Jurien - Western Australia
With the Indian Ocean Drive being opened in 2010 a new interesting route has opened up on the west coast. This area contains some excellent campsites, scenic drives and a number of small coastal settlements including Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Green Head, Leeman and tiny fishing shack locations such as Coolimba.
Where once travellers had to detour some considerable distance inland via Cataby and Eneabba, now a whole new section of coast has been opened up and travellers are flocking there to see what it has to offer. As someone who has travelled north many times I can honestly say that the old more inland route was one of my least favourite parts of the journey. Now that the Indian Ocean Drive has opened, it will be the only way I choose to go when heading north from Perth.
There are caravan parks in most tows and for those who would rather camp in the bush there are some excellent campsites such as Sandy Cape north of Jurien and Lake Indoon on the Coolimba - Eneabba road.
Currently it costs $15 a night to camp at Sandy Cape. There are many sites to choose from but avoid peak periods such as school holidays and long weekends if you can, as it gets very crowded during those times. The campsite has long drop toilets (which to be fair can get a bit stinky) and dogs are allowed as long as they are kept on a lead.
The turn off to Sandy Cape is 10 kilometres north of Jurien town and then there is a further 6 kilometres along an unsealed road. The condition of this road will depend on how recently it has been graded and how much traffic has been down it recently. On some occasions it has been VERY ROUGH but on our last visit it was in good shape.
There are bins and a dump point by the information bay and an honour box for you to pay your fees.
Tracks leading north from the cape will take you to another small bay with some nice shady trees. This is ideal for a picnic or you can try to do a bit of fishing. Fishing from the beach is always a bit of a hit and miss affair but we have caught tailor and skippy here in the past.
If you have a 4 wheel drive then you will find lots of bush tracks to explore in this area. Some lead to great little hidden bays, others lead to dead ends where old beach shacks used to be.
At Sandy Cape you can walk out to the point where there is a board walk and lookout. It is also possible to launch a small boat from the beach and we have been told that crayfish can be caught (in season) not to o far out in the bay.
During off-peak times, Sandy Cape is a wonderful quiet spot to set up your camp and then set out to explore the surrounding area. As you are just 16 kilometres from town it is easy to re-supply and to get water (which is not available at the campsite).
Another excellent (if somewhat more expensive) campsite is located at Lake Indoon on the Coolimba to Eneabba road. We assume the site costs more to stay at because it has proper flushing toilets and hot water showers. The fees when we visited were $10 per person per night. Cheaper than Sandy Cape if there is only 1 person but more for anyone travelling with 2 or more.
Lake Indoon was a bit on the dry side when we were there but it would be in better shape when the winter is over. There are warnings about algal blooms and amoebic meningitis and like any freshwater lake you should take care if you decide to swim. It is never a good idea to put your head underwater in these places because it makes it much easier for any 'nasties' lurking in the water to get into your body.
One of Western Australia's premier tourist attractions, The Pinnacles, are located in this area. There is an entry fee to the site (that is located south of Cervantes) and a large parking area is available for those travelling with a caravan. It is necessary to unhitch vans and leave them in the parking if you want to drive around the circuit road as the track around the Pinnacles is too narrow for caravan access.
There is also a discovery centre, souvenir shop and toilets available at the site. The Pinnacles are very unusual and everyone passing through this area should take the time to drop in and see them. Allow 2-3 hours if you want to really explore the site well.
If you don't want to unhitch your caravan then there is a walk trail though the park but it will take longer to see the area if you choose to wander round on foot.
One attraction in this area that can be a bit overlooked by travellers is Stockyard Gully. The gully used to be used by drovers as a natural stock yard to keep cattle in overnight. Today it is a lush green, cool oasis in the middle of what is otherwise a rather scrubby barren landscape.
The best way to get to Stockyard Gully is from the Green Head road. Follow the road east until you reach the Stockyard Gully crossroads. Turn north and follow the good formed unsealed road for 9 kilometres. At this point the road turns into a bush track and it is advisable to have a high clearance vehicle from this point on. We managed to get to the gully without using 4 wheel drive but the condition of the track will depend on the weather. Follow the bush track for about 5 kilometres until you reach the first parking area. Here there are picnic tables, shelters and a toilet. A path leads down into the gully where you turn left and follow the stream bed for some distance before you reach the cave entrance.
This section of cave (actually a natural tunnel) is about 250 metres long and you WILL need a light if you intend to follow it to the other end. The tunnel floor is soft sand and there are few obstructions. It is very cool inside the tunnel and you should not attempt to enter this area if rain is likely because of the risk of flash flooding.
On the way to the tunnel you will see a number of wild bee hives. These should be avoided as the bees will aggressively defend their hive if you disturb them.
The second car park further north allows you to access a second part of the gully beyond the main tunnel. We are not sure if it is possible to exit the main tunnel due to fallen rocks. Using the second car park to access the far end of the main tunnel would be a safer option than trying to exit the tunnel on foot.
Rock falls are possible in most of the gully so it is best to avoid walking directly under any overhangs.
Although we were not visiting this area during wildflower season there were still a number of plants in bloom. Some of the most attractive are the Banksias. This area is known for both the number and variety of Banksia and one of the more striking ones was in bloom around Stockyard Gully.
Some tourist pamphlets also mention another 'oasis' accessible from Stockyard Gully road located just 3 kilometres west of the main track near where it changes from good gravel to bush track. Our advice; forget about it if you value you car's mirrors and paintwork. The track in is very narrow and bushes crowd the track on both sides. When you get to the so called oasis, it is little more than a few trees and an open area. The damage you may do to your car just isn't worth the effort. There are some interesting scenic drives in this area too. One of the best ones runs north from Green Head and takes you to Point Louise, Billy Goat Bay and several other attractive sites further north. Although the roads are unsealed they are accessible by 2 wheel drive vehicles. Along the way you will find toilets and picnic areas. If you follow the drive all the way to the end it will bring you back to the Indian Ocean Drive. As you drive along the Indian Ocean Drive keep an eye open for lookouts on both the east and west sides of the road. There are several scattered along this road and most are worth checking out.
So far, the opening of the new road has not managed to spark off any developments that have spoiled this area. Most of the towns are pretty quiet and laid back and there is plenty to explore, especially if you have a 4 wheel drive car.
THINGS TO DO
The main attractions in this area centre on natural beauty and include sites like The Pinnacles, Stockyard Gully, Drovers Cave, coastal drives and 4 wheel drive tracks.
During wildflower season the area comes alive with colour and August to October is probably one of the most popular times to visit.
There are good caravan parks in most towns and campsites at Sandy Cape and Lake Indoon.
If you enjoy fishing then dropping a line in from the beach may reward you with some surprises but if you can launch a boat then a catch of some sort is almost guaranteed.
For anyone who wants a 'bit' of an adrenaline rush it is possible to hop into a perfectly good plane, reach a certain height and then jump out. This is not something we have ever considered doing but apparently it is one of the more popular ways to see Australia these days for the younger generations. To find out more you can visit the skydive website.
For a bit more of a relaxing way to spend the day you can hop on board a charter boat and see the sea lions, dolphins and whales (in season) that abound in this area. See the Charter and Dive website for more information.