We tucked ourselves away at the Aspen Cape Holiday Park at Exmouth after our trip from Barradale free camp, and within hours had met Fred and Denise Reeve, who have invited us to meet up with them again in Geraldton and check out their Lifestyle Village. Since that’s something lots of baby boomers are interested in (downsizing a family house and buying again, or opting for a unit in a “Lifestyle Village’ instead) we will definitely take them up on this, and report back!
Rob and I were entertained (in a morbidly fascinated kind of way) watching a couple of blokes who had set up opposite us. Obviously they were working in the area (since they were outfitted in hi-vis shirts and their truck was full of tools) but that was where OH&S appeared to finish. While we watched, waiting for a severed limb to come flying across the road, they set about cutting a 6” diameter PVC pipe with an electric saw. The bloke sawing put his bare foot next to it to steady it. That didn’t appear to work too well, so his mate added his foot to the deal (at least he was wearing socks). Still no joy. They levered the pipe up onto the back of the truck, where Bloke #2 anchored it with one hand while the other sawed. Somehow they survived. Lucky; it would have put us right off our dinner if blood had started to spurt. (I don’t have a picture. I’d love to have taken one, but it would have looked a bit obvious to stand there snapping photos while they were sawing.)
Speaking of dinner, we had one of those fun communal dinners that just sort of kept growing (you can read about it in the cooking column in issue #153, along with the recipes.) JD and Kath, and Russ and Jan, suggested a combined camp cookout. Great idea! Then Janet and Bucko turned up at the park, so they were invited too. But… they had friends (2 lots of them) arriving that day. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could all join in…??? Yep, it would indeed! So in the end, twelve of us all brought chairs and various contributions to the meal and Communal dinner for 12 at Exmouth was up and running. Great fun!
Exmouth itself looked a bit like a project under development when we drove in. Parts of it are pretty barren while the area around the canals is being built up – there are lots of stretches of dirt around water at the moment. In a few years’ time it should look a whole lot better. But it’s not just the town of Exmouth that brings people to this area; it’s the lovely snorkelling beaches, the fishing and proximity of Ningaloo Reef, and National Park areas that surround it. (Interestingly, the whole reason for Exmouth coming into being at all was to service the Communications Station established by the US Navy. It is now controlled by Australian companies – and has been renamed the Harold Holt Communication Station – and Exmouth is becoming a major tourist destination on the West Coast.)
And speaking of snorkelling beaches, the stretch up along Ningaloo Marine Park is terrific. You can make a day trip of it and call into the various snorkelling spots, making your way up to Yardie Creek, or simply opt to stay in one place and have a lazy day snorkelling and picnicking on the beach. The beach at Lakeside is close to the reef, and there’s a Visitor Centre there too, where you can hire snorkelling equipment and get cool drinks and mementoes (as well as advice about Cape Range National Park). We spent time in the water at both Lakeside and Turquoise Bay.
At Turquoise Bay there are two areas for snorkelling: one is the bay area, and the other is the drift snorkel area. (There is a designated entry and exit for the drift snorkel area, and there is a separate car park for each.) Just check out the colour of the water in the accompanying photos… doesn’t that make you want to dive right in?
As you can imagine, most of the tours around here involve the National Park, and because of the proximity of Ningaloo Reef many are water-based. If you’re keen to get into the water further out (even though the reef is really close to the shore in places) you can opt for a boat trip. We went on the Manta Ray cruise, and yes, it was a blowout actually snorkelling around with a manta swimming lazily underneath us! I think we jumped in the water about four or five different times on this trip – which is probably a good thing: after all those happy hours we probably needed the exercise.
We spent some time driving along Shot Hole Canyon Road and Charles Knife Road, too, to check out Cape Range, but I have to admit we enjoyed the snorkelling more.
From Exmouth we made our way to Coral Bay and then to Carnarvon via the Quobba campground and blowhole. We found quite a line-up of vans and motorhomes there, with their owners obviously content with the laid-back lifestyle!