Cape Riche & Bremer Bay March 2022

Friday, Apr 22, 2022 at 10:35

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

We recently got away for a week for a little exploring in the southern part of our state. Here is our trip journal and photos. (Click to view photos fullsize).

MAP NOTES & TIPS: click options in right side of map to view overnight locations & segments. Press 4-way arrow icon to view fullscreen map. Tap EOTopo button to switch base map view. Trip recorded in ExplorOz Traveller on an Android indash headunit with Tracker feature enabled. Track Log saved from server tracking.

Day One: Monday 28th February

It was 2.30pm by the time we were ready to leave home and head off on our first trip in what seemed like forever. We actually had no trip plan and no bookings. All we knew was that we needed a break. The purpose of the trip was for mental health and relaxation so it honestly didn't matter where we went as we can go anywhere without any fuss. We did have a vague concept of heading to Fitzgerald National Park (although it was over 700km away) so we were just happy to poke our way around to get there and leave the rest to fate. We left 5 days prior to the WA March long weekend and wanted to return just after so knew that wherever we got by the Thursday was probably where we'd need to be happy to stay until the Monday.

With such a late start, we knew Stockton Lake Recreation Area in Collie was a good option being only 230km away and being a Monday, it was unlikely to be busy there. Whilst knew of the place, we had never been there so it was a good spot for a multitude of reasons. Sure enough, we arrived and was able to setup on the waterfront just before sunset with only a small handful of campers fringing the waters. It was very relaxing and we could have happily stayed here for the rest of our trip but we reminded ourselves that this was probably a perfect time to see if we get to Fitzgerald NP so on we went.

Day Two: Tuesday 1st March

We took our timing leaving Lake Stockton - had a beautiful swim in the morning in the blue of the lake. The lake is man-made and was created for recreational use after filling an old open cut coal mine. We drove a few of the bush tracks to explore the area, helped a couple who got their caravan stuck in an impossible turn and couldn't manage to reverse safely without assistance and also headed back to town to buy ourselves pillows (which we'd somehow forgotten to pack) and a splinter probe (none found - but a pin did the trick).

From Collie, we kept stopping to look at various points of interest along the way and had no plan for where our night's destination would so we simply headed in the direction of Ravensthorpe via the guidance of the Traveller app as I had entered "Hammersley Inlet" (in the Fitzgerald NP) as our destination.... without any real concept of just how long WE would take to get there.

We enjoy driving through areas we've never been and we always take our time to stop to take a look around, take photos and document updates to Places for other app users. We also encountered numerous road works and delays. By the time we got just past Gnowangerup, we realised we needed more days to get to Fitzgerald National Park and with the long weekend fast approaching we wanted to secure a decent campsite without any fuss. The weather was just gorgeous and with the relaxing of the WA border just the week before we were just unsure how busy it would be in the National Park so we agreed to do a bit of planning tonight to figure it all out.

As it was approaching camp'o'clock we started to look at the app for possible options and happened to find a site marked as Louis' Lookout. I don't think it was actually marked as a rest area or campsite at the time but it sure is now! This spot was previously part of farmer Louis's land but he generously donated the land for the purpose of letting the public enjoy this incredible site with expansive views over the entire Stirling and Porongorup Ranges. If you're passing through - this is the spot to stay.

We briefly entertained the idea to spend our long weekend in the Stirling Ranges bushwalking but we've done that before but opted to head to Cape Riche, which was much closer to our current location and would give us the ability to do day trips to Bremer Bay if we so desired and get more informed for a future trip to Fitzgerald National Park.

Day Three: Wednesday 2nd March

Leaving Louis' Lookout Rest Area we headed south and then south-east via the Borden - Bremer Bay Road to Boxwood Hill, over the Pallingup River and took a very good look around here at all the camping options plus looked in at the Wellstead area and its options (for Places research/update).

We finally got onto the unsealed road down to Cape Riche (Sandalwood Rd). We arrived at 10.30am just as other travellers were leaving so we had the pick of sites. This is a breathtakingly beautiful spot and just ideal for us to use the SUPS, go for long walks, go MTB riding, do a little 4WDriving, or just sitting in the camp chair reading in the shade of a tree or in the warmth of the sun on the beach. But the weather.... it is going to rain and we've left beautiful Perth weather behind us (although its been so hot for so long). There is almost no mobile phone service unless you're prepared to walk up to the top entrance of the campground and stand out the front of the old office building were there's a radius of about 20m where you can get service. Sometimes it is good to have limited internet/phone service so we took that as a good sign that we could relax and just "check in" once a day.

The area is pretty much deserted but we expect it will get busy soon once the long weekenders arrive. We walked around the headland from the campsite to get our bearings and went out in the 4WD to explore the tracks along the edge of the inlet. Until it started to pour with rain. We had kangaroos and a joey come to visit our camp at dusk and dawn and can sit around our own campfires. It's an easy place to stay with flushing toilets, water, and showers (cold) but its predominantly a place favoured by those with a small boat/tinnie.

Day Four: Thursday 3rd March

Today we decided was MTB day. We could see some tracks marked on EOTopo in our app and had a little chat with the Len the caretaker who seem interested to drip feed us just enough info if I asked the right way. He was very surprised to see the tracks marked on a map and had a few stories about failed 4WD attempts and recoveries but said no one goes there from this end other than to the first fishing beach. He confirmed the tracks exist, or did at some point, but would be mostly impassable even by 4WD from this end. He said people do come in from Boat Harbour but not along the tracks closest to the coast which we wanted to follow.

Riding the bikes turned out to be great idea. It was very scenic and completely remote. We did not encounter anyone for the whole day but found some incredible coastal sights including an inlet (Swan Gully) and one of the best beach coves I've ever seen (Schooner Beach).

We had an awesome day exploring the beautiful remote coastal sites on our bikes but it was incredibly challenging. We probably made it a bit harder on ourselves by taking a different return route via what we thought was the main 4WD track instead of backtracking but it involved a long slog uphill on a soft sandy track that we could hardly ride up and ended up pushing our bikes a fair way. Once we finally got onto the main track we were physically cooked but all our years of endurance riding has taught us just to shut up pedal on to the end. We could see from the map where we were at all times and sure enough the track eventually rejoined Sandalwood Road which is very corrugated for a bike and no relief at all. When we got back and told of our adventure to the caretaker he couldn't believe it - saying no one has ever done that route on a bike to his knowledge. Here's our track log of the ride.

Day Five: Friday 4th March

Today we decided must be a rest day (meaning no cycling, hiking, or SUPing) due to the huge day out on the bikes yesterday. So we drove to Bremer Bay. It was surprisingly quiet around the inlet and sandbar beaches near town and quiet at the servo/general store but looked pretty full in the two caravan parks so we popped into the tourist info office (inside the post office), grabbed a local map and spoke to the ladies about town and made a plan for the day's visit. We headed down to Little Boat Harbour first and then took all of the 4WD tracks onto Point Henry! What a place!

But Sparkling Island was the most incredible of them all. This involved a bit of actual 4WDriving with rock steps to reach the end of the driveable track and then slipped on the Aussie holiday hiking boots (thongs) for the final steep and rocky descent along a short walking track leading right to the edge of the cliff that revealed it was indeed an island pinnacle with a very powerful channel of water running through it. We sent up the drone to get a better look. No one around - its was a magic spot.

After our visit there, we then rejoined the bitumen and took the turnoffs to all the popular beaches: Native Dog Beach, Blossoms Beach all part of Dillon Bay which is just all gorgeous (day use only). We had our lunch on Blossoms Beach and David managed to lose the Drone - and run off in a panic as it went awol over the ocean but of course when the battery went low it simply came back all by itself.

On our return to Bremer Bay we popped in to Fishery Beach which is the commercial boat area where the Orca Tour boats were busy and then onto Back Beach (completely empty) and also up Tooreburrup Hill to enjoy the views. We still had to drive back to Cape Riche so we nipped out to get some firewood and check out the status of the free camp marker on our maps (yes it exists and yes its an unofficial free camp and someone was camping there) an made it back just before sunset.

Day Six: Saturday 5th March

Today we decided was a our long hike day. We started our walk from the campsite and took the short cut that cuts out the rocky headland and comes out directly onto the sandy beach at the inlet. From there we started the rocky hike to the point of Cape Riche. We had previously found and verified that it was possible to walk through the gate at the fence line through the private property here to reach the Cape so at this point we knew what we were doing.

We were rock hopping the whole way and was a lot further than expected. There were a few tinnies out fishing close to the shore and it seemed to take ages for us to make progress towards the tip of the Cape with no actual walking track to follow and constantly hopping from one large rocky boulder to the next. Eventually the rocks gave way to the sea and we couldn't get much further. At this point we had a scary encounter with a black rock that suddenly growled and moved towards us - it was a very large and cranky sealion!

We scrambled our way up the crumbling cliff and thought we'd be able to pick up the faint 4WD track we thought we could see but it was a fair bit further above than we needed to be so ended up just continuing to scramble our way towards the tip of the cape.

Eventually, our efforts were rewarded and we stood at the tip of Cape Riche and marvelled at this wild and remote headland and waters below. This time we decided to see if we could pick up the 4WD track and continued heading to the centre/top of the plateau and sure enough we found a faint track but it hadn't been used for many years. This track brought us into the back paddocks of the property and we picked up the fence line and followed it back to the gate that we're originally entered and finally our adventure was complete. Another epic day to tell Len and yes again he couldn't believe how much of the area we had managed to explore in just a couple of days.

Day Seven: Sunday 6th March

Today we drove out to the inlet and launched our 2 new SUPs into the Eyre River. We had to use the hand pump - I was useless at this and quickly gave up so David had to pump up both. They take 15psi and it takes a lot more effort on the hand pump than I can physically manage. The 12v pump is on order...

We paddled up the inlet for 3.5km until it got too overgrown and turned back, all up 7.3km. It was so peaceful for our first SUP together, so this is something we will definately do more of. A perfect camping trip activity (once we have the electric pump!).

Here's the Track Log we recorded of our SUP (recorded on Garmin sports watch). The file was exported as a GPX file from Garmin Connect and imported to Traveller.

On the way back to camp we parked the car and took the short hike up Mount Melville on the Circuit Trail (Konkoberup Hill). It was full of massive spider webs across the trail with huge orb spiders inside, lots of beautiful vegetation and spectacular views. Another really great day out.

Day Eight: Monday 7th March

Today it was time to start heading home. We wanted more time to explore around the Collie area so headed first to Glen Mervyn Dam and took our time exploring the massive areas of camp grounds. All free and all by the water. There were still a couple of people finishing their long weekend waterskiing but most people had already packed up and gone. We eventually selected our spot and found ourselves with only 1 other camper in the entire area. It was a perfect spot to get out the SUPS but we just pumped up one and shared it. An amazing spot - far better than Lake Kepawari.

Day Nine: Tuesday 8th March

Leaving Glen Mervyn Dam today we headed back to Collie to take a look at a few other sites of interest. We found an old historic well site, and an old school site and then visited Black Diamond Lake, which would be a great day use area if not for the risk of amoebic meningitis, and finally made it back home to unpack and still have time to go out to visit my horse and give him some exercise. WA never fails to satisfy.

David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
Always working not enough travelling!
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