Day 8 – Arrival in Dongara/Denison

We’d always planned to stay for a week in Geraldton and spend the last couple of nights in Dongara (Dongara is 65km from Geraldton), and so on Monday morning we packed all our gear back into the car and got back on the road again. We stopped along the way so I could take photos of the Leaning Trees at Greenough. According to the sign, the Leaning Trees are River Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), a native Western Australian species, and their drastic lean is a result of constant strong southerly winds “burning off” growth on their windward side.

Leaning tree

We also stopped off at Drummond Cove to stretch our legs, take a few photos and have a cup of thermos tea.

The view at Drummond Cove

Just a note: Dongara and Port Denison are twin towns, located next to one another. Our accommodation was called the Dongara Tourist Park on the brochure, but street signs pointed to the “Dongara-Denison” Tourist Park. During our stay, we figured that the Tourist Park was at the Denison end of the twin towns, near Port Denison Marina, while the main shopping drag we drove through when we first arrived coming from Geraldton was the Dongara end of the twin towns. Confusing? :)

As soon as we arived in Dongara, our first mission was to have something to eat. We walked around the shops and after our typical lap-chucking and umming and ahhing, we decided to have lunch at the Sugar Shack Cafe (Shop 2 Batavia Boulevard, 33 Moreton Terrace, Dongara). Jac was tempted to order a crayfish roll ($10.80) but ended up choosing the prawn roll ($8.50). It came loaded with prawns, hard boiled egg and lettuce, drizzled with seafood sauce. The prawns were served hot in the warmed roll. We were really impressed by the size and fresh taste of the prawns.

Prawn roll

I ordered the fish, chips and salad ($13.50). I discussed recently how I’m irked by meat or fish being served on top of and soggifying the chips. When the plate arrived with a tantalising aroma of deep-fried goodies, I noticed that the fish had indeed been served on top of the chips. Interestingly, the soggification effect was nowhere as bad as the grilled snapper-soggified chips I had at the Freemasons Hotel, and certainly not as bad as Jac’s steak-smothered chips sitting in jus. Perhaps the difference here was that the deep-fried battered fish and chips appeared to have been very well drained before serving, minimising their greasiness (they were wonderfully crisp and not at all greasy, actually) and most importantly, minimising moisture production/transference, resulting in decreased soggification.

Fish, chips and salad

Fish close-up

The fish inside that crispy batter was moist and beautifully white, meaty and flaky, so much tastier than the fish I had at the Freemasons Hotel. And there were four pieces of fish – I gave one to Jac so she could taste just how good it was – for $13.50, the quantity and quality were most impressive.

Battered fish innards

The salad was very good too – it consisted of carrot, mixed leaf lettuce, sliced cucumber, sprouts, red onion rings and crumbled fetta. I’m not a fan of fetta, but its inclusion didn’t bother me – I just ate the salad around it. The tangy Italian dressing was served in a little dish on the side, as was the tartare sauce – I’m all for dipping sauces and dressings to be served in separate dishes because that enables me to control my sauce/dressing distribution.

Salad close-up

I thought the value for money at the Sugar Shack Cafe was fantastic. The food was delicious, and it was obviously cooked to order – everything tasted really, really fresh. The staff was friendly and efficient. You can get a full cooked breakfast, burgers, chicken and chips, sandwiches and rolls to dine in or takeaway. A couple on a nearby table ordered burgers and they looked great – meaty and loaded with salad. It’s definitely another place we’ll eagerly return to for lunch if we’re ever back in Dongara. I really want to try one of those burgers!

The Sugar Shack Cafe, interior

We drove around town a little bit, making note of places of interest e.g. bakery, bottle shop, pub, marina, scenic lookout. It was then time to check-in, kick our shoes off and relax for a while. We’d booked to stay for two nights in a one bedroom chalet with an ocean view at the Tourist Park. The Dongara-Denison Tourist Park is mostly a caravan park, with space for motorhomes, boats and trailers. You can even set up a tent at one of the camp sites, and use the campers kitchen or the free BBQ facilities in a shady, leafy pergola area. But for non-vanners and non-campers, the chalets are on a hill overlooking the beach. There were five one bedroom chalets, each painted a different colour: red, yellow, pink, purple and light blue. We were in light blue. There was also a row of yellow and blue two bedroom chalets. I love brightly coloured things, and so I was rather taken with the chalets. They made me think of M&Ms. I kept walking around taking photos of them – I think I took photos of them every day we were there. I noticed that the red chalet had a tiki. We were tiki-less.

Red chalet  Chalets
Chalets  Chalets

This was the view of the ocean from the hill’s edge. Dongara (or is it Port Denison?) was even windier than Geraldton. It was good we wanted to just flake out in the chalet, as it was way too windy to go down to the beach anyway!

View from the edge

After an afternoon nap, a little reading and a little TV (the cricket was FANTASTIC!), it was time to get some dinner. We decided to take walk to Southerlys, the nearest pub, maybe ten-minutes’ leisurely walk away.

There was a decent amount of people at the pub for a Monday night, having a drink and/or eating dinner. We grabbed a table outside and I studied the menu while Jac went into the pub to get us a drink. She came back with the welcome news that our first round of drinks was on the house. We had no idea why, but weren’t about to argue! The mystery was solved when one of the owners, Sonia, came over and introduced herself. The free round of drinks was to celebrate this being their very first night of trading since taking over the place.

There is no table service – you order and pay at the counter, and are given a pager that buzzes, vibrates and flashes lights to tell you when your order is ready to be picked up. The kitchen had quite a few orders before ours, including a Christmas party (it sounded like they were having a really great time!), and so we had to wait patiently for our pager to do its little disco dance. For entree, Jac ordered half a dozen oysters Kilpatrick (half dozen $14/dozen $26). She said they were yummy, and the oysters were big meaty ones.

Oysters Kilpatrick

Oysters close-up

Meaty oysters

I ordered garlic bread ($4.50). The bread was very good, soft in the centre with a deliciously chewy crust and a savoury buttery and garlicky flavour.

Garlic bread

By the time we’d finished our entrees, the sun had set, and we ended up moving tables because we were practically sitting in darkness. The lighting overhead was ineffective; it shone at an angle which proved useless to the tables in our section. Even at our new table, I was taking photographs in near darkness, which proved somewhat tricky.

Jac wasn’t hungry for a large meal and so she ordered an entree size Caesar salad (entree $9/main $12). According to the menu, the Caesar was made with cos lettuce, bacon, parmesan cheese, spring onions, cherry tomatoes, croutons and anchovies. I had felt dubious about the Caesar salad when I read the menu and noted the inclusion of spring onions and cherry tomatoes, which of course have no place in a traditional Caesar. But Jac was keen to give it a go. We were rather taken aback by its appearance when it arrived (the photo below shows you how it was presented, before Jac dug her fork and knife into it), it looked like a big pile of bleargh. I tried a little of the salad and thought its flavour was completely overwhelmed and spoiled by the harsh raw spring onion flavour. I didn’t even actually eat any of the spring onion, but its flavour had permeated through the entire salad. The spring onion had been chopped into relatively large (approximately 1cm) pieces and there was quite a lot of it – really, too much raw onion to chew on, too much hot raw onion taste. The cherry tomatoes, though out of place, were not as problematic flavour-wise. I suppose Jac could’ve asked for the Caesar salad without spring onion and cherry tomatoes, but she had honestly not thought that they would use quite so much spring onion, and cut into such large pieces. To add to the salad’s woes, the croutons were burnt. It was disappointing, and Jac didn’t end up finishing the salad.

Caesar salad

Studying the menu as I decided on my main course, I had noticed that the majority of main dishes came served with chips. To be honest, I was all chipped out from the various meals I’d eaten during the holiday. Having enjoyed the garlic prawns at The Boatshed in Geraldton last week, and in an effort to avoid something served with chips, I felt compelled have even more creamy garlic prawns. I ordered Southerly’s version, also served with jasmine rice ($22.00). The dozen or so prawns were nice, though perhaps just a little overcooked and chewy rather than bursty. There was a generous amount of rice, and the sauce was absolutely delicious. Once again, I rolled each prawn thoroughly in the sauce before every bite, to maximise the sauce content of each mouthful.

Creamy garlic prawns

I also had a serve of steamed vegetables ($4.50) – carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and snowpeas.

Steamed vegetables

We were too full to have dessert. We did enjoy our meal, despite the spring onion-marred Caesar. Jac loved the oysters and I did enjoy the garlic bread and creamy garlic prawns (despite their not being as bursty as I’d like). The pager order system worked very well, we liked owner Sonia’s friendliness, and the bar service was excellent. I would not order the Caesar salad, but I’d happily eat there again. Good luck to the new owners, I hope they do well with the place. Southerlys is located at 60 Point Leander Drive in Port Denison, overlooking the Port Denison Marina.

More on its way.

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