Sues Bridge – Dog friendly campground, and day use area

I love this place. Located in the Margaret River area, the easiest way to get to it if you’re heading south from Perth, is to look for Sues Road off the Bussell Highway as you’re nearing Busselton. The Blackwood river is the largest river in Australia’s south west and runs nearby. Walk tracks will lead you from the campground to  the river. It’s a great place for launching a canoe I believe, or as we found out on our last camp trip there, a great place to watch the mist rising over the water on an early chilly, June morning.

A misty morning on our last camping trip here

Sue’s bridge visible as the mist lifts

It’s many years since we last camped there, and with our new caravan soon to be here, we thought we’d check it out again to see if it is worth putting on our list as a possible place for Mr Tilly’s first caravan/camping experience. I’m pleased to say it’s as good as I remember it for sure, and is definitely a strong contender.

There’s 25 individual camp sites with nine of them being of a suitable size for small to mid sized caravans or camper trailers, and the other 14 being more suited to tents. There is no power, no showers, and only drop toilets. Centrally located in the camp ground is a small camper’s kitchen with sinks serviced by rainwater tanks, gas barbecues, and picnic tables. Whenever we’ve been there, it’s always been clean and well maintained.

Our camping accommodation in pre-caravan days

Each campsite has a picnic table and a fire ring. However, currently there is a total fire ban, in place, which runs from 30 November until 15 April. Campers can still cook on their own gas fuelled barbecues or camp stoves when the fire ban is in place. If you’re visiting when fires are allowed, please bring your own wood as it’s illegal to gather wood from the forest. I think the cost for camping is $11 per person per night, with an honour box system for payment (plus the ranger visits regularly). The usual concession cards are applicable to reduce your costs even further.

Gorgeous, individual camping areas

Great for cold weather camping

Our friend Wendy making use of one the strategically placed logs

Bookings cannot be made, so on long week-ends or during school holiday times it pays to get in early. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash at all times. Please note: 1080 poison is used in the vicinity so it’s important to keep your four legged friend close at all times. Whilst the baits aren’t dropped in the camping area, there is always the small chance that a bird could pick one up and drop it. Keep your eyes peeled, they usually resemble a small sausage – don’t let your pets eat anything here that you haven’t provided. 1080 is fatal, and has no antidote.

On our visit this week it was almost deserted. We enjoyed our picnic lunch with Mr Tilly, soaking up the unequalled peace and ambience of the forest. I have to say, I’m getting impatient now for the arrival of the caravan. I can’t wait to take Tills here, and sit with him under the stars on a cool night in front of his first campfire. It’s going to be such a pleasure to see him expanded his horizons to include camping delights.

We had the place to ourselves for our picnic

 

 

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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.

The Busselton Jetty and it’s underwater observatory

So much to see

There’s so much to see and do in the Busselton/Margaret River, and it’s easy to get complacent about what’s on our own doorstep. Every now and again we set out on the tourist route, to get a fresh and renewed appreciation of this wonderful area that we have the good fortune to call, ‘home’.

Recently, we visited Busselton’s iconic jetty, took the train ride to the end of the almost 2 km long structure, and went down into the beautiful underwater observatory.

It’s a long walk out – we took the train

First  though a bit of background on the jetty:

In 1865 a 150metre long jetty was built to cater for cargo vessels importing and exporting timber and other produce to and from the Busselton area. The wooden jetty was continually extended until by 1960 it had reached 1841 metres, making it the longest timber jetty in the southern hemisphere.

However, by 1971 the jetty had ceased operation and quickly deteriorated, receiving little in the way of maintenance. Then in 1978 Cyclone Alby struck, taking out much of the first 700 metres of the old jetty. The government of the day decided to demolish the remainder.

They hadn’t counted on the spirit and tenacity of the people of Busselton. Groups were formed who successfully lobbied to obtain funding for the the restoration and upkeep of the structure. I’m so pleased they did.

Amazing life and colours on the piles

The encrusted piles of the jetty are predominately jarrah logs, 16 metres in length, sharpened at one end and driven 4 – 5 metres into the limestone seabed. The cross beans give the piles support and strength to support the decking above. The 12 metre wide decking provides the shade required for the unique marine life on the jetty piles beneath.

An underwater observatory was constructed for the jetty on land at Henderson Shipping yards, and then towed by tug boat to Busselton. Upon arrival, the 550 ton observatory was secured to the sea floor using 18metre long bolts, and opened officially to the public in December 2003.

The jetty is, without any doubt, the most iconic structure in Busselton. Extending out into Geographe Bay almost 2 kms, it remains the longest wooden pylon jetty in the southern hemisphere.

If you’ve never seen the delights that gather around jetty pylons, especially in the clear waters of Geographe Bay, you really must put a trip out to the underwater observatory on Busselton Jetty on your, ‘must see and do’ list.

What lies beneath is a stunningly beautiful underwater garden.

Soft white Telesto coral

Orange sponges, pretty pinks and blues – an underwater rainbow

You can walk the length of the jetty for a small fee, or there’s a train that can take you either one way or the return trip. I’d recommend visiting the observatory while you’re there.  There is a small cost involved to use the jetty, with a slightly bigger cost to take advantage of the train. The fees charged for using the jetty, and the admission fees to the observatory all contribute to the ongoing maintenance and restoration of the Jetty.

What a pleasure it is to live in Busselton!

Footnote: I’ve noticed posters popping up around town that indicate you can now ‘walk under the jetty’. I haven’t as yet checked out the details, but if you’re coming to the area you may want to check this option out.

Busselton Skate Park – not for the faint-hearted

A couple of years ago I saw my first ever proper ‘skate park’ at Bondi Beach. Paul and I stood and watched, mesmerised – and terrified.

These parks are not for the faint-hearted, and definitely are not for me. But to watch kids, the teenagers, and even kids as young as four or five tackling the biggest of the big dippers, – gobsmacking!

Just north of Busselton’s iconic jetty, and overlooking beautiful Geographe Bay, and the jetty, Busselton boasts it’s very own skate park. And just as awesome as Sydney’s Bondi Beach Skate Park I might add. Quite a claim to fame for this quiet little back water place with it’s well above average population percentage of retirees.

 

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One of the most photographed buildings in the area – the start of Busselton Jetty

With guests not far off arriving for the Christmas period, including two youngsters of around the early teen years, I thought a sneak preview of something other than beautiful beaches in the area may be in order. So, Emma and Luka – perhaps you may consider packing your skate boards, maybe even put one in for ya dad. I think ya granddad though will probably chose to just watch and be ready to pick up the pieces should there be any mishaps.

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For the beginners…

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And the intermediate levels..

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Two teenagers checking it out

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Whoosh!!!

In my wildest dreams I couldn’t imagine I ever, at any stage of my life time, could have tackled even the beginners area here. The one for the more experienced – well, me coming down that slope could only figure in the wildest of my nightmares. Even though of me whizzing down there almost brings me out in a cold sweat. But the kids do it with little fear. Surreal !!!