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The Coral Coast: From Mandurah to Monkey Mia

Just a couple days after leaving the Maldives I found myself taking a shower in a small caravan park north of Perth. Here I was again performing the yoga-inspired moves to remain on my thongs at all times with Thomas, wedged between me and the water, talking at great speed and volume about the types of rifles used in WW1. I smiled at the craziness of travel and the ability to cross the mighty Indian Ocean into another world and back again. I’m sure if I’d told the Russians by the pool the previous few days I was returning to Australia to roam about in a caravan with the kids, they would have thought we were crazy. Despite the long trip home, we loved being back on the road – dodgy caravan parks and all.

So returning from the Maldives we reconnected with Zizi in Mandurah, a pleasant seaside suburb just south of Perth. Zizi looked refreshed from her makeover (aka service), and we began our northward trek up the WA coastline.

100km north of Perth we settled for the night in Ledge Point. The town was accurately described by one local as “pretty basic”. No need to sugar coat it people. There ain’t nothing memorable about this place. Just one of many small coastal towns built around a transient bunch of fishermen chasing rock lobsters.

As we headed further north, we visited the stunning Pinnacles National Park. The kids had a ball exploring the sand dunes and limestone spires that emerge from the surrounding deserts and sand drifts. We balanced our exertion with a lobster meal in nearby Cervantes. It was our duty, after all, to support the local industry.

Next stop: Geraldton. One local we met in a caravan park a few days earlier had described Geraldton as “a dust bowl where the wind blows like a bastard”. Put that man in touch with the copy team at WA tourism.

However, we had two reasons for stopping off in Geraldton. Firstly, we needed to do some Mothers Day shopping. Here is how it went:

Me: What should we get Mum for Mothers Day?

Thomas: Ninjago Lego

Me: Mum doesn’t want Ninjago Lego.

Thomas: Why do we have to shop for Mum all the time?

Sienna: Lets get Mum a diamond.

Me: How about perfume or chocolates?

Sienna: Dad, we get the same thing for Mum every year.

Thomas: I don’t think Mum smells bad. Lets get her chocolates then I can have some.

Our second reason was that we had ordered some new off-road tyres for the Landcruiser. Our first foray into 4WDing in the Fitzgerald River National Park made us question whether our factory-fitted road tyres were quite cut out for off road excursions. And, more importantly, we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘Karen’) wanted to look like real 4WDers with big chunky tyres.

Despite the low expectations set by the friendly local, we really enjoyed our weekend in Geraldton. The weather was great and the kids enjoyed the new park on the foreshore. We also visited the HMAS Sydney II memorial; commemorating the loss of 645 souls in a battle with a German raider in 1941.

With our pimped-up Landcruiser our next stop was Kalbarri. Kalbarri National Park is very picturesque with the Murchison River winding its way through crimson red stone gorges. We also visited the spectacular Kalbarri sea cliffs, which were reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road.

The campground in Kalbarri had a great location and Sienna did many a lap on her bike – keeping the grey nomads entertained. Yep – Kalbarri was the first location we saw large numbers of older Aussies’s escaping the colder climes. Might be time to implement project “surrogate grandkids” – a thought we had to charge $5 to have a quick conversation with the kids (much like the baby zoo concept), $10 and the kids will even respond to the name of your own grandchild. Kidding people – no need to alert DOCS (yet).

We continued further north to Hamelin Bay Station – near the famous Hamelin Pool Stromatolites; things that look like rock but actually contain some of the earliest forms of life, dating back 3.5 billion years. We visited Shell Beach and Eagle Bluff, from where you could see sharks and stingrays in the shallow waters of the lagoon 100m below.

Heading towards Denham we visited Ocean Park Aquarium. The kids were fascinated by the tour provided by the Marine Biologist who covered a wide range of marine animals – turtles, rays, sharks, sea snakes and rays. The Marine Biologist gave a short talk on how sharks are misunderstood by people and that the vast majority of sharks present to no danger to people. She went on to say that people needed to learn to like and respect sharks in order to aid their conservation. At the end of the talk, Thomas nailed his understanding with the following exchange:

Thomas: I love sharks

Marine Biologist: That’s great. Which ones?

Thomas: Great White Sharks

Marine Biologist: Really, why?

Thomas: Because they have huge teeth and eat people.

We arrived into Denham just in time for the final throes of the Shark Bay Fishing Competition. We are thinking of sub-titling our blog: tour of Australian fishing competitions for non-fisher people. The weather in Denham was great and we got a fantastic caravan site overlooking the bay. The sunset here was amazing.

The next day we headed to Monkey Mia via the picturesque Little Lagoon. We spent three days in and around Monkey Mia; watching the world famous dolphins come into shore each morning, spotting dugongs and turtles aboard a catamaran and lazing in the sun whilst Sienna cycled around the park with three local emus. Sienna was also lucky enough to feed two female dolphins: Piccolo and Surprise (Thomas had heard there were Tiger sharks in the bay and remained unconvinced about the logic of standing in the water whilst fins raced alongside the beach, fair enough). We also joined a sunset cruise where, as you can see from the photos, we raced against an incoming storm. The kids thought it was a great adventure!

From Monkey Mia we had a day trip out to Francois Peron National Park. The 40km 4WD track to Gregory Beach had lots of very soft sand, which made for an exciting and fun drive. The Landcruiser looks the business now with chunky tyres and red dust and I even caught Karen photographing it…she’ll be photographing the caravan soon and posting to the Lotus facebook page any day now!? The scenery at Big Lagoon and Gregory Beach was stunning – bright red sand dunes and cliffs meeting the turquoise waters of Shark Bay.

And so…that ends the first stage of our northward trek towards Carnarvon and onto the world famous Ningaloo Reef. We will leave you with two related stories from our brief stop at Wooramel Station on route to Carnarvon. As we arrived, a caravan had pulled up in front of us and was in at the reception. The owner of the van emerged from reception looking flustered and said the following to me:

Him: Will you do me a favour?

Me: Sure.

Him: Can you go over to my car and tell my f***ing dog to f***ing shut up?

Me: OK (looking a pit puzzled , I must have given the impression I needed some more information)

Him: The f***ing dog goes f**ing ape sh** every time I leave the f***ing car. Its got some f***ing unnatural attachment to me. Its driving me f***ing nuts. Just go up to the f***ing window and yell as loud as you can “f***ing shut up”.

Me: OK

I walk towards the car thinking that I am about to pick a fight with a massive Rottweiler. There in the back seat was a small three-legged dog sitting quietly. I turned to the guy and said “The dog seems pretty happy that your not here.” To which he replied: “f***ing typical, the dog is f***ing mad. He’s playing some sort of f***ing mind tricks. ” We all had a good laugh. I learned that the dog’s name is, of course, tripod.

Early the next morning Thomas and I were walking to the toilet block and had to walk near the van with the man and tripod, the three-legged dog. I said to Thomas: “Do you notice anything different about the dog?” Thomas stopped and looked for a minute. I would never have guessed his answer. “It doesn’t have a surf board”, Thomas replied, I pointed out to Thomas that the dog only has three legs. To which he replied “Yeah, he wouldn’t be very good at surfing”. While I was touched that Thomas could look past the physical disability of poor tripod, I was a little concerned about his cognitive processes until Karen explained he had been watching surfing dogs on his favourite show ‘Officially Amazing’.

Perth to Kalbarri


Hamelin Station


Monkey Mia

Francois Peron National Park

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