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Tamala Station - Shark Bay



We were away shortly after 9am and decided to chance the Freeway north through Perth. Much to our surprise it was a good run and we were out of the burbs and heading along Wanneroo Road in about an hour.

We stopped for lunch at Cervantes and took some photos and video before continuing along Indian Ocean Drive to our campsite for the night, Cliff Head North.

 

Cervantes
Cervantes

 

Most people now stay at either Cliff Head or Cliff Head south so we thought we would have a more peaceful night at the old site as the entrance isn't marked and few people go in there these days.

We had no intention of setting up the camper trailer every night so we used the side awning and the camp stretchers.

It turned out (for me) that testing the camp stretcher was quite a bit different to actually trying to spend a whole night in one. There was no way I could find a comfortable position and every few minutes I was shifting from side to side. Needless to say, it was not a good night's sleep. Luckily Belle fared better and did get some sleep.

 

Cliff Head North
Cliff Head North

 

Morning pack up still took about an hour and we were on the way by 8:30am.

We filled up at our usual stop, 440 Roadhouse just north of Geraldton.

From there it was a short hop to Northampton where we topped up the small amount of water we had used and then it was just a long slog to Billabong Roadhouse.

The roadhouse provides free overnight parking across the highway and we were told that even if you stay in the free area, you can get a key to the showers for a $20 deposit.

 

Billabong Roadhouse
Billabong Roadhouse

 

There are two service stations at Billabong. Why? we have no idea. The Shell was charging $1.60 for diesel and Billabong Roadhouse (the northern station) was charging $1.44 so the choice of where to get the fuel was very easy.

We drove on to Overlander that looked practically deserted and then turned left towards Shark Bay.

 

Overlander
Overlander

 

The turn off to Useless Loop used to be the point at which everyone dropped tyre pressures but now there is about 14km of bitumen before you need to stop and air down.

We needed to be at Tamala by 9am the following day so we found a small pull in by the road and stopped for the night.

As the previous night had been so uncomfortable, I decided to try and sleep in the passenger seat of the 4x4. This wasn't a great idea, as although it was quite warm compared to the annexe, there was no way to rest my head without getting a neck ache. After a few hours I gave up and decided to throw a mattress of the floor and try and get some sleep that way.

Turns out the mattress on the floor was far more comfortable than the camp stretcher but it was an exceptionally cold night so sleep was again intermittent.

Once the bitumen ends, the unsealed road is smooth for about 3 kilometres but then come the corrugations. These continue on to Tamala gate and beyond and dropping our tyre pressures to 25psi helped make the trip a lot more smooth that it would be on fully inflated tyres.

We were waiting at the gate to Tamala Station by 8:15am and just after 9am we were on the way to Three Bays North campsite.

The Turn off to Boorabuggatta Peninsular is about 12.5 kms past Tamala and the road continued to be quite corrugated. There was one stretch of bitumen over a rather hilly area and soon after that ended we found the turn off.

Once we turned in to the station gate (you need keys for access and there is a $50 deposit) the road becomes more of a station track and it varies in width and condition. There are some sections where two vehicles could not pass each other and two 4x4s with caravans on the back meeting here would be a bit of a drama.

 

Tamala Station
Tamala Station

 

There was no need to engage 4 wheel drive on any of the track but it was a little rough in places.

After passing another gate we took the turn off to Shell Beach and soon afterwards came to Three Bays North.

 

Three Bays North
Three Bays North

 

It took most of the day to get things sorted out and even then we weren't finished.

An evening watching the moon come up while the portable fire pit glowed orange with hot charcoal and coals was a perfect end to our first day on Tamala.

 

Moon rise at Three Bays North
Moon rise at Three Bays North

 

We did find that phone signal came and went but it was possible to get a few SMSs out in the evening.

The next morning looked like it was going to be a bit windy but soon after I got up it died away and we were able to get the annexe up without any hassles.

The wind then returned for a couple of hours before almost ceasing by 11am. This gave us plenty of time to get the boat down to the beach and rigged out before heading out to see what the area had to offer.

 

Dinghy rigged up
Dinghy rigged up

 

5 hours later we were still wondering where all the fish were.

Even equipped with and echo sounder we did not manage to find any decent fishing spots and the only fish we caught were a few butterfish and a solitary blowie.

It is always a bit difficult trying to find good fishing grounds in a new area but this area all seems to be sand and seaweed with little or no reef.

Even looking on Google Earth hadn't helped us find good ground despite marking about a dozen likely looking spots on the GPS.

There were a lot of morning chores to get through before thinking about fishing and we got away a little later than the previous day.

Another 4 hours on the water and we were still no closer to finding out where some decent sized fish were hiding.

Although this is a fairly normal process when fishing a new area for the first time, there were so few fish showing up on the sounder and miles and miles of nothing but flat sea floor.

People with bigger boats and engines were heading out miles across the bay and there was no way with the little 6hp that we were able to follow them.

We extended our search area south to no avail. There seemed to be no good fishing grounds either in the bay in front of us or around the island directly in front.

 

Looking for fish
Looking for fish

 

Our next attempt was to head further out towards a pair of small islands and see if we could find anything along the way.

As we were searching we had a lure out but there wasn't even a tap on that either.

I was hoping that we would manage to find some structure on the seabed but it looked as though we were going to be heading home with no fish in the freezer.

After more hours of searching we didn't get a single bite so to say it was disappointing would be an understatement.

Perfect fishing weather but no fish seemed to sum things up.

We went round and round for hours looking for a decent location and although we did find an area that was better than most others we had tried, all we got were some juvenile pink snapper with the biggest being about 6 inches long.

 

This was the best we caught in the boat
This was the best we caught in the boat

 

It took a very long time to get out that far and to wind up with nothing to show for it was really disappointing.

The weather forecast wasn't looking great with rain and even storms expected over the weekend.

Packing up this kind of rig really is miserable in bad weather so our only choice was to hope that by this time next week it will have cleared up.

I took the dinghy out for what I expected to be the last time but it was no better than the last three days.

The wind came up and I had to come back early and Belle even tried fishing from the ledge by the campsite but still nothing.

Dinner was a nice combination of steak, prawns, baked potato, carrot and onion so there were still some positive things to enjoy.

The next day started with a beautiful bright sunny morning but the wind was up so there weren't going to be any more attempts at fishing in the boat.

Instead we decided to explore more of the peninsula and went to have a look at Three Bays, Shell Beach and Nana's campsites.

Three Bays is a long sandy beach that looks like it might be impacted by the highest tides. It didn't seem to be too popular as there was just a solitary camper trailer located in the scrub at the far end.

 

Three Bays
Three Bays

 

Shell Beach is obviously the place most caravanners go and there looked to be about 8 to 10 scattered along the wide sandy beach. There is a toilet located at Shell Beach but it was closed. The alternative is a dump point that you pass just after turning off Useless Loop Road.

 

Shell Beach
Shell Beach

 

Nanna's is quite a bit further north and has a choice of sites by a rock ledge or on a sandy beach. The main track was a bit corrugated so we didn't go to the tip of the peninsula where Honeymoon Bay campsite is located.

 

Nannas
Nanna's

 

The other campsite this side of the station is Tea Tree but we were waiting until we wanted to collect some water before heading out there, as there is bore water available.

By mid-afternoon the clouds were gathering and a look at the weather forecast didn't look good.

Sunday was heavy rain and it would continue on and off for the rest of the week. The worry was that we would have to pack up wet or the Useless Loop Road would be closed to traffic.

 

Clouds starting to gather
Clouds starting to gather

 

As tides were gradually getting higher Belle decided to have a go at fishing from the rocks and she did catch a nice sized yellowfin bream. We got a few other bites as well but didn't hook anything so at least all hope of catching a fish or two hadn't been completely extinguished.

 

Yellowfin bream
Yellowfin bream

 

By about 2am the rain started and continued on in to the next day.

One of our problems was going to be solar power as with so much cloud cover, even 370w of panels would not give us what we needed.

The only alternative was to take the car for a run a few times to bring the batteries up and keep the Engel going.

Foul doesn't really begin to sum up what the weather was like. It started raining in the early hours of the morning and didn't let up all day. Just when it looked as though the rain would give up and go away, down it came again.

I did some video editing and took the car for a run to make sure the batteries got a bit of a charge but there was about it for the day. By evening the sky was starting to clear but way too late to help with the solar power, or lack of it.

There was one final early morning shower of rain before the sky cleared and the camper and accessories started to dry out.

We decided to go and have a look at Tea Tree campsite before bringing the boat off the beach.

Fishing had been such a dismal failure that we had given up any hope of ever getting any fish from around this area.

Tea Tree turned out to be a nice area and there is the bonus of having a bore water tank nearby.

 

Tea Tree campsite
Tea Tree campsite

 

Although it is possible to launch a boat (with a trailer) at Tea Tree West, I wonder why anyone would bother when Tea Tree east is so much better and only a short distance away.

The campsite at Tea Tree West is set back from a rock ledge while the one at Tea Tree East is set along a wide sandy beach. Both would be great places to stay but personally I would pick the eastern site as the beach would be good for swimming and would make boat launching much easier.

Despite the weather forecast for the chance of rain the following day, it turned into perfect blue skies and 24C temperature.

We spent almost the entire day filming different segments for the YouTube channel.

Most days had been perfect for boating, it is just so disappointing that from a fishing perspective, there was no point in taking the boat out.

We pulled it up from the beach and packed the fishing gear away.

 

The end of our boat fishing
The end of our boat fishing

 

The weather forecast was for another wet rainy cloudy day and it was 100% correct. There wasn't much point in trying to get out and do much so it was a sit at camp and edit videos day.

The hope was that the next couple of days would allow things to dry out before we left but the forecast was showing the chance of more rain.

Originally we would have had just one more night but we extended due to the wet weather. Even so, the packing was already under way.

Belle tried fishing one last time from the rock ledge at the campsite but had no luck at all.

 

Fishing from the ledge
Fishing from the ledge

 

There was still one full day to pack everything but the bare essentials and the weather forecast was for dry weather.

That was something we really were hoping for so that we wouldn't have to pack wet canvas.

In the late afternoon the clouds increased again and we only just managed to finish cooking dinner on the campfire before a huge rainstorm came through and put an end to the fire.

Our biggest fear at that point was the Useless Loop Road being closed by the shire.

The last full day started badly with showers but as the day progressed things finally started to clear.

Packing now started in earnest and we decided to disconnect the awning roof to make folding the canvas up a bit easier the next day.

There was little left to do but pack and try to enjoy our last full day at the wonderful campsite we had come to know very well over the past week or so.

A drive up to the lookout/boat ramp and a quick check with the internet showed that the road out was open and this was a huge relief.

We were up early and relieved to find that the sky had cleared and the canvas was nice and dry.

The one thing we could have done without was a strong wind blowing directly against the direction we needed to fold the camper trailer up.

It took several attempts and some rather bad language to get the whole thing folded the way it needed to be but hopefully I am learning more about how to do this process properly.

 

Leaving Tamala
Leaving Tamala

 

By 10am we had already dropped off the keys at the homestead and were on our way back along Useless Loop Road.

Thanks to 4 days of rain we hadn't managed to explore and film as much of the station as we wanted to but we were satisfied with the footage we managed to get.

We had brought 200 litres of water and even without the extra 40 litres we collected from the rain, we would have had more than enough for the trip. We didn't have full showers as much as when water is plentiful but we managed to wash every day and still have our tanks half full by the time we left.

This will work as a good reference for any future trips as our total water use (without the extra rain water) was about 180 litres.

We had decided not to do any roadside camping on the way back as when we pack to head home, things are in a very different state to the way they are arranged when we first head off.

We had previously stayed at the Belair Caravan Park in Geraldton in one of their nice on-site cabins so we decided that would be a good option for this trip.

 

Belair Gardens - Geraldton
Belair Gardens - Geraldton

 

A little tired and quite grimy, we arrived in mid-afternoon and enjoyed our first real shower since leaving home.

After cleaning up it was off into town to enjoy some delicious prime ribs at the local Hog's Breath Café before an early night, to be well rested for the last leg of the trip in the morning.

We were on the road before 8am and all that was left now was to complete the last 450km to reach home.

Luckily the rain didn't hit until we had passed through Perth and it stopped long enough when we got home to allow the 4x4 to be unloaded.

The trip had been wonderful; almost everything we had hoped for except the fishing which I have to say was dismal.

Tamala Station is a beautiful destination with pristine coastline, awesome campsites and plenty of tracks to explore. I am sure that at the right time of year, it is also a great fishing destination.

If the chance ever comes to go back again, I think next time we will go in early May and try out a campsite on the eastern side of the station.

People may ask why we didn't head out to other areas like Steep Point while we were there, but that wasn't part of our plans for this trip.

Getting to Steep Point isn't a major need for us and the object was to explore Tamala and see what it had to offer.

The one place we would love to check out one day is Dirk Hartog Island but that is something we aren't planning for the immediate future.

 

Tidal lagoon at Tamala
Tidal lagoon at Tamala

 

Updated July 2019

Go to the last blog installment Go to the next blog installment

 

 

Places to see on this trip:

Cervantes

Cliff Head

Geraldton

Billabong Roadhouse

Overlander

 

Cooking dinner
Three Bays North
Pacific black gull
Silver gull

 

 

 

 

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