Kalbarri, Western Australia

In the lead-up to our trip to Kalbarri, our male cat Elvis got sick and had surgery to check for a possible obstruction. Post-surgery he had to wear a cone of shame (also known as an Elizabethan collar, or an e-collar) so he couldn’t rip out his stitches, and unfortunately developed conjunctivitis, first in his right eye, and then in his left, despite our best efforts to avoid cross-contamination. We got through multiple courses of medication, some to be given three times daily, others twice daily, and then the eye drops, also multiple times a day. Luckily, I was home on leave for most of his recovery, so Jac and I managed it all together. We rearranged things around the house to prevent Elvis from jumping and climbing while he still had his stitches/cone (have you ever tried to tell a cat not to jump or climb?), and limited and supervised his time in the backyard. We also kept a close eye on his interactions with his sisters. No potentially stitch-popping wrestling or chasing. And as conjunctivitis is contagious, not too much close contact – it would’ve been a nightmare if all three cats ended up with it (they didn’t, thank goodness). Anyway, if you’re interested, you can read more about what happened and see photos of Elvis in his cone at my TFP Cats Instagram account.

Jac’s mum would be looking after the cats while we were away, but we agreed it wouldn’t be right to take off on holiday and leave poor Elvis if he wasn’t well. You wouldn’t go on holiday and leave your sick kids for someone else to look after, would you? Elvis’ stitches were removed with no issues, but his eyes were still mucky a few days before our scheduled departure. We kept up with the eye drops and continued to pack/prepare for our trip, keeping our fingers crossed he’d be fully recovered in time.

In the end, we delayed our departure slightly to give us more time to make sure Elvis was OK. Instead of leaving home early on Thursday morning, we left clear-eyed cone-free Elvis on Thursday afternoon and drove to Jurien Bay (2 hours 40 minutes North of Perth) where we spent the night. We drove from Jurien Bay to Kalbarri the next day (3 hours 45 minutes, plus breaks), arriving on Friday afternoon, checking in at our accommodation a day later than planned. I’d rung ahead and advised of our late arrival. As per the terms and conditions of our booking it was too late to seek a refund for that first night we didn’t spend in Kalbarri, but that’s just how it goes.

Jac tries to avoid driving on country roads at dawn, dusk or night to minimise the chance of hitting a kangaroo. Indeed we did see a roo while driving to Kalbarri, and the carcasses of several less fortunate kangaroos on the side of the road. We also came across a group of emus on the road. Luckily they retreated at the sound of the car horn. This was my first encounter with emus on a road trip.

I had booked us self-contained accommodation at Blue Ocean Villas in Kalbarri. We paid AU$121 a night (off-peak season) for a one bedroom, one bathroom villa with two toilets, and were very happy with the price, location and quality of the accommodation. The local IGA supermarket was just across the road and the town centre, shops and cafes were a short walk away. There was free wifi, a well equipped kitchen, bed linen and towels (BYO beach towels), TV/DVD players both upstairs and downstairs, and reverse cycle air-conditioning, although we didn’t need to use it. In warmer weather, Jac would’ve definitely used the private pool too.

Kitchen

Bedroom (upstairs)

Living area and dining

We were in Unit 5 – pictured here first on the left. Each villa has its own carport. We thought Blue Ocean Villas was excellent and would not hesitate to stay there again.

Our villa was a five-minute walk away from the pelican feeding area. This is a free activity run by volunteers. The wild pelicans know to turn up every day for a free feed from 8.45 to 9.15am. We came down for the session three times during our stay. Each time, a different volunteer came with the bucket of fish and told different stories/shared different information, which made it interesting. And it wasn’t the same two, three or four birds that flew in, either.

Being winter, it did rain during our stay – but we escaped some hideously stormy weather back home in Perth. It wasn’t warm, but a couple of degrees higher than it would’ve been in Perth. I checked the forecast when we arrived and booked activities for the two days it was least likely to rain. The first was a cruise on the Murchison river with Kalbarri Wilderness Cruises (AU$48 per person for approximately 2.5 hours). Due to low water levels, the cruise was unable to access certain areas of the river, but we still enjoyed the cruise – it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

The boat pulls up right on the beach for passengers to board.

Our skipper Grant provided commentary during the cruise and kept us laughing, while Faye served tea, coffee or Milo and biscuits. The cuppas and biccies were included in the price, while cold drinks (including alcohol) were available for purchase at the bar.

We pulled up along the riverbank and those who wished to could take a walk and look around.

There are picnic benches at several points along the riverbank, accessible only by the water. Small powerboats that take up to five people can be hired and taken up to 7km along the Murchison river. We saw a few of these boats on the river during our cruise.

We saw kangaroos, wild goats and various birds, including this osprey.

The second tour I booked was with Kalbarri Adventure Tours, visiting the Z Bend Gorge and Nature’s Window in Kalbarri National Park. We had planned to visit these two attractions in the National Park but as luck would have it, the road to Z Bend and Nature’s Window was closed due to road works for most of our stay. During the closure, visitors could only access the Z Bend and Nature’s Window as part of a tour group. The road was scheduled to be reopened a day or two before we were due to leave Kalbarri, but there was a chance it may be further delayed because recent rain had impacted the progress of the roadworks. We decided not to risk missing out all together (it would’ve sucked to have come all the way to Kalbarri and not be able to see the famous Nature’s Window!) and booked the tour (AU$40 per person for 3 hours), even though we would’ve preferred to visit the park on our own.

I don’t think my pictures could ever truly capture the majesty and steer enormity of the spectacular landscape (probably doesn’t help that I am in no way a landscape photographer!).

View from the lookout at Z Bend Gorge

These picnic shelters remind me of the so-called futuristic architecture style of The Jetsons.

Nature’s Window

People with mobility/fitness issues may have problems accessing these two attractions, tour or no tour. Both walks from the car park involve involve steps, and to get to Nature’s Window, you have to make your way across uneven rocks.

Our tour was very brief; there are longer walks and much more challenging trails in the park for adventurous hikers. In summer/warmer weather, it can get mighty hot in Kalbarri National Park, and there are lots of signs around warning you to take your own drinking water, as there is no drinking water available in the park.

Like on our trip down South to Denmark in 2015, we brought a supply groceries including rice, eggs, instant noodles, snacks and lollies, various sauces and tinned goods and packed meat, cheese and other perishables in our portable ice box. We bought a loaf of bread from Dongara Bakery on the drive up. It was about 50-50 eating out/self-catering. Jac had planned to be more organised and pack a couple of pre-cooked meals for reheating in the oven, but the dramas with Elvis threw off some of those plans.

Dinner on our first night in Kalbarri – chicken and vegetable stir-fry with rice

One of our lunches – Make Your Own marinated steak and salad sandwiches

Neptune’s Seafood Truck is open for business daily in car park of the commercial marina and jetty, selling locally caught seafood. We bought beautiful fresh pink snapper which Jac coated lightly in seasoned flour and panfried, served with cauliflower and spinach, and oven-roasted root vegetables.

We had ham and cheese toasties for dinner one evening – I had Swiss cheese in mine, Jac had cheddar (my sandwich, with gooey melted Swiss, is pictured here).

A breakfast of pancakes, fried tinned ham (this was Aldi’s version of SPAM, which we bought put of curiosity – it wasn’t bad, but I think I’ll stick with genuine SPAM), strawberries, butter and maple syrup

We had a lovely picnic at this picnic shelter near the Natural Bridge, one of the attractions of the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs.

For our picnic, Jac packed bread and butter, lettuce, tomato and cucumber, cooked sausages, hard-boiled eggs, a chunk of bitey cheddar, and various condiments – corn relish, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and soy sauce. I like to eat my hard boiled eggs sliced in half and sprinkled with salt and pepper and drizzled with soy sauce.

A boardwalk links the Natural Bridge and Island Rock. These and the other coastal cliffs lookouts are in areas marked ‘cliff risk’ – meaning stay on the paths (where marked) and watch where you step. We also visited Pot Alley, Red Bluff and Blue Holes. When we checked in at Blue Ocean Villas, they gave us a Kalbarri visitor’s guide complete with maps of the coastal cliffs and National Park attractions. You can also grab brochures and maps for free at the Kalbarri Visitors Centre in town.

Natural Bridge

Island Rock

On our last full day in Kalbarri, we packed another picnic and went back to Kalbarri National Park, this time taking the road that wasn’t closed to visit Hawk’s Head and the Ross Graham Lookout.

View at Hawk’s Head

We took in the view at Ross Graham Lookout, then we crossed the rocks to reach the river and get across to the other side, where we found a spot to have our picnic. Once again, there are uneven steps and rocks to negotiate, and people with fitness/mobility issues may find their ability to appreciate this attraction is rather limited.

Lunch view – a very green section of the Murchison river at Ross Graham.

This is why the water looked so green…

We watched this egret fishing for its lunch

As mentioned, we dined out about half the time. Here are the highlights…

Ice cream from Zuytdorp Ice Creamery and Waffle House, which is on the grounds of the Kalbarri Beach Resort. Left – Jac’s Snickers and cheesecake (sprinkled with biscuit crumbs) and right – my chocolate and strawberry. The Snickers and chocolate were the winners here. AU$5.50 for two scoops on a waffle cone was a bargain too.

Pies for breakfast from Shawny’s Country Kitchen. I had chicken and mushroom, Jac had ‘brekky’ (with egg and bacon). Shawny’s posts the list of the day’s pies on Facebook each day, and also the homecooked meals on offer for dinner that night. We grabbed these pies takeaway for breakfast and ate them in the park overlooking the beach.

Apple and custard strudel from Kalbarri Hot Bread Shop, located in Kalbarri Arcade in the town centre. This was Jac’s – I didn’t try it because I was too focused on my choice, the incredibly delicious coffee ring…

Coffee ring from the Kalbarri Hot Bread Shop – this was one of the best things we ate on the trip. We went to this bakery twice and I got the coffee ring both times, it was so good. It’s a profiterole filled with cream and coffee-flavoured custard, with coffee icing on top. I told Jac she’d have to get her own as I didn’t want to share! So that’s what we got on our second visit – a coffee ring each.

Kalbarri Fried Chicken and chips from Angie’s Cafe, also located at the Kalbarri Arcade in the town centre. They didn’t have any fried chicken ready at the time and warned it would take 20 minutes or so for the chicken to be cooked from scratch. We were on holiday and had nowhere else to be, so we didn’t mind. The chicken was crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside. Jac thought the crust was cooked too brown, but I rather liked it dark like this. I had a Hawaiian pack (in the background) which came with fried chicken, chips, a pineapple fritter and banana fritter.

Fish and chips, banana fritter and squid rings, with tartare sauce from The Jetty Seafood Shack. The fish (gold band snapper) was outstanding – in fact, we loved it so much we went to The Jetty Seafood Shack twice.

Breakfast bruschetta – tomato, red onion, bacon, poached eggs, pesto, balsamic glaze on an English muffin, from The Gorges Cafe. We liked the feel of The Gorges Cafe and would definitely eat there again.

Big Brekkie – bacon, eggs, mushrooms, sausages, hash browns, spinach and toast, from The Gorges Cafe

For our final dinner in Kalbarri, we splashed out for dinner at The Upstairs Restaurant where our main courses and drinks came to just under AU$120. I had the the 300 grams Kalbarri caught fish of the day, which was dhufish, served with pureed cauliflower and seasonal vegetables. This fish was magnificently tender and perfectly seasoned, one of the most delicious pieces of fish I have eaten in a long time.

Jac enjoyed the glazed pork ribs, served with crunchy smashed potatoes, and salad (full rack pictured – also available as a half rack)

For our journey home we took George Grey Drive and the turn to Port Gregory, a small fishing village – the kind of place you’d go to get away from it all. I took this photo of Hutt Lagoon (often referred to simply as the Pink Lake) just next to the Port Gregory road sign. It really is pink – the colour comes from dunaliella salina algae, which produces ß-carotene, a food-colouring agent and source of vitamin A.

We made a lunch stop in Dongara. My top three all-time favourite pies in no particular order are: the curry tiger pie from Harry’s Cafe de Wheels in Sydney; Miss Maud’s chicken and vegetable pie; and this beauty, the pizza pie from Dongara Bakery. It’s a meat pie with a pastry bottom and a pizza top (ham, pineapple, olives and cheese). It’s a busy bakery, especially at morning tea and lunch time, but the service is pretty efficient – as long as you can make up your mind what to have! On this occasion we also grabbed a couple of sweet treats for the road – rocky road slice (Jac) and latte slice (me).

We had a great time. In addition to what I’ve described in the post, Jac enjoyed kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. I even got back into reading – this is actually pretty significant as I haven’t read a book in a very long time. We were well aware as we planned our winter break in Kalbarri, that rain could impact our plans. But going in the off-peak season meant fewer tourists generally, which was a plus.

We really love holidays like this – relaxing, visiting country towns (especially their bakeries!) and appreciating our state’s natural beauty. There is a lot more of Western Australia to see. Sadly, break’s over and I’m back to work, but discussions about our next road trip are already underway.

Want to see more pictures?

For more photos, see my Kalbarri album on Flickr.

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  • Craig Hind

    Looks like a lovely trip you had despite the late start! Regional WA is yet another area I want to get to one day. Who knows when though. The pink lake looks like it could do with some flamingoes. :-) They’d like that algae to make their feathers nice and pink.

    The food also looked great. Of course I particularly would have liked the apple custard party. YUM!

    It always sucks to have to come home and back to work doesn’t it? We had an adult friend in ZA who literally cried when we had to leave the bush and go home. Lucky for her she now works in the bush permanently.

    • It was a fantastic break, just what we needed. And thank goodness Elvis was OK – not just because we wanted to go on holiday, but seriously, he had been through so much the space of a few weeks, the poor guy.
      The food choices in Kalbarri are quite simple and there isn’t a lot of variation, so I would definitely recommend what we did (50/50 self-catering/dining out). I wish I’d gone back to the Hot Bread Shop for a third coffee ring. THAT was outstanding.
      Yep. Such a pain to have to go back to work. Didn’t take me long to be hanging out for the next break. WA has its Queen’s birthday long weekend in about a month, so I’m looking forward to that.