Busselton and Southwestern Australia

We started off our year-long adventure with plans to spend nearly the whole time in Europe.  In the end, it was mostly the winter that changed our minds and pushed us to look for warmer destinations.  So after Thailand and Vietnam, a logical choice was Bali, and from there tickets to Australia were cheap, so we decided why not? Our original plan was to then go on to New Zealand and fly home from there, but Covid changed our plans and Australia ended up being our final destination.

We settled on Perth and Western Australia over the busier, more populated eastern side of Australia. After our time in Two Rocks and our short time in the RV, we settled into a house in Busselton, about three hours south of Perth, with a population of about 25,000. The whole world seemed to shut down in late March early April because of Covid 19 and Australia was no exception. We needed a place to socially isolate for the indefinite future.

The Premier of Western Australia divided the state into 9 regions and shut the borders between each region. Busselton is in the South West region, the smallest region except for the Perth and Peel region.

Like most people, we spent a few weeks inside and didn’t do much.  We played a lot of Monopoly, did crafts, baked, cooked, watched Netflix, took walks and slept a lot. We were used to traveling around every couple of days and now we were in a house with no idea when we would be able to move on again. We enjoyed not packing up and we all felt like we had a house again at least for awhile.

After a couple of weeks of sitting inside and not doing much, we were anxious to do a little exploring. Because of all the restrictions in place we could only travel within our small region. We started picking places to go visit most days and saw a lot of beautiful outdoor places. If you have to be stuck somewhere during a pandemic, Western Australia is a pretty incredible place to be. In addition to beautiful beaches, forests and coast line, we enjoyed seeing lots of kangaroos, emus, parrots, cockatoos, and other animals that are unique to Australia.

Margaret helping make cinnamon rolls
Jane baked a cake
Excited to have toys to play with again.
Jess and Nolan fishing by our house in Busselton

Since we were now confined to one place, our motivation to get up, get out, and get it all seen before moving on to the next place waned a fair amount. Jess and I both started running with goal of working up to a half marathon distance by the time we go back to the states. The area around Busselton is flat and just a few feet above sea level. The temperature was generally in the 60’s to high 70’s. Although it was a beautiful place to run, we’re probably in for a rude awakening when we get back to the hills, high elevation, and heat of Utah.

Here are some of the places we visited during our two and a half months quarantining in Busselton.

The Aquarium-A natural rockpool situated between two beaches near the town of Yallingup. Formed from granite rocks, it’s protected from the crashing waves with a gentle flow of fresh water coming into the pool. It is a great place to swim and snorkel. There is a surprising amount of sea life in the small pool.

Nolan and Jess snorkeling at the aquarium

Indijup Natural Spa- a sheltered inlet on the Indian Ocean not too far from The Aquarium (natural formation described above) near the town of Yallingup. If you sit in the right spot, you can get a seawater massage as the surf blasts over and through a rock formation and into a small pool—or in Jess’s case get hammered by the surf, when you go on particularly rough day.

Surf coming in at the natural spa
Indijup Natural Spa
The kids playing at the rocks near Indijup natural spa.

Tuart Forest National Park-Containing the largest remaining section of pure Tuart (an indigenous Australian tree in the eucalyptus family) forest in the world. We spent an afternoon doing one of the easy walks. As with many of our outings in WA, we didn’t see another soul the whole time we were there. Almost no people and tons of open space to roam.

Standing in front of one of the Tuart trees

Bunbury street art and Marleston Hill Lookout-Western Australia is an enormous state, roughly the size of Washington State, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Nevada, and California combined. With a population of around 70,000, Bunbury is the second largest city in WA. This should give you an idea of how small the population of WA is. WA’s population density is about half that of Wyoming—the least dense state in the contiguous US. Anyway, we spent a couple of days in Bunbury wandering the empty streets (empty due to COVID-19) and checking out dolphins in Koombana Bay.

Bunbury street art

Canal Rocks-Part of the remote coastline on the Indian Ocean. Canal rocks is so named because two large rock formations are separated by a narrow channel of water.

Large lobster caught off canal rocks.
Canal Rocks

Koombana Bay-located in the town of Bunbury, Koombana bay is home to more than 100 wild bottlenose dolphins. We we’re lucky to see a few hunting fish close to shore. We ran along the shoreline following them for about 15-20 min.

Hamelin Bay-where stingrays routinely swim near the shore searching for food. The area has beautiful clear turquoise water and is supposed to be good for snorkeling. We might have tried it the weather was a little warmer.

Possum Spotlighting trail-a self-guided trail in the Tuart Forest near Busselton you can go on at night with a flashlight to see both western ringtail possums and brushtail possums. We found a few of each as well as tons of spiders.

Moses beach and Quinninup Falls-just off a section of the long coastal trail called the Cape to Cape Track, a small waterfall comes spilling out of the rock. We thought the coastline in this area was some of the most beautiful we have ever seen.

Smith’s Beach and Cape to Cape track-Smith’s beach is a popular surfing spot close to the aquarium and natural spa. Part of the Cape to Cape walk, a 76 mile track running from Perth to the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, runs in front of Smith’s Beach. We hiked a few miles on the track.

Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree- A 213 ft (6m) tall Karri tree. It the largest of three trees originally used as fire lookouts. To facilitate reaching the lookout platform at the top of the tree, the tree was “pegged” with short sections of re-bar rungs that spiral up from the base of the tree. Now mostly a tourist attraction, the tree is located in Warren National Park in Pemberton, Western Australia. it is close to the Gloucester tree that we saw and that Jess climbed while we were in the RV.

Jess climbed to the top of the highest viewing platform. Jane and Nolan both made it part way up. Margaret and I each did a few rungs on the tree and we were happy with that.

Cape Naturaliste and secret beach-The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse overlooks the Indian Ocean at Geographe Bay. The lighthouse was closed due to COVID when we visited, but there was a lookout point to see whales migrating September through December. The rocky coast is accessible by a number of trails. This place ended up being our favorite spot. We found a beach about an hour’s walk on one of the trails from the carpark area. The beach was always completely empty. There was a big sand hill to jump down and we all felt like it was a perfect spot to spend a few hours. We referred to it as our secret beach and visited several times.

Surfing lessons in Yallingup– When COVID restrictions eased and small group surf lessons opened back up, Jess jumped at the chance to take a lesson and try surfing. He managed to get up a few times, so we will call it a success. Jane and Nolan decided they would also take surf lessons and both had a grand time and showed Jess up by getting up on their first try. Yallingup ended up being a perfect place to try surfing for the first time. The waves are predictable and mild and the area is sheltered from the rest of the ocean. The kids could touch bottom the whole time.

As restricitions eased up, the 9 regions were consolidated to 4, allowing more travel. We decided we would take full advantage of seeing a wider geographical area and headed to Albany further south and east along the coast. We had heard Albany, Denmark and Esperance were beautiful places and we hoped to see as many places as we could. As we said goodbye to Busselton, we crammed our small KIA rental with all the craft supplies, toys, and clothes we had managed to accumulate in our “home” in Busselton. We had mixed emotions leaving Busselton, but we were all excited to see Albany.

One of the beautiful beaches in WA
Gray kangaroo
Hiking in WA

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