanna Cafe and Gallery, a regular choice with the ladies, and one that never fails to please.

Two tables this month

The second table sharing a joke

Located in Quindalup, towards the northern end of the Margaret River wine region the licensed Goanna Cafe is best described as quirky, unpretentious and relaxed. Their menu showcases the best and freshest of locally sourced ingredients in a choice of simple, understated dishes that taste superb.

House Lasagna of pumpkin, cauliflower, parmesan with sage and walnut beurre noisette, charred broccolini and mixed leaves

Sunja’s Korean Bibimbap, mixed rice with Asian vegetables, marinated beef mince, fried egg, kimchi with soy sauce & Korean hot sauce on the side

I choose the Korean Bibimbap – it was delicious. There were of course lots of other choices on the menu but I’ve only mentioned the ones I took photos of. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals, and followed with coffees and sweets chosen from the cake cabinet.

Mmmm – what to choose. I chose the home made rocky road, it hit the spot perfectly

A small gallery on the premises carries an evolving range of local artwork, jewellery, scarves, homewares, and produce, with a focus on handcrafted and quality pieces. The cafe predominantly gives space to emerging artists allowing them an opportunity to develop their work in a supportive environment.

I love scarves, but resisted on this visit

More items in the gift shop

The cafe is very popular on weekends, so it’s wise to book. There’s a normal playground for the ankle biters, as well as an adventure playground. Dogs are welcome too in the outside eating area with plenty of undercover tables to choose from.

Adventure playground to keep the young ones entertained

It’s situated in a lovely bush setting, which has been taken advantage of by the addition of a Sculpture Walk.

One of several sculptures

It’s not the first time the Walkers who Lunch have dined here.  As always there were no complaints, so it certainly won’t be the last.  Goanna Cafe, as usual, was a real pleasure.

Vasse Felix

What a busy time we’ve been having lately. Sunday 27th May, my birthday, commenced a busy week of wining and dining, and wow – did we commence it in style.

Paul took me to Vasse Felix winery and restaurant for lunch.

We arrived just on time so didn’t have time to take advantage of the wine tasting. Walking upstairs to the restaurant the first thing you see in the huge, and tastefully rustic dining room, is the suspended fire – I want one!

A warm welcome

We were shown to our table, and our waitress for the day introduced herself, and explained the menu. It’s a small menu, exactly how I like a menu to be. When it’s small there’s a much better chance of everything being fresh. The menu changes daily according to seasonal produce. With things listed like, Straciatella, Betel leaves, Bigoli, and Duck Yolk it definitely needed some explanation. I hadn’t heard of most of them, and even if I had, I’d never tried them.

Explanations given, we made our choices. Firstly a glass of bubbles for me, and a half glass of Cab Sav for Paul to have with our starters of sourdough with whipped burnt butter to share, marinated olives for Paul, and Marron, orange, chilli, and rice in a betel leaf for me.

The marron came as a shelled tail with the other ingredients in a betel leaf, served on a small hot rock. I was told that I was to roll the leaf around the marron tail and eat in from my fingers, much like a small taco.

The verdict on the starters: The marron – very different, and yummy. The bread delicious, the burnt butter – so good I’ve tried to replicate at home (the waitress told me how), the olives – ok.

Next came our shared entree of Duck parfait, stout and  chicken skin, served with Lees crisp-breads. The Duck parfait was a sort of whipped pate, very light, and I gather the stout was an ingredient in the parfait. I believe the crispy crumb sprinkled over the dish was the chicken skin. The Lees crisp-breads are made from the left over yeast sediment from the bottom of the chardonnay barrels.

The verdict on the shared entree: Wow, Wow, Wow!!! I have never, ever tasted food so good before. I moaned in ecstasy trying to savour every bite, but at the same time trying not to cram it in quickly so as to get more than my share. I hope I didn’t sound like Sally in that famous scene in, When Harry meets Sally.

Next our mains. Paul chose a fillet steak with Davidson plum, beetroot and hay (not sure what the hay was,  it wasn’t hay that a horse would eat). I chose the Pork, eel, eggplant and miso. We had a side of broccolini, romesco, lardo and almond with it. I had a half glass of the cab sav with mine. I’m happy with only a few sips of any wine, so Paul had to finish it for me (no hardship for sure).

The verdict on the mains: Paul declared his delicious. Mine was tasty but nothing memorable (perhaps that was because I was still in seventh taste heaven after having the parfait).

Then onto deserts: I chose the Mandarin, honeycomb, milk. Paul opted for Cropwell Bishop Shropshire cheese served with blackcurrant gel and lavish crisp breads (plus an additional portion of the Lees crisp-breads that we had with our parfait)

The verdict on the deserts: Paul thoroughly enjoyed his cheese and said the blackcurrant went perfectly with it. The Mandarin desert, which was a sort of a mandarin mouse with a mandarin sponge topping – well if I hadn’t just had the best food I’d ever eaten by way of the Duck parfait, I may well have been declaring the Mandarin desert the best food ever. It was light, and creamy, and absolutely delectable.

We spent nearly three hours over lunch. That length of time for two people can sometimes indicate the service was slow and the courses dragged out. Not so – everything including the timely service of the drinks and each course was absolutely perfect. Needless to say, Vasse Felix has jumped to the top of our list for special dining in the south west. It’s in front of anything else we’ve tried by a county mile.

And now before I close off this post, I’ll give you a bit of photographic tour around the public part of the winery.

Vines in all their autumn glory

Underground cellar in the distance, a bit like a hobbit home built into the hillside

A granite sculpture outside the cellar

A good selection of wines in the cellar (so I’m told – I wouldn’t know a good wine from a bad wine)

The wine that first saw Vasse Felix hit the world market in 1972

There’s lots of big sculptures, here’s another one

And there you have a bit of a summary of Vasse Felix winery, located on the corner of Caves Road and Tom Cullity Drive, Margaret River. A dining pleasure!

 

 

Storm batters south-west WA

We awoke this morning to the sound of battering winds and torrential rain. Winds of close to 110 kilometres an hour battered our coast. The rain was the heaviest I’ve ever seen. At one stage it was so heavy that I could have sworn we had ocean waves crashing over the house. To say it was ‘sheeting down’ was an understatement.

By mid-day the worst of the front had passed over and we were able to take Mr Tilly for his walk. Usually we incorporate a beach stretch for him to have a good romp off his lead. However, when we arrived at where our beach usually is, it was nowhere in sight. The tide was high and we had big waves surging as high as the beach shrubbery.

Our boat launching ramp under water with seaweed dumped well above usual water line

The small jetty beside the boat launching ramp

Several residents were out inspecting the beach damage, with some even braving the elements on zimmer frames and motorised gophers. It was clear what we were seeing was mild compared to the fury of the storm and tides during the morning hours. The walking track that runs parallel to the shoreline showed evidence of the waves having washed over the path. The path was littered with sand and seaweed. Benches had been ripped off their stumps and dumped high up in the beach shrubbery, or overturned in the water.

A concrete bench seat washed into the ocean

The fury of the ocean has washed out tonnes of sand, carving away at our shoreline.  The normally calm waters were frothing and awash with thick seaweed long after the worst of the weather had passed over. I have no doubt that once the water settles from it’s fury, it’s going to be leaving most of that seaweed where our sand should be.

The water awash with sand and seaweed

Residents were chatty as they inspected the damage sharing stories of previous storms. One resident said they hadn’t seen the ocean so high and wild since when Cyclone Alby hit in 1978. Others said it’s just winter as usual.

Usual or not, it’s going to take a while for our beautiful beaches to return to their normal pristine condition. Will Mr Tilly care – not one bit, just as long as he gets to romp along the shoreline.  As far as he’s concerned, the more seaweed on the beach, and the smellier it gets, the more fun he has. A messy beach, while not my cup of tea, is a joy to our Tills. He’ll be prancing around and charging after seagulls just as soon as there’s any visible sand to romp on. To him it’ll enhance his beach experience, he’ll be jumping for joy amongst the seaweed, and thinking to himself – what a pleasure!