What a great experience. We nearly decided to skip the ‘Age of Dinosaurs’ museum and tour, but we found a great spot 2km south of Winton – Long Waterhole and set up camp under the shade of a coolobah tree. As we waited for the billy to boil, Daz and Noah sang with the ukulele. Yes, Winton was also the place that Banjo wrote ‘Waltzing Matilda’.So Dave Elliott, a stockman/farmer here, found some big fossil bones on his property a few years ago. Then when the really looked, there are so many fossils here, they train volunteers to help dig, wrap and then chisel/dremel the fossils. 10 days training and you are an ‘honorary technician’ for the museum.We went through the active laboratory, looked at the wall of ‘to do’ specimens, touch a real fossilized bone and learnt a whole lot. 95 million years ago, Winton was a tropical rainforest with very soft mud.We also stopped in at the $23 million Waltzing Matilda centre. So, Winton has come a long way since I was last here in 1992. Its so great to see tourism supporting this very remote town. I paid a visit to the town pool which was where we camped back then (not allowed to now), it hadn’t changed much.We took off towards Boulia but only made it to Middleton – population 2. Lester and Val live/run the pub built in 1867 as a Cobb and Co stopover. Free camping opposite, so about a dozen campsites set up for the night and we had Val’s rissoles and mash for dinner.Kids found a phone box and decided to use one for the first time ever. They called the grandmothers, both Grandma and Nanna thought they were telemarketers! We convinced them eventually it was just us calling from the middle of Outback Queensland. Next stop, Bedourie.
When I was 18 I did a bus trip with friends to Darwin and we spent some time in Longreach. I really can’t remember what we did (it was over 25 years ago, and, you know, beer was involved…) but I know we went to the Stockmans Hall of Fame. Round two visit, in 2019, the Smiths spent a long time in there, recognising a whole lot of places we have already been to, such as Kununurra, Katherine and Mataranka.The Stockmans Show was also great. Lachie demonstrated (with hilarious ‘Dad humour’ jokes) some skills involving horses, sheep, clever dogs and not-so-clever dogs. Apparently his guitar was also a Maton 808, therefore have equal value as the best kelpie there.Noah discovered that the streets running north/south were named after land birds such as Emu and Hawke whereas the east/west streets were named after water birds – Swan and Duck. So much history around here for our younger history nerd. Much excitement as the the old Cobb & Co wagon clip clipped down the street.More tours – now the Qantas Museum. In 2002 a 1979 Boeing 747 (City of Bunbury) landed at Longreach, never to leave again – it was destined for the museum and the runway was too short for it to take off again. Chloe is now going to be a pilot and fly her family all over the world. She even made us some tickets for first class! The is also an old 707 (City of Canberra) in the lot, previously owned by Michael Jackson and quite lavishly decorated in late 1970s style.Next stop is Winton where I’m sure we will meet more Big Bash peeps.
Before we can tell you what our favourite places and experiences were, we need to give a big cheer to our kids Noah and Chloe. Without their help, opinions and enthusiasm, this trip would have been very different. Our teamwork was complimented many times by the grey nomads, especially directed at the kids when setting/packing up.
Noah, our handsome young man, sorted the stabilisers, hammered in all the pegs, set up awnings and was always on the front box lifting or folding the canvas. We are so proud of his teamwork and initiative, but especially the kind, thoughtful person he has always been. Opening doors for strangers and contributing to any adult conversation that was had around the campfire, he has grown so much. No longer did he ask for us to get his scooter of the roof of the car, he was up there taking both of them off and strapping them up when done. Thank you Noah.
Chloe, our inquisitive girl, can now do her jobs unprompted (well maybe just a little prompting now and then). Chloe was always on top of the trailer undoing/doing up the clips, sealing the velcro around the top and tying down the sides. She also pulls out and sets up the kitchen on arrival. All this before running off to the jumping pillow or the beach sand to play. She was also in charge of the evening wash up, collecting everything up and hauling Noah off to the camp kitchen. At every turn there was at least 5 questions about anything and everything. Never stop learning Chloe.
So, now that we are home, we are often asked the “favourites?” question, and we spent the last week on the road having a healthy debate between the four of us. It helped to pass the time and bring back some memories for the kids too. Anyway, here is the hardest blog to write!
Camping Spot – Big 4 Howard Springs! Thanks for the company, Karen Wilson, we just loved sharing our epic adventure with you! You coming was such a highlight for us. And our friendly neighbours, the Perry’s, bonding over shared hose connections to fill the tanks! Memorable 9 days with very special people. (Possums nearly ruined it all!)
Experience – it was hard to agree on this one, so kids voted the Darwin waterfront with the wave pool and RFDS facility and the adults went for ‘Walk Darwin’ tour. If we could add more, it would be the Territory Wildlife Park!
Camping Spot – although we really wanted to camp at Jim Jim, it was still closed (sorting out the crocs) so Cooinda was perfect for 8 nights. It was like camping in the bush, but with a pool, restaurant and facilities within reach.
Camping Spot – SA/NT border. The best free camp. Watched the stars at their brightest as there was no light pollution at all. We were all on our own there.
Experience – Mataranka thermal pools. This was Chloe’s absolute favourite place and probably pushed her swimming skills to the next level because she never got out of the water.
Kata Tjuta National Park
Camping Spot – Ayers Rock Campground. We just didn’t fit into the unpowered sites, Myrtle is 6 x 8m, so we were upgraded to the powered section. This was the first time we plugged in. The resort was fantastic, loved the Astronomy talk (with a huge telescope) too.
Experience – Mala walk. This free ranger guided talk took two hours at the base of Uluru and focused on the history as well as current life of the Ananou people. It also helped with our family discussion on why we should/shouldn’t climb. These were the best school days for the kids (and adults).
Camping spot – Gumbanan, perched on an escarpment, looking out to Curlew Bay and the Indian Ocean. We thought we’d stay for 2 nights, ended up staying 8 nights. Probably our favourite camp spot of the whole adventure.
Experience- Southern Cross Lullumb walk with Bolo. Although we explored the Damper Peninsula for 2 weeks, spending the day with Bolo and his family in Bardi Jawi country was an experience we won’t forget.
Camping Spot – Ningaloo Station, another corrugated road but worth the beach front camping! We didn’t wear any shoes for 4 days. Bonfires on the beach, swimming on the reef and fishing heaven. This was Noah’s favourite spot.
Experience – Dive with the Whale Sharks. Thanks to Ocean Eco Adventures, this was the most humbling experience to swim next these amazing animals. All four of us got to swim along side whale sharks, and turtles with the bonus of seeing humpback whales that had just given birth to their calves. They were just starting their journey back to Antarctica.
Shark Bay World Heritage Area
Camping Spot – Francois Peron National Park. We were completely on our own, more beach front camping, more stunning views. This was Darren’s favourite spot. We were the only ones here and the colours stunning. Red sand, white sand, brilliant blue with the setting sun.
Experience – meeting the dolphins at Monkey Mia, it was on Noah’s ‘top three’ list and he was lucky enough to be chosen to give them a little feed of fish. Darren’s favourite experience here was being recognised in the street from http://www.Smithsgowest2018.com website! Thanks Angela!
Gibb River Road
Camping Spot – Ellenbrae Station. A little oasis along a bumpy, dusty road. The kids fell in love with Evie the dog, we ate the best scones and showered under a semi-outdoor boab tree (hot water thanks to a wood fire stove). We also loved Kununurra – our beautiful neighbours Olivia and Matt! We sure hope to see you guys again soon.
Experience – Mitchell Falls. This was a hard place to get to. It took us 3 hours to travel 70km at one point but it was oh so worth it. The helicopter ride to the top of the falls, exploring every nook on the way back (under water falls and over rocks), it was a great slow amble back to camp. The rock art here was incredible as well.
Camping Spot – ‘Gravel pit past the sink hole’ on WikiCamps. 509km east of Esperance. It was a magic free camp! Totally found it by chance.
Experience – watching Noah build epic campfires each night to keep us warm. He has mastered the ‘flint & steel ignition like a true bushman. The three days traveling across was not so Nulla-boring after all!
Camping Spot – Whyalla foreshore. We were 5m from the water (again) and Noah spent half the day fishing. It was also our last time camping in Myrtle for the epic adventure.
Experience – Day at Coffin Bay. Exploring this little coastal town had us chatting to the local volunteer ambos, walking along the numerous jettys and learning all about the oyster industry from Chris at PURE Coffin Bay Oysters.
Camping Spot – Riba’s Underground. Rick and Barbara (RIBA) were really great hosts giving honest advice on what to do and see with kids. Everything that was recommended was tops. They also had their own mine their and did a real hands on tour. Lotsa flies here!!!
Experience – This place was also on Noah’s top three list! All of it, the shops, mines and churches. The most interesting place (maybe a little weird) was Faye’s Underground Home. This house was dug out by three women over 10 years. They made sure to have a cellar, bar and indoor pool. They sure liked a party.
So that is a quick answer to “what was your favourite?” We did so much more that it is extremely difficult to narrow all our experiences down to one short blog post.
In the end, we managed to do a hell of a lot together, cover many 21, 595 kms of this awesome country and had a great time doing it. Next, it’s either smithsgonorth or smithsgosouth!
Thanks for coming along with us.
Only one week til home, one more week…… We’ve planned and booked the home stretch, thanks to Darren who won is a few nights stay at Barossa Valley. Although the luxury tent was tempting, it only sleeps 2, so we swapped the tent for a luxury cabin that sleeps 4.
But before the cabin luxury we indulged in the seafood luxury! We had oysters for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Oh. Yeah. They was also the fish, the prawns and the calamari.
Streaky Bay, Coffin Bay and Boston Bay all had the goods. We sure do love exploring a good peninsula! The scenery along here is stunning, we found this little spot for lunch, would have been another great free camp, but we are starting to feel the pressure of time. That real world is fast approaching us.
Thanks to Chris at PURE Coffin Bay Oysters, we learnt exactly why oysters are an expensive treat. Talk about labour intensive. My memory of oysters growing is they just stayed on a rock and waited for tides to come and go. We were the only ones on the tour (more oysters for us!) So we asked ask the questions. Noah also finished a last video for his homework.
Port Lincoln was our base for us to explore the lower Eyre Peninsula. We got another waterfront spot, we have been so lucky on this trip. According to the holy grail of all truths, Wikipedia, Port Lincoln may have the most millionaires per capita in Australia as its the premier seafood Aquaculture region. Interesting. We made sure to sample as much seafood as we could, you know, just to be sure*.
On our way to Whyalla, we had a scheduled stop at Glen Forest Park and Lincoln Estate winery. It’s a family business with crops, animals and vines! It was a little tip-off from a lady in Coffin Bay.
See you soon NSW.
* I am fairly certain the people SELLING the seafood are the millionares! BUYING and EATING it has not in any way resulted in any financial gain 🤣 – Ed (Daz)
We’ve just had a week on the WA south coast and wish we had more time to explore. Do you think our health employers will extend our leave? Probably not, so it will have to go on the list for our next adventure. We certainly have been pining for the warmer weather again, especially watching our new friends Olivia and Matt who are still working in Kununurra, the Perry’s and Dust Off The Grind – they are still frolicking in the north west of the state. Buggers. Darren and I have surprised ourselves with the warm weather craving, we never wished for summer before, but now…..
After leaving Margaret River, we went to Walpole, or ‘Valley of the Giants’. First stop was the Gloucester Tree at Pemberton. A 53m tall tree that was used in 1947 to climb and look for bushfires. So the steel rungs sticking out had been there a while. Noah was super keen, but our health knowledge kicked in – no nets, no safety and the whole tree swayed. No way.
However the Treetops walk through the red and yellow tingle trees was – not as scary and far safer. The walking platform was elevated 40m in the air. Yes, the walkway did sway, especially when Noah jumped up and down on it.
Albany. Home of the National Anzac Memorial. As with most of the war history we have learnt along this trip, there are so many facts we never knew. Albany was the last piece of Australia that over 40,000 ANZACs saw as this was the harbour they departed from.
The memorial was beautiful and personalised as you were given a card with some details, and you learnt more about them as you went around the displays. We also visited the church where Padre White did the first dawn service, St Johns.
Our last night in Albany was wet and windy thanks to the Great Australian Bight This convinced us to splash out on a cabin in Esperance. The weather continued to be questionable, but there were a few patches of sun so we could see this spectacular coastline.
Next is the Nullarbor. Having never done this stretch of road I’m looking forward to it. Darren keeps laughing at me…..
Myrtle had a little slice of heaven this week in MR, at Glenbrook. Thanks again to Wikicamps, we had 20 acres to ourselves 5 min from town.
But before MR, we made a stop at Busselton Jetty. The longest jetty in the world as its a 3.6km return journey. Even though it looked a bit stormy, we risked it. There was an option to catch a tram out, but the walk with our rain jackets was easy. We were a walking ad for Kathmandu.
Glenbrook was also a magical spot for a birthday! This was our fourth birthday cake on the trip, having celebrated Jacks in Perth. Darren chose all the adventures for the day……
Great base to explore the capes. Who knew that there was more than grapes here? Darren and I were here many years ago, for the food and wine. OK, it was mostly wine (no judging here, it was 15 years ago).
First off, a little drive down to Cape Leeuwin to climb and cave. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse only became fully automated in 1992, the last keeper leaving in 1996.
Its the tallest one in WA, so if course we had to climb it. Amazing views of treacherous coast. Its also where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean.
There is a 100km stretch of limestone from cape to cape in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste national park so after going up, we went down.
Jewel Cave was huge. 500 steps (on top of the lighthouse steps!) But worth it. Richard, our tour guide had a great take home message:
1 – this cave took a million years to decorate, let’s keep it that way for future generations and
2 – MR is special, no planes or trains. Take the time to listen to all the other sounds around you.
As well as tasting a little bit of wine, we also tasted chocolate and chorizo. Daz tasted some beer! Onto the Valley of the Giants……
Apparently Ron Smith (Grandpa) had a round jaffle iron, that had quite an effect on Darren. So basically, we have been traveling Australia searching for a round jaffle iron. We go into every camping store, second hand shop and randomly ask people at camp sites.
Things came to a head in Kalbarri, we had our first rainy day of the trip and the desperation for a warm jaffle lunch escalated. We enjoyed Kalbarri, we checked out the NP, loved ‘nature’s window’ and learnt all about Zuytdorp shipwreck, a Dutch East India ship from early 1600’s.
The drive from Kalbarri to Geraldton took us a while – the coastal cliffs were spectacular. No wonder the Dutch ships ran aground on the surrounding reefs. (We learnt more about these ships in Geraldton.)
We also passed a pink lake! WA has three of these lakes, an algae turns it pink, weird but wonderful.
Anyway, back to jaffles…. We arrived in Geraldton with Daz announcing his intention to just buy a square one! ARB Geraldton had some (and a set of Clearview mirrors I won from ‘Travelling Aus with Kids in a Camper Trailer FB page!!!!) And the jaffle fun dance commenced.
Spaghetti, baked beans, ham, cheese, tomato and ‘the blue tin’ all went in. Kids were amazed at the deliciousness of the Jaffle. Everyone went to sleep dreaming about the next ARB jaffle (breakfast) and what else could go inside them.
Geraldton is somewhere we could live. What a great town! The museum provided a tour about the Dutch shipwrecks, seafood for lunch on the marina, a park on every corner, the most bizarre church we’ve ever seen.
A young man, John Hawes, who grew up in Wales in the 1870’s, trained in architecture, became an anglican minister, then became a catholic priest, went to Rome, met an Aussie bishop, moved to WA and built a whole lot of churches changing his ideas and design as he went along. Then he retired to the Bahamas and died in Miami.
It certainly was a different looking interior to the usual “cathedral” we are familiar with. We did enjoy a rare Sunday in church though!
Tomorrow sees us packing up and heading south, a bit closer to Perth.