Millstream-Chichester Trip May-June 2013

We have intended to go into the Millstream-Chichester national park a few times before, but something always intervened to prevent it. This time it was the main objective, but we still went with very little in the way of a "plan", because our plans have had to be torn up on a few previous trips.  Wherever the whim took us, there we would go!

Day 1 - Perth to Kalbarri

We didn't know we were going to go to Kalbarri when we left home just after 6am. We headed up the Indian Ocean Drive, had breakfast at Seabird, morning tea at Dynamite Bay, Green Head, topped up with fuel in Geraldton and were having a late lunch in Northampton wondering whether to carry on north or turn west and stay in Kalbarri .....

Kalbarri is a favourite spot, and it was good to see the Black Rock Cafe open again - we were devastated when it closed some time last year.  Different owners and different ambience, but still a good place to eat, right on the foreshore.

Black Rock Cafe, Kalbarri

Watching the sun go down from the Black Rock Cafe in Kalbarri

Day 2 - Kalbarri to Denham

We didn't know we were going to go to Denham, until we reached the Shark Bay turnoff. A mental coin was tossed, and the result was that we turned off and spent a night at the Seaside Tourist Park in Denham.  Very pleasant, and what was especially good was that there was virtually no wind. This region can be extremely windy, so it was very special not to have any.

On the way in we had a look at the several free-camping spots just off the access road. Goulet Bluff is one, and it was so nice that we thought we would see if we could get a permit and set up there the next night.

Denham foreshore

A delightful calm day at Denham in Shark Bay

Day 3 - Denham and Goulet Bluff

We did get the permit, and Goulet Bluff has become the new No.1 on our best-ever-campsites list. Still no wind, so we set the camper up only metres from the water's edge and had an idyllic evening and morning, with several swims in the crystal-clear water. Absolutely divine.

Doing It Tough At Goulet Bluff

Steve doing it tough at Goulet Bluff, Shark Bay!

Day 4 - Goulet Bluff to Barradale

We headed back to the North West Coastal Highway and turned north. We had lunch and refuelled in Carnarvon but decided that as we had stayed in Carnarvon for 6 nights at Easter we would press-on. We had no idea where we would stop for the night.

Barradale is quite a large roadside stopping-place where a lot of caravanners stop overnight, so we did too.  It's a bit close to the road and noise from trucks can be a problem, so we got as far back as we could and it was OK; it is, after all, free.


Dawn at the Barradale rest area. As you can see, we had plenty of space.

Day 5 - Barradale to Dampier

We didn't know we would end up in Dampier. Rain was threatening when we woke up, so we decided to pack up quickly and stop at the Nanutarra Roadhouse for breakfast. Nanutarra is probably our least favourite stopping-place and we normally bypass it, but on this occasion we were glad they were there, and just gritted our teeth and paid their very high prices. Then we checked their road conditions sign and saw that all options were open.

We stopped for a cuppa at the Robe River rest area. Normally it's a lovely spot but there wasn't any water there this time.

We headed for Karratha and were undecided about staying there or carrying on to Point Samson near Roebourne. Then we discovered the little Dampier Transit Park just a few kms away, and were able to get a site for a very reasonable price.  So we stayed.

We thought that we would go for a dip at Hearson Cove but when we got there, the tide was way out and, try as he might, Steve could not get the water to go above his ankles - and the tide was still going out!

Dinner was at the Mermaid Hotel in Dampier - also very respectable. After that we headed back to Hearson Cove to see the Staircase to the Moon but it was quite overcast so didn't really happen. Instead Steve amused himself trying to get a decent picture of the flares from the nearby NW Shelf Gas Plant - without really succeeding. They are spectacular, but very difficult to photograph well.

Burrup Gas Plant

Nanutarra Road Conditions Sign


Hearson Cove, Dampier

Hearson Cove, Dampier - tide way out. Steve in the distance on the far left, trying to get wet!

Day 6 - Dampier to Millstream

We were always hoping we would camp at Millstream but didn't know where. It was raining at dawn, and looked to be set in for a while, so we were thinking we might be out of luck for Millstream yet again. We went for breakfast at the surprisingly good Jamaica Blue cafe in the Karratha Shopping centre to give the weather a chance to make up its mind. Fortunately there was a long enough break for the canvas to dry out enough to pack up, so off we went, towards Millstream.  On the way in we took the road out to Python Pool, a spectacular permanent pool with huge rock walls on two sides, and had a little dip.  The drive out there was wonderful - some of the most beautiful Pilbara scenery we've seen. The nearby Snake Creek Campground was closed because of flood damage.

Back into Millstream, and we were lucky to get a spot at the small campground at Crossing Pool, one of several large permanent pools on the Fortescue River.  Again right on the water's edge, but the water was a few metres below us here.  A ladder made for easy entry/exit for swimming.

Python Pool

Python Pool

 Crossing Pool Camp Site

Campsite on the riverbank of Crossing Pool, Millstream National Park

Road to Millstream

Beautiful spinifex country on the way to Python Pool

Day 7 - Millstream to Cane River

We certainly had no idea we would stay at Cane River - where on earth is that????.

From our camp at Crossing Pool we followed Snappy Gum Drive to the visitor's centre and museum in Millstream, which is the old homestead.  It's situated on a bend in the Fortescue River with lots of little streams and pools, and a surprising number of palms.  There is another camping area here too.

We stopped at Cliff Lookout which shows a completely diffent view of Crossing Pool. Nearby is another very large pool, called Deep Reach.  No camping here, but lots of picnic tables, barbecues etc, and very neat platforms with steps so you can just walk down into the water.  More swims and a cuppa, and we had the place to ourselves!

We debated about staying another night, but decided to move on.

We went back to the North West Coastal Highway via Pannawonica, a typical mining town.  When it got to be time to think about where to stay for the night, we consulted a book we have, listing free-camping areas in the north of WA. It mentioned one called Cane River, and we found a track roughly near where it suggested this place was.  Followed the track for a while, and saw another camper setting up along the way. Finally we reached what looked like a derelict farm, with a few tumbledown old buildings and a tank on a hill. It was not at all certain that we were at the place mentioned in the book, but according to the map we were in a nature conservation area, so we just set up where we were and spent a beautifully quiet night, under a sky ablaze with stars.

Cane River Campsite

Setting up camp at Cane River as the sun was going down

 Swimming At Deep Reach, Millstream National Park

Swimming at Deep Reach, Millstream National Park

A Tree Of Boots near Panawonnica

A tree of boots near the mining town of Pannawonica

Day 8 - Cane River to Exmouth

We didn't know we were going to Exmouth. Morning saw us have breakfast, pack up and head back to the highway. We stopped briefly at Nanutarra and took a few photos of the mighty Ashburton River (which didn't look particularly mighty as it didn't have much water in it).

As we headed south Steve commented that the overcast sky was making it like a giant "soft box" so he might stop and take some photographs at a spot we have named "interesting rocks" which we always think of as the gateway to the Pilbara whenever we drive to the North West of WA.

When we neared the Burkett Road which takes you through to the Ningaloo Coast, another mental coin was tossed, and we decided to turn west.  At the end of the Burkett a left turn would take us to Coral Bay, a right turn to Exmouth.

The decision was Exmouth.  This time we stayed at the Yardie Homestead Caravan Park, on the western side of the cape.  It's very handy to the many beautiful bays and beaches in the Cape Range National Park down the west coast of the cape.

We setup camp then headed down to the bird hide at Mangrove Bay but - no birds! We walked down to the beach as the sun was setting and checked back later, but still no birds.

Yardie Homestead Campsite

Campsite at Yardie Homestead CP with the Ningaloo Coast sand dunes visible through the trees behind.

The mighty Ashburton river at Nanutarra

The "mighty" Ashburton river at Nanutarra - the water looks pretty muddy so it could be from recent heavy rain.

Steve Photographing

Steve photographing "interesting rocks"

Day 9 - Exmouth to Carnarvon

We had thought we might stay two days in Exmouth, but the wind had come up a bit and it wasn't quite as pleasant as it could be.  A check of the weather forecasts revealed that Carnarvon might be better,  so we reluctantly packed up. Before leaving Exmouth we drove into Cape Range National Parkand visited some of the lovely little bays, having a dip at Trealla and morning tea at Sandy Bay. On the way out we had a final look at the bird hide at Mangrove Bay but still no birds!

We headed southwards, stopping in at Coral Bay for lunch at Fin's Cafe on the way.

Carnarvon was indeed very pleasant, although a little windy as well, as we set up at the Wintersun Caravan Park.

Leaving Mangrove Bay
Leaving Mangrove Bay, Cape Range NP.


Despite the cold wind we had a dip at Trealla Beach in Cape Range National Park

Sandy Bay

It was incredibly windy when we stopped for a cuppa at Sandy Bay so we had to shelter behind the camper.

Day 10 - Carnarvon

We discovered that it was a bit cold further south to overnight anywhere on the way home, so decided to stay another day in Carnarvon to rest up, then do the big drive all the way home in one go.  

So it was a fairly lazy day in Carnarvon starting with a visit to the Courtyard Markets, morning tea at the Fish and Whistle, a light lunch out at the River Gums Plantation, a drive out to Miaboolya Beach and finishing up with an excellent dinner at the Water's Edge Restaurant.

Miaboolya Beach, Carnarvon

Miaboolya Beach

Entrance to River Gums Plantation, Carnarvon 

Steve heads for the cafe at River Gums Plantation, Carnarvon

Day 11 - Carnarvon to Perth (Home)

Got away at about 8am for the big drive home, and decided to have breakfast at the new(ish) BP Outback Travel Centre before getting properly under way.  We had thought of breakfasting at Wooramel Roadhouse (about 125 kms away), but it was probably better to get something under the belt a bit earlier.

The temperature was definitely falling as we got further south, but we were in denial that it was actually winter! On the way through Dongara we stopped and had a dip near the boat harbour at Port Denison.  It was still sunny and about 20 degrees, but the water was - well, bracing!  

We stoically carried on in very minimal clothing for a while, but by sunset simply had to stop and rug up for the rest of the way.

Did a big refuel as planned in Wanneroo, then hit the freeway south and reversed the camper into the driveway at about 9pm, pretty much as estimated.  A long day, but provided you take enough breaks it isn't too tiring.